(CNN)Queen Elizabeth II was not forewarned of the 1975 removal of Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam by then Governor-General John Kerr, according to classified papers released Tuesday, which reveal new details about the country's biggest constitutional crisis.
Palace letters show Queen did not order 1975 removal of Australian Prime Minister Gough Whitlam
Letters between Kerr and Buckingham Palace were made public after a years-long court battle, but ultimately did not contain the smoking gun that some observers had expected -- that the Queen had directly ordered Whitlam's removal.
Kerr, who died in 1991, said he took the decision on his own, only later informing the Queen, because "it was better for (her) not to know."
"I decided to take the step I took without informing the Palace in advance because under the Constitution the responsibility is mine and I was of the opinion that it was better for Her Majesty not to know in advance, though it is, of course, my duty to tell her immediately," Kerr wrote, according to the documents.
After Whitlam's minority Labor government struggled to pass legislation amid intense opposition, Kerr stepped in to remove him as prime minister, appointing Liberal Party head Malcolm Fraser as caretaker leader on November 11, 1975.
Whitlam's removal by the Crown's chief agent in Australia, while legal, outraged the commonwealth, and strained relations with the UK, though in a subsequent election, the public overwhelmingly endorsed Kerr's choice of Fraser as leader, and Labor suffered a landslide defeat.
The documents released Tuesday, which include 211 letters amounting to 1,200 pages of correspondence, show Kerr was in extensive contact with the Palace ahead of and during the move, but ultimately acted on his own.
Kerr appears to have been concerned that a failure to act might have resulted in him losing his position. In one letter, sent to the Palace on October 17, 1975, Kerr warned that "the country is set on a collision course now of historic proportions."
The Queen's personal secretary, Martin Charteris, responded that Kerr was playing his "vice regal" hand with "skill and wisdom." As part of his role, Charteris was the official channel between Kerr and the Queen.
"The fact you have powers is recognized," Charteris added. "Is it also clear you'll only use them as a last resort."
That he did so a month later. In a lett