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The Royal Yacht Britannia Has a Fascinating History—Here's Everything You Should Know

It doesn't get more majestic than Queen Elizabeth II's yacht.

“Britannia is special for a number of reasons,” Prince Phillip once said. “Almost every previous sovereign has been responsible for building a church, a castle, a palace or just a house. The only comparable structure in the present reign is Britannia. As such she is a splendid example of contemporary British design and technology.”

Although she retired from service in 1997, today the Britannia, one of many of the world's grandest yachts , is docked in Edinburgh, where she is open as a visitors’ attraction and host of private events. Below we give you all the Royal Yacht Britannia facts you might want to know, from who owns the yacht now to why she was decommissioned to how fast she is to how to get tickets to visit. Britannia was, after all, the one place the queen said she could “truly relax,” so why not see why for yourself?

queen royal yacht britannia in usa

Royal Yacht Britania Facts and History

On February 4, 1952, John Brown & Co shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, received the order from the Admiralty to build a new Royal Yacht to travel the globe and double as a hospital ship in times of war, according to the royal yacht's website . King George VI passed away two days after, sadly, and so on April 16, 1953, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II announced the yacht’s new name as the ship was revealed.

"I name this ship Britannia,” she said. “I wish success to her and all who sail in her." Britannia was commissioned into the Royal Navy in January 1954 and by April of that year sailed into her first overseas port: Grand Harbour, Malta.

royal yacht britannia facts staircase

The queen and The Duke of Edinburgh worked with interior designer Sir Hugh Casson for the ship to serve as both a functional Royal Navy vessel and an elegant royal residence. Queen Elizabeth II selected deep blue for Britannia’s hull, instead of the more traditional black. Its Naval crew included 220 Yachtsmen, 20 officers, and three season officers—plus a Royal Marines Band of 26 men during Royal Tours.

All of them might have had to change uniform up to six times a day, so the laundry service on board worked nonstop. The yacht also engaged in British overseas trade missions known as Sea Days and made an estimated £3 billion for the Exchequer between 1991 and 1995 alone.

royal yacht britannia facts drawing room

The ship’s wheel was taken from King Edward VII’s racing yacht, also named Britannia, according to Boat International , and the 126-meter ship could reach speeds of 22.75 knots, or a seagoing cruising speed of 21 knots, according to Super Yacht Times . Other fun facts: The yacht could produce her own fresh water from sea water, and shouting was forbidden aboard to preserve tranquility, favoring hand signals for Naval orders instead.

royal yacht britannia facts dining room

Over the next 44 years, the Britannia would sail the equivalent of once around the world for each year, in total visiting 600 ports in 135 countries. Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong-Jones were the first of four couples to honeymoon on the ship in 1960, gifting them all privacy to sail to secluded locations. Prince Charles and Princess Diana followed in 1981 on the Mediterranean as well as Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips before them in 1973 in the Caribbean and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986 in the Azores.

diana and william

For family vacations aboard the ship, games, treasure hunts, plays, and picnics were organized, and on warm days the children could play in an inflatable paddling pool on the Verandah Deck.

royal yacht britannia facts sun lounge

In the Sun Lounge, the queen especially enjoyed taking breakfast and afternoon tea with views through large picture windows, a space you can see replicated in the TV show The Crown. Although no filming took place on board the Britannia for the show, researchers ensured scenes aboard it were accurate. In the queen’s bedroom, the resemblance is seen down to the decorative wall light fittings and embroidered silk panel above her bed that had been specially commissioned.

queen crying at britannia

In 1997, the ship was decommissioned after the government decided the costs to refit it would be too great. On its final day in her service that followed a farewell tour around the U.K., the queen openly wept as the Band of HM Royal Marines played "Highland Cathedral."

"Looking back over 44 years we can all reflect with pride and gratitude upon this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with such distinction," Queen Elizabeth II said. All clocks on the ship stopped at 15:01, the exact time the Queen disembarked from the yacht for the final time, and they would remain at that time until the present.

royal yacht britannia facts clock

How to Tour the Royal Yacht Britania

Today the yacht is owned by Royal Yacht Britannia Trus t, and all revenue it generates goes to the yacht’s maintenance and preservation. Ticketed entry allows you to step into state rooms like the Sun Lounge, the State Dining Room and State Drawing Room, in addition to the working side of the ship in the Crew’s Quarters, Laundry and gleaming Engine Room. Along the way you will see original artifacts from the shop—95 percent of which is on loan from The Royal Collection.

the royal yacht britannia

How to Visit the Royal Britania

You can visit the Britannia any day of the year on Edinburgh’s waterfront. Hours vary by season, and you can find them listed and purchase tickets on the yacht’s website . Private tours are also available, and you can visit the Royal Deck Tearoom, where the Royal Family hosted cocktail parties and receptions, for drinks, meals and scones. Additionally, the Britannia hosts special ticketed events for New Year’s and other occasions, and event spaces can be booked as well.

While you are in Edinburgh, you can also stay on the Fingal , a neighboring yacht-turned-floating-hotel, which is a seven-minute walk from the Britannia, and dine at its Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar, which serves breakfast, afternoon tea, dinner, and cocktails.

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A New Royal Yacht Is Coming

  • By Phil Draper
  • January 7, 2022

Royal yacht

There are yachts, and there are superyachts, but royal yachts tend to be something else again. The United Kingdom hasn’t had a royal yacht for almost 25 years, but the British government just announced its intention to replace Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia .

No firm details have been released of what this replacement could be, but design proposals were recently invited. Time is of the essence, given that the official policy statement came with a proposed launch date just three years away.

The open brief suggests that what is needed now is less yacht, more national ship—a world-first build. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he sees the vessel as more of a floating embassy to support royals and government ministers alike.

Royal yacht

That concept is broadly familiar. During its 44-year service life as a ship of state, Britannia racked up more than 1 million nautical miles and 696 foreign visits. Every itinerary was about promoting the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, and trade promotion was always a part of the job description. For instance, Britannia made several trips to the United States, including both coasts and Chicago via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Various presidents and their wives were guests aboard, including Dwight D. Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

But what defines a royal yacht?

It’s not just about scale, although the eight-deck, all-steel Britannia was one of the biggest yachts in the world when it launched. It was built at Scotland’s John Brown and Co. of Clydebank, the same yard that built the ocean liners RMS Queen Elizabeth and RMS Queen Mary . Britannia entered service in January 1954, one year after Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation. Her late husband, Prince Philip, was a former naval officer and enthusiastically oversaw Britannia’s specification and construction.

Royal yacht

The yacht, beyond its routine duties, could rapidly convert to a 200-bed hospital ship or an offshore refuge for the royal family in case of nuclear war. Britannia is 412 feet length overall, has a 55-foot beam and measures 5,862 gross tons. Thanks to two turbine sets producing up to 12,000 hp, Britannia was capable of a continuous 21 knots throughout its service years.

Those were the days when a yacht of that size was unusual: There are now almost 30 giga-yachts afloat with more gross tonnage than Britannia . Only a quarter of them have any obvious royal affiliations.

But in its day, Britannia was an operation to behold. The yacht was home to 21 officers and 256 sailors of the British Royal Navy and could host functions with 250 guests. The staterooms and staff quarters were aft, and the crew were forward. The yacht’s complement included a Royal Marines guard detachment in separate onboard barracks, a 26-strong military band, and a full general surgery team with an operating theater. The permanent noncommissioned crew were known affectionately as the “yotties.”

