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Australia The Crown depicts Woomargama Station as Australian base for Prince Charles and Princess Diana

00:05  30 november  2020
00:05  30 november  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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a person standing in front of a building: This photo of the Woomargama homestead appeared in a 1983 edition of New Idea magazine. (Supplied: Clare Cannon) © Provided by ABC NEWS This photo of the Woomargama homestead appeared in a 1983 edition of New Idea magazine. (Supplied: Clare Cannon)

The homestead where Prince Charles, Princess Diana and Prince William stayed in 1983 has returned to the spotlight, with Woomargama Station depicted in the latest series of the Netflix drama The Crown.

Woomargama*, in country NSW, found itself in the sights of Royal watchers and the international press after the Prince and Princess of Wales used it as a base during their Australian tour.

Station owner Clare Cannon said it was still a working station, but after nearly 40 years retained souvenirs of the Royal visit, mainly in the form of scrapbooks of press clippings, signed photographs, a handwritten thank you letter from Diana and a cot, used by the infant heir to the British throne.

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Charles and Diana weren't the only prominent guests to have stayed at Woomargama.

A decade earlier, American royalty in the form of future president Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy also visited.

Mr Reagan was governor of California at the time.

'Everyone' saw Prince William

Ms Cannon said her late parents, Gordon and Mary Darling, who bought the property in 1965, got a call from prime minister Malcolm Fraser in 1983 and were asked about having the Royal family stay at the homestead.

Gordon and Mary Darling knew Malcolm and Tammy Fraser personally, and the property was deemed suitable because of its location.

"They wanted somewhere that had access to Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra airports, and they knew the station was tucked away and enabled privacy," she said.

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Ms Cannon's parents moved out of the homestead for the young Royal family, but some employees stayed on and continued working there.

"The set-up was Prince William stayed at Woomargama Station for about three weeks with his nanny, Barbara Barnes, while Prince Charles and Princess Diana went back and forth between Royal duties," she said.

Ms Cannon, who wasn't living locally when the Royals visited, said her parents did get to meet the couple, and everyone working on the property saw Prince William regularly.

"We believe Prince Willian started to crawl on the front lawn," she said.

Ms Cannon said she still had William's cot, made in Wagga Wagga in the NSW Riverina for the prince's stay.

"They took the hinge off the door to get it into the bedroom," she said.

'Diana broke the drought'

The Royal couple also spent time in the local community.

They attended a church service in Holbrook and visited the local school, but Ms Cannon said the big story of the visit was that "Diana broke the drought".

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"In 1983, there was the most terrible drought. At the time, I think the level of the Hume Dam was about 12 per cent full," Ms Cannon said.

"When Prince Charles and Princess Diana arrived at Albury airport, the heavens opened and it poured rain.

"We always said that Princess Diana broke the drought. Everyone was very happy."

Ms Cannon said she didn't know the Royal couple's visit to Woomargama Station would feature in the latest series of The Crown and only found out when the season aired in mid-November.

"Friends got in contact. We all think the Woomargama Station shown looks nothing like the original," she said.

"Unfortunately, that was all filmed in Spain … The house looks quite Spanish and we like to think we are much greener than the areas shown."

A visit from a future American president

Ms Cannon said a family business connection brought the Reagans to Woomargama Station in 1972.

"My father was chairman of Rheem, which made hot water services, and Rheem was part-owned by Rheem USA, and the chairman of Rheem USA was one of a group of billionaires who helped fund Reagan into the White House," she said.

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Ms Cannon, who was 12 at the time, doesn't recall why the Reagans came to Australia but remembers the visit.

She and her father picked the Reagans up from the airport while her mother stayed at the Woomargama Station homestead.

"My father pulled up at the front of the homestead and my mother, who was waiting at the front, kept saying 'Just move the car back a bit', but my father wouldn't do it," she said.

"What happened, there was a snake that had slithered past the front of the car into the bush nearby and my mother was trying to avoid it [the snake] getting near Ronald or Nancy Reagan.

"She had tried to deal with the snake by getting out her 410 shotgun, which she hid behind the door when the car pulled up."

Ms Cannon said Mr Reagan's security team were alarmed when they saw the shotgun behind the door.

Despite the 410 and the snake, Ms Cannon said the couple stayed for a few days and had "a relaxing time" taking photos and exploring the property.

* Due to the owner's request for privacy, the ABC has chosen not to use an updated photograph of the homestead at Woomargama Station.


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