Royal pandemonium

Few regional towns in the world have enjoyed as many royal visits as has Ipswich in Queensland. Since 1868 there have been ten such occasions, but none will ever beat the very first when horsemen responded to the call. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

Everyone in Ipswich remembers in 2014 when William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, went to Amberley as part of their tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Prince William had been in town just three years earlier in 2011 when he visited West Moreton Anglican College and Karrabin in Ipswich. That’s him photographed above by The Queensland Times. He was there to meet people in Ipswich and Grantham following the disastrous 2011 floods.

In 1992 Katharine, the Duchess of Kent, visited Ipswich. Her husband is Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent, who is a first cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. Katharine was visiting rural areas which had been affected by the storms and flash flooding that year.

Thirty years earlier in 1962, Princess Alice visited Ipswich. She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and was in Australia to visit her daughter May who was married to the Queensland governor Sir Henry Able Smith.

1958 was a big year for Ipswich because that’s when the Queen Mother arrived. She met thousands of people crowded into Queen’s Park. She had in fact been to Ipswich before – with her husband more than thirty years earlier.

The Queen Mother in Ipswich in 1958

At the end of the Second World War in 1945, Prince Henry, the Duke of Gloucester, visited. He was the third son of King George V – his two older brothers Edward and Bertie both had a go at king but Henry missed out. However, he was Australia’s governor-general for a few years.

The Duke was reported to have performed eighty-eight handshakes in Amberley, Gatton and Ipswich, but his visit to Ipswich wasn’t considered a huge success because it was planned fairly late and was during school holidays, so he only got to meet city councillors. Ipswich was said to be rather ‘lethargic’ on this occasion.

There were huge crowds, however, in 1934 when the Duke was in Australia for the centenary celebrations of Victoria. He also visited Queen’s Park and the Ipswich General Hospital where he laid the foundation stone of the children’s Sunshine Ward.

The Duke of Gloucester visiting Ipswich General Hospital in 1934

In 1927, Prince Albert, the Duke of York, and his wife Elizabeth visited Ipswich. They later became King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Elizabeth, by then the Queen Mother, would visit again.

The prince was in Australia to open the new parliament House in Canberra. The couple insisted travelling by train to meet as many people as possible, especially returned soldiers and their families from the First World War.

Last year was the centenary of the visit to Ipswich in 1920 of Edward, the Prince of Wales, who was later King Edward VIII. He was there on behalf of his father, King George V, to thank Australians for the part they had played in the First World War. While in Ipswich he went from the station and up to Queen’s Park where he met hundreds of returned soldiers amidst a huge crowd of onlookers.

This was the first royal visit to Ipswich for over fifty years. The previous one in 1868 had been the very first and no doubt the most amazing.

The royal visitor was Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, who was the second son of Queen Victoria. He was a Royal Navy captain on a world tour and his time in Australia was reported as “a restless, feverish excitement that seemed to pervade all classes during the whole time.“

The Duke of Edinburgh visiting in 1868

His tour was particularly notable for the assassination attempt by a mad Irishman in Sydney.

But before that, Prince Alfred went to Queensland where both the Brisbane and Ipswich Volunteer Artillery and Volunteer Rifles, and a group of Aboriginals in traditional dress, were there to honour the Prince’s arrival.

He then visited Ipswich not once but twice.

Back then, more horses were owned in Ipswich than any other town in the colony – and so the call was put out for people to go out on horseback along the road to receive the royal visitor and form his escort into town. The invitation was freely responded to and hundreds of horsemen cantered down Brisbane Road and assembled at Booval.

The prince was a long time coming and the riders became impatient, and so many of them rode out to get the first look. Amid the excitement they first rode at a walk, then trotted, and cantered, until the mob was at a full gallop.

When the royal carriage appeared, driven by the prince himself, it all descended into pandemonium. Very few of the riders were able to pull up and fall in rank behind the carriage – the majority, hundreds of them, continued in a totally disorderly chase like a pack of wolves. It was reported, “The affair was altogether indecorous in the extreme.”

The prince was received under a monstrous arch on top of Limestone Hill on Brisbane Road and went to the train station. He returned two days later from Toowoomba and Jondaryan to continue his Ipswich visit. This included going to Ipswich Grammar School, overnighting at the North Australia Club, and attending a ball at the School of Arts.

The very first Ipswich royal visit proved a huge success, but nothing before or since has ever topped the pandemonium of the hundreds of Ipswich horsemen chasing the Prince along Brisbane Road in 1868.


Photo credits:
Prince William 2011 – The Queensland Times
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother with Ipswich Mayor James Finimore at Queens Park 1958 – Ipswich City Council
Duke of Gloucester during his visit to the Ipswich General Hospital and Queens Park, Ipswich 1934 – Whitehead Studios
Prince Alfred the Duke of Edinburgh 1868 – State Library of New South Wales


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