“It was really enlightening. There was a tremendous sense of sadness, but it was clear that she still knew her work.”
He said the Queen then recalled with “great affection” many moments of the 16 journeys she and the Duke of Edinburgh made to Australia, beginning in 1954 and her last in 2011.
And then came the awkward moment, which he still hasn’t mastered after all these years.
“Of course you go through the whole experience of who hangs up first – you or the queen,” he laughed. “It’s always a nervous moment.”
Hurley, who also served as governor of NSW, was one of eight Commonwealth governors-general to attend the anniversary celebrations in London this weekend.
After swearing in the new Albanian government before hopping on the Royal Australia Air Force plane to London, he was asked a curly question about the republican movement by a British reporter as he left St Paul’s thanksgiving service.
He replied that the Queen had a lot of “emotional support” from Australians, but that could change when a new monarch reigned.
“I think the moment people focus on the Queen, and when she goes, when she passes, then the succession comes in, there’s a new discussion in Australia,” he told reporters.
After being seconded to the Irish Guards for two years during his army career, he said he was delighted to see the regiment at the traditional Trooping the Colour. He also addressed the Australian Federation Guard for their part in the Jubilee Pageant on Sunday.
“I told them I was marching through the streets of Townsville on the Golden Jubilee and the Platinum Jubilee they get to march through London, and all the great things that come with it. It’s a huge moment in their career,” he said.
Hurley said the anniversary had given many an opportunity to reflect on the Queen’s reign and her influence on “who we are and who we want to be”.
“When I think about Her Majesty, I am most struck by her selflessness, her unwavering dedication to service and her unending compassion for others.