HMY Britannia

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Britannia at pierhead on the River Mersey, Liverpool
Career (United Kingdom) Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Name: HMY Britannia
Owner: Her Majesty's Government
Operator: Royal Navy
Builder: John Brown & Company
 Clydebank, Scotland
Yard number: 691
Launched: 16 April 1953
Commissioned: 11 January 1954
Decommissioned: 11 December 1997
Status: Museum ship open to the public, Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland
General characteristics
Tonnage: 5769 GT (gross tonnage)
Length: 412 ft (126 m)
Beam: 55 ft (17 m)
Height: 139 ft (42 m) to top of mainmast
Draught: 15 ft (4.6 m)
Propulsion: Steam turbine, 12,000 hp
Speed: 21.5 knots (39.8 km/h) maximum speed
Range: 2,400 nautical miles (4,400 km)
Troops: 1 platoon of Royal Marines
Crew: 19 officers
217 Royal Yachtsmen

Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia is the former Royal Yacht of the British royal family, the 83rd such vessel since the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. She is the second Royal yacht to bear the name, the first being the famous racing cutter built for The Prince of Wales in 1893. She is now permanently moored as an exhibition ship at Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland.


HMY Britannia was built at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd in Clydebank, West Dunbartonshire, UK, being launched by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953 and commissioned on 11 January 1954.

The ship was designed with three masts, a 133-foot (41 m) foremast, a 139-foot (42 m) mainmast, and a 118-foot (36 m) mizzenmast. The top 20 feet (6.1 m) of the foremast and mainmast were hinged, to allow the ship to pass under bridges.

Britannia was allegedly designed to be converted into a hospital ship in time of war,[citation needed] although this never happened.


During her career as Royal Yacht she conveyed the Queen, other members of the Royal Family, and various dignitaries on 696 foreign visits and 272 visits in British waters. In this time Britannia steamed 1,087,623 nautical miles (2,014,278 km).

On 20 July 1959, Britannia sailed the newly-opened Saint Lawrence Seaway en route to Chicago where she docked, making the Queen the first Canadian monarch to visit the city. U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower was aboard Britannia for part of this cruise; Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan also were later welcomed aboard the Yacht. Charles and Diana, the Prince and Princess of Wales, took their honeymoon cruise aboard Britannia in 1981. The ship also evacuated over 1,000 refugees from the civil war in Aden in 1986.


In 1997, John Major's Conservative government committed itself to replacing the Royal Yacht if re-elected, while the Labour Party declined to disclose its plans for the vessel. Following Labour's victory on 1 May 1997 it was announced that the vessel would be retired and no replacement would be built. The Conservative government argued that the cost of the vessel was justified by its role in foreign policy and promoting British interests abroad, particularly through conferences held by British Invisibles. When cancelling the replacement of the vessel, the new Labour government argued that the expenditure could not be justified given the other pressures on the defence budget (from which it would be funded and maintained). Proposals for the construction of a new royal yacht, perhaps financed through a loan or by the Sovereign's own funds, have since made little headway.

The Royal Yacht's last foreign mission was to convey the last governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten (now the The Lord Patten of Barnes) and the Prince of Wales, away from Hong Kong after the handover of the British colony to the People's Republic of China on 1 July 1997. Britannia was decommissioned on 11 December 1997.


There was some controversy over the siting of the ship, with some arguing that she would be better moored on the Clyde, where she was built, than in Edinburgh, with which the yacht had few links. However, her positioning in Leith coincided with a redevelopment of the harbour area, and the advent of Scottish Devolution.

Her Majesty the Queen attended the decommissioning, along with most of the senior members of the Royal Family, and the normally impassive monarch famously shed a tear publicly after disembarking for the last time.

Listed as part of the National Historic Fleet, Core Collection, Britannia is now permanently moored as a five-star visitor attraction in the historic Port of Leith, Edinburgh, Scotland, and is cared for by a Charitable Trust. Entrance to the yacht is via the Ocean Terminal development. She is also one of the UK's top corporate events venues. On 18 May 2006, the Swiss-born Hollywood star and legendary first Bond girl, Ursula Andress, celebrated her 70th birthday on board the Royal Yacht.

A retired Rolls-Royce Phantom V state car, in use by the royal family until 2002, is on display in the purpose-built garage aboard Britannia. Other sights on the five decks that are open to the public include the Queen's Bedroom (behind a glass wall), and the State Dining Room, where a lock of Horatio Nelson's hair is displayed.

Flag Officers Royal Yachts

Commodore Royal Yacht

Previous Royal Yachts

See also


External links

Coordinates: 55°58′56″N 3°10′35.5″W / 55.98222°N 3.176528°W / 55.98222; -3.176528

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