Most of us have only ever lived under one monarch, such was the extraordinary seventy-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II.
But today, our new Sovereign – King Charles III – and the Queen at his side – Camilla – will be crowned.
This is truly a momentous occasion for the British people, for Australians and for all citizens of the Commonwealth. It’s a moment when an age-old tradition brings with it both a sense of reconnection to history and regeneration in our times. It’s a moment of celebration which will resonate around the world.
Charles was the longest-serving heir apparent in British history. He was the boy who waited. The prince of patience. The king seven decades in the making. No other royal has journeyed longer to sit on the British throne. No other royal has been better prepared to wear the crown.
Succeeding her father on the throne aged 25, Elizabeth was the Queen we came to know. Succeeding his mother on the throne aged 73, Charles is the King we already know. And we know that he will a decent, dedicated and well-disposed king.
In his first speech as King on the 9th of September last year, Charles said that his beloved mother was an ‘inspiration and example’ to him. In that address, Charles’ renewed promise of lifelong service echoed the promise his mother made on her 21st birthday.
The King said:
“Wherever you may live in the United Kingdom, or in the Realms and territories across the world, and whatever may be your background or beliefs, I shall endeavour to serve you with loyalty, respect and love, as I have throughout my life.”
Our Sovereign has a great affinity for Australia. It was his first trip to Australia which transformed the boy into the man when he attended the Geelong Grammar School’s Timbertop campus in the foothills of the Victorian Alps.
There, in the Australian bush, the shy 17-year-old student developed resilience, self-reliance and confidence. He would later say, ‘I had the Pommy bits bashed off me, like chips off an old block’.
Charles’ history teacher and mentor, Michael Collins Persse – who would become his lifelong friend – later reflected:
“Everybody sooner or later discovered that… they had in their midst not only an inevitable celebrity, but a human being of extraordinary warmth and worth…
… the resulting affection and understanding between him and Australians at large is a bond much appreciated by many.”
Charles has visited our nation on 16 occasions spanning 10 different prime ministers. Over many years, Australians have got to know our King and our King he has got to know Australians.
At the 1988 bicentennial celebrations, Prince Charles spoke of our nation’s ‘harsh beginnings’ and the hardship for all – for Indigenous Australians and convicts alike. Yet he also spoke proudly of the Australian achievement: the ‘intelligence and courage of brave men and women’ who, in an astonishingly brief span of time – in a ‘heartbeat’ of history – created a ‘whole new free country’.
Today, as our new Sovereign and his Queen are crowned, we celebrate change. But we also celebrate our historical connections with Britain and our British inheritance. We remind ourselves of those institutions and values which our forebears drew upon to forge a modern nation. May we never take this British inheritance for granted. And may we always be proud of our British origins along with our Indigenous heritage and migration and multicultural success – the three strands of our national story.
Our King respects the right of the peoples of the Commonwealth to define their own destiny. In 1994, Charles said that whatever course Australia takes, that is something which only the Australian people can decide. He said he will ‘always have an enormous affection’ for Australia, whatever course Australians ultimately decide upon. In the meantime, all his family will ‘continue to take a close personal interest in the welfare and fortunes of this country.’
On behalf of the Coalition, congratulations to His and Her Majesties as they are crowned today.