Politics Explained

Do we need a new royal yacht in honour of Prince Philip?

Sean O’Grady considers the pros and cons of a floating tribute to the Duke of Edinburgh

Thursday 06 May 2021 21:38
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<p>HMY Britannia was decommissioned in 1997</p>

HMY Britannia was decommissioned in 1997

Just before the coronavirus crisis swamped his premiership last year, Boris Johnson travelled to Greenwich to extol the opportunities of Brexit and champion a country that sat “on the slipway”, ready to take off, alluding to Britain’s rich maritime history and “the anchors, cables, rudders, sails, oars, ensigns, powder barrels, sextants, the compasses and the grappling irons” celebrated in the murals around the Old Royal Naval College.

Perhaps he did not have in mind the grappling irons being used against French fishing vessels off St Helier, but one of the prime minister’s most cherished pipe dreams has long been to commission a new royal yacht. Will it too be making its way down the slipway at Cammell Laird in Liverpool or at the Kvaerner works on the Clyde?

It seems doubtful, as the idea has come and gone at least since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, while nostalgia for the old HMY Britannia has been strong, in some quarters, ever since it was decommissioned in 1997 and sent to spend its retirement as a tourist attraction in Leith, where its stately home decor can be appreciated by generations to come.

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