Britain's Prince Charles officially kicked off his 16th tour of Australia alongside wife Camilla on Wednesday as his father Philip was admitted to hospital in London for planned hip surgery.
The heir to the throne received a ceremonial welcome and 21-gun salute at Government House in Brisbane before meeting hundreds of well-wishers in the city's Botanic Gardens.
The prince is in Australia primarily to open the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast which begin later on Wednesday, but will also visit Cairns and the Pacific nation of Vanuatu before heading home next week.
According to The Australian
newspaper, he and Camilla managed to sneak into the country a few days early for a secret holiday with friends on a farm at Gundagai in rural New South Wales.
His visit coincided with news that 96-year-old Prince Philip, who retired from public life last year, had been taken to King Edward VII Hospital in London on Tuesday for surgery.
It is a busy time for Charles, with eldest son William and wife Kate shortly expecting their third child and Prince Harry preparing to marry US actress Meghan Markle in May.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said he was looking forward to catching up with the prince, whom he called a charming and knowledgeable man.
"We always get on very well," Turnbull told ABC radio.
"The prince and I... share a lot of common interests, particularly in terms of urbanism, architecture, planning, environment and ecology."
The British crown's power in Australia is largely symbolic, and while the Queen remains hugely popular, the monarchy is viewed by some as an anachronistic colonial relic.
Turnbull was a key campaigner in a 1999 republican referendum, part of a defeated push to abolish Australia's remaining ties to the British royal family.