Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Much Ado About Nothing Down Under

[Personal Standard of Queen Elizabeth II in Australia, proportions 22:31]

The Personal Standard of the Queen of Australia

A fortnight or so ago there was quite a bit in the newspapers and online about the release by the Australian National Archives of what have become known as the “Palace Pspers” - that is, the correspondence between HM The Queen, her Private Secretary and the Governor General of Australia at the time of the dismissal by the Governor General, Sir John Kerr, of Gough Whitlam as Prime Minister in November 1975. The background to this archive and the story of its release as being state papers rather than private correspondence can be seen at 

The Guardian covers the story at Australian papers reveal Queen's thoughts on Charles as governor-general and this last one has a link to all 1200 pages of the files, making it a useful resource for researching the topic further.

The BBC News website also has an article by their Australian correspondent about the archive and the author of the biography of Gough Whitlam, Professor Jenny Hocking. Now Auntie BBC gets quite a bit of flack for bias, and reading this piece one can clearly see why, with its choice of phrasing and emphasis. It also manages to avoid pointing out that Prof Hocking is, as I understand it a committee member of the Australian Republic Movement ( ARM ). This piece can be viewed at The historian, the Queen and the secret letters

So whilst Prof Hocking and anyone else interested can now pore over the correspondence what does seem to emerge very clearly is that there is nothing really to report that was not known already about the events of 1975 and that there is no smoking gun in Her Majesty’s handbag...

The letters do reveal some interesting points about the Prince of Wales showing genuine interest in acquiring an estate in New South Wales and the discussions about that, which can be seen at Queen banned Prince Charles from buying Australian country retreat and Palace Letters release: Prince Charles, Yammatree, and the secret meeting with Gough Whitlam

Having said that this archive is also of interest in that it does show to some extent, as have one or two other escaped documents and incidents,  how The Queen does exercise her rights and responsibilities as Queen of Australia - and presumably her other realms and territories. The constitutional position is outlined at Monarchy of Australia

It is quite right that the details of those processes should remain out of the public gaze unless strictly necessary, but it is of genuine interest to those of us who believe in monarchical government. So we too can take something positive from this archive release.

On a tangential matter related to the Crown of Australia I came across a post on Quora about the official residences of the Governor General and the Govrrnors of the States which is of interest in how they present the public face of Her Majesty’s government and representives in Australia. It can be seen at If the Queen ever decided to move to Australia, where are some places she might live?

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