If Australia was a long-running TV saga, King Charles would be one of those occasional guest stars, a familiar figure who returns for the key storylines and big moments.
He’s not always been central to our lives, but he’s not exactly been a bit part either. He’s been a bit like Morag on Home And Away in that regard, but male, and royal, and not hellbent on causing mayhem.
He’s been there at some key times in our history, including the memorial service for Harold Holt (1967) and the funeral for Robert Menzies (1978).
And he’s been here for some of our biggest parties, including the bicentenary (1988), and the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast (2018). He’s been roped into some of the more niche events as well, like Apex Australia’s 50th anniversary in Geelong (1981).
He’s done a lot during his 16 visits Down Under, starting with two terms of school at Geelong Grammar’s Timbertop campus in 1966. There have been a couple of Melbourne Cups, a lot of launches, some events that look charmingly random today (the visit to the Big Pineapple on the Sunshine Coast in 1983 springs to mind), and a kiss from a total stranger at a beach in Perth in 1979.
Princess Diana and Prince Charles greet the crowds at the Sydney Opera House, March 1983. Picture: Bryn Colton/Bob Thomas/Popperfoto/Getty Images
He’s met and interacted with literally thousands of Australians, in circumstances ranging from formal receptions to casual and even accidental encounters.
Readers who responded to News Corp’s request for stories of meeting Charles shared memories of a royal who impressed with his good sense of humour and real interest in meeting everyday Australians.
“When Prince Charles and Camilla visited the War Memorial in Canberra, I noted how at ease he was meeting and chatting with people,” remembered Derek Flannery of the 2015 tour. “There was no apparent attitude that he had to do it as a sense of duty. He just loved mingling with the crowd, and did so until he was beckoned away to move on.”
Reader Jennifer Agius meeting the future King Charles at a lunch on a farm where she worked, 1994. Picture: Supplied
Jennifer Agius was pregnant and cradling her seven-month-old daughter when the future King spoke to her at a lunch during his 1994 visit (the infamous tour in which he was shot at while preparing to speak at Sydney’s Darling Harbour).
“The then Prince spoke to me regarding [my daughter] and the upcoming birth of
our second child. It was a surreal experience, but what a treasured life event for our family,” Ms Agius wrote.
There have been some odd moments over the years. Prince Charles and Princess Diana, visit a road safety centre in Shepparton to see the Careful Cobber children’s driving program in action, October 1985. Picture: Jayne Fincher/Princess Diana Archive/Getty Images
Some readers revealed canny ploys to get noticed by Charles.
“At a Garden Party at Government House in Adelaide it was easy to work out who Prince Charles might talk to. So I lined up wearing my Royal Tennis Tie,” said David Evans from Fullarton.
Recognising the unique motifs of real tennis (formerly called royal tennis, the forerunner of the sport played today), Charles asked Mr Fullarton about his participation in the sport, and where it could be played in Australia.
“The royals are keen on tennis, especially Prince Edward, who came to Australia expressly to
play at the Australian clubs and promote real tennis in Australia,” Mr Evans said.
Charles, Prince of Wales, in conversation with pupils during a return visit to Timbertop, April 1970. Picture: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Andrew Harris was perhaps even more direct in meeting Charles, during that aforementioned visit to the Big Pineapple in 1983.
“We ended up at the front of the crowd and as the royals approached Prince Charles was on our side of the path and Princess Diana on the other side. As Prince Charles approached me he had his hands behind his back and I put out my hand and asked ‘May I shake your hand.?’ He agreed, we shock hands and we had a short conversation,” Mr Harris recalls of the meeting, which took place when he was 16.
Reader Peter Goss met Prince Charles – and told him they were related – in Tanunda in 2015. Picture: Supplied
Tanunda resident Peter Goss said he caught the future king’s attention during a meet and greet on the 2015 tour by telling him they were related – something he had discovered by accident via a genealogy website.
“As I shook his hand I said to him ‘Welcome to Tanunda, you wouldn’t know this but we are 14th cousins,’ to which he retorted ‘How ghastly for you to have me in your family tree,” Mr Goss wrote.
