It was the note to parents at Ainslie Primary and Infant School in North Canberra who gave it.

Typed and copied in the distinctive purple print and witty stench of a Gestetner machine, children had to wear proper uniform, socks and shoes and keep clean for a short trip to the Australian War Memorial, a few blocks away. houses on Limestone Avenue.

Lined up in neat rows, we were handed small flags (to be returned immediately afterwards). Shirts tucked in, socks pulled up, no screaming, no chewing gum, no spitting or dirt.

Polite cheers, no shouting. Speak only if someone speaks to you. No jostling.

Give the homegrown flowers to the guy in the tight-fitting suit.

All the police and government cars seemed to line up in anticipation and deference.

Then it came.

Huge, black, imposing and quiet with a fearsome vertical grille like a whale, all seemingly dragged silently and effortlessly by a woman with wings on her hood.

Miraculously, the huge, black, seemingly truck-sized tires were as black and shiny as the beast’s body as they very slowly crunched the orange-pink ocher gravel beneath them.

Seemingly Jurassic, the vehicle moved forward slowly, in real-time slow motion. (There is actually a “crawl gear” option for some state limos to create this slow motion effect).

A crown was seated where other official cars had Commonwealth Z series number plates, police cars with two zeds.

But what really stood out, for the car-obsessed boys, was the single static blue light above the windshield that was housed in a housing that looked like it had been stylishly repurposed from a vintage motorcycle.

What did that mean or do? A security guard teased, with a wink, that it was called the ‘light of the Tardis’, as me and some other kids seriously considered the royals’ ability to time travel.

The thud of Rolls Royce Phantom’s huge doors leading to a huge interior only fueled the theory that the Royals might be some sort of embodiment of Time Lord, conversations that were quickly corrected at school by committed monarchists and ceremonial nerds.

The “Tardis light” was used to indicate when a real royal was traveling in the vehicle, as opposed to a representative, a signal used for both protocol and priority purposes. It didn’t matter. The mystique of the Royals was etched in our minds.

The old ways

To this day, the old 1970 Phantom VI sits parked at Government House in Canberra, apparently making more appearances at Senate hearings than in public.

Although run sparingly, the relic still needs to be maintained, aired, cleaned and serviced to ensure the opossums do not take up royal residence, leading to the inevitable parliamentary question of what it costs taxpayers. per kilometer to drive.

The Royals have arguably done more than any other family to maintain the viability of the Rolls Royce car brand, effectively parading through a luxury British car museum whenever they hold a christening, wedding or funeral. It just screams old money.

The class coach

The Royals’ penchant for custom Rollers and Daimlers to wow crowds dates back to a time when bodybuilding conveyed serious status and was as big a bling statement as jewelry, fancy yarn and exotic animal skins.

Most serious luxury car makers still refer to themselves as “coachworks”, a reference that dates back to when automobiles were still an elite luxury and their bodies and wheels were made of a combination of steel and wood – essentially a motorized car.

What is less known is that Australia provided the Royals with their most recent state coaches, the Australia State Coach, completed in 1988, and the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, in 2014.

The buggies are the brainchild of Royal Coach Builder Jim Frecklington, who revived the nearly lost tradition for the Royals after a stint at the Royal Mews, where the state’s horses and carriages are housed.

The last royal carriages were made in Dubbo and Manly and then shipped to England when completed.

The steelmaker that supplied Frecklington, Edcon Steel, has been eating on prestige ever since.

gun carriage

Then there are the weapons.

Friday’s 96-gun salute, followed by several official blank firings during Sunday’s proclamation of King Charles III across the country, is the largest ceremonial artillery barrage in decades.

In the age of remotely launched missiles, GPS-guided bombs and killer drones, artillery still plays an intrinsic role in land and sea conflicts, especially when it comes to reducing an enemy target to rubble. .

The cannon revolutionized sea and land warfare, helping to define empires in the process, and they have remained a potent symbol of sovereign power ever since.

But despite all the royal pomp and ceremony, when it comes to the final journey to a resting place, the coffin travels on a gun carriage rather than a hearse, a protocol also used by other chieftains. State.

Prince Philip, in typically idiosyncratic style, went with that tradition, building himself a custom stretched Land Rover Defender before his passing.

To put it plainly, the Queen’s Consort was sent in a modified farmhouse ute.

royal tariff

The maintenance of Government House and Admiralty House in Canberra (Sydney) has been a regular point of reflection for Labor senators who constantly seek viceregal largesse.

As anyone who has attended a reception at Government House will attest, the mansion certainly trains on the ceremonial circuit, with a tight schedule of diplomatic, community and medal-pinning ceremonies throughout the year.

Catering requirements for hordes of viceregal visitors had an unexpected Masterchef moment during Senate estimates in 2015, when bidding documents published in Government News revealed the GG leader was seeking of a Thermomix (or similar) and the kitchens were in a very run down state.

The gadget puzzled Labour’s Joe Ludwig, who wanted to know what the device was doing. Everything, apparently.

National-grade Thermomix competitors have even offered their wares for free, seeking to save taxpayers money in the Cosgrove cache. Kidding aside, this is a serious commercial kitchen that needs to run like clockwork.

But the cost of a cooked meal from Government House is a small beer the price of an official boat ride.

burst

Discreetly nestled on the lakeside of Government House, nestled next to the Scrivener Dam, is the rarely used pier for royal visitors wishing to travel to engagements by boat.

Given that Canberra is an inland capital and Lake Burley Griffin is a fairly shallow and silty lake, getting the Royal Yacht Brittania to Government House was never an option.

There is, however, an aquatic equivalent of the Roller of Dunrossil Drive which was used in ceremonies to transport our Head of State from Yarralumla to Parkes.

Known as the Admiral’s Barge, the ship is one of only two boats in the Royal Australian Navy’s VIP Boat Squadron that is put to work for royal visits.

A version of the once-often-used Royal Barge that ferried the Royal Family down the River Thames in London, Admiral’s Barge’s home port is actually Garden Island in Sydney – or Fleet Base East, as it’s officially known.

Getting the boat to Canberra requires a little more than backing up the metal VIP trailer.

The beautiful 12m long handmade wooden motor launcher weighs 5.68t, requiring it to be loaded onto the back of an oversized low bed truck, usually provided by the military, and transported by truck on the Hume and federal highways.

Built by Norman R Wright & Sons in Brisbane and commissioned in 1993, Admiral’s Barge has a draft of just under a metre, making it perfect for shallow lakes.

At full throttle it reaches a very respectable speed of 16 knots, but no one other than the ACT Water Policing Unit is allowed to circle the lake at those speeds.


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