Why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Tour of Australia Is Crucial to the Future of the Monarchy

Australians love the younger Windsors-and that means Prince Charles may have a better chance of being their king.

Meghan and Harry flew home last week, surfing a tidal wave of popularity following a near flawless tour of Australia, Fiji, Tonga, and New Zealand. Their time in Australia, where I am based, started with a surprise baby announcement and ended with the glory of the Invictus Games closing ceremony.

With every day the crowds increased, but the 10,000 who turned out for a public picnic in drought-stricken Dubbo, a rural farming community 400 km north west of Sydney, were a stand out. Ironically the heavens opened that day, but the people didn’t care, happy to be soaked to the skin in the sheeting rain to greet the royal duo.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex in Dubbo, Australia.

In the Duke and Duchess’s wake, Australian republicans will certainly be hastily waving them off, while trying not to admit that really, their movement is drowning. With every royal visit, especially from the Wales brothers and their wives, the idea of cutting the apron strings from the colonial motherland becomes a tougher call.

With every royal visit, especially from the Wales brothers and their wives, the idea of cutting the apron strings from the colonial motherland becomes a tougher call.

When Prince George— then just nine months old—was photographed with a cute bilby, a native marsupial, at Taronga Zoo in Sydney during the Cambridges’ 2014 tour, he was dubbed the republican slayer. The mind boggles at the combined effect of royal siblings George, Charlotte, and Louis and their cousin-to-be baby Sussex.

Prince Harry has always been a favorite with Australians. His laidback naturalness, coupled with an edge of naughtiness make him what locals affectionately label a “larrikin.” Harry is the royal Aussies want to take out for a beer. And after he was embedded with the Royal Australian Defence Force in 2015, many fellow army mates did.


And now with his new wife on his arm, Harry’s currency just hit the jackpot. Indigenous Australians and young women who met Meghan saw her as a symbol of female empowerment. Suddenly the archaic House of Windsor has become incredibly relevant.

Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge with baby Prince George in Australia in 2014.

It’s a different response to the tour the Cambridges made four years ago. Yes, William and Kate were popular and represented the Queen royally, but they weren’t beacons of change in the same way Harry and Meghan have proved to be.

Of course, the young royals are more popular than Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, who visited on a very successful tour earlier this year, but who didn’t see the same massive turnout. But I can’t imagine it bothers Harry’s father who is happy for the family support in this realm where he hopes one day to be King.

But why is Australia so important to The Crown? It has a lot to do with the Commonwealth. The Queen is Head of the Commonwealth and a few months ago Prince Charles was appointed her designated successor. Australia is one of 15 Commonwealth realms, and with Canada and New Zealand, the most prosperous and important.

Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall on the beach in Australia last April.

But there’s also a more personal connection here. The Queen was the first reigning monarch to visit Australia in 1954, and Prince Charles studied here age 17, his first experience of life outside Britain and has visited regularly since then. The bond is deep and affectionate. Charles has even set up his own charity, the Prince’s Trust Australia.


So, the royals want to keep Australia, but why is Australia still so keen to hang on to the monarchy? In America, the royals are equally adored, but the people don’t crave the Queen or her family as head of state. It’s a topic that baffles visitors. After all, 2018 Australia is a melting pot of cultures far removed from the Anglo-Saxon roots of the First Fleet.

Queen Elizabeth steps off the royal barge in Sydney, Australia, in 1954, becoming the first reigning monarch of Australia to set foot in the country.

Part of the answer lies in the role of Her Majesty as a constitutional monarch. It’s a system of government that has kept Australia stable and even though it seems desperately anachronistic it works, argue monarchists. Australia’s two main political parties are frustratingly volatile with a jaw-dropping seven Prime Ministers in ten years, so the people see the stability of the royal family as reassuring.

Zeal for the monarchy has ebbed and flowed reaching an all-time low in 1975 when the Governor-General, the Queen’s representative in Australia, actually dismissed the government.

The Royals in Australia



But while the majority of politicians and even a former Governor-General support a republic today with an Australian as head of state, the people don’t necessarily agree. In 1999 a national referendum voted to keep the Queen, and the most recent poll in April showed half of Australians supported a republic, with 35 percent against and 10 percent uncommitted. These numbers are not enough to change the constitution.


Juliet Rieden is author of The Royals in Australia, and Royal Correspondent for The Australian Women’s Weekly magazine.

This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.

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Juliet Rieden
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