More than two centuries ago the first fleet of the Royal Navy arrived at Sydney Cove and raised the flag of Great Britain.
The legacy of the past has become more complicated over the years, especially when it comes to the question of whether or not Australia should retain King Charles as its head of state.
The good news for Britain is that, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, a mooted referendum on the issue has been postponed.
Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, photographed at Taronga Zoo with the Sydney Harbor Bridge in the background in 2014
Prince George, then only nine months old, visits Bilby at the zoo. Bilbies are desert-dwelling marsupials native to Australia.
One of Kate Middleton’s ancestors commanded a ship from the Royal Navy’s first fleet that landed in Australia. This scene, showing British troops of the time on the Australian coast, is taken from the ITV drama The Incredible Voyage of Mary Bryant.
The first Union flag is raised, a scene celebrated 150 years later by British artist Algernon Talmage
But one royal connection that has so far escaped much scrutiny is this: we can reveal that one of the Princess of Wales’s ancestors was on board the First Fleet to travel to Australia.
Lieutenant David Blackburn, captain of HMS Supply, one of the ships in question, sailed with the fleet from Portsmouth, Hampshire, at 4 a.m. on 13 May 1787.
The intention was to establish a penal colony in Australia.
Blackburn, who was related to Kate on his father’s side, had celebrated his 35th birthday aboard the ship on New Year’s Day 1788, before arriving at Botany Bay on 18 January and, with the rest of the fleet sailing towards Sydney Cove, now Circular. Dock: eight days later.
This First Fleet of 11 ships, six of which carried convicts from Great Britain to Australia, was under the overall command of Captain Arthur Phillip, who became the first Governor of New South Wales.
A contemporary report recorded the events as follows: “At dawn a large work party had disembarked from HM Brig ‘Supply’ (the first ship to enter Sydney Harbour) to fell trees, clear land, disembark supplies, erect a flagpole and tents, and prepare a camp.
“The remaining 10 ships of the fleet had arrived at Sydney Harbor in the afternoon from Botany Bay, which the Governor, after exploring, did not consider suitable for settlement because the anchorage was unsafe due to its shallow depth and the nature marshy of the beach.’
The moment Arthur Phillip raises the Union flag was depicted by the British impressionist Algernon Talmage in 1937 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the landings.
The painting, which was first exhibited at the Royal Academy, is now on display at Tate Britain.
Blackburn appears sixth from the left.
“On the afternoon of the 26th the colors were displayed on the coast,” Phillip recorded.
“The governor, with several of his principal officers and others, gathered around the flagpole, drank to the king’s health and the success of the agreement with all that display of formality that on such occasions is considered propitious because it encourages the spirits and fills the imagination with pleasant omens.
Blackburn, who was the nephew of Kate’s great-great-grandmother, Dame Sarah Martineau, became commander of HMS Sirius on her voyage to Norfolk Island in 1790.
He died in 1795 at the age of 42.
Historian Michael Reed, who discovered the connection, said: “I discovered in the National Library of Australia letters handwritten by Kate’s ancestor, Sarah Martineau, and her family.”
He considers them crucial to Australian history.
“These letters reveal his private thoughts and show that he lent his nephew £10 (the equivalent of £1,300 or $2,500 Australian dollars today) to help him purchase navigation equipment and the expensive new uniforms needed for the trip.
“David was one of the first Englishmen to attempt to converse with indigenous Australians, recording and translating their language.”
He later sent ‘Drawings of the Birds, Plants and Fishes of this Country’ to his family in Norwich.
A 1799 painting by John Gosse titled “The Foundation of the Settlement of Port-Jackson at Botany Bay in New South Wales.” The scene shows the first British penal colony at Sydney Cove as sailors and convicts clear the land to settle.
It’s been ten years since the Prince and Princess of Wales visited Australia, where they posed for photographs in front of the Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbor Bridge and took their firstborn, Prince George, to Taronga Zoo.
There had been speculation that the Welsh would visit Australia at some point, perhaps before the King and Queen’s expected tour.
However, with both the King and Princess having suffered recent medical setbacks, extended trips abroad appear unlikely in the immediate term.