Royal yacht

Britannia was where the most senior members of the royal family stayed when on suitable official visits. It was not where they would normally spend vacations, although Prince Charles and Princess Diana famously used Britannia for a honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean. They had the yacht’s only double bed installed aboard.

As for Britannia’s successor, various sources have quoted ballpark figures for the build in the low hundreds of millions of dollars. The final specification will depend on how much space is practical for conference and entertainment areas, the number of guest staterooms, the crew complement, helicopter use, tenders, provisions, technology, and security. Johnson also says he wants the vessel to incorporate cutting-edge green technologies and showcase best practices with regard to sustainability.

The new yacht is expected to have a service life of at least 30 years. Given that trillions of dollars’ worth of trade deals were reportedly secured aboard Britannia , the cost for that lifespan is not expected to be a concern.

Construction could start as early as next year, following consultations with the royal family, the Royal Navy and various government departments. The vessel will officially be the responsibility of the Ministry of Defense and classified as if it were a warship.

Royal yacht

Floating History

Now retired, royal yacht Britannia lies permanently in Edinburgh, Scotland. This vessel has been one of the Scottish capital’s most popular tourist draws for more than 25 years. It is open daily and sees more than 1,000 visitors a day. Guided tours take in all areas, including a view into the queen’s bedroom, private sitting rooms, state dining room and drawing rooms, sun lounge and veranda, bridge, crew decks, and engine room.

The First Royal Yacht

The wooden wheel aboard Britannia came from the only other royal yacht to bear the name, the much older 122-foot gaff-rigged cutter Britannia . Built for Prince Albert Edward, who later became King Edward VII, it was famously campaigned at big-boat

regattas by him and his son, King George V. The yacht launched in spring 1893 and was a near-sister to Valkyrie II , which unsuccessfully challenged the Nathanael Greene Herreshoff-built Vigilant for the America’s Cup that same year. Both Valkyrie II and Britannia

were designed by George Lennox Watson and built at the D&W Henderson Shipyard in Scotland. Following George V’s death and per his wishes, the vessel was stripped of its spars and fitting, and scuttled in deep water off England’s South Coast on July 10, 1936.

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Secrets of the Royal Yacht Britannia

Town & Country took a tour of the famous vessel which served the royal family for more than 40 years and has reopened as a tourist attraction.

the royal yacht britannia

Wondering about the royal family's yacht as you watch this season of The Crown ? In light of its appearance on the Netflix series, we're resurfacing this story from 2021 :

While plans to build a successor to boost Britain’s trade continue to attract criticism, Britannia is once again attracting hordes of visitors after being forced to close because of COVID-19. And it’s no surprise, because from being able to look right into the Queen’s bedroom to learning about what life was like for the up to 220 yachtsmen on board, this is a boat with some fascinating stories to tell.

Town & Country went aboard to learn the secrets of this much-loved vessel. Here’s our pick of the best royal tales.

the royal yacht britannia is now open to visitors again following covid19 closures

The ship was altered with royal skirts in mind.

Many photographs of the Royal Yacht Britannia show the family waving from the Royal Bridge as the vessel departed from or arrived at its destination. And the bow of the ship was specially adapted to make sure these public moments did not reveal more than was intended. “The curved teak windbreak was a later feature, added for modesty’s sake, to prevent sea breezes from lifting royal skirts,” visitors to Britannia are told.

britannia exterior

It was a struggle to get the royal car on board.

When the 412-ft yacht was built in 1953, it was considered important that it had a garage to house the Queen’s Rolls Royce. However, getting the car on board was no easy feat. “First, the car, in its transporter, had to be hoisted onto the special track that is fitted into the deck. Even then, it could only be squeezed into the Garage by removing its bumpers,” Britannia’s guide notes. Thankfully, in later years the Queen usually traveled in a car from the country she was visiting which meant that the garage was eventually used as a beer store.

crown binnacle

Britannia was designed to avoid any peeking into the royal bedrooms.

Now, visitors to Britannia get a full view of the Queen and Prince Philip’s (separate) bedrooms, albeit through glass. However, when the ship was in use it was important that no-one could peek into these rooms. Pointing out that the windows looking into these areas are “higher than anywhere else on the Yacht,” Britannia’s guide explains: “By placing them at this height above the deck, any accidental glimpses into the royal bedrooms could be prevented.”

staff cubbies

There were lots of people on board—but not everyone traveled in style.

One of the most fascinating things about touring the yacht is looking into the living quarters—from the relatively luxurious rooms of the Queen and Prince Philip and the ship’s Admiral, to the officers’ comfortable sitting room and dining room, to the approximately 220 yachtsmen who lived, slept, and worked, as the guide describes “in fairly cramped conditions.” Tourists are told: “Britannia was a ship in which hierarchy was strongly defined.” And there were plenty of people to accommodate. Some 45 working members of the royal household accompanied the Queen on her overseas visits.

stairway

The Queen favored neutrals while Philip liked darker colors.

As the yacht was build with their use in mind, the Queen and Prince Philip both had a say in the ship’s design and as such, it gives a some insight into their taste. The Queen’s (single) bed has a specially-commissioned embroidered silk panel above it, and her room is decorated in pale and neutral colors. By contrast, Philip’s room features vibrant maroon linen and curtains and, at his request, his pillows, unlike the Queen’s “do not have lace on the borders.”

sundeck room

There is only one double bed.

The honeymoon suite on the yacht is opposite the Queen and Philip’s bedrooms. “This is the only room on Britannia with a double bed which was brought on board by Prince Charles when he honeymooned on the Yacht with Princess Diana,” tourists are told. “When the Royal Children were small, this bedrooms and the adjoining room were used as nursery suites.”

dining table

The royal children liked to eat jelly on board.

Food on board Britannia was prepared in three galleys—one for the yachtsmen, one for the officers and one for the royal household. Buckingham Palace chefs were flown out to prepare royal food and there was a room that, according to Britannia’s guide, was known as the Jelly Room “for it was in here that the royal children’s jellies were stored.”

dining room

There is a dance floor that hasn’t been used for 50 years.

The largest room on Britannia is the State Dining Room where lavish banquets were held. It could also be used as a cinema room. “The silver-grey carpet could also be rolled up to expose a wooden dance floor beneath, although the last time this was used was for Princess Anne’s 21st birthday celebrations,” the guide notes.

naval flags

Prince Philip kept a reminder of his naval career in his office.

Just like their separate bedrooms, the Queen and Philip had separate offices on board Britannia. Philip’s had a “specially designed display case,” the ship’s guide notes, in which he kept “a model of HMS Magpie, His Royal Highness’s first naval command.” The Duke of Edinburgh famously gave up his active naval career in 1951 to support his wife in her duties when King George VI’s health was ailing.

drawing room

The ship was ready for stormy seas.

The royal family and their guests relaxed in the drawing room, which featured a grand piano. The instrument was played by members of the family and even some of their famous guests, including composer Noel Coward. “The Welmar baby grand piano cost £350 when it was supplied in 1952, and is firmly bolted to the deck to stop it taking off in choppy seas,” tourists are told.

queen in turkey

Once the royal laundry turned blue.

