Contributing editor-at-large, Tess Lawrence reports.
In a private meeting yesterday, did Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth ask Prime Minister Julia Gillard not to wait until the 85 year old monarch dies to convert Australia to a Republic?
According to a Labor Party source, she did:
"Her Majesty was firm and polite and made it clear to Prime Minister Gillard that she would not take it as a personal affront and that she quite understood that the time had come for Australia to become a Republic.
"It was the nearest thing to an Order that Her Majesty could make."
The Queen apparently made it clear that an Australian Republic would in no way impair the affection and special relationship enjoyed between the two countries.
I understand that the Queen has asked Prime Minister Gillard to refrain from publicly discussing the matter until after she returns to Australia, so as not to overshadow the Royal Wedding or Honeymoon or to trigger political and media wars whilst Ms Gillard was still on the soil of the 'scepter'd isle'
It is understood that the Prime Minister has agreed to this request.
It is understood that the Prime Minister will first meet with a small group of trusted advisors (might be hard to find) and only then call a special caucus meeting to discuss a plan of action before making any public announcement.
It is understood that Prime Minister Gillard had earlier (the day before) been briefed, first by British Prime Minister David Cameron at No 10 Downing St and then by Prince Charles at Clarence House.
In an extraordinary departure from scheduled protocols, Prime Minister Gillard was summoned to Buckingham Palace for a private audience with the Queen — ostensibly to discuss her launch of October's Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Perth.
Whilst CHOGM was certainly discussed, it was by no means the sole topic.
It is understood that the Queen's advisors are concerned that the goodwill and affection generated by Prince William's recent Australian visit and The Royal Wedding will dissipate in the continuing argy bargy and sniping between monarchists and republicans in Australia and England itself.
The visit by the now married Duke of Cambridge was a deliberate strategy virtually on the eve of the popular Prince's nuptials, to assess current Australian public reaction towards him and to determine whether 'he is seen more as Diana's son than Charles' heir'.
The visit was a public relations coup for Prince William, the Monarchy and Monarchists.
The personable and handsome Prince, a search and rescue chopper pilot (the Duchess of Cambridge also has a pilot's licence) has a great talent, like his late mother, for making people feel comfortable. He has a reputation for literally 'bogging in' (cleaning lavatories) and not behaving like an upper class twit or ponce.
It is understood that the Queen is also losing patience with Australia vacillating on the Republican issue and irritated at being treated more as a senile and benign grandmother rather than the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen of Australia (since 1953) and Head of State.
Her Majesty has made it quite clear that she is reconciled with Australia becoming a Republic.
It is known that not only is she reconciled to the notion, but indeed sees it fitting and proper that she be privy and party to signing off and placing the Royal Seal on Australia becoming a Republic.
Other UK sources have been unable to confirm all of the above but have confirmed that for months The Palace has been monitoring pro/anti Republican media and all mentions of a Republic for analyses purposes.
I have been told that the interference by Clarence House (Prince Charles) to instruct the BBC (and, I understand, AP) to withdraw supply of The Royal Wedding 'feed' to Australia's The Chaser comedy team is a direct result of the Queen's intention to discuss the Republic with Australia's Prime Minister.
If there had been a ballyhoo after The Chaser aired, the Queen's motivation might have been misconstrued. I am told that The Queen and Prince Charles have watched episodes of The Chaser and think they're quite funny.
It is understood that Prime Minister Gillard is delighted with the 'political gift' she has been handed by the Queen.
Without doubt Ms Gillard leaves London with the best Royal Wedding souvenir given to any of the other Heads of State – and, certainly, the best present that any British Monarch has given to an Australian Prime Minister – the 'order' gives the key to the door for Australia’s coming of age.
Ms Gillard's stopover in London to attend the Westminster Abbey wedding of Catherine Middleton to Prince William came at the end of a bland and uneventful overseas meet-greet-bleat-tweet trip remarkable only for its lacklustre nature.
One might say the same of her two stints as Prime Minister. She is unlikely to lead her Government to the next election.
She is in desperate need of some political grapple to stave her fall. This 'order' from the Queen may be it.
She will be able to hook herself forever into the pages of Australia's history for something more than the notorious stabbing of her leader, former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Prime Minister Rudd will be forever remembered as the PM who said 'Sorry' to indigenous Australia.
Prime Minister Gough Whitlam will forever be remembered for his 'because nothing will save the Governor-General' speech.
Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser will forever be remembered for bringing down the Whitlam Government.
Prime Minister Keating will be remembered for his 'banana republic' remark.
I've forgotten what Prime Minister Bob Hawke will be remembered for.
But if Julia Gillard is her Queen's loyal subject, she could eclipse her contemporaries by a stroke of her pen.
How ironical it is – and perhaps sweet historical justice – to contemplate that a migrant child born in Great Britain could be responsible for overseeing the constitutional succession from Britain and implementing Australia's rebirthing as a Republic.