The Palace Letters


The secret correspondence between the Queen, Sir John Kerr, and Sir Martin Charteris were supposed to provide proof of a high level covert conspiracy to create the corporate “Queen of Australia” and evidence this blatant display of treason was the secret reason Gough Whitlam had been dismissed.

In a twist of irony, they reveal just the opposite…

“The newly released ‘Palace letters’ have revealed then governor-general Sir John Kerr sacked the Whitlam government in 1975 without giving advance notice to the Queen,because “it was better for Her Majesty not to know”.

A letter from the Queen's secretary to Sir John Kerr starts 'my dear governor general'.

Letters ‘blow away silly conspiracy theories’

Constitutional law expert Anne Twomey said, according to Sir John’s letters, he had wanted the correspondence to be released as he “thought it would vindicate his position”.

“So all it does is blows away the silly conspiracy theories that we’ve been having for an awfully long time, which said ‘this was all the conspiracy of the British and the establishment and the Queen’,” she said.

“Well it wasn’t…

We just have to live with the fact it was an Australian who dismissed an Australian government.”

Professor Twomey said another interesting revelation from the letters was that Mr Whitlam had called Buckingham Palace at 4:15am London time on November 11.

In a letter dated November 17, Sir Martin said Mr Whitlam “calmly” prefaced his remarks by saying he was speaking as a “private citizen”:

“[He] said now Supply [the money bills] had passed he should be re-commissioned as Prime Minister so that he could choose his own time to call an election.”

“So instead of the British interfering in Australia’s constitutional system, [it] seems that Gough Whitlam was rather hoping the British would interfere into the system by making him Prime Minister again,” Professor Twomey said.

Typed and handwritten letters between Sir John Kerr and the Queen out on display on a table.
The Palace letters, laid out on display at the National Archives of Australia.

“The 211 letters exchanged between Sir John and Buckingham Palace at the time of the dismissal have this morning been released online by the National Archives of Australia, in Canberra. The letters, penned between 1974 and 1977, had been locked up and labelled as private documents, but a High Court decision in May deemed them to be the property of the Commonwealth and thus able to be released. Many hoped the correspondence would answer some of the long-standing questions surrounding Australia’s biggest constitutional crisis.

The released letters reveal, on the day of the dismissal — November 11, 1975 — Sir John alerted Buckingham Palace to his decision to sack then prime minister Gough Whitlam.

“I should say that I decided to take the step I took without informing the Palace in advance because, under the Constitution, the responsibility is mine and I was of the opinion that it was better for Her Majesty not to know in advance,” Sir John wrote.

Then, more than a week after the dismissal, on November 20, Sir John clarified further, writing that he had to act without giving Mr Whitlam a chance to call an election, because he feared he would be sacked himself, which would have put the Queen in a difficult position.

“As you know from earlier letters, on occasions, sometimes jocularly, sometimes less so, but on all occasions with what I considered to be underlying seriousness, he [Mr Whitlam] said that the crisis could end in a race to the Palace.

“I could act, if necessary, directly myself under the Constitution. I am sure that he would have known this and the talk about a race to the Palace really constituted another threat.

“History will doubtless provide an answer to this question, but I was in a position where, in my opinion, I simply could not risk the outcome for the sake of the monarchy.

“If, in the period of say 24 hours, during which he [Mr Whitlam] was considering his position, he advised the Queen in the strongest of terms that I should be immediately dismissed, the position would then have been that either I would, in fact, be trying to dismiss him while he was trying to dismiss me — an impossible position for the Queen.”