Royal Yacht Britannia: All Aboard!

Shutterstock © Royal Yacht Brtiannia docked

From 1954 until 1997, the Royal Yacht Britannia was a home from home on the seas for the royal family. As the Queen celebrates her official birthday today (Saturday 11th June), I’m sharing a recent trip to the Royal Yacht Britannia.

During her 43 year career she travelled over a million nautical miles and has hosted state visits, glittering receptions and many a holiday and getaway for the royal family.

Royal Yacht Britannia Launch

She was built by the John Brown & Company and officially launched by Her Majesty on the 16th of April 1953. The Queen smashed a bottle of Empire wine (Champagne was considered too extravagant in post-war Britain) and announced to the expectant crowds, “I name this ship Britannia . . . I wish success to her and all who sail in her”.

Photo by Tracey Steel.

This incredible vessel is now docked at Leith in Edinburgh is a top attraction. I visited a couple of months ago and was thrilled by the history and the homeliness of it. There is of course, grandeur, but it conveys a real feeling of comfort and understated elegance.

You can see everything from the Queen’s bedroom, her favourite sun lounge and the sumptuous dining area. The portholes of the royal bedrooms sit higher than usual to stop people peering in as they walk past. Every part of the ship has a story to tell and it’s not just the royal family we learn about.

A ship needs a crew and you not only get a look at the engine room, but the crew quarters kitchen and laundry room! It’s well worth doing the audio tour as you will learn so much more.

To The Rescue

At 20:00 on 17 January 1986, the Yacht dropped anchor at Khormaksar Beach. Civil war broke out in South Yemen and ships urgently evacuated British nationals and others trapped by fighting. As a non-combatant Royal Navy ship, Britannia would be able to enter territorial waters without further inflaming the conflict.

Five Fabulous Facts

  • She was the last ship in the Royal Navy where sailors slept in hammocks. The practice continued until 1973.
  • All voyages carried a knighting stool.
  • One of the most treasured items on board is a framed gold button which came from Admiral Nelson’s coat.
  • Under the Cold War plan Operation Candid, in the event of nuclear war, The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were to take refuge aboard Britannia as she hid in sea lochs on the north-west coast of Scotland.
  • All the clocks on board read 3:01pm. The exact time the Queen piped ashore for the last time following the ship’s decommissioning ceremony in December 1997.

You can read more from the team on our website. 

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!