Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on 2 June 1953. By the following November, she and her husband Philip set off on a six month tour of the Commonwealth, which included Australia. She was the first reigning monarch to visit.
The royal couple were in Australia for almost two months during the summer of 1954. Their first stop was Sydney, with the couple stepping ashore at Farm Cove on the morning of 3 February. They stayed for a week.
The royal visit to Sydney was marked with street parades, ceremonial dinners and balls. The arrival of the Queen and her consort on the morning of 3 February was marked with a street procession that attracted thousands. Official openings throughout the week including tree plantings at Macquarie Place for the Remembrance Driveway and Sandringham Gardens in Hyde Park. There was also an array of cultural events, including dance, theatre and art. Thousands flocked to the centre of the Sydney during the week for the many celebrations and cultural activities for the Royal visit.
There was a State Dinner at Government House on 4 February. The following night, a Royal Ball hosted by the Lord Mayor Pat Hills was held at Sydney Town Hall for up to 2000 official guests. But 150,000 gathered outside on George Street, hoping for a glimpse of the Royal couple. The excitement was too much for some, with over 2,000 people treated for shock and collapse.
To mark the Royal visit, streets and buildings throughout Sydney were decked out with flags, bunting and arches.
According to a report in the Women’s Weekly, “Sydney, with its decorated streets, looks wonderful. It proves that dress can do as much for a city as it does for a woman.”
On 9 February 1954, the Queen and Prince Philip left for Brisbane. But the royals had a lasting effect on Sydney – not just for die hard monarchists, but on the cultural life of Sydney.