Photos show the true story behind Princess Diana's famous Australia tour featured on 'The Crown'

  • In March 1983, Princess Diana flew to Australia with Prince Charles and her son, Prince William, for her first-ever overseas tour. 
  • The four weeks Diana spent in Australia solidified her reputation as the "people's princess," but created a rift between her and Charles.
  • The 1983 tour has come back into focus because it's one of the key storylines in season four of Netflix's " The Crown ."
  • Visit Insider's homepage for more stories .

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"Uneasy, even glum" is how a news report described Princess Diana when she arrived in Alice Springs, Australia, for her first-ever overseas tour with Prince Charles.

For Diana, only 21 years old and just two years into her marriage with Prince Charles, the highly public tour was a "terrifying baptism of fire," Diana's confidant and biographer Andrew Morton wrote for the New York Post in 2017.

But by the end of the tour four weeks later, Diana had solidified her reputation as the "people's princess," charming her way into the hearts of Australians at a time when the monarchy was looking to repair public opinion in the Commonwealth.

The tour is a central focus of season four of Netflix's " The Crown ." Released on November 15, the newest season depicts the lives of the British monarchy from 1979 through 1990.  Episode six, "Terra Nullius," shows how young Diana, played by actress Emma Corrin, eclipsed Prince Charles, played by actor Josh O'Connor, in fame as they traveled around Australia, causing a rift between the royal pair. 

Here's how the real-life tour happened and a look back in photos.

On March 20, 1983, 21-year-old Princess Diana arrived with her husband Prince Charles in Alice Springs, Australia, for her first-ever overseas royal tour.

royal tour 1983 australia

Source: Beneath the Crown

The royal couple would spend four weeks touring Australia in order to repair public opinion of the monarchy.

royal tour 1983 australia

In a break with royal tradition, Diana insisted that her 9-month-old son, Prince William, travel with them. Previously, children of heirs had remained in England during overseas tours.

royal tour 1983 australia

While his parents toured the country, Prince William stayed with his nanny at the family's home base, a sheep ranch in central Australia called Woomargama.

royal tour 1983 australia

Source: The Age , PM Transcripts

The royal couple's first official stop was at Uluru, a sacred site to indigenous Australians also know as Ayers Rock.

royal tour 1983 australia

During the visit, Diana expressed her discomfort with the heat and asked for a glass of water. This endeared Diana to the public, Anita Rani explains in an episode of Netflix's "Beneath the Crown," since "royals were not supposed to show such emotions in public."

royal tour 1983 australia

Newly inducted Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, who had publicly expressed his desire to lessen Australia's ties to the British crown on TV, met with the young couple three days later.

royal tour 1983 australia

Source:  Beneath the Crown

Hawke was skeptical that the royal couple could charm Australians and rebuild public faith in the monarchy, according to BBC's HistoryExtra. What he didn't count on was Diana's likability.

royal tour 1983 australia

Source: HistoryExtra

Australians quickly fell in love with Diana's easygoing manner and showed up in droves to see her.

royal tour 1983 australia

"Diana...was accessible to the public, physically and emotionally," Netflix's Rani said. "She's estimated to have shaken hands at least 6,000 times with members of the public on this tour and offered down-to-earth comments to her admirers."

royal tour 1983 australia

"Mothers, in particular, gravitated towards her, impressed by her refusal to leave William back in the UK," Rani said.

royal tour 1983 australia

A photo taken one week after their arrival in Australia shows Diana outside of the Sydney Opera House surrounded by throngs of spectators.

royal tour 1983 australia

Source: Getty

In April, The Times ran an article saying that Diana "won the heart of Australia" and that the tour was "an unqualified success, due in large part to the Princess."

royal tour 1983 australia

Source: The Times

While Diana's star appeal helped the reputation of the monarchy, it served to "drive a wedge" between her and Charles, who was used to the limelight, Andrew Morton wrote in his 1992 biography "Diana: Her True Story."

royal tour 1983 australia

Source: Diana: Her True Story

"The crowds complained when Prince Charles went over to their side of the street during a walkabout ... In public, Charles accepted the revised status quo with good grace; in private he blamed Diana," Morton wrote.

royal tour 1983 australia

The couple did have good moments during the trip. One was during a charity ball in Sydney on March 28 where they shared their first dance together on tour. "They gave the impression that they were very much in love," Rani said of the dance.

royal tour 1983 australia

But tension grew between them as Diana's fame blossomed. "With the media attention came a lot of jealousy," Diana told the BBC in a 1995 broadcast. "A great deal of complicated situations arose because of that."

royal tour 1983 australia

Source: BBC

On April 17, Diana and Charles concluded their tour in Australia and flew to New Zealand for two weeks before returning home to London.

royal tour 1983 australia

While Diana had worked her way into the hearts of Australians, the trip highlighted fissures in her marriage with Charles that would ultimately deepen over time.

royal tour 1983 australia

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The Crown: What Really Happened During Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s Fateful Tour of Australia

Image may contain Accessories Tie Accessory Clothing Apparel Suit Overcoat Coat Human Person Hat and Sun Hat

The title of season four, episode six of The Crown is “Terra Nullius,” a Latin phrase that means “nobody’s land.” Creator Peter Morgan no doubt picked it due to the presiding plotline: Charles and Diana’s 1983 royal tour of Australia, which coincides with the country’s growing movement to leave the British Commonwealth. Nearly 200 years earlier, Great Britain used the concept of “terra nullius” to justify colonizing Australia, claiming the land was unclaimed and unpopulated, despite its residing Aboriginal population.

But it also serves as a double entendre: Diana and Charles also find themselves in uncharted territory, a no man’s land. This is their first overseas tour together—and with the monarchy in a perilous position, a successful impression is paramount. Can they put aside their early marital problems, their clashing personalities, for the Crown? Or are they doomed to fail? While, for a brief moment, Morgan depicts the two sharing a moment of true connection, they are soon at odds again. After the tour is done, Charles takes a car back to their country home of Highgrove, whereas Princess Diana hightails it back to Kensington Palace in London. They never found common ground.

The episode chalks up their cracks to a multitude of factors: Diana’s supposed fragility—Charles gets frustrated that she can’t hike up Ayers Rock (now renamed Uluru) without stopping. The presence of Prince William—Diana wanted to bring him on tour and is anxious about their separation, much to the dismay of the royal courtiers and their strict schedules. Then, perhaps most of all, there’s Diana’s explosive popularity, which overshadows Charles’s: “This was supposed to be my tour! My tour as Prince of Wales to shore up a key country in the Commonwealth at a very delicate moment politically!” Josh O’Connor’s Charles screams at Emma Corrin’s Diana.

The Crown , at the end of the day, is historical fiction—the show takes real-life events and dramatizes them. So, in this hour-long tale of a very well-known couple, what’s fact, and what’s fiction?

It’s true that this was a politically sensitive tour: A wave of Republicanism was sweeping Australia, championed by its Prime Minister at the time, Robert Hawke. On March 6, 1983, a mere 12 days before Charles and Diana were set to fly to the continent, a television interviewer asked if Charles would make a good king of Australia. “I don't think we will be talking about kings of Australia forever more,” he replied. Then he said he thought people would eventually vote to have a republic.

