Queen Elizabeth II was a “remarkable” world leader on par with Barack Obama and Nelson Mandela, but someone who still loved to make salad dressing when entertaining her guests.
- Former governor-general Quentin Bryce first saw the Queen on her 1954 tour
- She hosted the Queen on her last visit to Australia in 2011
- Ms Bryce described Queen Elizabeth as a “monarch of selfless restraint”
That’s according to former governor-general Dame Quentin Bryce, who’s reflected on her many engagements with the Queen and the royal family during her own public service.
“I observed the way when she spoke to people, even if it was just one of those fleeting engagements, that she was always really engaged, that she listened, even if it was just momentarily,” Dame Quentin said.
“I’ve seen that in some remarkable leaders … Mr Mandela, Mr Obama, who had that capacity to make you feel that you’ve had a much longer engagement with them than you have.”
From Brisbane to Balmoral
Dame Quentin said she was a young girl when she first met the Queen, during the Royal Tour of 1954.
It was the first visit of a reigning British monarch to Australia.
“We followed every detail of her life as little girls of my generation, of the princesses Lilibet and Margaret,” Dame Quentin said.
Dame Quentin, who watched the Queen drive by on the suburban streets of Brisbane, said she can still recall details like the diamonds of the Queen’s necklace, her tiara, her blue dresses and the way she rode in her “Rolls [Royce] with the lights on.”
Circumstances would later bring the young girl from Brisbane and the Queen together once more, when Dame Quentin received an invitation to visit the Queen at Balmoral, just a few weeks before her own swearing in as governor-general in 2008.
Befitting of Balmoral’s status as a place of “hunting, shooting and fishing”, Dame Quentin said she and her husband Michael shared a barbecue with the Queen after a tour through the hills of the property.
“It’s a bit like a lots of barbecues we’ve all had, but we were given instructions that we weren’t to help out and the Queen liked to make the salad dressing,” Dame Quentin said.
What it’s like to host a Queen for dinner
Dame Quentin was able to return the favour, when Queen Elizabeth made what would be her final visit to Australia in 2011.
The Queen liked to stay at Government House, the official residence of Australia’s governor-general, because “she’s been there many times” and “liked to make that her base and travel off to other parts of Australia”, Dame Quentin said.
The then-governor-general did what she assumed was the right thing by moving out of Government House to make room for the Queen and her staff during her stay.
“I moved out into a cottage in the grounds. And when the Queen heard about that, she really remonstrated with me about it,” Dame Quentin said.
“I remember we were outside at a lovely informal party for her staff and our staff, and she came and said to me, ‘Oh, I hear you’ve moved out and you shouldn’t have done that.'”
Nevertheless, Dame Quentin said the Queen and her staff were “very good house guests”.
A lifetime of fulfilling the ‘promise’ of service
Outside of her own interactions with Australia’s former monarch, Dame Quentin said she had been reflecting on the Queen’s “stunning leadership” over her 70-year reign.
“We all changed so dramatically. But there was always something contemporary [about the Queen] and I think for many of us, we admired her as a working mother. She did have the challenge that so many women of the last generation have struggled with, of balancing a lot of responsibilities,” Dame Quentin.
“And I think that women identified with that.”
She said the Queen had lived her life as a “monarch of selfless restraint”, but there was a “real connection” with Australian women from her first visit in 1954 to her last in 2011.
“She spoke very powerfully [in 2011] about the potential that is locked in so many women in our country and throughout the world, the potential that women have that must be unlocked and developed,” Dame Quentin said.
She said there was a simple thing she would miss most about Queen Elizabeth.
“The sense that that she’s there. And I think that that’s the feeling that’s reaching into the hearts of many that, you know, that some of the words have been used again and again about a constant, always there Queen,” she said.