Walking through the laundry at the end of the tour provides an insight into what was once a “hot and noisy environment.” Some 600 shirts could pass through the laundry in one day, with the royal family’s washing done on separate days to that of the crew. Britannia’s audio guide recounts “one occasion when the royal washing turned a delicate shade of blue, and Her Majesty’s Dresser was less than amused. The cause, it turned out, was a chemical reaction in the copper pipes, which was quickly remedied by adjusting the pH value of the water.”

laundry room

For more information and to book tickets visit royalyachtbrittania.co.uk

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Town & Country Contributing Editor Victoria Murphy has reported on the British Royal Family since 2010. She has interviewed Prince Harry and has travelled the world covering several royal tours. She is a frequent contributor to Good Morning America. Victoria authored Town & Country book The Queen: A Life in Pictures , released in 2021. 

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A Floating Palace

Britannia was launched from the John Brown & Company shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, on 16 April, 1953. For over 44 years the Royal Yacht served the Royal Family, travelling more than a million nautical miles to become one of the most famous ships in the world. To Queen Elizabeth II, Britannia provided the perfect Royal residence for glittering state visits, official receptions, Royal honeymoons a nd relaxing family holidays. For Great Britain, she was a majestic symbol of the Commonwealth and a proud ambassador  generating billions of pounds in trade deals. For the Royal Family and 220 dedicated crew of Royal Yachtsmen, she was home.

Today, Britannia is a five-star visitor attraction and exclusive evening events venue in Edinburgh.

Royal Yacht Britannia Details Facts

Start at the Bridge, explore the State Apartments, Crew's Quarters and finish at the Engine Room.

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View The Royal Residence

Discover why Britannia was so special for Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal Family.

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Find out about life on the ocean wave for the crew, the Royal Yachtsmen, also know as the ‘Yotties’.

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The Britannia's Timeline

Britannia holds a special place in maritime history as the last in a long line of Royal Yachts.

Visiting Britannia

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Start your tour at our entrance, currently located on the Ground Floor of Ocean Terminal. Please note that tickets purchased in person are by card/contactless only. 

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The Royal Yacht Britannia : A History of Queen Elizabeth II’s Favorite Palace

By Lisa Liebman

The Royal Yacht Britannia in Hong Kong during its last voyage in July of 1997.

The christening of The Royal Yacht Britannia serves as a cheeky season opener to  The Crown . Black-and-white Pathé News–style footage shows a soon-to-be-crowned Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) cheered on by shipbuilders as she launches her new 412-foot yacht. “I hope that this brand-new vessel, like your brand-new queen, will prove to be dependable and constant. Capable of weathering any storm,” she says about the royal replacement for the  Victoria and Albert III . By the series’ season finale, set 44 years later, both the sovereign and the floating palace she christened  Britannia will have hit rough seas—the cost of repairing the creaky old vessel and the modern role of the monarchy both in question. Ultimately, the yacht that undertook 968 official voyages all over the world, hosting dignitaries—including 13 US presidents—at receptions and banquets, was dry-docked near Edinburgh, Scotland, where it continues to be a popular tourist attraction. Here are some of the most buoyant facts about the palace the Queen famously said was “the one place where I can truly relax.”

The sun room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981.

The sun room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981. 

In a nod to the country’s post-war austerity, Elizabeth scaled back the design of the ship that her father, King George VI, had commissioned just two days before he died. Rather than following the opulent plan laid out by the Scottish firm McInnes Gardner & Partners, she opted for the understated elegance envisioned by architect Sir Hugh Casson, who described “running a lawn mower over the Louis XVIl adornments” in favor of simple white walls, lilac-gray carpeting, and “a bit of gilding in grand places.” Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, were said to have personally chosen the furniture—much of it, including linens, recycled from the  Victoria and Albert —fabrics (florals, chintz, toile), and paintings. 

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on board the Royal Yacht Britannia as they prepare to depart on their honeymoon cruise...

Prince Charles and Princess Diana on board the Royal Yacht Britannia as they prepare to depart on their honeymoon cruise in 1981.

As a former Royal Navy Commander, Prince Phillip also saw to the ship’s technical details, and his Bluebottle racing yacht inspired the Britannia ’s navy-hued hull. Outer decks were made of two-inch Burmese teak. The steering wheel was reclaimed from Britannia ’s namesake, King Edward VII’s 1893 racing yacht; a wheelhouse wheel came from George V’s racing yacht; and a gold-and-white binnacle (housing the ship’s compass) was salvaged from King George III’s yacht and installed on the Veranda deck. Fittings from former royal ships were also reused. 

The drawing room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1978.

The drawing room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1978. 

The 4,000-ton yacht had a crew of 220 Royal Yachtsmen who lived on board, about 45 household staff, and occasionally a 26-member Royal Marine embarked to entertain dignitaries. The monarch often welcomed guests from the ship’s grand staircase. (Stairs leading from the Veranda to the Royal deck were sometimes transformed into a water slide for the kids.)  Britannia ’s apartments were designed like those of a first-class ocean liner. A 56-seat state dining room, where many of the gifts given to the monarch (a wood-carved shark from Pitcairn Island, a bejeweled gold statue from Bangkok) were displayed, was the scene of formal dinners with guests such as Sir Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, Nelson Mandela, and Bill and Hillary Clinton. More intimate gatherings were held in the Queen’s official reception room, a smaller state drawing room with floral upholstered pieces, simple wood tables, an electric fireplace, and a Welmar baby grand piano bolted to the deck—played by everyone from Sir Noël Coward to Princesses Diana and Margaret. The teak-clad sun lounge, with rattan furniture and a toile loveseat, was Elizabeth’s favorite place—where she had her breakfast, afternoon tea, and also enjoyed her favorite Dubonnet and gin cocktails.

The Queens sitting room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981.

The Queen’s sitting room on the Royal Yacht Britannia as photographed in 1981. 

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A ship elevator reserved for royal use moved between the Upper and Shelter Decks. The latter is where four Royal Apartments (bedrooms), including the Queen and Prince Phillip’s connecting compartments, were located. Hers featured florals, his had red accents. Elizabeth’s understated Upper Deck private sitting room, done in pastels and neutrals, served as the office where she conducted state business. Phillip used his sitting room, with its wood desk facing a model of his first command, the HMS Magpie , as his study. Below deck there was a wine cellar, as well as a cargo hold that could carry a barge, speed- and sailboats, plus a royal Range Rover and Rolls-Royce. The yacht could also be converted into a hospital (though it never was).

The Queen shed a tear at the decommissioning ceremony for thye Royal Yacht Britannia.

The Queen shed a tear at the decommissioning ceremony for thye Royal Yacht Britannia.

As depicted in  The Crown, Britannia ’s final official trip was to Hong Kong in 1997, where Prince Charles attended the handover of the territory to China. By then, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s administration was complaining that the £11 million a year needed to keep the boat afloat couldn’t be justified. With Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, and all of their children in attendance,  Britannia was decommissioned at a ceremony in Portsmouth, England on December 11, 1997, with the monarch seen wiping away a tear. The yacht, now docked in Leith, Scotland, is open to the public as a museum and events space. (Prior to their wedding, Princess Anne and Mark Phillips’s daughter Zara Phillips and her fiancé Mike Tindall had a celebration there.) Visitors will note that every clock on board reads 3:01, the exact time the Queen disembarked her beloved  Britannia for the final time on that December day.

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Honeymoons and holidays - How much do you know about the Royal Yacht Britannia?

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on the Royal Britannia.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on the Royal Britannia. Getty

The Royal Yacht Britannia served the Queen for 44 years from its launch on April 16th, 1953 until it was decommissioned in 1997.

