Hear ye! Hear ye! It's 1954 and Her Majesty is coming!

Queen Elizabeth ll and Prince Philip waving to crowds, Bundaberg, Queensland, 1954. Acc 30171 Clifford Potter Photographs, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number: 30171-0033-0001

On 6 February 2022, Elizabeth II became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms, and the Commonwealth. 

Featured below are digitised images and collections of the John Oxley Library showing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during her first tour of Queensland in 1954. 

The photographs captured by newspaper journalists, commissioned photographers, and ordinary citizens, illustrate our enthusiasm for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and the interest that followed her everywhere she went.
This blog post is a record of her visit as a young monarch, reflecting our Queensland experience of her visit at the time.

Her Majesty’s popularity is supreme… 

During her first royal tour of Queensland in March 1954, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was accompanied by her husband His Royal Highness Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh.

HRH Queen Elizabeth II captured the hearts of the Queensland people. Following the austerity and impact of the Second World War (1939 – 1945) and the death of her father King George VI in 1952, our nations’ fascination with the Royal family was significant. We greeted Queen Elizabeth II with open arms on her first official tour as the new monarch. 

Queen Elizabeth II rides in a Rolls Royce during her visit to Brisbane, 1954. 7032 Kahlert collection of colour slides, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image no: 7032-0001-0048

Queen Elizabeth II addresses the crowds in Mackay, during her tour to Australia, 1954. APU-63 Royal Visit 1954 Photograph Album, Image number APU - 63-0001-0001

Large crowds line the streets as the royal entourage drives past, Queensland, 1954, 30171 Clifford Potter Photographs digitised images, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number 30171-0030-0001

Elizabeth was so popular with the people of Queensland they came out in their thousands, lining the streets for an opportunity to see her drive past or attending formal events where she was the honoured and most distinguished guest.
Adoring crowds hoped for the opportunity to shake her hand, give her a posy of fresh flowers or to engage in a short conversation with her as she walked by. 

Queen Elizabeth ll with Mrs Gair at City Hall for a women’s reception, Brisbane, Queensland, 1954, 30171 Clifford Potter Photographs, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number: 30171-0001-0032

Daily newspapers filled their columns with royal updates and ‘tiny details,’ describing events on the Queen’s schedule. On 17 March on one these occasions, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was greeted by more than 3,000 women who attended a reception for her in Brisbane’s City Hall, accompanied by Mrs Gair, wife of the Queensland Premier, The Honourable V. C. Gair. Representatives from 18 women’s organisations were presented to the Queen and another 130 organisations carried flowers and bouquets as floral tributes to give to Her Majesty. These were later distributed among various hospitals in Brisbane.  

A colour slide image of the highly decorated streets in Brisbane during the 1954 Royal tour of Queensland by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. 30541 Brisbane Royal Visits 1954 and 1959 colour slides, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image number: 30541-0001-0025

Gardams Silk Store in Queen Street, Brisbane, prepares for the royal visitors in 1954. Queensland Newspapers Pty Ltd, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Negative no: 193601

The Story Bridge decorated with lights for the royal tour in 1954, 30541 Brisbane Royal Visits 1954 and 1959 colour slides, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Image no: 30541-0001-0035

Streetscapes identified as the official route for the motorcade were highly decorated and festooned with colourful flags and banners. In the 50s, many business houses displayed signage and billboards on exterior façades, welcoming the young Queen to our state.
In the case of Rockhampton …” hardened and cynical men found themselves waving hats and cheering…” Pg 8 
An overseas correspondent travelling with the Royal party observed… “The more I see of it the more I feel that Queen Elizabeth is satisfying some human urge across the face of the whole Western world... the mystique of her sovereignty acknowledged so emotionally is no doubt the basis of this appeal.” 

Pennants featuring Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and His Royal Highness Prince Philip were  created as souvenirs of the 1954 royal visit to Fitzroy Shire and Rockhampton, Queensland. 27472 Souvenir of Royal Visit to Fitzroy Shire 1954, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.    

The Cairns Centre of the QATB received a certificate of appreciation for their assist with the Royal visit, 13 March 1954. Photo courtesy of Cairns Historical Society

Among other items in the John Oxley Library is a collection of significant memorabilia and brochures. Mrs Isabell (Bell) McLean Hines kept her personal invitation to the State Reception, Parliament House on 9 March 1954 as well as the official program. A photograph in the collection shows the marcasite necklace and bracelet she wore on the occasion.  

Invitation, formal directions and program for the Royal visit and State Reception, March 1954. 7360 Royal Visit 1954 Memorabilia 1954. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

These occasions were regarded as very special. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was expected to attend many state receptions throughout the Commonwealth. At the 1954 State reception in Brisbane, guests were given written guidelines to avoid mis-information and the Premier and the Chief Secretary’s Department asked everyone to read the instructions carefully.

A String Ensemble drawn from the Queensland Symphony Orchestra performed several works throughout the evening and Miss Mavis Brown, a pupil of the Dutton Park Opportunity School, aged 13 years at the time, presented Her Majesty with a bouquet in the form of the Queensland Coat of Arms (1893).

Read more:

Glittering State eventBrisbane Telegraph (Qld. : 1948 – 1954) Wed 10 March 1954, Pg 17

Newspaper cuttings of Queen Elizabeth’s arrival in Brisbane, March 1954, OM95-37 1954 Royal Visit Cutting Books. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

View more of Queen Elizabeth’s 1954 visit to Queensland captured on home movies and amateur film digitized through the Reel Rescue program and assistance given by donors and the Queensland Library Foundation.

In coming weeks, we will post two more blogs showcasing HRH Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to Queensland in 1963 and a collaborative blog showcasing her visit to regional Queensland in 1970. State Library of Queensland thanks the Queensland GLAM community (Gallery, Library, Archive and Museum) for sharing their local stories and photographs of the visit.   

Read more blogs about HRH Queen Elizabeth II and her visits to Queensland

@slqld Flickr Commons (photographs from our collections)

Anne Scheu, Collections Engagement, Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland


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