Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Britannia was built at the shipyard of John Brown & Co. Ltd in Glasgow, Scotland, being launched by Queen Elizabeth II on 16 April 1953 and commissioned on 11 January 1954. During her career as Royal Yacht (she was designed to be converted into a hospital ship in time of war, though this facility was never used), she conveyed the Queen, other members of the Royal Family, and various dignitaries on 696 foreign visits and 272 visits in British waters.
John Major's Conservative government committed itself to replacing the Royal Yacht if re-elected while the Labour Party refused to disclose its plans for the vessel. Following Labour's victory on 1 May 1997 it was announced that the vessel would be retired with no replacement. The Conservative government argued that the cost of the vessel was justified by its role in foreign policy and promoting British interests abroad. 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).
Her last foreign mission was to convey the last British governor of Hong Kong, Chris Patten, and Prince Charles, away from Hong Kong after the return of the British colony to the People's Republic of China on 30 June 1997. Britannia was decommissioned on 11 December 1997 and is now permanently moored as an exhibition ship at Leith harbour, near Edinburgh, Scotland, (Entrance to the yacht is now via the Ocean Terminal development.). Queen Elizabeth II attended the decommissioning along with all most senior members of the Royal Family, and the normally stiff-lipped monarch famously shed a tear publicly after disembarking for the last time, to the shock of many. There was some controversy over this, partially because some felt she would be better moored in Glasgow, where she had been built, and others who felt that the yacht had few links to Edinburgh itself.
- Gross Tonnage: 5769 tons.
- Length: 412 ft (125 m)
- Height of masts above waterline:
- Foremast: 133 ft (40.5 m)
- Mainmast: 139 ft (42 m)
- Mizzenmast: 118 ft (36 m)
- The top 6 metres of the two tallest masts were hinged to allow the ship to pass under bridges.
- Maximum speed: 21.5 knots (40 km/h)
- Range: ca. 2400 nautical miles (4,445 km)
- During her career, Britannia steamed 1,087,623 nautical miles (2,014,278 km).
- Crew (1997): 19 officers and 217 Royal Yachtsmen (plus Royal Marines band as required).
Previous Royal Yachts
- Royal Yacht Osborne (1880s)
- Royal Yacht Fairy (1840s)
- Victoria and Albert
- Victoria and Albert II
- Victoria and Albert III
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