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The First Letter From Martin Charteris To Sir John Kerr (Palace Letters)

This is the second of the Palace Letters and the first from the Queen’s private secretary, Martin Charteris, to Australia’s new Governor-General, Sir John Kerr.

Charteris was a former British Army officer who became the Queen’s private secretary on April 1, 1972. One year older than Kerr, Charteris was born in 1913. He was five days short of his 61st birthday when he wrote this letter to Kerr.

Charteris was responding to Kerr’s first letter of August 15, 1974, which came a month after Kerr became governor-general on July 11, 1974.

The letter gives an indication of the relaxed and comfortable relationship that existed between Kerr and Charteris from the beginning. Charteris begins by offering the Queen’s sympathy to Kerr for the ill-health of his wife, Alison. Lady Kerr was to die on September 9, around the time Kerr would have received this letter.

Charteris tells Kerr that the “power of the caucus” is a problem for Whitlam. Like Kerr does in various letters, Charteris deplores “ideological rather than economic motives” when handling budgetary problems. In attributing policy proposals to ideology, and equating economic motives with impartial governance, they are at one in taking a traditionally conservative attitude to policy-making.

Charteris also discusses the Queen’s position in relation to petitions on off-shore rights. “It is a very uncomfortable position for The Queen when she is subject to advice from more than one quarter,” Charteris says.

In these first two Palace Letters, we can see the beginnings of a longer discussion of monarchical power that will develop over the coming year.

This is the full text of the letter:

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Malcolm Farnsworth
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