‘Very attractive teenager’ How Princess Anne inspired the first royal walkabout in 1970

Princess Anne reveals royal walkabout ‘nightmare’ in 1980

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The royal walkabouts are now synonymous with royal engagements, however, they were not always practiced by the Royal Family. In a Channel Five programme airing last night, ‘Anne: The Daughter Who Should Be Queen’, the Editor-at-large of the Daily Mail, Richard Kay, revealed that it was Princess Anne who inspired the royal walkabouts on a royal tour to Australia in 1970. Richard called it the “birth of a royal staple” as Princess Anne was a “very attractive teenager” and so “the crowds turned out in their thousands.” 

The Royal Family’s first ‘walkabout’ in Sydney, Australia broke centuries of tradition.

The Queen’s former private secretary Sir William Heseltine, who helped to organise the occasion in Sydney in 1970, admitted in his memoir ‘The Royals in Australia,’ that it was “not altogether without pain, for everyone.”

“Media interest in these first few walkabouts was frenetic,” Sir William said. “The press alleged that Prince Philip, on being greeted in Greek by someone in the crowd, had replied with a rude word in the same language.

“I had to try to sort out this idiotic drama at the same time as Princess Anne was quoted as referring to ‘this bloody wind’, shocking many old-fashioned Australians who could not believe any member of the Royal Family would use such language.”

It seems almost every public royal engagement in the 21st century involves a royal walkabout, where members of the Royal Family meet well-wishers gathered on the streets.

Princess Diana charmed fans with them, whereas Princess Anne admitted in the BBC documentary, ‘The Queen: Her Commonwealth Story’ that she “hated” them as a teenager.

However, it is hard to believe the routine did not even exist 51 years ago. In earlier tours, viewers would only be able to catch a glimpse of visiting royals when they drove by in cars, according to the documentary ‘Queen of the World’.

“We never shook hands. The theory was, you couldn’t shake hands with everybody, so don’t start,” Princess Anne explains in the film.

But that changed, due to the popularity of the 19-year-old Princess Royal in Sydney, Australia in 1970. The crowds were huge, and the Queen made the decision to personally greet royal watchers who had turned out to greet the royals.

Now, well-wishers can actually get handshakes and have short conversations with members of the Royal Family, though selfies are not allowed.

“In the 1970s, the Queen decided to shake things up. She wanted to say hello to the crowds, and the walkabout was born,” the narrator says in the documentary.

The royal tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1970 was taken by the Queen, Prince Philip, and Prince Charles and Princess Anne. Though according to Richard Kay, it was the Princess Royal, aged only 19, who the crowds were desperate to meet.

The new ‘royal walkabout’ allowed the royals to interact with ordinary people and a large number of them.

The practice may be more common during visits abroad, but they also take place when royals visit British cities.

For example, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s first royal walkabout together was in Nottingham in 2017.

Not all royals shake hands during the walkabouts. Princess Anne still does not do it, she revealed in ‘Queen of the World’.

But the Duchess of Cambridge loves interacting with the crowds that other royals actually tease her for it.

Kate spoke about this in the 2016 documentary honouring the Queen’s birthday, ‘The Queen at 90’.

She said: “There’s a real art to walkabouts, everybody teases me in the family that I spend far too long chatting.

“I still have to learn a little bit more, and to pick up a few more tips, I suppose.”

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