In truth, Britain has done very well without Britannia. While Queen Elizabeth II wiped away a tear as she attended the yacht’s decommissioning ceremony, the Royal Family have been decidedly silent on her replacement. According to the Daily Mail, he opposed a proposal to name the new ship the Duke of Edinburgh, in honor of the Queen’s husband Prince Philip, who died in April. The Duke, a former naval officer, was involved in the design of the original Britannia.
Under the influence of Prince Charles, the royal family became sensitive to ostentatious displays of wealth, especially when they drain public funds. The Queen, who is 95, no longer travels abroad, so the yacht would be used by her heir, Charles, and her son, Prince William, who have no emotional connection with the Britannia.
Some wonder if the whole concept of a royal yacht is outdated at a time when Britain is negotiating complex bilateral trade deals with Australia, the United States and other countries.
“At most, it could be useful as a trade promotion tool,” said Sam Lowe, trade expert at the Center for European Reform in London. “But it won’t make the slightest difference whether or not the UK does a trade deal.”
The yacht does not have an obvious military vocation either, although the Ministry of Defense would be likely to provide its crew and foot with at least part of the bill for its operation.
But all of this may miss the point. Andrew Gimson, one of Mr Johnson’s biographers, said his favorite projects – whether groovy retro buses or garden-topped bridges – invariably serve a political purpose. Mr Johnson, he said, looks like a Roman Emperor putting on public performances. A royal yacht evokes the glories of Britain’s imperial past for a country still seeking a post-Brexit identity.