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Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard shares her memories of the Queen

Julia Gillard has fond memories of meeting Queen Elizabeth II in 2011.

On the day of the late King’s funeral, the former Australian Prime Minister told The Project that she understood the gravity of the visit.

“At the time we all knew it would be the last time she was in Australia,” said the 60-year-old politician.

“I mean it was never said but of course it was assumed it would be her last visit. And it came because we were hosting the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Perth.

“She took the opportunity to visit Australia very widely, recognizing that it would be the last time she would say hello and goodbye to the people of Australia in person.”

Gillard continued, “I remember how well it was received. How big the crowd was. I remember her quiet diplomacy at and around the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting and I remember her sense of fun.

“We did things like a formal cocktail party in the Great Hall at Parliament House and when the toast came to the Queen I joked with her that she should take a sip of her champagne and she was very much like, ‘Oh no you never drink if it’s a toast to yourself.”

“I say, ‘That’s a life lesson I didn’t know.’ I’ve happily slurped all of this down as people toast. She was a lot of fun.”

The Queen was the only reigning British monarch to ever visit Australia, starting in 1954 when she was just 27 years old.

Queen Elizabeth II made 16 trips to Australia from February 1954 to October 2011.

On that latest tour, Australia’s first female Prime Minister Julia Gillard hosted a reception for her at Parliament House in Canberra and caused controversy when she refused to curtsy.

Gillard was one of six Prime Ministers born during the Queen’s reign, including fellow Labor Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The Queen’s reign spanned the tenure of 16 Australian Prime Ministers, beginning with Sir Robert Menzies – Australia’s longest-serving Prime Minister.

Her affection for the Australian people was cemented a year after her coronation when she entered Farm Cove in Sydney on 3 February 1954.

With her husband Prince Philip at her side, she spent two months touring all the capital cities except Darwin and 40 country villages while her son Prince Charles and daughter Princess Anne stayed in England.

An estimated 75 per cent of Australia’s population – 68 years ago there were just 8.8 million people – came to see them.

On Monday, the Queen passed Buckingham Palace for the last time, followed by her grieving family as her coffin was carried from Westminster Abbey and around London after her state funeral.

Her Majesty is buried in Windsor alongside her beloved husband Prince Philip and her parents.

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