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50 years tomorrow since Queen first passed by

2 FEBRUARY 2004

Fifty years ago tomorrow, Queen Elizabeth II became the first reigning monarch to step ashore on Australian soil landing at Sydney's Farm Cove on 3 February 1954.

The National Museum of Australia is launching an exhibition, A Royal Romance , later this month to celebrate the anniversary, examine Australia's 1954 love affair with the Queen and looking at our changing relationship with the Crown.

About 75 per cent of Australians population then 9 million said they saw the Queen at least once during her eight-week national tour to all state capitals and many regional centres.

"The 1954 tour was eagerly awaited, with the glamorous new young Queen wearing the latest European fashions and promising new hope for Britain and the Dominion," said
A Royal Romance curator Guy Hansen. "There was no television available and some people travelled hundreds of kilometres just to catch a glimpse."

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh attended five engagements a day moving swiftly between events including a sheep show in Dubbo, a Sydney surf carnival and inspecting the Yallourn coal mine, Woomera rocket range and the Three Sisters.

Along the way they saw thousands of children, met ex-servicemen, opened Federal Parliament, visited hospitals, town halls and horse races and attended garden parties.

"Fifty years on it's fascinating to look back at this most celebrated of all Royal tours," Mr Hansen said. "The Queen's 2000 tour attracted considerable interest, but nothing like the massive enthusiasm of her first visit, when Australians instinctively supported the constitutional monarchy. It is hard now to imagine a visit of such scale and fervour."

A Royal Romance includes souvenirs and memorabilia from the 1954 tour and beyond. The abundance of everyday objects decorated with Royal motifs tells a story about how individual Australian households formed a unique relationship with the Queen.

One of the exhibition's stories is Daphne Mabbott's teenage recollection of decorating her Brisbane home with coloured lights and Union Jack flags, then taking part in the mass schools display at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds.

On show among commemorative cups and plates, dolls and photos, badges and elaborate foldout souvenir booklets, is Daphne's Elizabeth II brooch, which opens to reveal snaps of
the young Queen.

A Royal Romance is on show in the Lower Nation Gallery, National Museum of Australia, Canberra, from 26 February to 31 October. Entry is free.

For interviews, images or more information please contact Leanda Coleman on 02 6208 5338, 0438 620 710 or l.coleman@nma.gov.au