His Majesty the king and Australia: A special connection

"The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh have agreed that The Prince of Wales should spend a term at Geelong Church of England Grammar School in Australia. It is intended that he should go on exchange from the term beginning 1st February 1966 and it is expected that a boy from the Australian school will attend Gordonstoun for the equivalent term."

This was the media announcement made in October 1965. At the time His Majesty The King was a student at Gordonstoun in Scotland, the same boarding school his father the Duke of Edinburgh had attended.

It was Prime Minister Robert Menzies who had suggested Geelong Grammar and especially Timbertop, the school’s outward-bound facility in remote foothills 100 miles from Melbourne, as a place His Majesty, then a shy 17-year-old with no experience of Australia, might appreciate. Here pupils learned to fend for themselves, chopping their own wood, cooking their own food and living and working in harmony with the natural environment.

The Queen wished her son to be treated like any other school boy. His Majesty would stay for one term and then he would choose if he would like to stay on for a second. His Majesty made the decision after just three weeks to stay on for six months.

Those two terms studying alongside Australian school boys proved life-changing and sparked the beginning of His Royal Highness’s very special relationship with Australia.

His Majesty remembers it being both liberating and terrifying and also a powerful life lesson.  

"I learnt an enormous amount in Australia and discovered just how direct and friendly and straightforward and so often blunt Australians are…But with such an incredibly good sense of humour."

On night treks His Majesty remembers

"leeches and snakes and those enormous bull ants and funnel web spiders… I loved it and I learnt a lot from it."

On August 1, 1966, His Majesty returned to the UK a very different person.

From 1966 to the present-day, His Majesty has visited Australia officially 16 times and his knowledge and affection for the nation has grown into something deep and personal.

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