Editor's note: Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-serving monarch passed away on Sept 8, 2022, aged 96. Now, BHT takes a look back at some of the most popular stories which arose during her 70-year reign. 

It seemed very fitting that, just as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth was celebrating becoming the longest-serving monarch in British history, I should be visiting one of her most faithful and loyal servants. 

The Britannia was actually commissioned by the Queen’s father, King George VI. Sadly, he died on February 6, 1952, just two days after the order to build a new Royal Yacht had been given to John Brown & Company in Clydebank. This meant, however, that the Queen was given the opportunity to play an important role in the design and fitting out of the ship to reflect the personal tastes of Her Majesty and Prince Phillip.

The Royal Yacht has been described as two ships in one, with the operational side of the ship, where the naval personnel lived and worked, in the area forward of the mainmast, and the Royal Apartments occupying the rear.

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Yet, if Britannia was thought of as two ships it also served a dual purpose. The Royal Yacht has been described by the Queen as the place where she could “truly relax.” The Queen had said that “Britannia is to be at times the home of my husband and myself and of our family.” This was achieved partly in the understated design of the Royal apartments and also by the use of personal photographs and items from previous Royal Yachts, all giving a country house atmosphere to the whole experience.

Royal Yacht

Royal Yacht

In addition to being a home for the family, however, it also had a diplomatic role, serving as a base for state visits and later for trade missions. Indeed, the State Dining Room, the grandest room onboard, was the scene of numerous formal banquets involving many illustrious guests, ranging from Prime Ministers Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher to Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Mandela, and Yeltsin, who were all entertained there. Very few people, of whatever nationality, ever refused an invitation to dine on Britannia .

Even though being on board Britannia allowed Her Majesty to relax, she was still faced with affairs of state, and would spend several hours each day working on official documents, ferried to wherever the Royal Yacht was in the world in their distinctive red dispatch boxes. The Queen’s sitting room on the ship was also her office. Prince Phillip had his own sitting room, a much more masculine design, although he referred to it as his study.

JONATHAN EASTLAND/ALAMY

JONATHAN EASTLAND/ALAMY

How many bedrooms are on the ship?

The Queen’s bedroom and Prince Philip’s have a connecting door and both had buzzers by the bed so that they could summon a steward at any time. Each room had a bathroom, equipped with a thermometer so that the Royal bath water was always at the correct temperature.

Although both bedrooms are quite modestly decorated and fitted out, Her Majesty’s bedroom, described as having “floral charm,” included a silk panel, specially commissioned in 1953, above her bed. Prince Philip’s, as one might expect from a former Navy officer, was finished in darker timber, again giving it a slightly more masculine look.

There are two further bedrooms on the Shelter deck, including one known informally as the honeymoon suite which houses the only double bed on board. Four newly married Royal couples have used the room; Princess Margaret and Anthony Armstrong Jones in 1960, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in 1973, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981 and the Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson in 1986.

Just along from the Royal bedrooms is the Verandah Deck, which also served a dual function as a leisure area for the family or a reception area during official visits. Among its furnishings is an impressive binnacle—a receptacle for a compass. The binnacle, originally carved from a single piece of teak, was one of several items rescued by Prince Philip from the previous Royal Yacht, Victoria & Albert III , having originally been part of Queen Victoria’s yacht, Royal George . Beside the Verandah Deck is the Sun Lounge, described as the Queen’s favorite room, a place where Her Majesty could really relax with the family, take tea or perhaps enjoy a drink.

PRESSELECT/ALAMY

PRESSELECT/ALAMY

Britannia carried a crew of 21 officers and 220 yachtsmen (known as “yotties”), who were required to carry out their duties in a way that allowed Her Majesty to relax completely. This regime, known as “unobtrusive excellence,” meant that most orders were given using sign language and crew members wore sneakers to further minimize noise.

In Britannia ’s ambassadorial role, during its working life, the ship made more than 700 visits to countries in the British Commonwealth and across the world. Nevertheless, it was difficult in the modern world to justify the existence of a Royal Yacht.

In 1994, the decision was finally taken to decommission Britannia . Just three years later the British Government announced that it would not be replaced. It was decided, however, that unlike its predecessors, the yacht would not be scuttled, but would go on show as a tourist attraction at a location to be decided. There was stiff competition to host the Royal Yacht, but the port of Leith, near Edinburgh, was successful.

The decommissioning of Britannia in Portsmouth on December 11, 1997, was an emotional moment for all concerned, with Her Majesty, Prince Philip and members of the crew all striving to keep their feelings in check.

Her Majesty’s loss has been the public’s gain, presenting a unique opportunity to get a fascinating glimpse of the life of the Royal family and their relationship with this amazing ship.

* Originally published in March 2016.

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Photos show what it's like onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia, the queen's 'floating palace' that she took on lavish vacations

  • The Royal Yacht Britannia was the royal family's private yacht from 1953 to 1997.
  • It's five stories tall, had more than 240 staff, and was known as the queen's "floating palace."
  • Britannia is now anchored in Leith, Scotland, and reopens as a tourist attraction on May 12.

For 44 years, the Royal Yacht Britannia carried the queen and members of the royal family around the world.

the british royal yacht

Source: Royal Yacht Britannia

Built in 1953, it logged more than 1 million miles and became known as the queen's "floating palace."

the british royal yacht

The five-story ship was part royal residence and part Royal Navy ship, with a full-time staff of more than 240 royal yachtsmen and officers.

the british royal yacht

The queen traveled on the ship for tours abroad, during which she would meet with dignitaries both on land and onboard.

the british royal yacht

She also used it for vacations like the royal family's annual summer cruise to the Western Isles of Scotland.

the british royal yacht

The queen once said that "Britannia is the one place where I can truly relax."

the british royal yacht

Four royal couples used the ship for their honeymoons, including Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981.

the british royal yacht

In 1997, the Labour government decommissioned the ship, citing costs as a primary reason. The Britannia cost about £11 million to run each year, Reuters reported.

the british royal yacht

Source: Royal Yacht Britannia , Reuters

While the queen has yet to build a new yacht, that wasn't the end of the Royal Yacht Britannia.

the british royal yacht

One year later, it opened as a public museum in Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.

the british royal yacht

The ship is set to reopen on May 12, almost six months after it closed in November due to the pandemic.

the british royal yacht

Source: Royal Yacht Britannia , BBC

Visitors will be able to step into spaces like the teak-lined sun lounge, the queen's favorite room, where she took her breakfast and afternoon tea.

the british royal yacht

The queen's bedroom, featuring a vanity table, writing desk, and twin bed, is also on display. The queen and Prince Philip slept separately while onboard the Britannia.

the british royal yacht

The largest room on the ship is the state dining room, where the queen entertained dignitaries like Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan, and Margaret Thatcher. The room could fit 56 guests.

the british royal yacht

Nearby is the state drawing room, which served as a place for the royal family to relax as well as a reception area for guests.

the british royal yacht

Toward the front of the ship are rooms where the staff lived and operated, like the 24-hour laundry room. Here, yachtsmen and officers would change outfits up to six times per day.

the british royal yacht

The former royal yachtsmen, known as "yotties," now reunite annually to help maintain the ship.

the british royal yacht

The clocks on the Royal Yacht Britannia don't get touched. They are permanently stopped at 3:01 p.m., the time when the queen stepped off the ship for the last time.

the british royal yacht

Prince Philip once said that the ship occupies a unique place in royal history. "Almost every previous sovereign has been responsible for building a church, a castle, a palace, or just a house," he said, according to the Royal Yacht Britannia Trust. "The only comparable structure in the present reign is Britannia."

the british royal yacht

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New royal yacht named after Prince Philip to be 'commissioned within weeks', costing as much as £200m

The Daily Telegraph reports that the ship would replace HMY Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997.

