Wednesday, 12 Aug 2020

Queen started secretly handing power over to Charles YEARS ago private letters reveal

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The release of the 211 letters from 1975 sent to and from the Queen, her then private secretary Sir Martin Charteris, and the then-Governor General Sir John Kerr on a constitutional crisis in Australia show the monarch had nothing to do with the dismissal of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. But they also uncover small details regarding how the Queen works and whom she relies on to carry out her huge amount of day-to-day duties. 

In a letter dated September 24 1975, written two months before Mr Whitlam was forced to stand down, Sir Martin revealed the monarch was following with interest the political crisis forming Down Under.

And she was being briefed by a key ally who had recently spoken directly with Sir John – her son and heir apparent Prince Charles.

The letter read: “My dear Governor-General, many thanks for your letter of September 12 which The Queen has read with much interest.

“I understand that The Prince of Wales, who has just returned to Balmoral, has enlarged to The Queen on the problems you are facing as a result of his talks with you. 

“As I have had occasion to remind you on previous occasions, the Governor-General of Australia does not seem to lie on a bed of roses and it is clear that you may be faced with some difficult constitutional decisions during the next month or so.

“We must hope that nothing will happen to prevent your visit to London in November.

“I know that the Queen will look forward very much to hearing from you how things develop.

“I have not yet had an opportunity to hear from The Prince of Wales about the Papua New Guinea celebrations but I much look forward to doing so.

“The only thing I do know is that he thoroughly enjoyed himself.”

In another letter, sent by Sir Martin a month later, the Queen is said to have been “absorbing with interest” news coming from Australia.

The letter read: “In your letter of 20th October you question whether the material you are sending on the crisis is too detailed.

“I can assure you that it is not.

“The Queen is absorbing it with interest and is very grateful to you for taking so much trouble to keep her informed.”

The 211 letters written in the run-up to the dismissal of Mr Whitlam were released to the public only after a High Court ruling. 

Historian Prof Jenny Hocking challenged the National Archives decision not to consider these letters state documents, usually released following a 31-year-long embargo, but rather private correspondence subjected to an unlimited embargo.

Following the High Court decision, Prof Hocking said: “It’s a story that has been absolutely clouded in secrecy, in distortion and in so much unknown.

“With this decision, one of those last remaining areas of secrecy and great unknown will be released to the Australian public.” 

At the time of the sacking of Mr Whitlam, many republicans in Australia believed the Queen had been directly involved in the dismissal and asked for a review of the relationship between their country and the Crown.

However, these letters show the monarch wasn’t even aware of the decision taken by Sir John on November 11, the day of the Prime Minister’s dismissal.

In a letter sent on that day by Sir John to Sir Martin, the Governor-General said: “I should say I decided to take the step I took without informing the palace in advance because, under the Constitution, the responsibility is mine, and I was of the opinion it was better for Her Majesty not to know in advance, though it is of course my duty to tell her immediately”.

Buckingham Palace commented the release of the 211 letters saying in a statement: “The release of the letters by the National Archives of Australia confirms that neither Her Majesty nor the Royal Household had any part to play in Kerr’s decision to dismiss Whitlam.”     

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