Former Qantas flight steward Brian Hallett revealed he introduced Charles to a bit of Aussie slang when the then 17-year-old royal was on his way to Australia in 1966.
“I had him, and his minder, on the flight from New York to San Francisco. I sat next to him in 1B (he was in 1A) and asked him what I should call him. He said ‘You can call me Charles,’ and I replied ‘You can call me Brian’,” Mr Hallett wrote.
After Mr Hallett gave his royal passenger a menu, Charles pointed to an item on the card and asked what a Cornish Game Hen was.
“I told him it was like a little chook,” Mr Hallett said, adding that the Prince replied: “My God, what is a chook?”
“I explained, and in later life, I read that he commented that he learned what a chook was from his time in Australia.”
Queensland firefighter Michael Pearce met the then Prince Charles in Luton, England, in 2006, when he was on a one year firefighter exchange trip to the UK. Picture: SuppliedAustralian sheep farmer and local politician Jim Price with Prince Charles, during the Prince’s visit to the Coodardy sheep station in Murchison, Australia, March 1979. Picture: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images
KING CHARLES AND AUSTRALIA: HIS VISITS DOWN UNDER
1966 – Two terms at Geelong Grammar’s Timbertop campus in Victoria.
1967 – Attends the memorial service for Prime Minister Harold Holt.
1970 – With The Queen, Prince Philip and Princess Anne, tours Queensland to celebrate the bicentenary of Captain Cook’s arrival.
1974 – Launches the Siding Spring Observatory in Coonabarabran (NSW), visits Sydney and returns to Geelong Grammar.
1977 – Visits every state as Patron of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Appeal for Young Australians. Appears on CountDown.
1978 – Attends the funeral for former Prime Minister Robert Menzies.
Reader Wally Davies writes: I met King Charles when he was Prince Charles, when he visited Queensland on tour in 1979. We flew him from Cairns to Lizard Island and then back to Townsville in a 35 Squadron Caribou, which had the call sign of Regal 1. L to R in the photo are Wally Davies, Ed Morris, Prince Charles, John Staal and John Caldwell. Picture: Supplied
1979 – Tours parts of Queensland including Cairns and Lizard Island, and various parts of WA, including Geraldton, Albany and Perth, where he is famously kissed on Cottesloe beach by model Jane Priest.
1981 – Five months before his wedding to Lady Diana Spencer, Charles tours Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne, Geelong (where he opens the Apex Clubs’ 50th anniversary convention), Tasmania and South Australia.
Reader Anthea Thompson shaking hands with Prince Charles at the opening of the new Aldinga Primary School, April 1981. Picture: Supplied
1983 – Embarks on a big national tour with Princess Diana and baby Prince William. Starting in Alice Springs, the itinerary includes Uluru, Canberra, Sydney, Hobart, Adelaide, Renmark, Perth, Bunbury, Melbourne, Ballarat and Yandina.
1985 – Visit with Princess Diana to celebrate Victoria’s sesquicentenary (150 years).
1988 – Tour with Princess Diana to celebrate Australia’s Bicentenary takes in Darwin, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Goolwa and Wollongong.
1994 – Post divorce, Charles tours solo, taking in Sydney (where he was infamously shot at on Australia Day) and Fraser Island.
Prince Charles talking at Deep Gorge – an Aboriginal heritage site in Karratha, February 1994. Picture: Tim Graham Photo Library via Getty Images
2005 – After an 11-year gap, Charles visits Perth, Alice Springs, Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, and returns to his old school Geelong Grammar.
2012 – Charles and Camilla tour Tasmania, Victoria, NSW and the ACT as part of celebrations marking the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
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2015 – Charles and Camilla visit Adelaide, Tanunda, Canberra, Sydney, Albany, and Perth.
2018 – In his last visit as Prince, Charles officiates the opening of the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast, and visits Brisbane, Cairns, Bundaberg and the Northern Territory.
Read related topics:King Charles III