Image may contain Human Person Clothing Apparel People Diana Princess of Wales Nicolas Repetto and Sleeve

Princess Diana, Prince Charles, and Prince William arrive in Alice Springs, Australia. Diana was the first royal to bring her baby on an overseas tour, breaking traditional protocol.

It’s also true that the monarchy was worried about how Diana would fare. The tour was a grueling one, by any standards: a month long, the couple were set to cover 30,000 miles and make up to eight appearances in one day. And while Prince Charles had been doing this type of work his whole life, it was 21-year-old Diana’s first overseas royal tour. “The Queen is ‘terribly worried’ before the tour because of Diana’s youth and apparent shyness,” wrote the Press Association’s royal correspondent Grania Forbes ahead of the trip.

It didn’t help that the British tabloids had already started to paint her as unpredictable—the Daily Mirror had recently published an exploitative story about rumors of her eating disorder. While the international press waited for the couple to land in Alice Springs, Australia from London, The Sydney Morning Herald ’s Alison Stuart recalled the reporters gossiping: “Would she snap, would she cry, would she collapse from the heat?”

At the beginning, Diana did indeed show signs of fatigue. The Sydney Morning Herald found that during the tour’s first engagement, she looked “uncomfortably sunburned” and that her “eyes were downcast.” Charles apologized and said they were both still suffering from jet-lag. On March 22—three days after they landed in Australia—an Associated Press report described her as red-faced and bare-legged. “I can’t cope with the heat very well,” she said.

Inside Olivia Culpo and Christian McCaffrey’s Classic New England Wedding

Prince Charles and Princess Diana at Uluru. While The Crown suggests Diana struggled due to the heat, reports at the time say her hesitation was due to her rather impractical outdoor outfit.

In The Crown , a scene at Uluru supposedly showcases the princess’s early weakness. Only a few yards up the slope, Diana suddenly stops while the press pack eagerly snaps photos from below. “Charles, I can’t. The heat. I feel dizzy,” Corrin’s Diana exclaims. She leaves him to climb the rest alone. “I think I need to go and sit down.” Afterwards, O’Connor’s Charles snarls to his confidante Camilla Parker-Bowles on the phone: “She’s pathetic .”

Video footage at the time does show Diana hesitating on Uluru. Yet it wasn’t fatigue that caused the pause—rather, it was her outfit. Dressed in a dainty white frock with flats, it wasn’t, well, the most practical of hiking apparel. Especially when there are cameras below capturing your every move.

Here’s an account from the Morning Herald : “As she stepped off the plane at Ayers Rock, she looked down in horror. Her dress, buttoned down the front was immediately blown open revealing her petticoat and knees. From that moment, the Princess made constant but hopeless attempts to keep the dress closed,” they wrote. “When Charles coaxed her to climb part of the way up the rock, she hesitated, not through fear of slipping, but because she knew that coming down would expose her knees and petticoat to the world’s press.”

In reality, except for a few hiccups, Diana executed a remarkable performance in those initial days. “Despite the predictions, Diana, apart from some strain and tiredness, has fared well,” said the Morning Herald at the time. “She might be made of tougher stuff than many think.”

Image may contain Human Person Fashion Premiere Charles Prince of Wales Tie Accessories Accessory Suit and Coat

Prince Charles and Princess Diana get ready to dance in Sydney.

As the royal tour really got into the swing of things—and Diana’s sunburn and jet lag likely died down—Charles and Diana thoroughly charmed the country. They dynamically danced at Sheraton Wentworth Hotel, with Diana donning a spectacular turquoise dress. Charles scored a goal at a polo match in Sydney and the crowd erupted into cheers. (As The Crown shows, he did also fall, much to his chagrin.) In Perth, they made headlines when Charles tenderly kissed Diana’s hand in public. “Prince plays the gallant at royal party,” read a headline in the Times of London. And although that scene that shows Charles and Diana playing with baby Prince William on a blanket actually took place in New Zealand, not Australia, they did delight audiences by sharing cheerful tales about their young son. (Yes, William did love his stuffed koala.)

Diana’s popularity started to massively eclipse that of her husband. “The Princess of Wales was the woman they’d come to see, and the people of the Riverland weren’t disappointed,” a broadcaster from ABC said on April 6. “The Princess seemed more anxious to meet the people than did her husband. She dispensed tidbits concerning Prince William’s health, the weather, and jokingly inquired of an elderly citizen if she had any whiskey in her picnic basket.” They showed clips of Diana swarmed by crowds, one man holding up a sign that read “Di is beautiful.” On April 15, the Melbourne Herald ran a cartoon that showed a map of Australia superimposed with a heart. “Princess Diana,” read a caption. “A permanent imprint!” Two days later, the Sydney Herald echoed the same sentiment: “Di Thrills the Queen!” said a headline.

Three days later, the Times of London cemented Diana’s smashing success. They printed the headline “The Princess who won the heart of Australia.” The story began: “The month-long tour of Australia by the Prince and Princess of Wales, which ended yesterday when the royal couple flew to New Zealand, was an unqualified success, due in large part to the Princess. She won the heart of Australia.” The Evening Standard took it one step further, saying: ”This tour has set Republicanism back 10 years.” In Sarah Bradford’s book , Diana , she quotes a bodyguard who said her reception in Australia was akin to Beatlemania.

Image may contain Human Person Building Architecture Opera House and Crowd

Princess Diana, surrounded by crowds outside the Sydney Opera House.

Sadly, The Crown is right: Diana’s supernova star-power in Australia did make Charles jealous, and caused additional tension in their marriage. In a 1995 interview with the BBC , the Princess recalled that the attention she received during the tour’s royal walkabouts upset him. “We'd be going round Australia, for instance, and all you could hear was, ‘oh, she's on the other side.’ Now, if you're a man—like my husband—a proud man, you mind about that if you hear it every day for four weeks. You feel low about it, instead of feeling happy and sharing it.” The press fawning made things worse: “With the media attention came a lot of jealousy. A great deal of complicated situations arose because of that,” she said. It was, in some ways, the beginning of the end.

royal tour 1983 australia

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The Crown: Why Princess Diana Burst Into Tears During 1983 Australian Tour

royal tour 1983 australia

Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s 1983 Australian tour—recreated on the fourth season of The Crown —proved to be an inflection point in their young marriage . It was during that six-week visit to Australia and New Zealand when Charles first realized how much the public preferred his pretty young wife to him. And Diana, in turn, realized there was nothing she could do to temper her husband’s jealousy or convince him she didn’t want the spotlight.

At one point, during the real-life tour, the young princess even erupted into tears during a public appearance outside the Sydney Opera House. The photographer who captured the heart-wrenching image, Ken Lennox , has since explained what he saw that day.

“I’m about four feet from the princess and I’m trying to get a bit of the opera house in the background and some of the crowd, and Diana burst into tears and wept for a couple of minutes,” Lennox recalled during ITV’s Inside the Crown: Secrets of the Royals . “Charles I don’t think has noticed [Diana crying] at that stage. If he has, typical of Prince Charles to look the other way.” During that tour, Lennox said that crowds would plainly tell Charles, “Bring your wife over,” rather than fawn over the prince.

royal tour 1983 australia

“The prince was embarrassed the crowds so clearly favored her over him,” wrote Sally Bedell Smith in her biography , Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life . “For her part, Diana was upset by the disproportionate interest in her, especially when she realized that it was disturbing Charles. She collapsed under the strain, weeping to her lady-in-waiting and secretly succumbing to bulimia. In letters to friends, Charles described his anguish over the impact ‘all this obsessed and crazed attention was having on his wife.’”

