Queen's Jubilee barge launched


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The Independent Online

A spectacular million-pound row barge built to mark the Queen's 60-year reign was launched on the River Thames today.

The 94-foot vessel, decorated with gold leaf and ornately carved, harks back 200 years to when kings and queens travelled by water in opulent style.

It will be one of the star attractions in this summer's Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant - a 1,000-strong flotilla of boats with the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh travelling at its heart.

Lord Sterling, who organised public celebrations for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002, is behind the project which created the barge in honour of the monarch.

He said: "We think it's something special, but that's for others to judge, really."

The peer said the idea for the barge came from the Prince of Wales's wish to have a waterborne tribute to the Queen, and it features wood from sweet chestnut trees grown on Charles's private estate.

Lord Sterling, the former executive chairman of P&O, said: "I became enamoured with the idea of building something timeless and got inspiration from Canaletto's paintings that showed the great barges of the 18th century and decided to build one."

He added: "If we had to give it a style, it would be Regency. Including 18 rowers, it will carry 52 people.

"No one's really built anything like this for 200 years and the way we've built it, it will last for 200 years if looked after.

"This has been a huge project. Something of this type would normally take a year or so to do it but we've done it in far less."

Lord Sterling said the team, led by master-builder Mark Edwards, had been working 18-hour days recently to complete the project started last November when the keel was laid.

Earlier the row barge brought traffic to a standstill in west London as the long vessel was moved from an industrial unit in Brentford to the Thames at Isleworth during the early morning.

The Queen will formally name the barge Gloriana when she visits Greenwich next Wednesday to open the relaunched Cutty Sark attraction.

The interior of the barge will be fitted out before the naming ceremony next week and it is hoped it will carry a member of the Royal Family at a future stage.