After years of waiting and peerless persistence from historian Jenny Hocking, the Palace Letters – i.e the correspondence between then-governor general Sir John Kerr and Queen Elizabeth II before, during, and after the controversal dismissal of then-PM Gough Whitlam in 1975 – are finally here and hoo boy are they spicy as hell.
The GOAT team dive right into the Palace Letters and this whole Gough Whitlam/John Kerr/Queen Elizabeth II dismissal scandal on ‘It’s Been A Big Day For…’ below:
The Palace letters are a big effing deal and are more than just 1,200 pages of correspondence John Kerr and Queen Elizabeth II gossiping about Gough Whitlam prior to his dismissal some 45 years ago. Not only was Whitlam’s dismissal a big moment in Australian history, the letters help shed some light on the Queen’s involvement in what is arguably the biggest constitutional and political crisis of our country,
And what are the big takeaways from these Palace Letters that have been kept under lock and key for nearly five decades? There’s heaps to comb through but there are ultimately three huge revelations from these letters:
- John Kerr dismissed Gough Whitlam and didn’t tell Queen Elizabeth II first.
- John Kerr didn’t warn Gough Whitlam he was to be fired because he believed the then-PM was also trying to get him fired. Yes, it’s very backstabby in a high school sense.
- Gough Whitlam called up Buckingham Palace as a regular citizen after his dismissal to ask Queen Elizabeth II for his job back.
So in short, Queen Elizabeth II definitely knew what was going on and certainly knew more than what she let on at the time.
Okay, so you’re probably wondering what the big deal is in regards to the Queen’s involvement in all this. The answer is, well, also a big effing deal.
Contrary to the popular belief, Australia isn’t a republic and the constitution states that we’re still under Queen’s thumb even though she doesn’t really interfere with the governing of our country. The ultimate power still rests with her and the governor general in terms of having a final say in governing matters, they just choose to let us take care of ourselves in favour of doing out own thing.
So to have Queen Elizabeth II and then-governor general John Kerr play such a major part in the dismissal of an Australian PM, regardless of whether it was Gough Whitlam or someone else, is a huge. Nothing like that has happened before or since.
Now since there are 1,200 pages in the Palace Letters – John Kerr was described by the National Archives director as a “chatty correspondent – it’s going to take some time to read them all, but boy is the tongue-burning tea worth it all.
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