February 17

A successor to HMY Britannia – the Commonwealth case


As General Charles de Gaulle once observed, without prestige, there can be no authority, and without distance, there can be no prestige.

Prestige is an immediately recognizable quality, easily lost, and difficult to define and to acquire.

The United Kingdom still has it. The Queen, above all, has it. Some prime ministers have it-Churchill, McMillan, Thatcher and Blair.

The hard headed French squeeze the very last drop of prestige from everything they have, even from as unlikely an instrument as their tainted president.

HMY Britannia had it – in spades, as those correspondents to the London Daily Telegraph whose letters we recently summarised have so well testified. Not so long ago, several times in every year, the great and powerful in some distant harbour would give almost anything to come to pay tribute to The Queen and to be received on that great Royal Yacht , with the music and the pomp that can only surround the Throne. This applies equally to those who claim disinterest and even to those who given half the chance would dismantle the Crown.

Australia provides the proof; here it is most unwise to stand between celebrity republicans and royalty, otherwise you will be knocked down in the rush. The receiving salons for the coming Royal Visit will be filled with prominent republicans desperate to bask in the Royal glory.

To obtain the prestige of a Royal Visit with HMY Britannia, and the resulting advantages in influence and goodwill, the French would happily guillotine a whole cabinet of politicians. And the advantages extended to the material-the Overseas Trade Board reckoned that £3 billion had been made for the Exchequer as a result of just the commercial days on Britannia between 1991 and 1995.

It is surely in the interests of the UK and the Commonwealth to commission a successor to Britannia. The running costs could easily be subsidised by making her available to Commonwealth nations, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others. It could also be used by these countries to great advantage for trade promotion and other purposes – with a member of the Royal Family present to lend a Commonwealth aura to the occasion.

The fact is there a few politicians – even Antipodean – who can compete with a prince or princess.

For example, as Queen of Australia, The Queen has visited Australia, although her first visit was on the HMY Gothic, a converted cargo liner

A Royal Yacht, and indeed, The Queen’s and the other members of the Royal Family‘s potential in advancing the diplomatic and other policies of the Realms other than the United Kingdom has been little investigated or exploited, except perhaps by Canada.

Every so often, an Australian republican, sometimes a politician, will whinge about some member of the Royal Family doing something for the UK. But The Queen and members of the Royal Family regularly perform various functions for Australia, New Zealand, and especially Canada –without it may be noted, any remuneration.

That they do not do more, for example in trade, is the fault of the politicians and of the politicians alone.

Surely they understand that a member of the Royal Family advancing some Australian interest will probably be more effective than a politician whose principal ability appears to be able to whinge the loudest ?

In addition, it is an elementary proposition, one which any politician ought to know, that the Royal Family can only act when invited. If they don’t understand this elementary principle of our constitutional system, they shouldn’t be in politics.

Instead of whinging, they should see that invitations to advance our interests are made, and made regularly.

Lord Ashbourne and his colleagues should be supported in his endeavours, and not only in the UK, but also in the wider Commonwealth.


Royal Yacht Britannia, The Queen

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