DIKSIA.COM - Britannia yacht is a term that refers to the former royal yacht of the British monarchy, which was in service from 1954 to 1997. It was the 83rd such vessel since King Charles II acceded to the throne in 1660, and the second royal yacht to bear the name Britannia. The first was a racing cutter built for the Prince of Wales in 1893. Britannia yacht was a symbol of the British royal family and a witness to many historic events and ceremonies. It travelled more than a million nautical miles around the world, visiting over 600 ports in 135 countries. It also hosted many dignitaries, celebrities, and heads of state, as well as the royal family's personal holidays and honeymoons. In this article, we will explore the history, features, and current status of Britannia yacht, and why it is considered a royal legacy.
History of Britannia Yacht
Britannia yacht was built at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire. It was launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953, and commissioned on 11 January 1954. The ship was designed with three masts: a 133-foot foremast, a 139-foot mainmast, and a 118-foot mizzenmast. The top aerial on the foremast and the top 20 feet of the mainmast were hinged to allow the ship to pass under bridges. Britannia yacht was also designed to be converted into a hospital ship in time of war, although this capability was never used. In the event of nuclear war, it was intended for the Queen and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, to take refuge aboard Britannia yacht off the north-west coast of Scotland.
Britannia yacht sailed on its maiden voyage from Portsmouth to Grand Harbour, Malta, departing on 14 April and arriving on 22 April 1954. It carried Prince Charles and Princess Anne to Malta in order for them to meet the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the end of the royal couple's Commonwealth tour. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh embarked on Britannia yacht for the first time in Tobruk on 1 May 1954.
Britannia yacht served as the royal yacht for 43 years, during which it undertook 968 official voyages. Some of the most notable ones include:
- The Queen's first Commonwealth tour in 1953-1954, which covered 40,000 miles and 13 countries.
- The Queen's visit to the Soviet Union in 1973, the first by a British monarch.
- The Queen's Silver Jubilee tour in 1977, which included visits to Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, and the Pacific Islands.
- The handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, which was Britannia yacht's last official voyage.
- The royal family's personal holidays and honeymoons, such as Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960, Princess Anne and Captain Mark Phillips in 1973, Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, and Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson in 1986.
Britannia yacht was decommissioned on 11 December 1997, in a ceremony attended by the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and 12 senior members of the royal family. The Queen shed a tear as the royal standard was lowered for the last time, marking the end of an era.
Features of Britannia Yacht
Britannia yacht had a tonnage of 5,769 gross tons, a length of 412 feet, a beam of 55 feet, a height of 123 feet to the top of the mainmast, and a draught of 15 feet. It had a propulsion system of two Pametrada steam turbines, generating 12,000 horsepower, and a speed of 21.5 knots. It had a range of 2,400 nautical miles, and a capacity of 250 guests. It had a crew of 21 officers and 250 Royal Yachtsmen, who were volunteers from the general service of the Royal Navy. It also had a detachment of Royal Marines, and a contingent of Royal Marines Band members who embarked whenever Britannia yacht was on duty away from home port.