Not exactly a triumph but Camilla passes muster

Art of resilience ... the duchess studies her program while Charles engages Julia Gillard.
Art of resilience ... the duchess studies her program while Charles engages Julia Gillard.

There was a deal of anxiety at Clarence House, the Prince of Wales' seat in Westminster, about the first visit to Australia by Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall.

Would Australians warm to her or shun her as an interloper? The courtiers needn't have worried.

While the tour this week was hardly the sort of triumph enjoyed by Prince Charles's previous wife, Diana, who drew huge star-struck crowds everywhere, the Duchess of Cornwall managed, in a modest way, to win approval wherever she went.

With the royal tour about to end and move on to New Zealand, Australia's most prominent and powerful citizens bustled to meet both the prince and the Duchess of Cornwall at a garden party thrown yesterday by the Governor-General, Quentin Bryce, at Government House, Yarralumla.

The prince is relatively well known among Australia's movers and shakers. He went to school at Geelong Grammar's Timbertop campus and has been a frequent visitor since.

But Camilla had never been to Australia. She dislikes flying and quipped that she'd be happy to travel by boat. Many of those who met her were clearly taken by her easy-going manner and her sense of humour. ''Quite charming, really,'' was the theme.

Hardly surprising. Camilla learnt the arts of aristocratic behaviour at 16 when she went to a Swiss boarding school, and a life in the spotlight of an often critical public and media have clearly taught her much about resilience.

To those close to the royals, it was an important trial. The prince and duchess were in Australia this week as part of the Queen's diamond jubilee celebrations. The Queen has been monarch for 60 years, which makes Charles the longest-serving heir apparent in British royalty.

Someday, he will be king. And that means Camilla will be his queen. Assuming Australia doesn't become a republic, they will be king and queen of Australia, too.

It turned this week's tour of Longreach, Melbourne, Adelaide and Hobart into a public evaluation.

Outback Longreach turned out in droves. The Melbourne Cup was ready-made for a royal visit - 110,000 people. But all of them would have been there for the race whether royalty was in the crowd or not. However, the following day, almost no one turned out on Melbourne's streets. The reason had nothing to do with popularity - Victorian organisers had forbidden the media from publishing the venues at which the royal couple were appearing. The duchess gave a well-reviewed presentation to the Osteoporosis Foundation, revealing her mother had died of the disease. Here, it seemed, was humanity on show.

Things picked up in Adelaide, when schoolchildren and members of the public lined the streets and the tour hit its stride in Tasmania, where thousands flocked to Richmond to cheer. In Sydney, the duchess was made the first Colonel-in-Chief of the Royal Australian Corps of the Military Police in almost a century.

If this was a test, then the Clarence House courtiers would have to mark it with a decent pass.

This story Not exactly a triumph but Camilla passes muster first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.