Prince Charles and Camilla take Albany: wine, baby roos and birthday cards

As Prince Charles celebrated his 67th birthday, the royal couple were treated to the best of the west when they touched down in Albany.

From the thousands who turned out to catch a glimpse of Charles and Camilla, some even gathering for the airplane touchdown which wasn’t supposed to be a public event, it’s clear today was a red letter day for Albany, the remote Western Australian coastal city that rarely gets a look in on royal tours.

WA Premier Colin Barnett may have republican sympathies, but Western Australians are huge supporters of the monarchy and every single local The Weekly spoke to en route was certain Prince Charles would make an excellent King, should he get the opportunity.

Mayor Dennis Wellington had splashed out on an elegant new suit, shirt and tie – he confessed to The Weekly – on strict orders from his daughter.

Wellington had first received a visit from the royal team 10 weeks ago when a 21-strong recce group arrived to discuss the possibility of a visit.

“We only found out for sure four weeks ago” the Mayor said.

“We were told to keep the details strictly under wraps.”

Unfortunately a local newspaper broke the media embargo and printed times and locations of the visit which has caused a fair bit of nervousness with the security team today – especially in light of the atrocities in Paris – but the visit went off with out a hitch.

Australian produce and especially wine has been a feature of this royal tour and so it was today, as Charles and Camilla began their day at one of the state’s smallest but most significant wineries.

While certainly the tasty tipple would have attracted the wine-loving royals it was the winery’s organic credentials that secured the coveted visit over the more famous Margaret River vineyards.

Oranje Tractor Wines owners Pamela Lincoln and Murray Gomm share the Prince’s passion for organic, sustainable farming and since 2002 Oranje has grown all grapes organically to minimise its carbon footprint on the planet.

Chickens and guinea fowl consume pests, eliminating the need for pesticide use and grass is allowed to grow between the vine rows and underneath the wines, removing the requirement for herbicides.

The Prince and The Duchess toured the orchard, the species garden and the potager garden and mingled with guests including workers, supporters and local property holders.

The Duchess looked relaxed in the 29-degree heat wearing a champagne-toned Anna Valentine dress and carrying a parasol from local designer Sunbella, a gift from the West Australian government.

Prince Charles was looking equally cool in a very light weight cream single breasted suit designed for the extreme heat which was tipping 29 degrees, and a bespoke Akubra made, also a gift from the government.

Oranje Tractor grows 30 heirloom varieties of apple – 40 less than His Royal Highness grows in his orchard.

“His Royal Highness has a few up on me there,” Mr Gomm said.

The daughter of a former winery worker, four-year-old Rosa Toussaint, gave the Duchess a posy from the garden and the couple then sampled Oranje Tractor wine, cheese, fruits and Marron in the cellar door.

While the Prince was happy to sup the merlot declaring it “delicious” he turned down a sample of oysters as too messy. The Duchess tasted an avocado ripe from the farm.

“It’s my favourite,” she said. “It’s the best avocado I’ve tasted.”

As the crowd sang Happy Birthday to Prince Charles, His Royal Highness cut a cake made by local Michelin chef Nico Fleury who once worked at the winery. Fortified the royals left with a handy hamper of a local food and wine for the Albany Agricultural Show.

Bathed in afternoon sun, the show was buzzing when the royals arrived with thousands expectant of a personal moment with the couple.

The royals were met by their hosts, Albany Agricultural Society president Rob Wright, and immediate past president Erika Henderson.

As they walked around enthusiastically meeting as many people as possible, there were frequent spontaneous outbursts of “happy birthday” some even erupting into song.

The crowds gathered four or five deep at points and among the first to meet the Prince was Alyssa Bain, 12, who was holding the first of two ridiculously cute rescued baby kangaroos.

This one was called ‘Old Mate’, the other, which the Duchess was stroking, was called ‘Sheila’ and held by Alyssa’s aunt Audra Pearson who runs wildlife sanctuary Reptile Haven. Alyssa said the Prince had asked her what the animal ate and she told him “just milk for now”.

The couple went on to watch an exhibition of log chopping, leaving afterwards to a rousing rendition of “happy birthday”, and then went different ways, with the Duchess visiting a craft display and watching showjumping, while the Prince watched a shearing competition.

Kerryann Oakley explained to him how the competition worked and said afterwards the Prince had remarked he had done some shearing while in Australia as a teenager but that if he did it now it would “kill my back”.

Mrs Oakley said Prince Charles had said he could not have wished for a better place to spend his birthday and that it was “a bit cooler than Perth”.

Prince Charles also toured a craft pavilion and looked at some alpaca, remarking that perhaps he should get some to keep foxes away from his flock of sheep.

Jerome Pilkington, a local farmer of Angus Cattle, told The Weekly “I come to the show to talk to people, I didn’t expect to talk to Prince Charles. He was really normal, just like us, and said he has Angus Cattle.”

At the end of the visit Rob Wright presented the Prince with a championship ribbon, book about the show’s history, some animal ear tags and a shearing singlet. Mr Wright was thrilled with the visit.

“It was a lovely atmosphere, and relaxed for them, and I think hundreds of people got to shake their hands or be involved,” Rob said.

Next stop was King George Sound, the final departure point of the ANZAC convoys. In late 1914, more than 40,000 Australians and New Zealanders left Albany, bound for the Great War. The National Anzac Centre which only opened a year ago, tells their story.

The couple took in the stunning view and then looking like a couple from Edwardian times – Raybans excepted – with Camilla under her elegant parasol and Charles in his dapper suit, walked the route to the ANZAC Centre greeting people as they went.

Six-year-old Rosie Saunders was pulled from the crowd by the royal aides. She was holding a posy of flowers from her grandma Augusta’s garden for the Duchess and a card for The Prince.

“Darling, darling,” Camilla called after Charles, grabbing her husband ‘s arm: “Look you’ve got a birthday card.”

It was one of many cards, cakes and gifts the Prince received here in Albany. As they left a cannon fired announcing Their Royal Highnesses’ departure and every one nearly jumped out of their skins, then applauded.

Here the royals were cherished.

“They’re part of our heritage,” said ANZAC George Kavanagh, 73.

Related stories

Unwind and relax with your favourite magazine!

Huge savings plus FREE home delivery