Diana biographer Andrew Morton has said that the Australia tour “was a terrifying baptism of fire. . .Just 21, the newly minted royal was petrified of facing the crowds, meeting the countless dignitaries as well as the fabled royal ‘rat pack,’ the media circus who follow the royals around the globe.”

Writing for the New York Post , Morton added:

“When she walked into the media reception in the unglamorous setting of an Alice Springs hotel, she was hot, jet-lagged and sunburned. Yet she was able to charm and captivate the representatives of the Fourth Estate. Only later did I realize that the tour was utterly traumatic. Back in the privacy of her hotel room, she cried her eyes out, unable to handle the constant attention. [...] It didn’t help that Prince Charles, the former top of the billing, was reduced to a walk-on part, the crowds groaning when he came to their side of the road during their many visits. As Diana told me: “He was jealous; I understood the jealousy but I couldn’t explain that I didn’t ask for it.”

The couple’s only happiness during the tour came when the young family was far away from the crowds—visiting nine-month-old Prince William at the cattle and sheep ranch Woomargama, where he was staying with a nanny.

“The great joy was that we were totally alone together,” Charles wrote a friend, according to Smith. At the ranch, Charles and Diana watched William’s first efforts at crawling—“at high speed knocking everything off the tables and causing unbelievable destruction.” The new parents, according to Charles, “laughed and laughed with sheer, hysterical pleasure.”

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Why Princess Diana’s Fashion Will Never Go Out of Style

The best moments from Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1983 tour, 37 years on

Royal tours might be off the cards for a while but that won’t stop us looking back at some of our favourites. This year marks 37 years since the Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales embarked on their six-week tour of Australia and New Zealand with a 10-month old Prince William in tow, touching down in Alice Springs airport on the 20th March, 1983 and arriving in New Zealand on 17th April.

At the time, The Prince and Princess of Wales had been married just two years and to the public, their fairytale life was very much still intact. It was Diana who pulled the crowds, always more popular than her husband during walkabouts. The Queen’s cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson, revealed in an interview that it was something Charles realised early on in their marriage during a trip to Wales, when he apparently told aides, ‘They’ve come out to see my wife, they haven’t come out to see me.’

The couple’s 1983 tour ran like a tight ship, everyday there was a packed itinerary which included photocalls, charity balls, receptions, polo matches, church services and Maori ceremonies.

At 22-years-old, it was Diana’s first overseas trip and the first tour that William had ever been on. Diana had allegedly gone against royal protocol which was that children were usually left in others’ care while they were travelling and had refused to leave him behind - a decision that her daughter-in-laws, the Duchess of Cambridge and the Duchess of Sussex, would later follow.

During the tour it was estimated that the royal couple shook approximately 2,000 hands per day leaving Diana’s red and sore every evening. The vast amount of public appearances meant the young princess’s wardrobe was being closely watched like never before - and she didn’t disappoint.

In fact, this tour is noted as being one of Diana’s fashion greats and one that saw her debuting some of her most iconic styles - the romantic, pretty Princess Di that encapsulated the new era of a young royal mother and her family. Hardly surprising that the fourth season of The Crown is set to heavily feature this tour, starring Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connell as the couple.

To mark the 37th anniversary, we look back at some of the best moments of the 1983 tour Down Under.

Diana Princess of Wales visiting a war memorial in Canberra Australia.

Diana, Princess of Wales visiting a war memorial in Canberra, Australia.

Image may contain Charles Prince of Wales Human Person Diana Princess of Wales Clothing Apparel Nature and Outdoors

Diana, Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales posing in front of Ayers Rock near Alice Springs, Australia.

Diana Princess of Wales in a dress designed by Benny Ong at Ayers Rock Australia.

Diana, Princess of Wales in a dress designed by Benny Ong at Ayers Rock, Australia.

The Prince of Wales and Diana Princess of Wales dancing together at a charity ball in Sydney Australia.

The Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales dancing together at a charity ball in Sydney, Australia.

Image may contain Diana Princess of Wales Charles Prince of Wales Tie Accessories Accessory Human and Person

Diana, Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales at the Crest Hotel in Brisbane, Australia. The Princess wore Saudi Arabian sapphires with a dress designed by Victor Edelstein.

Diana Princess of Wales wearing a pink Donald Campbell suit at the Perth Hockey Stadium in Bentley Australia.

Diana, Princess of Wales wearing a pink Donald Campbell suit at the Perth Hockey Stadium in Bentley, Australia.

Diana Princess of Wales wearing a pink Catherine Walker dress and a hat by John Boyd in Newcastle Australia.

Diana, Princess of Wales wearing a pink Catherine Walker dress and a hat by John Boyd in Newcastle, Australia.

The Prince And Princess Of Wales meeting school children during a trip to Alice Springs Australia.

The Prince And Princess Of Wales meeting school children during a trip to Alice Springs, Australia.

Image may contain Necklace Jewelry Accessories Accessory Diana Princess of Wales Human Person and Evening Dress

Diana, Princess of Wales wore a Victor Edelstein gown and the Spencer Tiara to a state reception in Brisbane, Australia.

Diana Princess of Wales wearing a dress by The Emanuels at Parliament House in New Zealand with Prime Minister Robert...

Diana, Princess of Wales wearing a dress by The Emanuels at Parliament House in New Zealand with Prime Minister Robert Muldoon.

The Prince and Princess of Wales visit an RAF base in Christchurch New Zealand. Diana is wearing a Catherine Walker coat...

The Prince and Princess of Wales visit an RAF base in Christchurch, New Zealand. Diana is wearing a Catherine Walker coat and John Boyd hat.

Prince William Diana Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales at Government House in Auckland New Zealand.

Prince William, Diana, Princess of Wales and the Prince of Wales at Government House in Auckland, New Zealand.

Image may contain Diana Princess of Wales Clothing Apparel Hat Human Person and Sleeve

Diana, Princess of Wales arriving in New Zealand wearing Catherine Walker with a hat by John Boyd.

Diana Princess of Wales during a walkabout in Dunedin New Zealand.

Diana, Princess of Wales during a walkabout in Dunedin, New Zealand.

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Tie Accessories Accessory Hat and Charles Prince of Wales

The Prince of Wales and Diana, Princess of Wales during a visit to Manukau, near Auckland, New Zealand. Diana wore a Jan Van Velden suit with a hat by John Boyd.

Image may contain Clothing Apparel Evening Dress Fashion Gown Robe Diana Princess of Wales Human Person and Plant

Diana, Princess of Wales in a Donald Campbell gown at a gala ballet performance in Auckland, New Zealand.

Diana Princess of Wales at farewell banquet in Auckland New Zealand wearing a cream taffeta and lace gown by Gina...

Diana, Princess of Wales at farewell banquet in Auckland, New Zealand wearing a cream taffeta and lace gown by Gina Frattini and the Cambridge Lovers' Knot tiara.

