Reception lines can be staid affairs – but not when Kathy Lette is in the queue . She presented herself to the Queen in a suit screen-printed with corgis, their tiny eyes glittering with red, green or blue beads.
“Do you like it?” she asked the Queen, of the outfit commissioned from her mate with a sewing machine in Cronulla. “I wore it specially for you.” She says the Queen looked down and her eyes widened: “Philip!” she said, “Look at this!”
“You’ll have to move on,” he told Lette drily. “It’s too much for me!”
It was a party at the palace for 350 of the best people – in this case, Australian people, as a warm-up to the royal tour of Australia by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh due to start on Wednesday.
Lette, Australia’s comic chicklit queen, was carrying a handbag in the shape of a pot of geraniums. She was accompanied by her husband, Geoffrey Robertson, QC. The mellifluous Mr Robertson is a human-rights lawyer known best to Australians for his mental gymnastics on former ABC TV show Hypothetical. He is waiting for the judgment in the case of a high-profile client, Wikileaks leader Julian Assange, who is fighting extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.
Elle Macpherson came dressed all in nude (no, not the nude, but the flesh colour in mode with fashionistas). Arriving at the palace, she was asked how she thought the Queen would fare as a contestant on popular television show Britain’s Next Top Model.
Macpherson, who has put out a range of designer underwear, joked the Queen would look “awesome in my undies”. In fact the Queen was her usual dignified self in a purple brocade suit.
Entertainer Rolf Harris was a late withdrawal due to illness, along with rugby league player Danny Buderus who couldn’t get a flight from Greece. Kylie Minogue could not make it but her former Neighbours co-star Jason Donovan was among the crowd in the state apartments at Buckingham Palace, along with designer Collette Dinnigan, singers Nick Cave and Gabriella Cilmi, actor Hugh Jackman, rugby league player Matt King, and Socceroos Tim Cahill and Mark Schwarzer.
Also mingling was actor Greta Scacchi, who is returning to Sydney in two weeks to prepare for ensemble performances of David Williamson’s new play, Nothing Personal.
Palace staff prepared trays of drinks and food – including Tasmanian sparkling wine, tiny lamingtons and coin-sized passionfruit pavlovas – in the red-brocade throne room.
Britons delicately inquired of Australians as to the warmth of the welcome the royal couple might receive. They were assured the republican tide was out at the moment, and Australians were not harbouring the kind of fervent nationalism that is inflaming some Scottish hearts.
The Queen and Prince Philip travel to Canberra on Wednesday for a 10-night Australian tour. They will visit Brisbane and Melbourne before opening the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth.
First published in The Age.