9 June 2024

Riverina Rewind: When the future King snuck into Wagga for a mini break in the Riverina

| Chris Roe
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Deltroit Station near Gundagai and the portrait <em>Fair Dinkum Rex</em> from the 2024 Bald Archys.

Deltroit Station near Gundagai and the portrait Fair Dinkum Rex from the 2024 Bald Archys. Photo: Chris Roe.

As we celebrate the birthday of King Charles III with a long weekend (four months ahead of his actual birth date – 14 November), we thought we’d look back to the last time the Riverina was graced with his presence.

The then Prince of Wales and his wife Camilla were in Australia for the Commonwealth Games in 2018 when they decided to make a not-so-secret royal visit to an old mate’s farm between Wagga Wagga and Gundagai.

Aussie billionaire Sir Michael Hintze (now Lord Hintze) went to school with the young Prince Charles during his six-month stint at the Timbertop campus of the Geelong Grammar School in 1966 and hosted the future King and Queen consort on his Deltroit Station in 2018 for four days in April.

Prince Charles and the Dutchess of Cornwall at Wagga Airport in April 2018.

Prince Charles and the Dutchess of Cornwall at Wagga Airport in April 2018. Photo: Twitter: @9NewsSyd.

Winemaker Tim McMullen from the neighbouring Boorambola Station told Region in 2022 how he and his team had been engaged to supply drinks for an event.

“It was pretty much the worst-kept secret around town because Sir Michael was doing a lot of work to Deltroit Station in anticipation,” he recalled.

“They were buying lots of local produce too, and we had a phone call saying that they wanted to serve our wines at the cocktail party, which was a great honour.”

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Borambola itself boasts a royal connection and sells a wine named after the last crown prince who visited in 1920.

Tim has a copy of a letter sent to local schoolchildren by the future King Edward VIII (who abdicated shortly after being crowned in 1936) telling them how much he had enjoyed his stay.

“It was a bit cheeky, but I said to Sir Michael, ‘Tell Charles that the sparkling wine he’s going to be drinking is actually named after his great-uncle and mentor,’” Tim said.

After sharing a few bottles of VIII Sparkling Brut at the party, the prince was apparently royally impressed, and told his hosts that the combination of the wine and the story had been a case of “double joy”.

Shortly thereafter, Borambola’s royal blush rose was given the name Double Joy, in memory of the royal thumbs up they had received.

Pouring wine

Borambola Wine’s rose is named ‘Double Joy’ after a comment from the then Prince Charles. Photo: Supplied.

Not much else is known of what the royals got up to with representatives of Sir Michael’s MH Premium Farms declining to comment on the “private matter”.

It was reported that the prince, who has a famous love for organic farming, visited the nearby Highfield Farm and Woodland to take a look at their regenerative farming operations.

By Wednesday 4 April, the word was out and a photo was published showing Prince Charles and the Dutchess of Cornwall boarding a RAAF plane at Wagga Wagga.

Had word of their arrival on 1 April got out sooner it is an open question as to whether it would have been believed or dismissed as an April Fool’s gag.

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