The Queen's Yacht

Posted January 20, 2012

The Queen's Yacht

The only time I saw the Queen cry in public was in 1997 as she watched the Royal Yacht Britannia being decommissioned.

The Labour government, at the time, decided that the upkeep of the ageing boat was a drain on the public purse. End of story. Bin it.

Of course, Britannia was more than just a yacht to the Queen. She said it was the only place she could truly experience privacy. It was her sanctuary. Britannia was also a cherished symbol of national pride.

The royal family was not just saddened to lose the yacht; it also questioned the logic of ditching a functioning ship, albeit one that needed refurbishing. In an interview last year to mark his 90th birthday, Prince Philip said, “She was as sound as a bell and she could have gone on for another 50 years.”

I don’t know if it was a financially ‘prudent’ (to coin Gordon Brown’s well-worn phrase) decision to withdraw the yacht from service or not. But there is one thing I am sure of. The humiliating decommissioning ‘ceremony’ should never have taken place in the full glare of the rest of the world. It smacked of a mean-spirited attempt to bring the Queen down a peg or two.

Yet in keeping with the true British spirit of build them up, knock them down and then build them up again, we now plan to honour the queen with a dazzling new yacht worth £60m.  I say we, but it’s actually a charitable trust that hopes to raise the funds privately. The Daily Mail is also organising a whip round to help the cause. Oh god, could it get any more cringeworthy?

Yes, it could. The scheme also has the robust backing of David Cameron, just so long as he doesn’t actually have to cough up any public cash. Wow. Such a heartwarming gesture of support, Dave! The Queen must be sorely tempted to respond with her own special royal two-fingered gesture.

Of course we all know that won’t happen. We’ve only glimpsed her injured pride once – the day she wiped away a silent tear as she said goodbye to her treasured home from home.

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