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Celebrating the 90th Birthday of Queen Elizabeth II and her Maritime History.

18 April 2016

Queen Elizabeth II

During her lifetime, The Queen has travelled the world on a scale that her predecessors could not have imagined. Here we take a look at how our Sovereign became so fond of the sea, and how she shares a passion for cruising like so many of us do today.

When Princess Elizabeth was born on 21 April 1926, no one expected her to become Queen as it was her uncle who was in line to the throne.  However, shortly after becoming King, Edward fell in love with a divorcee named Wallis Simpson. Given a choice between marriage or the throne Edward chose to marry, therefore renouncing the throne for himself and his descendants. His brother, Albert was made King and he became George VI.  So, at the age of 10, Princess Elizabeth was suddenly heir to the throne.

Sea Beavers

Her first taste of life on the water was at the age of 17 when Princess Elizabeth became a Sea Ranger. She learned water safety and boating skills, and on gaining her boating permit the Princess took the Queen Mother out in a dinghy.

A Naval Wife

In 1947 Princess Elizabeth married Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.  She visited Malta four times while Prince Philip was stationed there on naval duties.  She very much enjoyed the life of a naval wife and has a strong bond with the country and people of Malta.

The African Queen

On 6 February 1952 at the age of 25, Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh were taking a break from an international tour.   They were attending on behalf of King George VI, whose illness prevented him from travelling himself.  For the break they stayed at the Treetops Safari Lodge in Kenya. Princess Elizabeth had been taking cine film of elephants and was said to be having ‘a tremendous experience’.

One of the guests staying at the same lodge at the time, Jim Corbett, wrote in the now famous visitors' log book: "For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into a tree one day a Princess and after having what she described as her most thrilling experience she climbed down from the tree next day a Queen."

The Royal Yacht

Although the Royal Yacht Britannia was initially commissioned for George VI, he unfortunately died before the construction had started.  The opulent and stuffy designs were rejected by the Queen who wanted a relaxed ‘country house at sea’ atmosphere.

Some considerations for the design of the Yacht included a windbreak to prevent any embarrassment to ladies in skirts, in the event of a gust of wind, which did get approved, and a garage for the Queen's Rolls Royce which did not make it to the final design.  Another sign of a more spirited Queen was the installation of a burglar alarm which played Colonel Bogey, The Campdown Races and La Cucaracha.

The first time the Queen embarked the Royal Yacht Britannia was for the final stage of their Commonwealth Tour on 1 May 1954. The Queen was extremely fond of The Royal Yacht Britannia and has been known to say that it is “the one place where I can truly relax”.

The Queen undertook many of her tours on Britannia and still refers to her longest serving yachtsmen by their ship nicknames.  Having sailed over a million miles, Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in December 1997. She is now permanently berthed in Edinburgh at Ocean Terminal and is a popular tourist attraction, being named UK’s No.1 landmark by Trip Advisor.  The five star attraction holds prestigious events throughout the year and is maintained by the Royal Yachtsmen ‘Yotties’ who undertake maintenance of the ship.  It is a great time to visit as they share their stories of the good old days with the visitors as they tour the ship.

A Godmother

A cruise ships’ Godmother, plays a crucial role in bestowing good luck and protection to the vessel, the crew and the passengers and all that sail on her.  This, in the case of Queen Mary 2, also includes dogs which have their very own kennels onboard.

The Queen is Godmother to five cruise ships.

1967 Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth II

1995 P&O Oriana

2004 Cunard’s Queen Mary 2

2010 Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth

2015 P & O Britannia

Tell us about your experiences of meeting the queen or sailing on one of her christened cruise ships in the comments below!

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