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Queen lobbied for replacement Royal Yacht Britannia, archive files show

Buckingham Palace officials were worried about the representations to Whitehall being made public.

The Queen’s desires for a Royal Yacht Britannia replacement were made known to government, official files show.

The monarch was said to “naturally very much welcome” a new vessel for the 21st century after it was announced the floating Royal residence would be decommissioned.

Buckingham Palace officials were worried about the representations to Whitehall being made public, according the letter from the Queen’s deputy private secretary Sir Kenneth Scott.

The note, dated May 5 1995, came around a year after John Major’s government announced the yacht would be decommissioned but before it finally ended service in 1997.

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The Royal Yacht Britannia sails into Portsmouth (Rebecca Naden/PA)

It was found at the National Archives by Philip Murphy of the University of London, who said it highlighted an instance of “Royal lobbying in a kind of subtle way”.

Addressed to civil servant Richard Williams, who was attached to the Cabinet Office, the message from Sir Kenneth reads: “I have deliberately taken a back seat in recent correspondence, since the question of whether there should be a replacement yacht is very much one for the Government and since the last thing I should like to see is a newspaper headline saying ‘Queen Demands New Yacht’.

“At the same time, I hope it is clear to all concerned that this reticence on the part of the Palace in no way implies that Her Majesty is not deeply interested in the subject; on the contrary, The Queen would naturally very much welcome it if a way could be found of making available for the nation in the 21st Century the kind of service which BRITANNIA has provided for the last 43 years.”

Professor Murphy, who studies British and Commonwealth history, said: “It’s saying ‘we don’t want to appear to be lobbying you but the Queen hopes you can sort something out’.

“The Palace were keen to keep the issue alive.”

The Royal Yacht Britannia was in service from 1954 to 1997, travelling more than a million nautical miles.

In an uncommon display of public emotion, the Queen was pictured wiping away tears when the vessel was finally decommissioned.

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The Queen shows her emotion as she stands with the Duke of Edinburgh (John Stillwell/PA)

For royal family members, it was a residence for state occasions, official receptions, honeymoons and holidays.

It is now is now berthed in Edinburgh and visited by hundreds of thousands of tourists each year.

The note also shows Prince Philip wanted Britannia dismantled and the fittings installed in a new vessel.

It reads: “The Duke of Edinburgh, who takes a close interest and has given the matter a good deal of thought, has come to the conclusion that, however attractive the other options, the best solution for BRITANNIA herself after decommissioning is for her to be broken up.

“The arguments for this would of course be strengthened if it were decided to build a replacement yacht which could incorporate much of BRITANNIA’S fittings.”

The most recent attempt to revive the idea of a replacement came in 2017, when 50 MPs suggested launching a new national lottery to help raise £120 million for the project.

They argued the UK “needs and deserves a floating royal palace” in the post-Brexit era to host meetings and exhibitions showcasing British business and humanitarian work.

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