The Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Melbourne

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Many readers will remember the Royal visit to Victoria in February and March of 1954. Prince Philip accompanied Queen Elizabeth II on that occasion, but another Duke of Edinburgh had made a previous visit. Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria, was the first member of the British Royal Family to visit Australia. At the age of 23 he arrived here in command of HMS Galatea during a visit to the Australian Colonies.

Shortly before noon on Saturday, November 23, 1867, HMS Galatea steamed through the Heads to be greeted by a salute from the guns at Queenscliff and those of HMCS Victoria, which was waiting with the Governor aboard. A flotilla of around 20 steamers, crowded with people anxious to greet the Prince, formed up in two lines to escort the visitor via the South Channel to Melbourne. At first this presented a fine sight, with clouds of smoke from the ships’ funnels and some vessels with sails also set. The escort, however, was unable to keep pace and the Galatea was soon well ahead. It had to wait for the escort to reform for the official welcome by crowds lining the shores around Hobsons Bay.

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Before his visit to Melbourne, Prince Alfred had visited Adelaide. He later visited Hobart and Sydney before going on to Brisbane. While in Victoria he visited Geelong, Ballarat, Castlemaine, Bendigo and the Western District. Everywhere he went he was greeted by huge crowds but on many occasions problems occurred. Several planned functions were failures or turned into riots, and deaths and injuries resulted. While in Sydney an attempt was made to assassinate Prince Alfred, but he quickly recovered from a bullet wound to his back.

HMS Galatea was a 3200-ton, 26-gun frigate launched in 1859. Rigged as a ship, she was also equipped with an 800-horsepower steam engine driving a propeller that could be raised when sailing. Her hull measured around 75m but her bowsprit and jib-boom added another 10m.

Melbourne’s Alfred Hospital, which opened in 1871, was named in honour of our first Royal visitor, Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh.


President, Peninsula Ship Society

T: Maurie Hutchinson 9787 5780

E: [email protected]

The Peninsula Ship Society meets at Hastings Yacht Club on the fourth Tuesday of each month at 10am. Visitors always welcome.


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