The Royal Yacht Britannia was first and foremost a residence for the royal family. Following a line of royal yachts dating back to 1660 the yacht was a way for the King/Queen and family to travel throughout an empire on which the sun never set.
As Queen Elizabeth once said, “the waterways of the world are a road to all the English lands and a yacht is a necessity”.
The Britannia, launched in 1954, was the traveling home of Queen Elizabeth and her family and provided a place the family could relax from the public eye and a location to hold state functions. In the 44 years the Britannia served the crown it served as a place to entertain such leaders as Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Regan, and Rajiv Gandhi. Other roles included a floating nursery for the royal children, a honeymoon venue, and a family retreat.
As a residence, when the State functions were hosted on the Britannia, protocols (dress codes, introduction rituals, seating, etc.) were the same as if the functions were being conducted at any one of the royal palaces.
The private quarters for the royal family included:
· State Drawing Room used by the royal family to relax for games and conversation. It also includes a mini-grand piano.
· State Dining Room – hosting dinners for guests
· Queen’s Sitting Room – used as the Queen’s office
· Sun Lounge – the queen’s informal room for family breakfasts and afternoon tea
· Royal Bedrooms – the Queen’s and Prince Phillip’s. The honeymoon rooms were used for four honeymoons.
Operating the Britannia required a crew of 20 officers and 220 yachtsmen. The crew kept to very strict discipline. When the royal family was on board orders were given by hand signal and the crew wore special soft-soled shoes to reduce noise. All work in and around the royal quarters and sitting rooms was to be completed by 8AM so as not to disturb the family. Meeting a royal in a hallway, the crewmember was required to immediately stop, eyes staring straight ahead until the family member had passed. Hats were not worn by crewmembers because without a hat they were out of uniform and the family members were not required to salute the enlisted.
Crewmen were personally selected by the commanding officer, usually a Flag Officer (admiral, vice admiral or rear admiral). About half of the crew was appointed for a two year tour of duty. The rest were assigned to the Britannia for the remainder of their tour of duty.
Launched: April 1953
412 feet long
55 feet wide
Middle Depth: 40 feet
Displacement: 4,715 tons
Speed: 21 knots (24 mph)
2 steam turbines with shaft 12,000 hp and a 10 foot propeller
Range: 2,000 miles
Decommissioned October 1997. Clocks on board stopped at 15:01 when the Queen was piped ashore