Sunday 2 May 2021 08:04, UK

Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997

A new royal yacht is to be commissioned by the government and named after Prince Philip, according to reports.

It would be a successor to HMY Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997.

The Duke of Edinburgh was Lord High Admiral from 2011 until his death earlier this year, and served in the Royal Navy during the Second World War.

The royal yacht was used on trade missions, like this one in India in early 1997

The Daily Telegraph reports that the new yacht will be announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson "within weeks".

The cost of building the vessel could be as much as £200m, with MPs calling for the ship to be built in the UK.

Downing Street has not denied the reports, with a spokesperson saying: "The prime minister has an exciting vision for shipbuilding in this country and is committed to making the UK a shipbuilding superpower.

"We are always looking for new ways to promote global Britain around the world, driving investment back to the UK and delivering value for money for the British people."

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The yacht would be expected to sail across the world and be used to promote British trade and interests overseas - including by hosting meetings.

The Duke of Edinburgh's love of the sea and distinguished Royal Navy career

Conservative MP Craig Mckinlay has campaigned for the new yacht.

He said: "A new national flagship proudly bearing the name of Prince Philip can be no better memorial to this much-loved and respected man.

"I am delighted that the years of effort to prove to ministers the value of such a vessel to our country's global brand is now on the brink of becoming reality.

"My latest joint letter signed by fellow MPs and peers may have helped get this project over the line. I am overjoyed."

Jake Berry, who is chairman of the Northern Research Group of MPs, has called for HMY Prince Philip to be built by Cammell Laird on Merseyside.

There are calls for the yacht to be built at the Cammell Laird shipyard

Since being decommissioned in December 1997, HMY Britannia has been berthed at Edinburgh and used as a tourist attraction.

The HMS Queen Elizabeth, an aircraft carrier, was sent on its first deployment last week .

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What to Know About the Royal Yacht Britannia Featured on 'The Crown' Season 5

The Royal Yacht Britannia served as the official royal yacht of the British monarchy for 44 years

the british royal yacht

The Crown is diving into royal events from the '90s in season 5 , and that includes the decommissioning of Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia, also known as the Royal Yacht Britannia.

In the first episode of the new season, Claire Foy ( who portrayed Queen Elizabeth II in seasons 1 and 2) reprises her role as the monarch as a flashback shows the yacht's official launch in April 1953.

At the time, the new yacht held special significance as it was launched by the Queen just before her own coronation in June 1953 .

Through the years, the vessel sailed over 1,000,000 nautical miles on 968 state visits with the royal family as they entertained prime ministers and presidents, per the Royal Yacht Britannia website. It also served as the venue for several royal honeymoons , including Princess Diana and Princes Charles in 1981 .

From when it was commissioned to where the Royal Yacht Britannia is now, here's everything to know about the royal yacht.

When was the Royal Yacht Britannia commissioned?

As shown on The Crown , Royal Yacht Britannia was officially launched on April 16, 1953 , at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, where Queen Elizabeth unveiled the yacht's official name.

Following Queen Elizabeth 's coronation on June 2, 1953, the Royal Yacht Britannia was commissioned into the Royal Navy on January 11, 1954, before sailing her first overseas port on April 22.

How big is the Royal Yacht Britannia?

The Royal Yacht Britannia is about 412 feet long , with a beam width of 55 feet and five decks , and weighs over 4,000 tons.

Who used the Royal Yacht Britannia?

The yacht was described as the royal family's "floating residence" during its 44 years of service. As it was used to host "magnificent state receptions and banquets, and guests ," numerous world leaders boarded the yacht over the years, including Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan and Rajiv Gandhi.

Per the Royal Yacht Britannia website, the yacht also " allowed the Royal Family some rare privacy away from their public duties and was famously described by HM Queen Elizabeth II as 'the one place I can truly relax.' "

Furthermore, the Royal Yacht Britannia was the venue of four royal honeymoons : Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, Prince Charles and Princess Diana, Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson. All four royal marriages ended in divorce, which Queen Elizabeth famously reflected on in her 1992 speech where she referred to the past year as her "annus horribilis ," or horrible year.

When was the Royal Yacht Britannia decommissioned?

The yacht's retirement was announced in 1994 as a result of the substantial costs needed to repair the ship. It was estimated that the cost would £17 million, which would only prolong the yacht for another five years.

On December 11, 1997, the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned during an official ceremony that was attended by most of the senior members of the royal family. It was been reported that Queen Elizabeth was seen uncharacteristically shedding a tear during the decommissioning.

"Looking back over 44 years we can all reflect with pride and gratitude upon this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with such distinction," the Queen said at the time .

Where is the Royal Yacht Britannia now?

Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, people can now visit the Royal Yacht Britannia at Port of Leith in Edinburgh, Scotland. Visitors are able to see various parts of the yacht including Britannia's five decks, the state apartments, as well as the Sun Lounge, which was the Queen's favorite room in which to have her afternoon tea.

Does the Royal Yacht Britannia have a successor?

Plans for a successor to the Royal Yacht Britannia first began in 2019 when it was reported that the late Sir Donald Gosling had donated £50 million to pay for the construction . In 2021, the yacht was commissioned by Boris Johnson to host trade fairs and diplomatic events and it was expected to go into service in 2024 or 2025.

However, in November 2022, it was reported by BBC that plans for the yacht were being scrapped as the government "searches for spending cuts." The new yacht was estimated to cost up to £250 million.

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Inside ‘Britannia,’ Queen Elizabeth II’s Floating Palace

The Royal Yacht, according to Her Majesty, was “the one place where I can truly relax.”

hmy britannia

But Britannia was far more than a posh royal cruise liner. She was a showcase for cutting-edge naval engineering and the first royal yacht that could do double duty as a floating hospital in wartime, if necessary. In 1986, for instance, she rescued more than 1,000 refugees from South Yemen. Over the course of her 44 years in service, Britannia facilitated 968 official visits and traveled over one million nautical miles.

royal yacht britannia

She was also, of course, a time capsule of the best British design of the time, in terms of both technological prowess and decoration. Read on for more about the ship’s history, and where the Royal Yacht Britannia is now (hint: You can visit !).

What’s the backstory of Britannia ?

This history of royal liners goes back centuries. In fact, Britannia was the 83rd royal yacht; the first, HMY Mary, was constructed in 1660 by the Dutch East India Company and given as a gift to Charles II. Britannia ’s predecessor, Victoria & Albert III, was completed in 1901 and used by Edward II up through George VI, but was decommissioned in 1939 and eventually broken up as scrap. A new yacht was commissioned on February 4, 1952, in an effort to help King George VI’s health, according to the Royal Yacht Britannia museum, but the king died just two days later. The task to oversee the construction of the new yacht, then, fell on the young Queen Elizabeth II.

royal yacht britannia at sea

Who Built the Royal Yacht Britannia ?