Best ever Trooping the Colour outfits: from Princess Diana to Kate Middleton

Inside the Australia Trip that Made Princess Diana a Star

Diana said she was a "different person" upon her return.

preview for Full Disclosure: Emma Corrin on playing Princess Diana in The Crown

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  • The season's ninth episode, "Terra Nullis," focuses on Charles and Diana's six week-long trip to Australia in 1983.
  • Here's the truth behind that precedent-breaking trip, including how Diana refused to leave young Prince William behind.

Technically , Diana Spencer became Princess Diana in 1981, when she married Prince Charles , heir to the English throne. But as season 4 of The Crown shows, Diana's growth into a figure of international adoration and respect—the so-called "People's Princess" —took more time.

"Terra Nullis," episode 9 of The Crown , depicts a turning point in Diana's personal life and public image–and the intersection of the two. Diana's first trip abroad would prove to be a pivotal one: The 22-year-old established herself as an instantly charming presence, fashion icon, and a royal rule-breaker.

Fast forwarding past the couple's elaborate royal wedding, The Crown instead uses the 1983 tour to capture the charged early years of Charles and Diana's marriage. In every scene, a new facet in their complicated union emerges. Charles's shock, and eventual jealousy, of Diana's effortless star status. Diana's longing to be adored by Charles and the crowds. Their commitment to work on their relationship—and how fragile those vows became, when tested by their unique circumstances.

For all these reasons, "Terra Nullis" is this season's stand-out episode. Here's the truth behind the trip that made Diana a star.

charles and diana in australia

Princess Diana won over crowds of Australians.

Charles and Diana traveled to Australia at a tense time in the countries' relationships. Australia had just elected the Labour leader Robert James Lee "Bob" Hawke in a landslide, and he wanted to eliminate Australia's ties to the Commonwealth and monarchy—essentially, everything that the Prince and Princess of Wales represented.

"The tour had a serious political goal—persuading the grumpy and increasingly Republican Australian continent that it still wanted a monarchy in the first place," Tina Brown wrote in The Diana Chronicles .

But according to Brown, Diana's vast popularity, which drew 400,000 people in Brisbane alone, "turned the whole mood around." Diana and her charming "lack of pretension" even "mesmerized" Bob Hawke, per Brown. "By the end of Charles and Diana's tour, a poll in Australia found that Monarchists outnumbered Republicans two to one..the twenty-one year old Princess of Wales had proved she was a dazzling new PR person for the British Crown," Brown wrote.

Years later, Diana told biographer Andrew Morton that she was a "different person" upon returning to England. She was a star.

prince charles, princess diana and prince william of wales visit to australia and new zealand 1983

Prince Charles was reportedly jealous of Diana's star power.

Australians rushed to catch a glimpse of Diana. They were less enthused to see Charles. According to Brown, people would "openly [groan] in disappointment."

"Victor Chapman, the press secretary on the tour, got used to late-night phone calls from Charles complaining about the scant coverage of himself in the press compared to the hagiographic acres accorded of his wife," Brown wrote, cheekily.

Charles's letters written from the trip, seen in Penny Junor's book Prince William , give insight into his mindset. "I do feel desperate for Diana. There is no twitch she can make without these ghastly, and I am quite convinced, mindless people photographing it...How can anyone, let alone a 21-year-old, be expected to come out of this obsessed and crazed attention unscathed?"

Breaking with royal protocol, Diana refused to leave Prince William in England.

In The Crown , Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) casually establishes how royal tours normally proceeded: The parents traveled, and the kids stayed home. "We never took the children anywhere. When we took the children to Australia in 1954, we left them at home for six months," Elizabeth says in The Crown .

Diana broke with generations of royal precedent by refusing to leave her son, 10-month-old Prince William, in England while they were away, per E! News. Instead, William stayed at a "sheep station" (a large ranch) in Australia and the couple flew back repeatedly to visit him between destinations.

prince charles  princess diana

Yes, Diana spoke about Prince William's stuffed animals on a radio show.

As probably already gathered by this point, Diana was a major hit in Australia. During their stop in Alice Springs, Diana and Charles took a trip to a local radio station. In The Crown , Diana brings up Prince William's whale stuffed animal unprompted, whereas in real life, Charles whispered the idea to her. Brown, in The Diana Chronicles , wrote that Diana's lack of pretension about topics like motherhood is what helped her win over many Australians.

And they climbed Uluru, as Prince William would do with his wife in 2014.

In The Crown , Charles and Diana visit Uluru, a large sandstone rock formation that rises suddenly out of the desert in central Australia, and is sacred to indigenous Australians, per the BBC . As Life's special edition Diana: A Princess Remembered notes, the princess wore "not-so-suitable" shoes for the rigorous climb.

charles and diana at uluru

A video captures Diana and Charles scaling the start of the 2,831" rock—though not the part where Diana turns around.

In 2014, in a real full-circle moment, Prince William—who had been a baby on his parents' trip—visited Australia with his wife, Kate Middleton, and their son, Prince George (in line to inherit the throne). The Cambridges recreated Charles and Diana's photo opp before Uluru, taken 31 years prior, per Vanity Fair .

The couple made headlines for dancing.

As "Terra Nullis" shows so well, Charles and Diana's marriage had its triumphs and moments of synergy. One such moment occurred on the dance floor of a charity ball.

princess diana retrospective

A video taken that evening captures their Dancing With the Stars -worthy moves.

They danced multiple times that tour, actually.

Diana spent time with Australian lifeguards, just as Princess Margaret once did.

If you're a lifeguard at Australia's famous Bondi Beach, there's a good chance you may, one day, get to speak to a visiting royal. Diana visited Terrigal Beach in 1983.

prince charles, princess diana and prince william of wales visit to australia and new zealand 1983

In her book Lady in Waiting , Lady Glenconner recalls accompanying Princess Margaret to Bondi Beach during an official trip to Australia in 1975. Unlike Diana, she wasn't as taken with her surroundings.

"One of the things on the itinerary for Sydney was a visit to Bondi Beach, which included a photo call on the sand with the lifeguards. On discovering this, Princess Margaret wasn’t happy. The idea of sinking into the sand during a formal engagement was not something she was interested in," Glenconner wrote, per an excerpt in OprahMag.com . Margaret was eventually persuaded to change into her flat shoes and proceed with the engagement, but was ultimately not pleased: “But weren’t those lifeguards disappointing?” she said.

princess margaret oct nov 1975 tour pictured during her visit to bondi beach today where she watched a life saving displayprincess with ck asmussen nsw pres slsaa tour official moving children away from princesstwo children getting close to prince

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Elena Nicolaou is the former culture editor at Oprah Daily. 

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What Princess Diana and Prince Charles's 1983 Tour of Australia Looked Like in Real Life

Yes, little Prince William was there too.

princess diana prince charles tour australia

Though the trip proved to be a diplomatic success, The Crown 's interpretation of the tour highlighted personal road bumps for Charles and Diana. He resented the public's adoration for her, while she was jealous of his affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. Diana also had to go through lengths to be able to bring a nine-month-old William with her and Charles abroad, rather than be apart from him for the six-week trip. Her decision, which raised the queen's eyebrows on the Netflix series, ultimately established a new precedent in the family. As we've seen with modern royals, Duchess Kate and Prince William went on tour with Prince George and Princess Charlotte, while Duchess Meghan and Prince Harry have taken their young son, Archie Mountbatten-Windsor, abroad as well.

Flip through the photos here to see how The Crown 's depiction of the events compare to the real thing. And see how well the show did re-creating some of Diana's most memorable looks from the voyage.

