Disappointed Cooma visitors, Kate Bartlett and her 5 year old daughter, Ashley.

Disappointed Cooma visitors, Kate Bartlett and her 5 year old daughter, Ashley. Photo: Graham Tidy

Trees have feelings (which is why some of us hug them). And so you wonder what the old, frail Aleppo pine tree in the Australian War Memorial's grounds was thinking on Anzac Day as it watched, nearby, excited crowds watching the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plant its youthful successor.

The old tree was raised from seed collected in 1915 by an Australian soldier at Lone Pine Ridge on Gallipoli. It was planted where it is today, in 1934. Today, though a gangling 30 metres tall, (its pre-pubescent successor is 1.5 metres tall) it bears the scars of some radical amputations. Its upper branches have some prosthetic supports. Its days are numbered.

History will say that the Duke and Duchess planted the new Aleppo fine but in fact it was nine-tenths planted, three hours before they shimmered up to it, by two sturdy, shirtsleeved men. And, even though it was only 9am and the royals weren't due till 12.30, the men already had an audience of perhaps 500 souls who had come early to get a good spot. From very early they had gathered around the edge of the planting site's fenced-off, grassy place, about the size of two tennis courts.

Some of the earliest there were Kate Bartlett of Cooma and her young daughter Ashley. Ashley was brandishing a bunch of snapdragons she was hoping to give to the Duchess.

''We picked these from our Cooma garden at 6am,'' Kate said.

''I got up at 5am and we left at six, and we got here early because we're very keen and very excited. This is where Kate and William are going to plant the tree so we've picked this prime position. Ashley's got her little tiara [yes, it was true!]. And [pointing to some similarly early-arriving, royals-besotted folk arranged beside them] we've made some friends!''

Yes, how, in these last two days, this sulking republican has envied the teeming monarchists their glowing camaraderie.

As we watched, the spunky sapling was delivered and the two arborblokes positioned it in an already dug hole. They filled the hole in with upper-class soil, leaving just a molehill of soil for the royals to add later. Two magpies strode around.

The chaps had used plain garden spades but they'd hardly finished when two official damsels materialised, each carrying a ceremonial spade so polished that the Duke and Duchess might, if they wished, study their reflections in them.

The crowd around this celebrity meadow grew and grew until, as the Anzac Day ceremony commenced nearby, the tree-planting site had in its own right a crowd of 1500, growing all the time.

Katie Murray of Macquarie (but a migrant from England 20 years ago ''And still an ardent royalist. A royalty tragic, really!'') stood out from the common crowd of loyalists because she had draped across the barrier in front of her a big red, white and blue commercially made royal wedding memorabilia banner. It featured in its centre a portrait of the Duke and Duchess, their uncannily white teeth bared in dazzling smiles.

Alas, for the many thousands now gathered at the tree site, the Duke and Duchess did no nattering to the crowd on their walk there from the memorial. Alas, tiara-wearing Ashley's snapdragons were not presented.

The couple, with their exquisite spades, each put about a token cupful of soil into the young pine's hole.

Then, the crowd giving a wistful wail at the realisation that the visitors were not going to do any mingling, and with the old, emeritus Aleppo pine looking on and keeping its feelings to itself, the Duke and Duchess got into the royal limousine and (with a plane to catch) were gone.