Britannia was designed by John Brown & Co., the same marine engineering firm that built the RMS Lusitania and the Queen Mary. Construction on Britannia began in June 1952, and she was launched in a ceremony on April 16, 1953. The young queen didn’t reveal the name of the liner until her televised address in which she proudly stated before roaring crowds, “I name this ship Britannia .” Notably, a bottle of wine as opposed to the more traditional Champagne, was smashed across the ship’s bow during the christening—Champagne would have been much too ostentatious amid postwar austerity.

Who designed the Royal Yacht Britannia ’s interiors?

According to a technical paper presented to the Institution of Naval Architects in the spring of 1954, the royal and state apartments were to be on par with those of a first-class ocean liner. “The suitability of the decorative design and the furnishing of the Royal and State apartments has, of course, been very important,” the paper noted.

royal yacht britannia

At first, Patrick McBride of the Glasgow, Scotland–based firm, McInnes Gardner & Partners, was selected to design the interiors, but the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh rejected those plans, deeming them too lavish, according to the Royal Yacht Britannia museum. Sir Hugh Casson, the director of architecture at the 1951 Festival of Britain, was the perfect candidate, with his modern eye and lack of ostentation. The design, the architect later wrote in his diary, “was really running a lawn mower over the Louis XVIl adornments. I was going to concentrate on one-color carpet throughout, which was sort of lilac/gray, and all the walls would be white. The only enrichments would be a bit of gilding in grand places.”

royal yacht britannia

Working with Casson, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were highly involved, giving input for everything ranging from the furniture (much of it salvaged from the vessel’s predecessor, Victoria & Albert III , as another way to appear thrifty) to the ship’s blue exterior paint, inspired by the Duke of Edinburgh’s racing yacht, Bluebottle. Apartments featured a design like an elegant-yet-muted English country house, filled with floral sofas and antiques. The state drawing room could accommodate up to 250 guests. The Queen’s favorite room was the sun lounge, with its warm teak walls and rattan furnishings, and views across the veranda deck.

royal yacht britannia

“I suppose Britannia was rather special as far as we were concerned because we were involved from the very beginning in organizing the design and furnishing and equipping and hanging the pictures and everything else,” Prince Philip said in a 1995 documentary film about the yacht. “For us it was rather special because all the other places we live in have been built by our predecessors. They started building Windsor 1,000 years ago, and they built Balmoral 100 years ago, and they built Sandringham 70 or 90 years ago. So we, in a sense, had our own.”

So successful was the partnership that Casson would go on to become a dear friend of the royal family and design interiors for Buckingham Palace, Balmoral , and Windsor Castle

royal yacht britannia

Britannia was also a second home for the royal children. Each was given a member of the crew or “sea daddy” to look after them. “We found as children that there was so much to do, we expended so much energy that we couldn’t describe our time on the yacht as a rest,” Princess Anne said. Milk was delivered fresh from a farmer each day for the royal children, according to letters from the ship’s Acting Captain J. S. Dalglish. Later, the yacht would become the venue for numerous royal honeymoons and vacations, including Princess Diana and Prince Charles’s infamous 1981 Mediterranean cruise.

Where is the Royal Yacht Britannia Now?

As documented in season 5 of The Crown , the Royal Yacht was decommissioned on December 11, 1997, at a ceremony in Portsmouth, U.K., after nearly half a century in service and having traveled more than one million nautical miles. In addition to Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles, Princess Anne, Prince Andrew, and Prince Edward all attended the ceremony. As the British ensign was lowered to the tune of a navy band, Her Majesty was photographed blinking back tears .

queen crying at britannia

Britannia was retired to Port of Leith in Edinburgh. Today, as one of the most popular tourist sites in the U.K., she serves as a museum and receives some 350,000 visitors per year who can tour the State dining room, the Queen’s bedroom, and sun lounge, as well as view the engine room and crew’s cabins. Visitors can even have tea and scones on the royal deck. The majority of the items on display are original to the yacht and are on loan from the Royal Collection.

zara phillips and mike tindall host pre wedding party on britannia

In a bizarre 21st-century twist, former British prime minister Boris Johnson announced plans to build a Britannia successor, a £250 million yet-to-be-named, taxpayer-funded superyacht to operate as a “floating embassy.” The new British prime minister, Rishi Sunak, recently torpedoed those plans in favor of building a surveillance ship.

Headshot of Anna Fixsen

Anna Fixsen, Deputy Digital Editor at ELLE DECOR, focuses on how to share the best of the design world through in-depth reportage and online storytelling. Prior to joining the staff, she has held positions at Architectural Digest, Metropolis, and Architectural Record magazines. elledecor.com 

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the british royal yacht

HMS Britannia: 10 facts about Queen Elizabeth's former royal yacht

From humanitarian missions to hosting royal honeymoons, the HMS Britannia has a fascinating history serving the British Royal Family for over four decades. When she was decommissioned in 1997, Queen Elizabeth II shed a tear in a rare display of emotion. The occasion marked the end of long succession for royal yachts dating back to the reign of Charles II. As the country prepares to celebrate the Queen’s diamond jubilee, we remember her beloved Britannia .

1. Britannia was launched in 1953

Britannia was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II following the death of her father and was launched from John Brown & Co. Ltd - the shipyard that built the Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary cruise liners - in 1953. However, there was to be no traditional Champagne-smashing against her bow. In a post-war Britain, Champagne was considered too extravagant so instead, a bottle of Empire wine was selected to do the honours at her official launch ceremony.

2. There are three masts on board

Unlike her predecessors, Britannia possessed a more modern profile with a clipper bow and cruiser stern. The ship was designed with three masts: a 41-metre foremast, a  42-metre mainmast, and 36 metre mizzenmast. The last six metres of the main mast were placed on a hinge so she could pass under bridges.

3. Britannia logged over one million nautical miles

Between family vacations and official tours, Britannia logged over one million nautical miles, which roughly equates to one trip around the world for each of her 44 years in service.

4. The wheel was inherited

The ship’s wheel was taken from King Edward VII’s racing yacht, a 37-metre gaff-rigged cutter also named Britannia . She was a near sistership to Valkyrie II which challenged for the 1893 America's Cup, and won over 230 races in her lifetime. At the end of her life she was stripped of her spars and fittings - the wheel was saved and fitted on Britannia

5. The engine room was hyper-clean

The engine room was hyper-clean  Rumour has it that the engine room on Britannia was kept in such pristine condition that any visitors were made to wipe their feet on a door mat before entering.

6. Royal honeymoons were hosted on board

A number of royal couples chose to spend their honeymoons on Britannia given its privacy and security. Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones started the trend with a six-week sail between Mustique, Trinidad and Antigua, followed by Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips, and Princess Diana and Prince Charles. The royal apartments were located on the shelter deck with access to a large veranda.

7. There were more than 200 crew on board

During royal tours, Britannia was manned by 220 yachtsmen, 21 officers and three season officers and a Royal Marine band of 26 on royal tours. Up until the 1970s, the crew had a daily ration of rum and she was the last Royal Navy vessel to have the crew sleep in hammocks.

8. Ready for war

Britannia was designed to be converted into a hospital ship in times of war. Although she was never used in this capacity, she did assist in the evacuation of refugees during the South Yemen civil war. The drawing room was used as a temporary dormitory for the evacuees.

9. The golden rivet

It was common for officers to send junior crew off on a fool’s errand to search for a single "golden rivet". It became a right of passage and engrained in maritime folklore. During a state visit, so the story goes, the Queen had caught wind of this elusive rivet and was keen to see it for herself, so the crew found some gold leaf and hastily created a golden rivet to present to Her Majesty.

