The Britannia superyacht, which is also mentioned in The Crown, served the Royal Family for 44 years and was retired 25 years ago due to the expenses it inflicted on the state treasury.
The British Royal Family has always been one of the most curious dynasties in the world. Although their stories are scrutinized in the news, documentaries, and the latest hot series The Crown, the British Royal Family still remains a mystery. One of the closest witnesses to this mystery is the family’s superyacht Britannia. Britannia, who served 44 years and retired 25 years ago due to the expenses it caused to the state treasury, is considered one of the veterans of the family.
Britannia will turn 70 in April. Having served both the members of the royal family and the British state for 44 years of its 70-year history, Britannia is truly a nobleman and a special superyacht. This feature is not only since it belongs to the British Royal Family. It is also the first superyacht with ocean-going capacity built for a royal family, making it different from its peers.
Britannia is not the first yacht of the British Royal Family. The first yacht of the family was belonged to Charles II, who reigned in the 1600s. During those years, the family owned many different models and sizes of yachts. Victoria & Albert, the royal yacht before Britannia, had slightly less fortunate life than its successor. Built for Queen Victoria, Victoria & Albert did not fulfill its duties as it deserved, as it was not trusted enough by the royal family. Edward VII enjoyed Victoria & Albert most. Edward had a good sniff around the Mediterranean with this gorgeous yacht. Having served the royal family for 38 years, Victoria & Albert finally retired in 1939. Victoria & Albert waited quietly in a corner until 1954, and after years, it was sent to a shipyard to be dismantled.
By the time Victoria & Albert retired, World War II had broken out, the blood was coursing through the continent of Europe. In this process, ordering a new yacht for the royal family was out of the question. After four bloody years, things finally calmed down, but this time a major economic crisis had swept the continent. European countries were trying to heal their wounds after the world war that lasted for four years. By the 50s, it had become a little easier to breathe. After the bad days were over, the British Royal Family took action to place an order for a new yacht.
Unfortunate King VI. George
King VI, who was sitting on the throne at that time, decided to build the new yacht. George gave it. Witnessing the bloody days of the Second World War, King VI. George wanted the new yacht to be designed not only to serve for the enjoyment of the family, but also to serve as a hospital at the front during wartime when necessary. During this period, King VI. George was very ill, and both the family and the English public hoped the new yacht would improve the king’s health. However, things did not go as expected. The order for the new yacht was given to John Brown & Co., one of the most ambitious shipyards in England at that time. All kinds of information about how the yacht will be was transferred to the shipyard down to the last detail. However, two days after the order was placed, on February 6, 1952, King VI. George passed away. George’s death caused both great sadness and confusion in the royal family.
The question was who would take the throne after George’s unexpected death. King VI. George’s older brother, Edward, had rebelled against the harsh family rules and had already given up the throne for the woman he loved. This being the case, the only remaining heir, King VI. George had taken over. George had two daughters: Elizabeth and Margaret. Born in 1926, Elizabeth was her father’s only lover. VI. Elizabeth was always with her father when George was sick. However, VI. When George died at the age of 56, all eyes were on one person to take over the throne: Elizabeth, 26. Elizabeth, who was still in the prime of her life, was reluctantly crowned in 1953 and became the Queen of the Kingdom of England. A life filled with the gloomy rules of the palace world awaited Elizabeth now.
While the British Royal Family was trying to deal with the problem of who would take the throne, the production of the new yacht was not abandoned. John Brown & Co., the shipyard in Sheffield, which previously launched world-famous yachts and became famous as one of the most prestigious shipyards in the world, especially between 1900-1950. On the one hand, he started the production of the new yacht. Queen Elizabeth, on the other hand, was learning the rules of the game with the wolves of British politics as a young woman.
Chosen by Queen Elizabet: “Britannia”
The keel of the royal family’s new yacht began to be produced in 1952. The hull was painted with a smooth paint, which was very assertive for that period, and a magnificent yacht emerged. The yacht was ready to be launched on April 16, 1953, but there was a problem. The name of the yacht was still unknown. Even when the day of the baptism arrived, the yacht did not have a name. As was customary in the maritime world, the royal family’s new yacht was also to be baptized before landing. Her godmother was to be Queen Elizabeth. As was the custom at the baptismal ceremony, a bottle of champagne would be detonated on the hull of the yacht that descended into the water. However, champagne was a very luxurious drink in a country that had come out of a great war and suffered from economic difficulties. When this was the case, Queen Elizabeth, who would burst the bottle on the hull of the royal family’s new yacht, was given a more reasonable drink, wine instead of champagne. Queen Elizabeth decided on the name of the royal family’s yacht during her baptismal ceremony. As Elizabeth broke the bottle on the yacht’s hull, she said: “I named this yacht Britannia. Good luck.”
