The British Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 as a cost cutting measure. It certainly was impressive and added to the British image while providing a kind of floating British embassy with all the pomp and circumstance associated with British royalty.
The building of a new Royal Yacht has commissioned. Oddly, it is not the Queen or the royal family that is pushing for the construction of a new royal yacht. Rather it is the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who envisions the yacht sailing around the world hosting trade negotiations as part of post-Brexit plans. When you think about it, it makes sense. It would be a lot more cost effective to pack up the post-Brexit dog and pony show onto a massive yacht than to ship the show to various countries. The yacht would also serve as a banquet hall and hotel for British diplomats and trade negotiators.
The last British Royal Yacht served for 44 years and traveled more than one million miles with 696 visits to foreign ports. During the course of those visits, she came to the United States several times and hosted parties for Dwight Eisenhower, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.
There has been great speculation about what the new yacht will look like and even the name. In September of 2021 THIS Week magazine wrote; “In July, the Defense Secretary Ben Wallace formally announced plans for a new national flagship to “promote British businesses around the world”. Commissioned at a cost of £200m to £250m, it would be designed and built in the UK. Boris Johnson said it would reflect “the UK’s burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation”. The boat is to be a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia, which reached the end of its working life in 1997. The idea, first proposed in 2001, was taken up by Tory MPs in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, and has received vociferous backing from The Daily Telegraph. It was supported by Johnson after he became PM and given the go-ahead in May. The government said it would be used to host trade fairs, ministerial meetings and diplomatic summits. The vessel would be crewed by the Royal Navy and is expected to be in service for about 30 years.”
There are some in Britain that feel that millions for a Royal Yacht is inappropriate. How it will be financed is still unclear. The yacht may be built with private funds, although the Prime Minister favors it being built by the government.
The previous Royal Yacht was built in Scotland at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, the same shipyard that built both the RMS Queen Elizabeth and the RMS Queen Mary. It was commissioned in January of 1954. The construction of Britannia was closely supervised by former Naval Officer Prince Philip who had married Queen Elizabeth just one year after her coronation.
Generally, the Britannia was only used for government business, but an exception was made when Lady Diana and Price Philip used the yacht for their honeymoon in the Mediterranean. The construction of the yacht is expected to start early 2023. Its crew will be Royal Navy but the official responsibility for the yacht will belong to the Ministry of Defense. The yacht will be classified as a Royal Navy warship.
The hope expressed by Boris Johnson is that an impressive royal yacht will be a kind of good will ambassador around the world as well has been a symbol to the strength of British ship building. It may be a difficult concept in light of the fact there are so many mega yachts now roaming the seas belonging to the good, the bad and the ugly.
Not everyone is happy with the design. A New York Times article by Mark Lander stated, “…The biggest problem with Mr. Johnson’s yacht may be that it is a bit dinky. An artist’s rendering issued by Downing Street drew catcalls. Stephen Payne, a naval architect who designed the Queen Mary 2 to evoke the great ocean liners of the past, said the yacht would be too small to have adequate exhibition and conference space. As currently designed, it has only two masts; a royal yacht needs three to fly the royal standard, the Union Jack and the flag of the admiralty.”
Lander also wrote; “The naval architect who designed the Queen Mary 2 likened it to a “1950s fishing trawler, ” while a retired Navy admiral sniffed that the plans for it looked like an “oligarch’s yacht.” A conservative party grandee ridiculed it as a “complete waste of time, silly populist nonsense.”
The target of all of this venom is Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s latest pet project: a replacement for the royal yacht Britannia, mothballed in 1997. Mr. Johnson wants to spend 200 million pounds, or $280 million, to build a new Britannia – not as a plaything for the royal family, which has evinced no interest in another yacht, but as a floating brand ambassador for post-Brexit Britain.
“This new national flagship will be the first vessel of its kind in the world,” the prime minister declared recently, “reflecting the U.K.’s burgeoning status as a great, independent maritime trading nation.”
For Mr. Johnson, whose fondness for grand projects ranges from an island airport in the mouth of the Thames River (never built) to a sleek new fleet of double-decker buses for London (built), the appeal of a new Britannia is obvious. With Britain eager to strike trade deals around the world, it could dispatch the yacht to distant ports as a visible manifestation of the global Britain that Mr. Johnson says was birthed by Brexit.”
The world of mega yachts has changed since the Britannia of old. It will be interesting to see if the incredible innovations like onboard aircraft, tenders the size of yachts, swim decks and incredible luxury will find their way onto the new Royal Yacht.
The British people love their royals. The old Britannia is now permanently moored at Edinburgh in Scotland. More than 1,000 visitors have been coming to see the Royal Yacht for the past 25 years. Guided tours take visitors to see the state dining room, drawing rooms, sun lounge, bridge, crew decks, engine room and even the Queen’s bedroom.
Somehow a British Royal family without a Royal Yacht leaves an important part of the whole royal mystique lacking. It is almost like Harry Potter without a wizard wand. At last, the void will be filled with the new Royal Yacht.