Regal aid to take our pulse

THE Queen makes a point of attending every meeting of the Commonwealth heads of government, says royal biographer Hugo Vickers.
“She told somebody once that she feels a little like a doctor because she sees four prime ministers in the morning and four prime ministers in the afternoon, and they all tell her their problems,” he says.
The royal stethoscope and its bearer are due to land in Canberra today by chartered plane, together with the Duke of Edinburgh and up to 30 support staff.
The Queen’s visit is primarily to open the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth on Friday, October 28.
But the royal couple will also attend functions in Canberra, Brisbane and Melbourne, where the Queen will open the new Royal Children’s Hospital next Wednesday.
Mr Vickers, author of several royal biographies, including Elizabeth: The Queen Mother, says the Queen has made it a priority to work to hold the Commonwealth together.
“She has not minded when Commonwealth countries have dropped her as head of state but she does mind if they leave the Commonwealth,” he said.
The Queen has made 15 earlier visits to Australia in her 59 years on the throne, most recently in 2006.
During her reign she has made more than 250 overseas visits, entertained more than 1 million people at garden parties and conferred 388,000 awards and honours. And, of course, there are the 30-odd Welsh corgis.
She is now 85, but Mr Vickers pooh-poohed suggestions that this might be her last trip Down Under. “I doubt that the Queen would have said ‘This is my last tour’,” he told The Age. “The Queen Mother, when she was 100, would say, ‘I’ve bought a new horse and I’m looking forward to seeing it in a couple of years’ time’.”
One of the Queen’s former press secretaries, Dickie Arbiter, agrees. “With the Queen you should never say ‘last’, never say ‘never’ . . . the Queen still has got a lot of mileage in her.”