March 20, 1983

princess diana prince charles tour australia

Princess Diana carries a baby Prince William as she and Prince Charles arrive at Alice Springs, Australia.

March 21, 1983

prince charles princess diana tour of australia

The couple visit Uluru, also known as Ayers Rock, in Uluru National Park in Australia's Northwestern Territory.

Charles and Diana walk together at Uluru.

Charles and Diana meet schoolchildren in Alice Springs.

March 22, 1983

Diana boards a plane in a white blouse and blue skirt as she leaves Alice Springs.

March 25, 1983

Diana waves while she and Charles visit victims of bushfires.

Diana sports a baby-pink number with a matching feathered hat in Canberra, Australia.

March 30, 1983

Charles and Diana attend a reception in Hobart, Tasmania. She wears a red Bruce Oldfield dress with the Spencer family tiara.

Diana wears a blue, ruffled Bruce Oldfield dress while dancing with the Prince of Wales in Sydney.

While visiting Newcastle, Australia, with Charles, Diana wears a light pink dress by Catherine Walker and a hat by John Boyd.

Charles and Diana arrive in Hobart, Tasmania. The princess wears a Bellville Sassoon suit and John Boyd hat.

April 6, 1983

While driving through Memorial Oval in Port Pirie, Australia, Diana wears a Jan Van Velden suit and a John Boyd hat. Charles smiles at the crowd in a gray suit.

April 7, 1983

In one of her most iconic looks, a pink polka-dot ensemble by Donald Campbell and hat by John Boyd, the Princess of Wales greets fans in Perth, Australia.

Diana smiles at the crowds gathered in Perth.

April 8, 1983

The princess greets a well-wisher during a ride at the Hands Oval sportsground in Bunbury, Australia.

April 14, 1983

Diana wears a red polka-dot ensemble at the opening of the Bourke Street Mall in Melbourne.

April 17, 1983

Dressed in a blue hat and red printed dress, Diana waves goodbye as she and Charles board the plane to leave Melbourne.

April 18, 1983

The Princess of Wales greets a Maori woman at the Eden Park stadium in Auckland, New Zealand.

April 20, 1983

Diana wears a dress designed by the Emanuels, who made her wedding gown, to a state banquet in New Zealand. She's joined by the prime minister of New Zealand, Robert Muldoon, and Charles.

Diana and Charles play with William on the gardens of the Government House.

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Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she's listening to Lorde right now. 

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From the archives: See The Weekly’s covers featuring Prince Charles & Princess Diana during their first years of romance, as the new season of The Crown delves into their courtship

Profile picture of Jess Pullar

If you’re watching the new season of The Crown from Australia, you’ll likely be intrigued by one particular storyline.

Known for its accuracy in depicting real-life events, The Crown has quickly garnered a reputation as an (albeit dramatised) interpretation of the many milestone royal events that have occurred since Queen Elizabeth II took the throne in 1952.

After three whirlwind seasons, The Crown fans are now privy to a depiction of the royal family’s key moments from the 1980s – namely, the relationship between Princess Diana and Prince Charles.

It’s one of the most iconic romances of all time, and one that the world will forever be inquisitive about.

And in a big moment for Australia, their famous tour of the country in 1983 is set to bring a refreshed perspective on the globally renowned photo opportunities that it posed.

royal tour 1983 australia

The Australian Women’s Weekly covered the early days of Charles and Diana’s courtship, which is set to be brought to life in the new season of The Crown .

As a show striving to make its narrative as realistic as possible , the production team behind The Crown approached the Australian Women’s Weekly to ask for permission to mock up covers of the magazine at the time the Australian tour took place.

If you watch closely, viewers will see copies of The Australian Women’s Weekly in a couple of shots (see the mock ups below) in the episode covering the tour.

royal tour 1983 australia

The Weekly covers can be spotted in the latest season of The Crown .

royal tour 1983 australia

The Crown producers called The Weekly to ask for permission to mock up some vintage covers of the magazine from the 1983 tour.

royal tour 1983 australia

In comparison, this is an archived Australian Women’s Weekly cover featuring Charles and Diana a few years before their Australian tour.

What happened on Charles and Diana’s Australian tour?

The whirlwind Australian tour of Prince Charles and Princess Diana captured the world’s attention in a way no other royal tour had before.

Firstly, the month-and-a-half long journey marked the very first overseas royal tour Diana had ever made.

It was also Prince William’s first ever tour. He was nine-months-old at the time, and while it was standard practice at the time for royal babies to remain in the care of others at home, it is believed Diana simply didn’t want to part with him.

royal tour 1983 australia

The new royal parents visited Uluru among other places during the milestone tour of Australia.

During the Australian tour, the royal couple visited Ayers Rock (which is now known as Uluru). They also attended multiple events in Sydney, Melbourne, Newcastle, Alice Springs and more.

Among their engagements were balls, school visits and many, many walkabouts.

And at 22, Diana had quickly established herself as a fashion icon – some of her most renowned style moments were front and centre during the tour, including her stunning pink Victor Edelstein gown and the Spencer Tiara which she wore in Brisbane.

royal tour 1983 australia

Diana’s iconic pink Victor Edelstein dress was worn during her tour of Australia in 1983.

The tour was undoubtedly one of their most famous, and it’s easy to see why given the global attention the royal pair garnered.

Indeed, it set a precedent for modern royal tours – Duchess Catherine and Prince William have also opted to to bring their children along to overseas trips in the past, and last year, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan brought their baby son Archie on a tour to South Africa.

With this in mind, we’ll be watching The Crown ‘s portrayal of the visit with much interest – not least to keep our eyes peeled for that Weekly cover.

Royal doppelgängers: See The Crown’s season four cast next to their real life royal counterparts

Royal doppelgängers: See The Crown’s season four cast next to their real life royal counterparts

Want more info on the crown’s new season check out the stories below.

Playing Princess Diana: The Crown’s Emma Corrin on why she thinks Diana never really stood a chance A fast approaching release date and new Aussie connections: The Crown’s remaining seasons are gearing up to be a wild ride Gird your crown jewels: New pics from the hotly anticipated fourth season of The Crown have dropped, and we’re in for a right royal spectacle The emotional story behind Prince Charles and Camilla Shand’s early (and doomed) relationship of the 1970s EXCLUSIVE: “It was daunting”: Jessica De Gouw talks joining The Crown and new drama The Secrets She Keeps

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Looking back at Princess Diana and Prince Charles' 1983 Australian tour, soon to be seen in The Crown

By Natalie Oliveri | 4 years ago

Australia's love affair with the British royal family is, undoubtedly, one of the strongest and most enduring throughout the Commonwealth.

It was strengthened like never before in 1983 when the new Prince and Princess of Wales embarked on their first joint tour Down Under, just two years after their fairy tale wedding .

But unbeknownst to adoring royal fans, the marriage was not a happy one and the six-week tour of Australia and New Zealand only moved to deepen the divide that had been growing between the Prince Charles and Diana.

royal tour 1983 australia

The mammoth royal visit is the focus of episode six, Terra Nullis, of The Crown season four, which returns to Netflix this Sunday.

The highly anticipated season will see the introduction of Lady Diana and follows her engagement and royal wedding to the future king of England.

Set during the 1980s, it'll feature moments still fresh in the minds of many royal fans, including that 1983 tour.

