On February 25, 1963, Queen Elizabeth II officially opened The Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) in Parkville.

Victorian Premier Sir Henry Bolte and Dame Elisabeth Murdoch greeted Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and guided them on a tour where the royal couple engaged with staff and patients, whilst admiring the new state of the art facilities. The Queen delivered a rousing rooftop speech calling The Royal Children’s Hospital ‘A monument to Victoria’s humanity and public spirit,’ thus officially opening the new hospital.

The hospital had to push the opening forward six months to ensure this special event would align with Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh’s Australian tour. Patients had only just been transferred from the old Carlton hospital a few weeks before opening day and there was still unfinished building work to be done. In the book, Elisabeth Murdoch, Two Lives by John Monks, Murdoch recalls this momentous event:

‘Two days before the Royal arrival [I] had taken Mr Feint, the hospital manager, aside and said “There is one thing I beg of you. That lift to the roof where the official opening takes place has got to work.” Well, on the day, we got into the lift and the lift wouldn’t work, wouldn’t move. And Philip saved my life because he made some marvellous joke and said “It’s just as well I’m a good mechanic,” and banged the panel with his fist and finally up we went. But oh, for a moment it was just too awful for words – stuck in a lift that wouldn’t work with Prince Philip and Her Majesty.’

An enormous sense of pride and excitement can be seen in these photographs of nurses lined up awaiting the royal couple’s arrival. Digitised 16mm film footage also showcases this very special occasion. We have also included the official 1963 Royal visit souvenir magazine, which includes some fabulous photographs of the couple’s visit to the RCH.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip would return to Melbourne in 2011 to open the current hospital which was built next door to the first Parkville hospital.

Related Videos:

Getting Up, Going to Bed

Film Title: A Royal Visit
Production Date: 1963
Location: The Royal Children’s Hospital; Parkville, Victoria
Material: 16mm colour film, silent
Measurement: 2.37 minutes
Maker: The Royal Children’s Hospital / Unknown
Rights: Film courtesy of The Royal Children’s Hospital
Accession Number: 2018.2461 A & 2018.2461 B (edited from these titles)

This film may have been edited to comply with privacy laws and ethics guidelines. Any opinions, social attitudes and medical advice contained in this film reflect the society and medical practice accepted at the time the film was made. Attitudes, community standards, and medical opinions change over time with societal and medical advances. Please view this film with a historical perspective in mind, and be aware that any opinions, attitudes, and advice depicted are no longer representative of The Royal Children’s Hospital.