The British Royal Family's yacht, the Britannia, is believed to have traveled more than 1 million maritime miles during her 43 years of sailing. Much like its passengers, the Britannia was a regal vessel that carried the royal family overseas for important visits and vacations. However, the yacht also required expensive maintenance.
If you're curious about what became of the yacht after watching The Crown or due to your love for the royal family, look no further — we've done the digging for you.
What happened to the royal family's yacht, Britannia?
Although The Crown is a dramatized retelling of the royal family's history, the yacht is very much real. The 412-foot vessel could hold more than 250 guests. The Britannia also hosted U.S. presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. In 1986, it even served as a shelter for over 1,000 refugees fleeing a civil war in Aden, Yemen.
The Britannia first set sail in 1954 from Portsmouth to Grand Harbor, accompanied by Prince Charles and Princess Anne. The boat was built by the Scottish shipbuilding firm John Brown & Company Ltd. in Clydebank, Dunbartonshire, and was launched by Queen Elizabeth II in 1953.
The Britannia required major maintenance and repairs over the years.
The Britannia was an aging vessel with nearly five decades worth of nautical mileage. It was in need of expensive repairs and stirred a small debate as to how it would be paid for. In Season 5 of The Crown, Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip are shown vacationing in Scotland aboard the royal yacht. They discussed restoration costs.
During this time, which was also an election year, there were conversations within the Conservative party about replacing the vessel, while the Labour party promised not to use taxpayers' money to renovate the ship within their first two years of government.
"The yacht last underwent a major refit in 1987. A further refit at an estimated cost of some £17 million would be necessary in 1996–1997 but would only prolong her life for a further five years," said Viscount Cranborne, House of Lords Hansard. "In view of her age, even after the refit, she would be difficult to maintain and expensive to run. It has therefore been decided to decommission 'Britannia' in 1997."
When the Labour party won the election in 1997, it was ultimately decided that the ship wouldn't be replaced.
"We made clear that we would not spend public money on a royal yacht, and I am keeping that promise," said George Robertson, Labour's Defence Secretary at the time. "We in the Ministry of Defence have to justify every penny of the taxpayers' money that we spend, and in this case, I could not do so."
Where is the royal yacht Britannia now?
The Britannia retired on Dec. 11, 1997. Today it sits at the Ocean Terminal, Leith, in Edinburgh, Scotland. Queen Elizabeth II was even reported to have wept during the decommissioning ceremony. The Britannia is open to the public and has more than 300,000 visitors each year to keep her company.
Those who are interested in getting a first-hand experience at what it was like to travel in luxury some decades ago can visit the Royal Yacht Britannia museum for a small fee. Entrance fees start at £18.50 (about $23) for adults and £9.25 (about $11) for children between the ages of 5 and 17. During the tour, you can expect to see the following:
- Britannia's five decks
- Visit the bridge
- Walk through the Queen's favorite room
- Tour the engine room
- Enjoy a light lunch in the Royal Deck Tea Room