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MoB Sunday Stories: The Queen’s first visit to Brisbane

On 9 March 1954, Queen Elizabeth II made history by being the first-ever reigning monarch to set foot in Queensland. With her husband Prince Phillip in tow, the then 27-year old monarch arrived in Brisbane to much fanfare and excitement.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip en route to Eagle Farm Airport, Brisbane 1954. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.


An estimated 500,000 Queenslanders turned out to greet the newly crowned monarch. The Queen and Prince Phillip stayed at Government House in inner-west Paddington with Queensland Governor Sir John Lavarack and his wife. Lady Lavarack went on to document the visit in a two-page recollection that outlined the Queen’s convivial and pleasing nature.


Queen Elizabeth II passes through the streets of Brisbane 1954. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.

The following day began with a visit to St John’s Cathedral on Ann Street, followed by various meetings and a luncheon at Parliament House. In the afternoon the royal couple was escorted to Brisbane’s Exhibition Grounds to view the School Children’s Display. Every minute of the tour was meticulously planned from the elaborate motorcade processions to the glittering Lord Mayor’s Royal Ball on the evening of 10 March, which brought a touch of glitz and glamour to City Hall.

Dorothy Coleman, Lord Mayor’s Royal Ball, Brisbane 1954, photograph. City of Brisbane Collection, Museum of Brisbane.


A sepia-tinted photograph shows a rare glimpse of the opulent event. Here the Queen and Prince Phillip sit onstage beneath an elaborate setting of plants, flowers and figures. The initials ‘ER’ are visible, referring to ‘Elizabeth Regina’, the latin form of Queen Elizabeth. In the foreground a large crowd of dancing couples swirl around the dance floor in a sea of smart tuxedos, formal military uniforms and elegant evening gowns with long gloves.


Queen Elizabeth II and the Lord Mayor of Brisbane at the Royal Ball, Brisbane, 1954. Courtesy State Library of Queensland.


The Queen’s entourage, a modest collection of 38 staff, were on hand at all times to ensure that royal protocol was upheld as Her Majesty navigated her royal duties despite what the UK newspaper’s described as a “sultry heat”. As well as several days in Brisbane, the jam-packed royal itinerary included regional visits to Bundaberg, Toowomba, Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and surrounding destinations.


Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II inspecting the Guard prior to her departure for Bundaberg, 1954, Courtesy Queensland State Archives.
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH The Duke of Edinburgh boarding the Royal Aircraft to leave Queensland, 1954. Courtesy Queensland State Archives.


Wish you could step back into the past? Immerse yourself in the amazing history of Brisbane with Museum of Brisbane’s Walking in Wartime tour.


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