Diana and Charles visited Australia three times together during their marriage. Prior to her engagement being announced, Diana holidayed in New South Wales, relishing her final months in relative anonymity. In 1996, Diana made her final visit here, but as a divorced woman and free from the constraints of royal life.

Here are some of the highlights from Diana and Charles's 1983 tour in Australia.

Prince William's first royal tour

When Charles and Diana visited Australia as husband and wife for the first time in 1983, they brought along their young son rather than leaving him with nannies at Kensington Palace.

Diana had insisted on bringing then-nine-month-old baby William with her and Charles, in a major break in royal protocol.

royal tour 1983 australia

As the Royal Australian Air Force plane carrying the royals touched down on Australian soil in Alice Springs on a hot morning in March, William was given a very Aussie welcome when a blowfly landed on his head.

While posing for photographers on the tarmac, Prince Charles was heard saying: "Look, he's got a fly on him already".

Days later, Diana and Charles stood for photographers in front of Uluru – then known as Ayers Rock – at sunset for a photo that has become one of their most iconic, and was recreated by Prince William and Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, in 2014 during their first tour of Australia. They, too, brought along their young son – Prince George was also nine-months-old at the time.

The Prince and Princess of Wales also did what many tourists to the Top End did at the time, and climbed Uluru.

royal tour 1983 australia

Diana talks about baby William

When speaking with children living in outback communities via the School of the Air radio, Diana was asked by one of the young participants about William's favourite toys.

"Um, Jamie, he loves his koala bear he's got, but he hasn't got anything particular, he just likes something with a bit of noise," Diana said.

The princess was also asked whether Prince William had a bicycle.

"He hasn't got one yet, I think he's a bit small… perhaps when he's your age and size we might get him one," she said.

The baby prince was left with his nannies at Woomargama, a sheep station near Albury, chosen because its location allowed his parents to fly back to him every night during that leg of the tour.

royal tour 1983 australia

Hysteria at the Sydney Opera House

Diana cemented her popularity within the British royal family – and with her Australian fans – when she and Charles visited the Sydney Opera House, an appearance that saw thousands of people line the streets of the harbour foreshore and steps of the building to catch a glimpse of the couple.

People were hanging out of windows and office buildings as Diana and Charles drove by in an open-air car, the mass hysteria briefly taking its toll on Diana, who broke down in tears momentarily – something Charles apparently failed to notice.

When it came time to sing the Australian national anthem, a shy Di looked lost for words – but that only endeared her more to the public.

Her appearance in a flowing pink and white dress, and matching hat, that day remains one of her most enduring.

royal tour 1983 australia

A fractured marriage

Prince Charles and Diana looked the picture of happiness when they took a turn on the dance floor at a gala dinner and dance at the Wentworth Hotel in Sydney.

Wearing a blue gown by Bruce Oldfield and her Collingwood peal earrings, Diana shone.

But as crowds turned out to see her at every public appearance, a jealousy was growing within Prince Charles for the attention Diana was receiving instead of him.

After all, the Australian tour was meant to show off the Prince of Wales as the next king — but the public had eyes for Diana only.

royal tour 1983 australia

Diana's star power on show

The Princess of Wales was months away from her 22 nd birthday during the tour, and while she was relatively new at her royal role, her natural warmth and affinity with the public made her seem like a seasoned professional.

But Diana was never instructed how to behave in front of hordes of crowds, all while having to maintain an air of formality the British royals had been perfecting for decades.

"Traumatic," Diana later wrote of her first days in Australia, "the week I learned to be royal". 

With stops in Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, Canberra, Alice Springs, Sydney, Hobart and other small towns along the way, the royal tour saw constant pressure placed on both Diana and Charles.

Diana complained about having sore and red eyes nearly every night, while it's estimated the couple shook more than 2000 hands every day.

royal tour 1983 australia

Endless engagements and fashion

The royal tour was also about official business and Diana and Charles were the guests of honour at many formal dinners, where they mingled with dignitaries and politicians.

The tour came at a time when the newly-elected Bob Hawke government had visions of an Australian republic on the horizon, with the Whitlam dismissal by the Queen's representative, Sir John Kerr, taking place just eight years earlier.

Her four weeks in Australia was also the first major look at Diana's fashion credentials and her every appearance was scrutinised and copied – something that hadn't really changed when it comes to royal women.

It was also an opportunity for the young princess to show off some of her most stunning and now-iconic jewels, many of which were gifted as wedding presents just two years earlier.

royal tour 1983 australia

Diana mobbed by fans

Then-Victorian Labor premier John Cain wrote about the 1983 visit in his private diary, commenting on the huge crowds during Diana and Charles' visit to Cockatoo near Melbourne, where the community was still recovering from the Ash Wednesday bushfires in February.

"Astounding," Cain wrote. "People still respond to the mystery and aura and all the trappings that surround royalty."

royal tour 1983 australia

He also commented about the tension brewing between Diana and Charles in the struggle for popularity.

"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," Caine said. "He felt she was the subject of more attention and acceptance than he was."

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What Charles and Diana's 1983 Tour of Australia Looked Like In Real Life

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As depicted on the show, Charles and Diana vow to make their turbulent marriage work during the tour, though things between them crumble soon after. According to The Telegraph , the royal trip did cement global “Dianamania” as she wowed the crowds with stunning fashion and her endearing presence. But it's not totally clear whether things were just as bumpy between the Prince and Princess of Wales behind the scenes as The Crown suggests .

Ahead, a look at the couple's real-life Australian tour, from the couple's famous dance to their photo-op with William.

March 20, 1983

charles and diana in alice springs

The couple lands at Alice Springs Airport for the first stop on the six-week tour.

Charles And Diana In Alice Springs

The Prince and Princess of Wales are joined by their 10-month-old son Prince William.

March 21, 1983

The couple poses in Uluru, otherwise known as Ayers Park, in Alice Springs, Australia.

Prince Charles leads Princess Diana around Ayers Rock during a royal photo-op.

Diana and Charles attend an official welcome ceremony at a school in Alice Springs.

Diana looks on as Charles delivers remarks to the crowd in Alice Springs.

Diana and Charles are greeted by schoolchildren during their visit.

March 24, 1983

The Prince and Princess of Wales meet Prime Minister Bob Hawke and his wife Hazel in Canberra, Australia.

March 25, 1983

The couple waves to a crowd in Cockatoo at an event honoring victims of bushfires in the area.

Diana walks alongside Prime Minister Hawke during a stop in Canberra, Australia.

March 26, 1983

A young girl offers Diana a flower during an event in Adelaide.

March 28, 1983

Charles and Diana ride through a crowd of Australians outside the Sydney Opera House.

Diana bursts into tears during the ride through Sydney.

Charles and Diana attend a charity ball in Sydney.

The couple dances during the ball, a rare romantic moment depicted in The Crown 's fourth season.

The pair continues their dance, which is set to Frankie Valli's "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" on The Crown .

March 29, 1983

Charles and Diana wave to a crowd in Newcastle, Australia.

The couple stands inside a vehicle moving through Newcastle.

Princess Diana gazes down at a floral arrangement while wearing a pink Catherine Walker dress with John Boyd hat.

Charles and Diana appear to hold hands during a public event in Australia.

