Stepping Onboard the Royal Yacht Britannia
The Royal Yacht at Edinburgh tells a tale of two almost separate worlds
It is a fact when I say that every inch of Scotland is scenic. Standing at the helm of the Royal Yacht Britannia, the view across from me was no different.
Colours of blue and grey with the birds flying across the harbour was a sight from a watercolour painting. The calm waves of the water, smaller yachts and boats bobbing on the waves alongside a little white lighthouse reminded me of a coastal village.
However I wasn’t standing at the shore of a village but at Port Leith, a half an hour ride away from Scotland’s capital Edinburgh.
The sole attraction on this side of the city is this Royal yacht.
The Royal Yacht Britannia follows a long line of royal vessels going back 83 such ships to the time of Charles II, the British Monarch from 1660-1685. This Royal Yacht is the last of its kind replaced by the speedy and more economical aeroplanes.
A Royal Yacht was commissioned in 1952 after Victoria and Albert III, the previous Royal Yacht was decommissioned and later dismantled. This new Yacht was to be made for the ailing King and meant for long voyages.
Unfortunately King George VI died before any concrete plans could be done. However a new Royal Vessel had to be made. The responsibility of a new Yacht fell upon the King’s successor and daughter, Queen Elizabeth II.
The work of building the Royal Yacht was tendered to John Brown’s shipyard a company that operated in Clydebank till 2001.
On 16th April 1953, the country looked on as their Queen baptised the new Royal Yacht with the words
“I name this ship Britannia… I wish success to her and all who sail in her”.
The new Royal Yacht was to indeed successfully sail and serve the Royal family for 44 years travelling over 1,000,000 miles.
Over these million miles, the ship not only served as the Queen’s home away from home but a royal honeymoon destination too for Charles and Diana who spent their honeymoon here.
Through the years, the ship had given the Royal Family plenty of memorable journeys and moments. It was with a heavy heart that the Queen decommissioned the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1997.
Lucky for us though, the ship is now permanently docked at Port Leith in Edinburgh and open for visitors.
Looking at it, the first fact to notice is that the Yacht is a full blown ship, a huge vessel in itself.
And stepping through, it is as Royal as a sea vessel can get.
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A bright sun lounge is a part of the Royal area. It is said, that this lounge was one of the Queen’s favourite. She would spend some quality time here enjoying an afternoon tea with her family.
Visitors can also peek into the State Apartments and Royal bedrooms, even the Queen’s office! Looking at such a personal space of the Queen, it is like a little window into her life as a monarch and as a mother.
The State Dining Room is another Royal affair. This room has received some rather famous esteemed guests. A few famous names of the people whom the Queen entertained onboard are Nelson Mandela, Rajiv Gandhi and Sir Winston Churchill.
The life below the deck though is at a stark contrast with the one above.
The rooms get more cramped and the noise of the hustle bustle that once filled this area of the ship, still echoes around you.
It is surreal to see what a ship’s engine room looks like. If like me you think it would be filled with dust and grime, you couldn’t be more wrong. The engine room is spick and span as if washed in the laundry right across from the engine room!
The laundry is another machine to travel into the past. The old laundry equipments and the plenty of uniforms that would be washed here, the warm humid steam in the air seems to have never left this place.
The sick beds and men who worked behind the scenes would have probably never met the Royal family but served them in one way or another.
The etiquette and rules onboard Britannia were strict. Not sticking to them would mean that the defaulter crew member would immediately be sent away to the nearest port or vessel, no second chances!
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The crew members would communicate using hand signals so as to not disturb the peace of the family upstairs. It was also compulsory to wear gym shoes which made no noise whilst walking.
Most of the sailors and helping staff considered working onboard the Royal Yacht as a way to serve Queen and country.
This strong and mighty Yacht has been welcomed in many a country across the commonwealth in its time. It has been a sign of the British monarchy for 44 years.
Decommissioning the Yacht might have been a controversial decision however it is commonly known that when bidding adieu to this ship was the only time in the Queen’s long reign that Her Majesty lost her calm and shed a tear.
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