It was touch and go, but we turned on a show
Wendy Tuohy, Editor of Daily Life/The Age
It could have gone either way. More than many royal tours in recent Aussie history, the visit of Harry and Meghan came at an awkward time.
Australians, always healthily suspicious of authority, have made it clear our cynicism about the way we are ruled is at such an all-time high the major parties are so jumpy they’re flicking prime ministers like Prince Harry flicked away bush flies in Dubbo.
We are grumpy about wasteful public spending (just ask Bronwyn Bishop), we’re in denial, at least at a federal government level, about the fact we’re not taking good enough care of our global natural treasures (hello, Great Barrier Reef), and we’re feeling a bit chippy after witnessing our elected senators pass a motion that “It’s OK to be White” (a slogan that bubbled into our mainstream from the angry bowels of internet trolldom).
Into this lot spuds a Green royal with a passion for saving the oceans – so much so he was ready to pick up rubbish off South Melbourne beach – a penchant for costly police protection, and a celebrated, mixed-race wife.
Probably, we were never going to meet the Duke and Duchess of Sussex with a laconic raise of the eyebrow and plate of slightly dry cut sandwiches, but at times it must have looked iffy. The fact we have been able to, collectively, show our most generous and attractive face (despite the “white” debacle) has been a bit uplifting to watch.
We have managed to behave, for a week, in the way we like people overseas to think we are all the time.
In Sydney, when the pair arrived, we showed that despite our preference for a smart-casual (casual-casual) life, and our habit of not dressing up for anyone unless you’re a Real Housewife, we still know how to do a bit of dignified pomp, albeit within reason (no trumpets). Also, the Koala of State didn’t pee on them.
In Dubbo, good old Aussie hospitality was out and proud, as was our much-hyped stoicism and “can-do” attitude when the weather runs amok. Rather than cynically take the piss, we laughed good-naturedly at our damp squib frocks and ruined blow-outs, and the dignitaries laughed along.
A bit of our famous larrikin came out when a darling little boy pulled the prince’s beard, which was perfect, and just larrikin enough.
In Melbourne, we defied all the doomsayers who have told us on high rotation that things are so bad people are afraid to go out in the streets, thugs are out of control and life is generally going to shit, by being nothing short of doting hosts.
Someone hugged someone, which you are, apparently, not supposed do, but the royal someone took it in his stride. Children may as well have strewn rose petals in front of Meghan and Harry’s tram, there was that much glee about; in fact, if someone goes back to check the No.1 line, no doubt they will discover that children actually did. Even the clouds above managed to hold their fury in.
Yes, in the words of the groundsman at the Macarthur Girls High School in Parramatta, it was “an awful lot of work for a just a short visit”, but the fact we could put aside all the left-right political squabbling while a happy pair of posh newlyweds sat in an “anti-bad vibes circle”, watched interpretive dance and learned about girls’ and youth empowerment, made it feel worthwhile. No one could deny this pair returned the love.