10. Decomission

HMS Britannia was officially retired from royal service in 1997. Britannia  is now permanently berthed in Edinburgh and has been converted into a museum. To this day, all the clocks on board remained stopped on 3.01pm which is the exact time the Queen last disembarked the vessel.

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Where is the Royal Yacht Britannia and why was it decommissioned?

the british royal yacht

Queen Elizabeth’s farewell to the Royal Yacht in 1997 was one of the only occasions in her 70-year-reign that Her Majesty publicly shed a tear.

Almost 25 years ago, HMY Britannia left Portsmouth for a farewell tour around the UK . It went to six major ports across the UK, including Glasgow.

Why was the Royal Yacht Britannia decommissioned and where is it today?

Why was it decommissioned?

The Royal Yacht was decommissioned in 1994 by John Major’s Government because “the costs were too great”, according to the official website.

The decision was made after the Royal Yacht was used for a long and successful journey spanning 44 years and travelling more than one million miles across the globe.

The issue of a new royal yacht became a political issue in the run-up to the 1997 General Election, when the new Labour Government came into power.

After the election, Tony Blair’s Government confirmed in October 1997 there would be no replacement for Britannia.

It marked the end of a long tradition of British royal yachts, dating back to 1660 and the reign of Charles II.

Where is the HMY Britannia?

Britannia is permanently berthed at Ocean Terminal, Leith, in Edinburgh, Scotland .

Today, the Royal yacht is open to curious visitors and welcomes more than 300,000 visits each year.

Britannia was launched in 1953 from the John Brown and Company shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland .

Its purpose was to serve the Royal Family and it was the first to be built with complete ocean-going capacity, designed as a royal residence to entertain guests around the world.

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For more than 44 years, it travelled more than one million miles with Her Majesty for state visits, official receptions, royal honeymoons, and relaxing family holidays.

Britannia quickly became one of the most famous ships in the world and now stands as a majestic symbol of Great Britain.

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The Deeper Meaning Behind Princess Charlotte’s Prim-and-Proper Sailor Suit for Trooping the Colour

By Hayley Maitland

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Over the course of her 63 years on the British throne, Queen Victoria established a wealth of traditions still upheld by the royal family today, from summering at Balmoral (Prince Albert purchased the castle for his wife in 1853) to erecting Christmas trees come advent each year (although the late Queen preferred to celebrate the holiday at Osborne on the Isle of Wight rather than in Norfolk or Windsor). One of Victoria’s more peculiar legacies, however? A royal affinity for nautical-inspired dress.

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The future King Edward VIII and King George VI as boys.

The Queen first commissioned a miniature sailor’s uniform for her eldest son, Prince Albert Edward, in 1846, intending for the four-year-old to wear it aboard the royal yacht while sailing around the Channel Islands. “[It was] beautifully made by the man on board who makes for our sailors,” the monarch later wrote in her diary, noting that “the officers and sailors who were all assembled on deck to see him, cheered, and seemed delighted.”

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Prince William in a sailor suit later worn by Prince Louis to Trooping the Colour.

No one, however, was as taken with the look as Prince Albert, who commissioned a portrait of his son wearing the suit by German artist Franz Xaver Winterhalter as a Christmas gift to Victoria. When the royal family exhibited the picture of the future King Edward VII in St James’s Palace the following year, more than 100,000 visitors came to see it, with prints and miniatures circulated widely among the public—kickstarting a Victorian craze for nautical children’s fashion that spread through the British aristocracy and beyond. The trend continued through the late Victorian period and into the Edwardian era. Vogue frequently ran articles devoted to the trend in the early 20th century; for “the little fellow”, it declared in a 1909 issue, Russian blouses and sailor suits were “still the leading styles.”

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Princes William and Harry in sailor suits at Westminster Abbey in 1986.

This extended to the children in line to the throne: brothers King Edward VIII and King George VI were both pictured in the style, as was Prince Philip during his childhood. (Notably, while Edward trained for the Royal Navy, both George and Philip actually served.) And when Diana, Princess of Wales welcomed Princes William and Harry with the future King Charles III in the ’80s? She not only took every opportunity to dress her sons in sailor suits, but made sailor dresses her style signature throughout much of the decade. Exhibit A: the outfit Diana wore to Buckingham Palace immediately after the Privy Council approved her marrying into the royal family in 1981.

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Diana in a sailor dress after the Privy Council approved her marriage in 1981.

Cut to 2022, and Prince Louis attended Trooping the Colour in the very same look that his father appeared in on the Buckingham Palace balcony 37 years earlier. And today? Princess Charlotte wore a classic sailor suit that echoed both her mother’s monochrome outfit and her grandmother’s oft-referenced style.

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the british royal yacht

King Charles III: Monarch enjoys spot of rum in Royal Navy tradition with Royal Yacht Britannia sailors

The King joined former Royal Yacht Britannia sailors in reviving an old navy tradition – and drank a tot of rum.

Charles returned to the vessel the royal family called home at its dock in Leith in Scotland and reminisced with the men who kept things ship shape above and below deck before it was decommissioned in 1997. Standing on deck for the first time in more than 25 years, the King was toasted by the old sailors and returned the tribute, saying: ‘To all the marvellous Yachties who keep it all going, you are all brilliant.’

Sailors in the Royal Navy were issued with a daily ration of rum until 1970 when the practice came to an end, and the late Queen was the only person able to continue the alcoholic treat for Britannia’s seamen on special occasions with the words ‘splice the mainbrace’. A laugh went up before procedures began when someone dropped a glass, and after taking a sip of the drink – traditionally three measures – Charles puffed out his cheeks as the Pusser’s Rum – labelled gun powder proof – went down.

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The Association of Royal Yachtsman, formerly known as the Royal Yacht Britannia Association, is drawn from the men who worked on the royal ship during its 43 years at sea, and every year many return for a few days to give staff who maintain Britannia as a visitor attraction a helping hand. Mark Carron, 49, served on Britannia from 1994-98 doing a variety of tasks to keep the ship running smoothly and later became a policeman in his home county of Kent before taking early retirement.

He said after chatting to the King: ‘He said “I’ve always loved the smell of rum, it’s a unique smell”.’ Mr Carron added: ‘This was the place out of the public eye, they could relax and be themselves. On board Britannia that was their family time and it was our job to make their stay comfortable.’

Charles joined the Royal Navy some years after the end of free tots of rum and his career concluded with him commanding his own ship, the minehunter HMS Bronington, for the final 10 months of his active service ending in December 1976. Britannia travelled more than a million nautical miles around the world and became an integral part of the royal family’s ‘soft diplomacy’ power.

SEE ALSO: HMS Collingwood open day – in pictures

It was not only used for official overseas visits but was also part of royal family life, and was where Charles and his first wife Diana, Princess of Wales spent part of their honeymoon and the Princess Royal travelled to the Galapagos Islands, with first husband Captain Mark Phillips, on their post-wedding holiday.

Former marine engineer Wiz Wiseman, 70, who worked in Britannia’s engine room during the early 1970s, described life on board for those who had fallen foul of the rules. He said: ‘There were two sanctions if you crossed the line, you either left Britannia but if you were only a naughty boy you would be expected to attend the church on Sunday – when Her Majesty did.’

Mr Wiseman added: ‘All the royal family could relax on board knowing nothing would be reported – what happened on Britannia stayed on Britannia.’