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Prince Charles and Princess Diana's 1983 Australia Tour Marked the Fracturing Of Their Relationship

The Crown accurately depicts the jealousy lurking beneath the surface of the royal couple.

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The Crown launches into Dianamania with the sixth episode of Season Four, as it follows Prince Charles and Diana on their 1983 royal tour of Australia and New Zealand. They embarked on their first overseas tour as a couple with young Prince William in March, and as the Netflix series shows, the tour launched Diana into superstardom and solidified Charles’ resentment of her. Here's how the actual tour compares to Peter Morgan’s adaptation in the episode entitled “Terra Nullius.”

However, the 21-year-old new mother was having a difficult time, as shown in the show—she was "jet-lagged, anxious and sick with bulimia," wrote Andrew Morton of the tour. We see Diana turn back mid-hike at Ayers Rock in Episode Six to Charles’ dismay, which did really happen. However, this was likely because of her impractical front-buttoned white dress and heels, per the Sydney Morning Herald . “When Charles coaxed her to climb part of the way up the rock, she hesitated, not through fear of slipping, but because she knew that coming down would expose her knees and petticoat to the world’s press,” they wrote of the incident.

royal tour 1983 australia

Still, the tour was likely as rocky for Charles and Diana’s relationship as The Crown depicts. There are accounts of Diana crying at a public appearance outside the Sydney Opera House, which a photographer who was present, Ken Lennox, described in the documentary Inside the Crown: Secrets of the Royals , per Vanity Fair :

I’m about four feet from the princess and I’m trying to get a bit of the opera house in the background and some of the crowd, and Diana burst into tears and wept for a couple of minutes. Charles I don’t think has noticed [Diana crying] at that stage. If he has, typical of Prince Charles to look the other way.

While the show accurately depicts some moments that the couple seemed to be genuinely in love, such as their dance at a charity ball in Sydney, Charles’s jealousy of the mad adoring crowds over Diana did in fact amplify the wedge between the couple.

“The prince was embarrassed the crowds so clearly favored her over him,” wrote Sally Bedell Smith . “For her part, Diana was upset by the disproportionate interest in her, especially when she realized that it was disturbing Charles. She collapsed under the strain, weeping to her lady-in-waiting and secretly succumbing to bulimia. In letters to friends, Charles described his anguish over the impact ‘all this obsessed and crazed attention was having on his wife.’”

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In a 1995 interview with the BBC after their separation, Diana affirmed this herself. “We'd be going round Australia, for instance, and all you could hear was, ‘oh, she's on the other side.’ Now, if you're a man—like my husband—a proud man, you mind about that if you hear it every day for four weeks. You feel low about it, instead of feeling happy and sharing it,” she recalled. “With the media attention came a lot of jealousy. A great deal of complicated situations arose because of that.”

Charles and Diana’s royal tour did, however, have a powerful impact on the public opinion of the monarchy in Australia, as depicted in the episode. The popularity of the monarchy had been in decline in Australia in the '70s, and Republican Prime Minister Bob Hawke did not hide his stance that the country would be better off as an independent nation. While he may not have directly expressed this to Charles as he did in the episode, after the royal tour The Evening Standard stated that the public’s extreme fawning over Diana “ha[d] set Republicanism back 10 years.” And when, in 1999, the country held a referendum to vote on the possibility of becoming a republic, the people voted against it.

And the most crucial factual detail that The Crown snuck into the episode—Charles really did fall off that horse in the polo match.

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A Look Back At Princess Diana’s First Royal Tour Of Australia

Thirty-five years ago, prince harry’s mother, diana, made her first overseas trip down under to visit ayres rock and bondi beach.

royal tour 1983 australia

Amid the news Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are expecting their first child together, we imagine how Princess Diana would have reacted; overjoyed, overwhelmed, emotional. The statement would have read Harry’s mother was “delighted”, an adjective used by the Palace to describe every piece of good news.

Like every Royal story, there seems to be some sort of coincidental anniversary or some hidden milestone that gives it a whole new meaning. And Kensington Palace’s announcement that Markle is pregnant is not exempt: Thirty-five years ago, when Prince William was just a baby, Princess Diana and Prince Charles travelled to Australia for their first tour. The Royal couple – and William – spent 41 days travelling to Alice Springs and even dropped by Bondi Beach. It was Diana’s first overseas trip and she was just 22-years-old. It seems almost fitting then for a Royal baby announcement to happen, in our country, on this special anniversary.

On the other hand, it’s quite surreal to look back at this moment in time where Harry didn’t exist yet and Diana had no clue her life would be cut so short. While your timeline is filled with Royal Baby news, here’s a look back at Princess Diana’s time in Australia – her beautiful outfits, her grace and poise and the origins of those familial, caring values she passed onto her son, the Duke of Sussex.

royal tour 1983 australia

topics: celebrity , Princess Diana , Meghan Markle , prince harry , royal tour , royal baby , Australia

royal tour 1983 australia

woomargama

Prince Charles, Princess Diana, and the Sheep: How the Royals Transformed One Australian Country Town

During their 1983 royal tour, the Prince and Princess arranged for baby Prince William to stay at Woomargama Station, a working property in a small town. Decades later, locals remember their weeks-long brush with royalty.

Often, stories about royalty are dripping in diamonds and pearls, featuring celebrity cameos and (literal) palace intrigue. At times, Charles and Diana’s 1983 visit to Australia and New Zealand had that. But then they’d return to see baby William—whom Diana, famously, had insisted on bringing, breaking royal tradition—in Woomargama, the country town of 90-some residents where William and his nanny stayed for the duration of the trip.

Woomargama Station, located in the town of the same name, is a working property. At the time, it boasted around 2,000 sheep, 400 cattle, and one corgi named Bryn. The latter’s parents, Gordon and Margaret Darling, owned the station, and during the royals’ stay, they were asked to vacate their home base, the six-bedroom homestead they’d renovated about 15 years back and filled with modern Australian art. The people who got to stay were those like Ward, who worked the property, many of whom lived on the roughly 2,500-acre expanse.

woomargama

Veronica Semmler’s parents also got to stay, as her father Colin was a station hand at the time. She and her brothers had grown up on the property, but at the time of the tour, she was boarding in Albury (the city the royals flew in and out of when visiting Woomargama), finishing her senior year of high school—and constantly ringing home to ask for updates.

It wasn’t just her. Semmler recalls crowds gathering by the side of the road in the hopes of glimpsing Charles and Diana as they arrived; like her, many of them could hardly believe their luck. “I remember when they said that they were coming it was like, ‘To Woomargama?’” Semmler says. “Why would they come to Woomargama?’”

Surely, the New South Wales village, described in Woman’s Day at the time as “a typical Australian country township—a pub, a couple of service stations, a general store/post office, a one-teacher primary school with 12 pupils, a church or two, and a rundown community hall,” was not the kind of place that regularly welcomed royalty. For Diana and country-loving Charles, though, the town and its station served as a comfortable and safe home base for William, within driving distance of an airport, and roughly in-between Sydney and Melbourne, so as not to appear to favor one over the other. As Mr. Darling told the press at the time, “It doesn’t favor any one.”

prince charles princess diana australia news clippings

The Darlings have since passed away, but they collected articles published about the station in a special royal tour scrapbook, which Clare Cannon—their daughter, and the current owner of the station—was happy to share. The press clippings offer a glimpse of how the couple took the news of the royals' plans to stay at the station. They were "a little surprised but absolutely delighted" when the call came from the Prime Minister, despite their notable connections at home and abroad. (They counted UK foreign secretary Lord Carrington and Prince Philip's on-time aide, Mike Parker , among their friends, and had previously hosted Ronald Reagan, then the Governor of California; as Mr. Darling explained to the press, “We were close friends in Los Angeles.”)

