Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s Australia tour – Everything you need to know about what really happened

The royal couple's 1983 tour of Australia and New Zealand drew huge crowds.

Diana in Australia

In season four of The Crown, we see Prince Charles and Princess Diana embark on their landmark royal tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1983, marking the 22-year-old princess’ first ever overseas trip.

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In The Crown, the tour also marks Prince William’s first overseas public appearance, after his mother Diana (played by Emma Corrin in The Crown cast) breaks with royal tradition and insists on bringing him to Australia.

The tour was a resounding success, but as we see in the Netflix royal biopic, the beginnings of “Dianamania” are firmly established – causing Diana’s husband Prince Charles to become jealous of her success and popularity, according to the Princess herself.

But what was the real-life story behind the 1983 Australia tour, and was Prince Charles actually jealous of his wife Diana?

Did Princess Diana bring Prince William to Australia?

Yes, a nine-month-old Prince William accompanied his parents on their royal six-week tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1983. Diana is said to have refused to leave her infant son behind.

Upon arrival in Alice Springs, Australia, Prince William (affectionally dubbed “Billy the Kid” by Australians) was carried down the steps of the Royal Australia Air Force Boeing 707 by his nanny, Barbara Barnes. The family posed for photographers before Barnes whisked William away to the couple’s base at the farm in Woomargama, Albury, where Charles and Diana planned to rejoin him the following day.

The couple’s press secretary Victor Chapman told the press: “I heard Prince William cry only twice in 30 hours [during the flight].”

Prince William’s arrival at Woomargama coincided with the first rain the area had seen in four years, supporting the stereotype that royals have a knack of brining on rain, as press pointed out.

The decision to bring William represented a marked break with tradition, contrasting with the Queen’s visit to Australia in 1954.

“The Queen would never travel with Charles in case they both went down, and Charles was not supposed to travel with his new son,” said Jane Connors, author of Royal Visits to Australia. “Bringing William was what made it really different. There was a huge amount made of Diana being a breath of fresh air and [so] modern. It was enormous” (via Guardian News).

The move paid off; Australians admired the royal couple, “particularly since they brought Prince William with them” (via The Times, April 1983).

Was the royal tour in Australia a success?

“The Princess who won the heart of Australia,” ran The Times headline in April 1983, hailing the tour as “an unqualified success, due in large part to the Princess” – the tour saw “Dianamania” sweep across Australia and New Zealand.

The couple attracted crowds of thousands; in Melbourne, for example, an estimated 200,000 people gathered to see the couple when Prince Charles officially opened the Bourke Street Mall. It was also estimated that the couple shook hands 2,000 times a day across the six-week tour.

Melbourne Herald, the country’s largest circulation evening newspaper at the time, ran a cartoon showing a map of Australia with a heart and the words “Princess Diana” superimposed on top. The caption read: “A permanent imprint!”

The tour’s success and crowd turnout was compared to Queen Elizabeth II’s eight-week tour in 1954. The then 27-year-old monarch and her husband Prince Philip arrived in Sydney Harbour and caused the city to grind to a halt. (The couple did not bring with them the  five-year-old Prince Charles or three-year-old Princess Anne with them.)

Did Prince Charles become jealous of Princess Diana?

The Crown Princess Diana
The Crown, Princess Diana (Netflix)
Netflix

During the Wales’ tour of Australia and New Zealand in 1983, Diana’s global popularity became apparent to everyone, including her husband Prince Charles. “The crowds… turned out to see the royal couple, mainly the Princess,” wrote one The Times reporter in Melbourne.

As seen in The Crown, spectators would arrive hoping to see Diana – and would bemoan their bad luck if they were on the ‘wrong side’ of the couple’s car or walkabout.

“Everyone always said when we were in the car, ‘Oh, we’re on the wrong side, we want to see her, we don’t want to see him’ … and obviously he wasn’t used to that and nor was I. How took it out on me. He was jealous,” Diana said in an interview for Andrew Morton’s biography. She continued: “I understood the jealousy, but I couldn’t explain that I didn’t ask for it.”

Australian politician John Cain later said: “The prince did indicate to me in one of the several discussions we had that people responded more warmly to his wife that they did to him. He felt she was the subject of more attention and acceptance than he was.”

“I’ve come to the conclusion that it really would have been far easier to have two wives, to have covered both sides of the street,” Charles famously said of his wife’s popularity. Speaking during a state banquet hosted by then President Moo-hyun in Seoul, he continued: “I could have walked down the middle, directing the operation.”

In Netflix’s The Crown, Princess Anne warns the Queen: “You and I both know how much Charles craves reassurance, and attention, and praise. This tour of Australia and New Zealand was supposed to be his grand debut, his moment in the sun.”

Did the Australian Prime Minister call the Queen a ‘pig in pearls’?

Richard Roxburgh plays Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in The Crown
Richard Roxburgh plays Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke in The Crown (Netflix)

In The Crown season four, Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke (played by Richard Roxburgh) appears on a talk show ahead of his election, and expresses his desire for an Australian head of state, adding that while he respects the Queen, the British royal family are a “different breed”. The character then quips on the Netflix series: “You wouldn’t put a pig in charge of a herd of prime beef cattle, even if it did look good in a twinset and pearls.”

There’s no online archival record of Hawke making those exact remarks, but he did indeed call Prince Charles a “nice enough bloke”.

Hawke’s republican views were well known, and despite the success of Charles and Diana’s tour, his party Labour still reduced Australia’s ties with Britain by, for example, removing the veto power London previously had over state governors, and scrapping the imperial honours system.

Hawke also scrapped God Save the Queen as the nation’s anthem, replacing it with Advance Australia Fair.

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The Crown season four is released on 15th November. Looking for something else to watch? Check out our guide to the best series on Netflix and best movies on Netflix, or visit our TV Guide.