Rule Britannia, floating family holiday home to nuclear bunker

28 Jan

A twenty-five-year-old monarch fulfilling her recently deceased father’s legacy. Her exotic prince with saltwater in his veins. Three pairs of royal honeymooners (all of whom saw their marriages end within two decades, but hey, you can’t blame the boat for that). The pride of Clydebank’s Scottish shipbuilders. Evacuation ship in conflict zone and potential nuclear bunker. Thousands of Royal Navy sailors who sailed her more than a million sea miles around the globe in the service of British diplomacy, commerce and Windsor family recreation. Symbol of imperial flag waving and taxpayer funded extravagance.
In her 44 years of service the Royal Yacht Britannia came to mean many things to the people whose lives she touched.

I didn’t expect to find any personal connection beyond the bleeding obvious, that I love boats and it’s a boat…
My first surprise upon boarding her dockside in Edinburgh, where she’s now a permanent and hugely popular tourist attraction, is that Britannia visited my home town of Brisbane, Australia, in the year of my birth,  1956, en route to the Olympic Games in Melbourne (I would have been seven months old), and again in April 1963. Video shows Britannia docking at Newstead Wharf flanked by a flotilla of tiny boats.
I wonder if my Dad was steering his boat, Kontiki, amongst the hundreds of craft bobbing about.
Decommissioned in 1997, Britannia has been fully restored and maintained immaculately by the Scottish trust now responsible for her. Most parts of the ship are on view to visitors, including Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip’s bedrooms and sitting rooms, state rooms and dining room. Crew quarters, the bridge, laundry, engine room, it’s all there to see. It feels eerily as though the people who animated her have merely stepped ashore for the moment.


Sun room where the Queen liked to take afternoon tea.

Queen’s bedroom.

  Queen’s sitting room/office.


Guest room, the only double bed on the ship.


Section of galley still in use.
The ship can be booked for private functions, one was being prepared for in the kitchen while we were on board.    

Admiral Lord Nelson gazes over all.



Note Foster’s beer bucket.

Luxury! Flushing toilets!

   Royal Barge


And if you get bored wandering around Britannia there are the other vessels to pore over, the racing yacht Bloodhound and the royal barge. 


A Tea Room built into the top deck serves light meals. I was particularly impressed that the thirty-year-old corked teak decking has not been covered up and is mint condition. 


It must have been a sad day indeed for the British Royals when they farewelled Britannia. Britain no longer ruled the waves and British shipbuilding was in the doldrums. On the upside people from all over the world can now experience for themselves a bit of British maritime excellence, commonwealth history and 20th century elegance afloat.  


‘May he be shamed who thinks badly of it’. Motto of the Order of the Garter.

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