Greg Ansley: Visits leave Aussies giddy with royal love

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As Danish Crown Prince Frederik and Princess Mary fly home this weekend, Australia is re-stocking its depleted arsenal of superlatives.

They had already been fired in massive barrages during Prince William's visit earlier in the year, and for what is likely to be the Queen's last Downunder tour during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth.

The nation may see itself as being ruggedly individualistic, larrikin and independent to the bone, but royalty's descent on the continent this year has confirmed that Australia's forelock is still firmly for tugging.

The crowds aren't what they were when Elizabeth first arrived as Queen in 1954, when an estimated one million Sydneysiders lined the streets, with another 500,000 waving from "every foreshore vantage point from the Heads to the Bridge".

Numbers these days are counted in thousands at best - frequently in the hundreds - although royalty still reaches millions through saturation media coverage.

And some things don't change.

In 1954, the Sydney Morning Herald gushed "[The Queen's] dress was simplicity itself, a flutter of champagne chiffon printed in gold which had a tinge of green ...

Her little hat was a pretty conceit which showed her softly waved hair."

This year, reporters wrote of Princess Mary as "the mother-of-four, elegant in a black and white knee-length dress, a black cardigan and nude-coloured heels".

Twenty-first century princesses are still always beautiful, elegant and charming, their consorts dashing and, as one article described William, "almost impossibly handsome"; their romances ethereal.

"Sydney in the year 2000 was an unlikely setting for a modern-day fairytale," Prime Minister Julia Gillard told a luncheon honouring Frederick and Mary. "A beautiful young woman meets a handsome prince, and they live happily ever after."

Australia Post issued a special stamp for William's marriage to Kate Middleton. Sydney's Westmead Cancer Care Centre was renamed the Crown Princess Mary Cancer Centre.

Bad news for republicans who argue that, even with spikes and dives in opinion polling, about 60 per cent of Australians support the end of monarchy.

Ecstatic monarchists point to both the welcoming of assorted royals this year and recent polling as evidence of a trend back to the Crown.

Support for a republic rose from 50 per cent in 2008 to 59 per cent in 2009, before sliding back to 44 per cent last year. Opposition to constitutional change rose from just 29 per cent to 48 per cent.

This year, with William's visit and marriage, Newspoll reported a 17-year low of 41 per cent support for a republic, with 39 per cent opposed, and 20 per cent without an opinion. Morgan reported support for the monarchy soaring to 55 per cent, while republicanism sank to 34 per cent.

Many Australians want a republic only after the end of the Queen's reign, and others would be more inclined towards the monarchy if the crown skipped Prince Charles and went directly to William, who wooed Aussies with casual charm. "It took less than two days in Sydney to turn His Royal Highness Prince William into a dinkum Aussie larrikin," the Daily Telegraph reported.

"On the second day of his hectic official visit, the Prince playfully heckled fellow guests at a barbecue and joked that he was having such a 'terrific' time he wanted to buy a house in the harbour city."

The equally dashing and athletic Frederik took a distant back seat to Mary, the Tasmanian-born daughter of a mathematician who carved a successful career in advertising and real estate before meeting her prince at Sydney's Slip Inn.

Until their marriage in 2004, Denmark rarely rose above Australia's horizon: only 50,000 of its almost 23 million people claim Danish ancestry and two-way trade runs at just A$1.6 billion ($2.1 billion).

Mary's marriage has catapulted her into almost mythological realms, and Denmark to a new prominence.

Courtesy of the Aussie media, we know a great deal more about her: a wardrobe that runs from black vintage dresses to tailored white skirts and jackets, for example, a skill in decorating salads with cucumber and radish, and a talent for "mesmerising" crowds.

"She may be a princess but that doesn't mean Our Mary is too posh to have some fun," the Daily Telegraph said. "Mary even hitched up her skirt [and] climbed on to a stationary bike in her heels."

And we know what she ate: variously, roasted barramundi, lamb cutlets, smoked salmon, snow crab, pork with juniper berries, red meat, and desserts of licorice and berries, and white chocolate and jelly.

In all, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said, the visit was a "tribute to the magic of monarchy".

Plus ca change ...

- NZ Herald

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