The King’s Birthday, Sydney Cove, 1788

The Queen’s Birthday is a public holiday in all jurisdictions of Australia. In most, it is on the second Monday in June, a holdover from King George V, whose birthday was on 3 June. By coincidence, the birthday of King George III, the monarch at the time of the British settlement/colonisation/invasion of Australia, was on 4 June. In An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales (the most comprehensive of the First Fleet and early colonial accounts), David Collins, the Judge-Advocate and Colonial Secretary, wrote:

From His Majesty’s birthday was kept with every attention that it was possible to distinguish it by in this country; the morning was ushered in by the discharge of twenty-one guns from the Sirius and Supply; on shore the colours were hoisted at the flag-staff, and at noon the detachment of marines fired three volleys; after which the officers of the civil and military establishment waited upon the governor, and paid their respects to his excellency in honor of the day. At one o’clock the ships of war again fired twenty-one guns each; and the transports in the cove made up the same number between them, according to their irregular method on those occasions. The officers of the navy and settlement were entertained by the governor at dinner … At sunset the ships of war paid their last compliment to his Majesty by a third time firing twenty-one guns each. At night several bonfires were lighted; and, by an allowance of spirits given on this particular occasion, every person in the colony was enabled to drink his Majesty’s health.

Some of the worst among the convicts availed themselves of the opportunity that was given them in the evening, by the absence of several of the officers and people from their tents and huts, to commit depredations. One officer on going to his tent found a man in it, whom with some difficulty he secured, after wounding him with his sword. The tent of another was broken into, and several articles of wearing apparel stolen out of it; and many smaller thefts of provisions and clothing were committed among the convicts. Several people were taken into custody, and two were afterwards tried and executed. One of these had absconded, and lived in the woods for nineteen days, existing by what he was able to procure by nocturnal depredations among the huts and stock of individuals. His visits for this purpose were so frequent and daring, that it became absolutely necessary to proclaim him an outlaw, as well as to declare that no person must harbour him after such proclamation.