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The Queen put her foot down when her then 25-year-old son Prince Charles asked to buy a 13,000-acre property in New South Wales, the Yammatree Station. The monarch’s private secretary at the time, Sir Martin Charteris, described the showdown in letters released to the public on Tuesday.
Writing to the then Governor-General in a letter dated October 9, 1974, Sir Martin told Sir John Kerr: “The position is that the purchase of a property in Australia by The Prince of Wales presents no political or legal difficulties in the United Kingdom.
“My understanding is that the same applies in Australia.
“It is a project close to The Prince of Wales’s heart, and one which would, I am sure, be valuable in the context of the Monarchy in Australia”.
However, Sir Martin added, splashing millions to buy an overseas property for the heir apparent to the throne during the economic struggles experienced by the UK in the 1970s may have likely created upset in Britain.
Sir Martin continued in his letter: “It is felt, however, that the public in this country would misunderstand a decision by The Prince of Wales to buy a property at a time of great economic difficulty for the United Kingdom and when housing is one of the worst problems which face ordinary people.
“In modern times, it is never ‘a good moment’ for the Royal Family to spend money, but I think it fair to say that the present could hardly be a worse moment.
“I think, therefore, that The Prince go Wales will decide not to do anything at the present time about a property, but to keep his options as open as possible for the future.”
This letter, however, was received and read by Sir John only after Prince Charles visited him and Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam – who would be sacked by the Governor-General one year later.
During his Australian trip, the Prince of Wales visited the property he fell in love with and tried to “explore alternative possibilities”, as revealed by Sir John in a letter dated November 8 1974.
But any follow-up to this talks was abandoned after Sir John read Sir Martin’s letter penned in October.
Apologising for having temporarily helped Charles in pursuing his dream purchase, Sir John told Sir Martin: “I hope that my involvement in this matter did not create difficulties in London, but it seemed impossible for me and for the Prime Minister, having regard to the prince’s eagerness”.
The letters also show Prince Charles had an interest in replacing Sir John as Governor-General in Australia.
However, the Queen didn’t think it would have been appropriate for him to pick up a similar role before getting married.
In another letter, dated December 4, 1974, Sir Martin said: “I think the point we must all bear in mind is that I do not believe the Queen would look with favour on Prince Charles becoming Governor-General of Australia until such a time as he has a settled married life.
“No one will know better than you how important it is for a Governor-General to have a lady by his side for the performance of his duties.
“The prospect, therefore, of The Prince of Wales becoming governor-general of Australia must remain in the unforeseeable future.”
Prince Charles married Princess Diana six years after these letters were exchanged, in July 1981.
These letters between Sir Martin and Sir John have been released after historian Prof Jenny Hocking asked the High Court to consider them state documents rather than private correspondence under unlimited embargo.
State documents are usually released for the public to look into after 31 years.
By releasing these letters it was settled once and for all that the Queen had nothing to do in the controversial dismissal of Mr Whitlam on November 11 1975.
In fact, Sir John himself said in a letter to Sir Martin he had not told the monarch in advance about his decision to remove from office the Labour Prime Minister but was informing her about it as soon as possible.
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