Britannia had landed on the water, but its construction was still not completely finished. After her baptism, her three masts were erected, her sail rigs were placed, and after being overhauled for the last time, she made her first sailing trial on the west coast of Scotland on 3 November 1953. After the successful completion of this cruise, Britannia officially became the British Royal Family on 11 January 1954. He made his first long voyage from Portsmouth to Malta on April 14, and included Prince Charles and his sister Princess Anne, who were still young children at that time and who are in charge of the throne today, and their mothers Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, who were visiting UN countries at the time. met with.
Britannia, which is 126 meters tall, has three masts, and has Buckingham Palace inside, hosted the family both on holidays and on official trips. The yacht became the preferred honeymoon destination of the newly married couples of the family. Elizabeth’s rebellious sister Margaret and her husband, Anthony Armstrong-Jones, were the first to honeymoon in Britannia. Princess Diana and Prince Charles, the most controversial couple of the royal family, not only had their honeymoon in Britannia, but also spent many of their family vacations on this beautiful superyacht.
When it comes to Charles, who is now on the royal throne, it is useful to convey a small but important detail. Britannia had another special feature for Prince Charles. Before Charles married Diana in 1981, he met his greatest love, Camilla Parker Bowles, at a party in Britannia in 1969. Although it may seem like an ordinary invitation, this party would be the place where the first seeds of the events that caused the British Royal Family to be badly mixed years later.
Dangerous Mission in the Yemeni Civil War
Britannia’s history isn’t just about the royal family’s glamorous holidays. This particular superyacht also did a great job. In January 1986, civil war broke out in Yemen. And British citizens in the country had to be evacuated urgently. For this purpose, Britannia anchored in Khormaksar on the evening of 17 January. And with a very successful operation, he evacuated more than 1,000 refugees from dozens of different countries, as well as 19 British citizens, helping them escape the bloody civil war. Britannia also honored the English people with this dangerous mission.
Britannia had another very important task besides showing the royal family around. And that is to host trade agreements to fix Britain’s economy, which was destroyed after the world war that devastated all of Europe. For this purpose, the Britannia superyacht transported the most important traders of England overseas to make deals and hosted important names from other countries. Thanks to these organizations, Britannia made a profit of 3 billion pounds for the British Ministry of Finance between 1991-1995 alone.
In addition to the commercial talks, some very important visits of the British state were also made with Britannia. For example, in 1959 Britannia made a cruise to Chicago and hosted the then US President Eisenhower. 20 years later, it anchored in the United Arab Emirates for the first time with its cruise to Abu Dhabi and hosted Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and his community at a magnificent dinner. Important figures of world politics such as Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela, Winston Churchill were guests of Britannia during his tenure.
Britannia was a floating palace worthy of royalty. There were royal bedrooms, a 56-person dining room, a reception hall, as well as a Rolls Royce to provide transportation for Queen Elizabeth where she went. It could cover 2,400 nautical miles at once and could host 250 guests at the same time. Although it was designed to be used as a hospital, it never had to fulfill this task.
This splendor of Britannia would also bring its end.
Tony Blair is the End of Britannia
With its mooring, maintenance and crew, Britannia was a huge expense for the British state. That’s why Britannia’s annual expense had always been a contentious issue in England. While some MPs criticized Britannia due to its high budget, the furnishing of the yacht with 5.8 million pounds of furniture was brought to the agenda in the parliament with a parliamentary question, and the royal family was heavily criticized for wasting the state’s money for their own luxuries. In 1994, the conservative government decided to renovate Britannia, but this idea was abandoned after the £17m expense was incurred. After a time, Britannia had become a national issue in England.
What brought the end of Britannia was Labor Party leader Tony Blair, who came to power in 1997, and his government. Blair and his team refused to pay for Britannia when it came to management. This being the case, it was decided that Britannia should retire. This very special superyacht made its final voyage to China with Prince Charles. A retirement ceremony was then held in Portsmouth to pay off his debt of loyalty to Britannia. The guests of honor Queen Elizabeth and her husband Prince Philip couldn’t hold back their tears at the ceremony, which was quite emotional. After all, Britannia was a memento of Queen Elizabeth’s beloved father.
Queen Elizabeth, who baptized Britannia, was with her when she retired. Speaking at the ceremony, Queen Elizabeth bid farewell to her beloved Britannia with the following words: “Looking back over forty-four years, we can all remember with pride and gratitude this great ship that has served the country, the Royal Navy and my family with great privilege.”
Britannia served the British Royal Family for 44 years. During almost half a century of service, he was in more than 600 ports in 135 countries. He sailed more than a million nautical miles in wake water. He sailed to New Zealand. In addition to state duties, Britannia welcomes its guests on private cruises of the family. Britannia, which is still connected to Edinburgh and continues to serve as a museum, is visited by hundreds of thousands of people every year.