Palace Letters – the Queen’s Hard Quiz

We interrupt this repeat broadcast of the 2019 Sydney to Hobart yacht race to bring you exclusive coverage of the Queen’s preparation for her New Year appearance on Hard Quiz, hosted (how could anyone forget?!) by Gold Logie winner, Tom Gleeson.

A courtier is putting the Queen through her paces on her special subject:

How One definitely knew nothing  whatsoever about the plot to sack Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary and any suggestions otherwise will be regarded as treasonous slurs, prompting aforementioned One to pursue maximum redress through legal channels.

COURTIER:    May it please Your Majesty to start?

QUEEN:         Yes, Thomas, please be as frank as you dare.

COURTIER:    Thank you Ma’am, though if I may beg your indulgence I will observe in passing that my name is other than Thomas.

QUEEN:         So many years, so many faces, so many names, all so bothersome. Please clarify the situation at once.

COURTIER:    The name of the individual bent before you, Ma’am, is Alexander.

QUEEN:         Are your new?

COURTIER:    Yes, Ma’am, I was formerly His Excellency the High Commissioner of the Commonwealth of Australia to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

QUEEN:         One forgets so easily those who One has no call to remember.

COURTIER:    Indeed so, Your Majesty. Perhaps we best continue.

QUEEN:         One consents.

COURTIER:    Begging your further indulgence, Ma’am, may I point out that the special subject Your Majesty has nominated is of such extensiveness in the nature of its description that it may not actually leave sufficient time for meaningful answers.

QUEEN:         That, Alexander, is precisely the point.

COURTIER:    Yes, Ma’am, of course, Ma’am, a wise strategy indeed.

QUEEN:         One does not require grovelling compliments from One’s staff, Alexander. Now get to the questions, so One may practice not answering them.

COURTIER:    Of course, Ma’am, of course. True or false:

Her Majesty had no inkling that Sir John Kerr was planning to sack a democratically elected Prime Minister?

QUEEN:         Such impertinence. Next question.

COURTIER:    Without delay, Ma’am.

Is there a smoking gun?

QUEEN:         Of course. Many of them in fact after the Royals have been out in the fresh air blasting away at pheasants and grouse and other wonders of nature.

COURTIER:    Brilliant deflection, Ma’am. Now, multiple choice:

When did Her Majesty first learn that Prime Minister Whitlam had been replaced. Was it—

QUEEN:         One so looks forward to clarifying this, once and forever. It was 1977. One’s Silver Jubilee. With One’s consort occasionally by One’s side but mostly trailing rearward, One visited Awstralya. One could not help but observe that the Prime Minister looked quite different to the one One encountered on an earlier visitation. Only when One queried One’s staff did One learn they had forgotten to advise One of the change. Very sheepish they were. One assured them that such a trivial matter hardly required One’s attention.

COURTIER:    Multiple choice again, Your Majesty:

When Sir John Kerr—

QUEEN:         Oh, him again.

COURTIER:    If I may, Your Majesty.

QUEEN:         Proceed.

COURTIER:    When Sir John Kerr sacked Prime Minister Whitlam for being a Labor Prime Minister—

QUEEN:         Oh, so that was the reason! One always thought it had something to do with the constitution. Sir John’s was never very good; drank far too much poor man, stress of the job, that sort of thing.

COURTIER:    If I may continue, Your Majesty;

What were Sir John’s stated reasons:

  1. Your Majesty had ordered abovementioned dismissal
  2. Sir John could not recall why he had done it
  3. Sir John could not recall when he had done it
  4. Sir John could not recall if, in fact, he had done it at all.

QUEEN:         Tricky question this one. One thinks it was 2) but cannot be certain. Could One possibly phone a friend? Well, acquaintance actually, One does not really have friends in One’s exalted position.

COURTIER:    With your Majesty’s permission I will contact Mr Gleeson and ensure a phone is readily to hand on the great occasion. May it please Your Majesty to be informed that I would be delighted to fulfil the role of “acquaintance”.

QUEEN:         Good boy, Alex, it seems you can play at almost anything!

COUTIER:      Begging your indulgence yet again, Your Majesty, may I offer a final thought.

QUEEN:         If you must.

COURTIER:    Play hard!

QUEEN:         I always have. Remember Diana.

 

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About Peter Rodgers

Peter Rodgers is a former Australian diplomat and journalist, now an author and playwright. His foreign service career included appointments as Australia's High Commissioner to the Caribbean and Australian Ambassador to Israel. Earlier, as Jakarta correspondent for The Sydney Morning Herald, Peter received the Australian Journalist of the Year Award for his reporting on East Timor. Peter has written two non-fiction books about the Middle East: Herzl’s Nightmare—one land two peoples; Arabian Plights—the future Middle East. His short fiction has been published or long/shortlisted in national and international competitions. Peter’s new novel, Beethoven’s Tenth and the journey which saved the world, will be published in late 2020 (Green Hill Publishing). A collection of his short stories, Life, death and other distractions, will be published in early 2021 (Ginninderra Press).

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