However it was arranged, in the spring of 1983, the residents of Woomargama had their day-to-day lives turned upside down as the media besieged the town. The Woomargama Whisper suggested residents "be kind," and "Try not to tread on them, even though they may be crawling through the grass looking for a scoop photograph," but that wasn't so easy for Ward, who needed to keep the farm running amid all the madness. “My wife Dinah, she actually went up to the front gate and actually blocked the front entrance with the car so we didn’t have any other intrusions until they got security set up,” he says.

woomargama

When security came, it came in force. Members of the New South Wales’ tactical response group were installed at the gate, and the airspace around the property was secured. A helicopter was placed at the ready near Ward’s window, per Diana’s request, as Ward remembers it. “Princess Diana actually stipulated she wasn’t going to tolerate any nonsense,” he says. “If there was any breach in security, they wanted out.” Thankfully, it was never needed—though Ward was once sent to investigate a suspected midnight intruder. The culprit? An old bottle reflecting the moonlight.

Meanwhile, the Darlings were preparing the homestead, the property’s main residence, for the royals’ arrival—including, as Mrs. Darling told the press, seeing to it that fresh flowers were placed in every room, and ensuring that the pantry was fully stocked. Semmler’s family on the other hand was worrying that all the new officials might take issue with her father’s unregistered motorbike (never fear, “he got to know all the security people there, and so he ended up just driving along the road and nothing happened,” Semmler says). There was also a big to-do about a baby cradle, specially made in nearby Wagga Wagga for the young Prince, which required a door or two to be taken off its hinges to get inside. And on top of it all, they were contending with a severe ongoing drought, hardly ideal for a farm’s operations.

woomargama

At least one of their worries vanished when Prince Charles and Princess Diana arrived in the middle of a downpour. “We always said Princess Diana broke the drought,” Cannon said. “It was a big day.”

Even the Windsors couldn’t ignore the storm. “Prince Charles arrived at the homestead and he said, ‘This is the first time I have ever had to wear a mackintosh in Australia!’” Ward laughs. But Diana’s mind was elsewhere, he recalls fondly. “With a lovely sort of fringe she had and those bright eyes and a shy smile on her face, she said, ‘I must go and see little Wills.’ And she went to see little Wills.”

Aside from arrivals and departures, Charles and Diana mostly kept to themselves while they were on the property, which wasn’t that often anyway. For the most part, the Prince and Princess were busy jetsetting and glad-handing around the continent, leaving Woomargama with just the station staff, palace staff, and security staff—and of course, little Wills and the nanny, Barbara Barnes .

prince charles, prince of wales and diana, princess of wales

Ward remembers Barnes and Prince William being driven around the property every day, including around the “square,” where the manager’s and jackeroo’s homes were. “They’d come and they’d stop and you’d look at little Wills, and he’d smile,” Ward said, adding, “He just sat in his little car seat and he’d smile. He was a very happy little chap.” Semmler recalls hearing about these drives too—and that thereafter, her mother always called an off-road they’d taken “The Prince’s Highway.”

Cannon, who never met the Windsors during their stay, says the story goes that William took his first steps at the station. Ward doesn’t recall that, but assures the young Prince “certainly crawled on the carpets at least.”

When the couple was in town, though, it was hardly a restful break from their tour. Charles and Diana were still working to connect with the locals, even meeting with children from the town’s school. (One of the students “touched the Princess and she didn’t wash her hands for at least a week after,” as Ward remembers it.)

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For her part, Cannon recalls hearing about Diana’s interaction with a particular, somewhat eccentric local. “There was an old lady there whose family had been in the village for generations, and she had all these little gnomes out in front [of her home]. And Princess Diana met her and said, ‘oh, I love all your gnomes,’” Cannon laughs. “You know, she was very polite.”

The real highlight for Woomargama residents was the couple's attendance at church service in nearby Halbrook, at the royal tour organizers’ suggestion. (The vicar was given the service program and the hymns by the Windsors’ staff, per Cannon.) That Sunday, the locals gathered outside St. Paul’s Anglican Church that Sunday to greet the couple. One of them, Wendy Geddes, remembers standing alongside her fellow Brownies, helping wave them in.Semmler, whose mother was on the church council, was able to return home and attend the service. “All I could really look at was Charles and Di, even though I could only see the back of their heads,” Semmler said. She added that Diana was beautiful, and Charles, who read a lesson for the congregation had a wonderful voice—“he could have read the entire Bible and I would’ve been happy”—but that most of all, she was shocked by how human they were. “I don’t know what you expect when royalty comes, but they’re so special and so amazing and so jaw-dropping, but they’ve got two arms, two legs, they’re a normal height, you know?”

william and parents new zealand

For those weeks, Woomargama was at the center of a national story. Ward kept up with Charles and Diana’s travels every day by consulting their official itinerary and listening to the wires he’d been granted access to. Truckers passing by took to calling the town Windsor City. And then it was over.

“We were sort of, you know, country people who were just getting on with living, and just bringing up our children. And then all of the sudden we were a part of this world which was so different to what we were used to. It was really quite bizarre,” Semmler muses. “And then when they left, it was like, oh okay… It was like, for those weeks, we were somewhere so strange and unusual. And in a way, it was sort of magical.”

clare cannon corgi

Traces of royalty remain. Woomargama souvenirs were made featuring the Prince and Princess of Wales, some of which Semmler and her family still have; a plaque was installed outside the church they visited; and the smokehouse that supplied Chalres and Diana with smoked trout still touts its ties to the Windsors. (Anthony Ainsworth, who took over the business a few years back, was shocked when the rumors of the royal connection were verified: “I thought, oh! It’s real, it’s true!”) But Ward says that he doubts many people in town even remember it. Many of them have since died, and others have moved away.

Cannon certainly hasn’t forgotten though—and neither has her parents’ esteemed guest. Decades later, her husband, who happens to be consul for Monaco, met the Prince of Wales at Prince Albert’s 2011 wedding. Did he remember Woomargama? “Oh, totally!” Cannon laughs. “He goes, ‘How’s all those sheep?’”

Headshot of Chloe Foussianes

Chloe is a News Writer for Townandcountrymag.com , where she covers royal news, from the latest additions to Meghan Markle’s staff to Queen Elizabeth’s monochrome fashions ; she also writes about culture, often dissecting TV shows like The Marvelous Mrs Maisel and Killing Eve .

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IMAGES

  1. The Australian Royal Tour 1983 by Hall, Trevor; Levenson, David: Very

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  2. The 1983 Australian tour: Young Prince Charles and Princess Diana

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  3. A Look Back At Princess Diana’s First Royal Tour Of Australia

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  4. A Look Back At Princess Diana’s First Royal Tour Of Australia

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  5. A Look Back At Princess Diana’s First Royal Tour Of Australia

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  6. Princess Diana & Prince Charles's 1983 Australia Tour in Photos

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COMMENTS

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