King Charles III: Monarch enjoys spot of rum in Royal Navy tradition with Royal Yacht Britannia sailors

IMAGES

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  2. British Royal Yacht concept by Zaha Hadid Architects

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  3. The Royal Yacht Britannia: A History of Queen Elizabeth II’s Favorite

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  4. Royal yacht: Why Britannia will definitely cost more than £200m to build

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  5. The HMY Britannia: Inside History's Last British Royal Yacht

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  6. Royal Britain: A Tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia

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VIDEO

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  4. A dive on the RMS Medina

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COMMENTS

  1. List of royal yachts of the United Kingdom

    There have been 83 royal yachts of the monarchy of the United Kingdom since the restoration of the monarchy in 1660.. Charles II had 25 royal yachts, while five were simultaneously in service in 1831. Merchantmen or warships have occasionally been chartered or assigned for special duty as a temporary royal yacht, for example the steamship Ophir in 1901 and the battleship HMS Vanguard in 1947.

  2. HMY Britannia

    Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia is the former royal yacht of the British monarchy.She was in their service from 1954 until 1997. She was the 83rd such vessel since King Charles II acceded to the throne in 1660, and is the second royal yacht to bear the name, the first being the racing cutter built for the Prince of Wales in 1893. During her 43-year career, the yacht travelled more than a million ...

  3. The Royal Yacht Britannia Official Website

    Step aboard The Royal Yacht Britannia. Start your tour at our entrance on the Ground Floor of Ocean Terminal. Please pre-book your tickets to guarantee admission. A great day out for all the family, explore each of the five decks at this top attraction in Edinburgh and discover what life was like on board Queen Elizabeth II's former floating ...

  4. Royal Yacht Britannia Facts Everyone Should Know—and How to ...

    Royal Yacht Britania Facts and History. On February 4, 1952, John Brown & Co shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, received the order from the Admiralty to build a new Royal Yacht to travel the globe and double as a hospital ship in times of war, according to the royal yacht's website.King George VI passed away two days after, sadly, and so on April 16, 1953, the newly crowned Queen Elizabeth II ...

  5. A New Royal Yacht Is Coming

    The yacht was home to 21 officers and 256 sailors of the British Royal Navy and could host functions with 250 guests. The staterooms and staff quarters were aft, and the crew were forward. The yacht's complement included a Royal Marines guard detachment in separate onboard barracks, a 26-strong military band, and a full general surgery team ...

  6. The Story Behind the Royal Family's Yacht, Britannia

    The royal family has a long history of seafaring—the first official royal yacht was the HMY Mary (HMY stands for His or Her Majesty's Yacht), gifted to Charles II by the Dutch in 1660. In fact ...

  7. What will the new royal yacht look like?

    When the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 as a cost-cutting measure by the British government, not everyone was ready to say farewell. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has now confirmed that a new royal yacht will be operational by 2026, with design plans due to be released around the time of the Queen's Platinum Jubilee .

  8. Secrets of the Royal Yacht Britannia

    It was a struggle to get the royal car on board. When the 412-ft yacht was built in 1953, it was considered important that it had a garage to house the Queen's Rolls Royce. However, getting the ...

  9. About Former Floating Palace

    A Floating Palace. Britannia was launched from the John Brown & Company shipyard in Clydebank, Scotland, on 16 April, 1953. For over 44 years the Royal Yacht served the Royal Family, travelling more than a million nautical miles to become one of the most famous ships in the world. To Queen Elizabeth II, Britannia provided the perfect Royal ...

  10. Plans for new national flagship to promote 'best of British'

    The Queen launched the Royal Yacht Britannia at the John Brown shipyard in Clydebank on 16 April 1953 in front of thousands of people. It travelled more than one million miles in its 44 years of ...

  11. The Royal Yacht Britannia

    The 4,000-ton yacht had a crew of 220 Royal Yachtsmen who lived on board, about 45 household staff, and occasionally a 26-member Royal Marine embarked to entertain dignitaries.

  12. The Royal Yacht

    The Royal Yacht Britannia served the Queen for 44 years from its launch on April 16th, 1953 until it was decommissioned in 1997. Editor's note: Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's longest-serving monarch passed away on Sept 8, 2022, aged 96. Now, BHT takes a look back at some of the most popular stories which arose during her 70-year reign.

  13. New national flagship replacing the Royal Yacht Britannia ...

    The Royal Yacht Britannia was launched by The Queen in 1953 and was retired in 1997 after completing 44 years of service. The new national flagship is expected to be in service for around 30 years.

  14. Royal yacht

    A royal yacht is a ship used by a monarch or a royal family. ... Since the decommissioning of Britannia in 1997 the British monarchy no longer has a royal yacht. Other nations. The Principality of Monaco owned the princely yacht Deo Juvante II between 1956-1958.

  15. Inside the Royal Yacht Britannia, the Queen's 'Floating Palace

    The Royal Yacht Britannia was the royal family's private yacht from 1953 to 1997. ... Our Royal Insider Facebook group is the best place for up-to-date news and announcements about the British ...

  16. New royal yacht named after Prince Philip to be ...

    A new royal yacht is to be commissioned by the government and named after Prince Philip, according to reports. It would be a successor to HMY Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997.

  17. A tour of Queen Elizabeth II's Royal Yacht Britannia

    Take a full tour of the Queen's yacht, Britannia. This magnificent vessel was used by Queen Elizabeth II for over 40 years to travel the world and host stat...

  18. All About the Royal Yacht Britannia Featured on The Crown Season 5

    The Royal Yacht Britannia served as the official royal yacht of the British monarchy for 44 years. The Crown is diving into royal events from the '90s in season 5, and that includes the ...

  19. Inside the Royal Yacht 'Britannia'

    The Royal Yacht in its current home in Edinburgh. The ship is open to the public as a museum. In a bizarre 21st-century twist, former British prime minister Boris Johnson announced plans to build a Britannia successor, a £250 million yet-to-be-named, taxpayer-funded superyacht to operate as a "floating embassy.".

  20. HMS Britannia: 10 facts about the Queen's former royal yacht

    7. There were more than 200 crew on board. During royal tours, Britannia was manned by 220 yachtsmen, 21 officers and three season officers and a Royal Marine band of 26 on royal tours. Up until the 1970s, the crew had a daily ration of rum and she was the last Royal Navy vessel to have the crew sleep in hammocks. 8.

  21. Where is the Royal Yacht Britannia and why was it decommissioned?

    The Royal Yacht was decommissioned in 1994 by John Major's Government because "the costs were too great", according to the official website. The decision was made after the Royal Yacht was ...

  22. Home

    About the RYA. The Royal Yachting Association is the national governing body for dinghy, motor and sail cruising, all forms of sail racing, RIBs and sportsboats, windsurfing and personal watercraft, and is a leading representative body for inland waterways cruising in the UK.

  23. The Deeper Meaning Behind Princess Charlotte's Prim-and ...

    The Queen first commissioned a miniature sailor's uniform for her eldest son, Prince Albert Edward, in 1846, intending for the four-year-old to wear it aboard the royal yacht while sailing ...

  24. King Charles III: Monarch enjoys spot of rum in Royal Navy ...

    The King joined former Royal Yacht Britannia sailors in reviving an old navy tradition - and drank a tot of rum. Charles returned to the vessel the royal family called home at its dock in Leith ...