Preparing for the Queen’s Visit. Lesson 1 – How to curtsey while the Queen is laughing
Be Prepared. That was probably the motto of the entire population of provisional Parliament House during the countdown to the Queen’s arrival to open the Third Session of the Twentieth Parliament on 15 February 1954. From the Prime Minister Bob Menzies to the catering staff, Opposition Leader Herbert Evatt to the gardeners—everyone was directly or indirectly involved in preparations.
The Queen’s first formal engagement at provisional Parliament House during her visit in 1954 called for a decent amount of rehearsal. The Canberra Times reported on 15 February 1954 that Members of Parliament and their wives formed two lines to practise their introductions to the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh. The Prime Minister’s daughter, Heather Menzies, was just two years younger than the Queen and stood in for Her Majesty and Geoff Yeend, the PM’s private secretary, played the Duke. Like any good rehearsal faults were noted, particularly in the style of curtseying—a foreign and awkward action for most women.
Sounds all very stiff and formal, doesn’t it? However, as Meryl Hunter, daughter of Frank Bishop who worked here as an attendant, transport officer and housekeeper, explains in this excerpt from an interview, the rehearsal probably resulted in quite a bit of royal amusement.
Meryl Hunter was recorded for the Oral History Program by Barry York in 2011. The full interview can be heard at our oral histories website.
Find out what all the fuss was about at our Happy and Glorious Exhibition commemorating the first visit to Australia by Queen Elizabeth II.