Royal visitors

Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra of Kent, 1959

Her Royal Highness Princess Alexandra of Kent visited Australia from 14 August to 20 September 1959. The main reason for her visit was to attend the Queensland Centenary Celebrations

During her visit, Her Royal Highness visited the University of Sydney on 15 September 1959 and lunched in Manning House.


Women's Union

The lunch was in Manning House, the home of the University Women's Union to which female members of the University belonged. The lunch was hosted by the President and Board of the Women's Union.


Her Royal Highness's arrival

The Chancellor (Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn) welcomed the Princess on the steps of Manning House and then escorted her up to the entrance, where the President of the Women's Union (Miss Doreen Langley) was waiting to greet her.


Her outfit

The Princess wore the same outfit she chose for her arrival in Brisbane - a turquoise blue silk suit, cut with a slim skirt and the waist of the jacket emphasised with a wide belt. The jacket was softly bloused at the back, and on one of the wide lapels the Princess pinned a Commonwealth gift brooch.

She wore a head-hugging hat of the same shade of turquoise, and her bag and shoes were in an off-white pearl finished leather.


The luncheon

About 150 woman undergraduates, including two representatives of the women students of the University of New South Wales, were at the luncheon, hostessed by the president and board members of the Union.

The buffet luncheon featured a sucking pig, cold chickens, lobsters, assorted salads and strawberries.

The Princess had only a little salad and a small drink of orange juice. She was too busy moving among the undergraduates, chatting to them informally, to bother with a large meal. The Princess chatted animatedly with the students about their work and the type of entertainments they had at university. She was also interested to know whether men were allowed in Manning House.

Adding colour to the occasion were the national costumes worn by woman students from Burma, Korea, Singapore, China and Thailand. The Princess spoke with Hijoo Limb, whose father was the Consul-General for Korea in Sydney. Hijoo, an arts student, was the only Korean girl at the University. She was dressed in a maroon and white coloured silk costume of her country, and the Princess was interested in Hijoo’s gold printed scarf, which spelt out her name.


Gifts

The Women’s Union presented a white and gold beaded evening bag to the Princess, and Miss Janice Skinner pinned the Women’s Union badge on the Princess’s lapel.

When the Princess was given the handbag she smilingly asked if there was a threepence in it - superstition has it that if a gift handbag is given empty it stays that way. But Miss Langley had made sure on that score - there was a threepence in it.


During the luncheon, outside Manning House

Although it was “women only” at the luncheon, the male students made themselves heard in no uncertain manner.

“We want Alex” both men and women began chanting outside. “We want Alex”.

The Princess made several appearances outside Manning House during the luncheon in response to their calls.


Her departure

Outside the Women’s Union following the buffet lunch, students staged the wildest scene of any Royal tour to Australia. Their welcome to the Princess developed into a clash with police.

There was a wild surge forward as the Princess left the Union. A crowd of about 80 students threw paper, pennies, orange peel and twigs at the police, who began to wrestle with them to keep a path clear for the Princess and her car.

The 85-year-old chancellor (Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn) was almost bowled over as he walked to the car with the Princess.

The 52-year-old registrar (Miss Margaret Telfer) borrowed a police loud-hailer to try to persuade the students to clear a path for the Princess and her car, but she had little success.

The tour security officer (Colin Evans) almost bundled the Princess into her car as students swarmed around it. The door had to be forced open against the pressing crowd, and Mr Evans slammed it shut after the Princess. Then it had to be forced open again to let the Princess’s lady-in-waiting (Lady Moyra Hamilton) get into the car. Princess Alexandra was smiling and waving as she walked calmly to the car but as it drove off she looked tired and angry.

The vice-chancellor (Professor Stephen Roberts) said afterwards: “It was just normal students ebullience”. “My own feeling is that, apart from all the turmoil, they didn’t play up too much.”

Sir Charles Bickerton Blackburn said afterwards: “It is a tradition of the students.” “I think that on the whole they behaved very well.”


After the visit

In the afternoon, after a one hour and a half launch trip on the Harbour, the Princess received State tour officials at Government House and, in the evening, she attended a small private dinner party at Government House.


LB