Royal visit observer photo WEB

Kate Whalen presents Diana, Princess of Wales, with a posy, 28 October, 1985.

It was 12 months in the making but the visit only lasted an hour, the Prince and Princess of Wales conducting their whirlwind tour in record time.

The celebrations, ceremonies, parties and events surrounding the royal visit of 1985 nearly outdid Prince Charles and HRH Diana, Princess of Wales' visit itself, but the people of Portland wouldn't have had it any other way. After all, royalty had come to town!

Residents and the Council spent more than a year organising the celebrations surrounding the 1985 royal visit – the second for the town of Portland after Her Majesty the Queen and HRH Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, toured in April 1970. Official ceremonies, a cocktail party, street parades, luncheons and an official ball, as well as the official proclamation of Portland as a city by Prince Chalres, were just some of the activities, which stretched over the weekend leading up to the Monday visit.


Royal visit WEB

The Queen and Prince Phillip at Hanlon Park, Portland, 7 April, 1970.

But it was the obligatory street walk conducted by His Royal Highness and Her Royal Highness Diana, the Princess of Wales, from 12.30pm on Monday 28th October 1985 that was the highlight for everyone – a chance to see royalty up close and perhaps shake a hand or present a posy.

Around 20,000 people – including school children and people from right across Victoria – lined Portland's Bentinck Street and the Portland foreshore for the "royal walkabout" as it was dubbed. According to the Portland Observer of 30th October, the royal visit, and all the activities organised to mark it, all went very smoothly.


Royal visit Ballarat courier photo WEB

Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales, on the dais on Portland foreshore.

The Mayor of the day, Cr Robert Halliday – who was elected Mayor again in 2014 – was quoted in the paper as saying that he was "very, very proud to be involved". He went on to say that he and his wife Shirley would cherish the experience "for ever and a day" ... "once I come back down to earth!"

Despite it also being a whirlwind visit of approximately an hour, the excitement was no less during the 1970 royal visit of Her Majesty the Queen and HRH Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh, who had come to Portland to honour a promise from many years before.

Then the Princess Elizabeth, Her Royal Highness had been scheduled to visit the town in 1952 as part of an Australian tour but had to cancel the entire visit on the death of her father, King George V. She returned to Australia in 1954 as Queen Elizabeth but Portland had not been re-included in her schedule.


The Queen and Prince Phillip visit the Port of Portland 1970

Crowds gather as HRH Queen Elizabeth is greeted by Chairman of the Portland Harbour Trust Mr. T.C. Jarrett and Mrs. Jarrett at the Portland harbour. Gift of the Port of Portland, 1996. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

On the day their Royal Highnesses toured Portland, Tuesday 7th April 1970, around 30,000 people lined the streets to watch the couple drive past slowly in their Rolls Royce, as the Queen "waved ... and waved ... and waved" according to the local paper.

This visit was not without a little controversy. Just a few minutes before the royal couple's plane was due to touch down at the Portland Aerodrome, it was discovered the conductor of the Hamilton High School Band – due to welcome the royals with a performance – was standing on two boxes marked with the word "GELIGNITE".


Coat of Arms

Armorial Bearings (Coat of Arms) for the newly proclaimed City of Portland, from the College of Arms, London. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

But after a swift police inspection all was deemed well – there was nothing inside and the band played on.

The 1985 royal visit was also tinged with controversy two weeks after the Prince and Diana, Princess of Wales, had departed Portland. A highly contentious photograph was published on the front page of the Portland Observer – Prince Charles and Princess Diana walking across the Portland Aerodrome tarmac with cross hairs drawn over their heads, accompanying a story about a death threat made before their visit.


Royal visit 1985

Hundreds of school children, many dressed in period costume, cover the Bentinck Street lawn on Portland foreshore during the visit of HRH Prince Charles and Diana, Princess of Wales. Glenelg Shire Council Cultural Collection.

As an accompanying article on the front page suggests, the editor was more concerned about the backlash he might receive for not printing the story when the death threat against the royal couple was first made.

But townsfolk were up in arms about the photograph of their beloved royal couple.

What other celebrations and official ceremonies took place as part of the 1970 and 1985 royal visits to Portland?

Where else did the royal couples visit when they were in Portland?

Who made the death threat against Prince Charles and Princess Diana before their visit to Portland in October 1985?

To find the answers to all these questions and more, visit Glenelg Shire Council's museum and research centre History House, where you will find newspaper articles, images, souvenir programs and documents that reveal more about both royal visits to Portland.


And you'll also find passionate volunteers willing to share their immense knowledge with you!


History House – Museum and Research Centre
Cliff Street, Portland VIC 3305 (PO Box 409)

Phone: (03) 5522 2266

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Open daily 10am-noon and 1pm-4pm. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.