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5 March 2004

The National Museum of Australia's new 1954 coronation tour exhibition, A Royal Romance, will be officially opened on 26 February by monarchist Sir David Smith.

Sir David, who was official secretary to Australia's five Governors-General from 1973 to 1990, will launch the exhibition at a garden party in the National Museum's Garden of Australian Dreams from 11am.

A Royal Romance celebrates the 50th anniversary of Queen's Elizabeth's first Australian tour, which began in Sydney and stretched across the nation during February and March 1954.

Two historic royal cars will be on show for the opening - the Crossley Laundaulette used by the Duke and Duchess of York at the 1927 opening of Parliament House - and the Land Rover used by Queen Elizabeth during her 1963 and 1970 Australian tours.

Joining Sir David at the opening will be avid royal collector Cecil Ballard Junior, who saw the Queen several times as a teenager in 1954 and today continues to collect royal memorabilia from his Gold Coast home.

Mr Ballard's royal china, dolls and posters will be on show for A Royal Romance, which explores our changing relationship with the monarchy since the 1954 tour.

"I like to have my memorabilia on display so that other people can appreciate them. I gave most of my collection to the National Museum because when I die I do not think that any of the younger members of my family are as interested and enthusiastic about the royal family as I am," Mr Ballard said.

A Royal Romance uses many historic photos and memorabilia from collectors including Mr Ballard to look at Australia's love affair with the Queen, who was the first reigning monarch to step on Australian soil when she landed at Sydney's Farm Cove on 3 February 1954.

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 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.

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 Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or

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