Why Was Queen Elizabeth Attached To Her Royal Yacht In ‘The Crown’? What Did Royal Yacht Britannia Symbolize?


Queen Elizabeth was going through her regular health checkups when the doctor, just to converse with her, asked her about her favorite residence. Balmoral being her second favorite residence, Elizabeth mentions her third favorite residence is her royal yacht, Britannia. Episode one of “The Crown” brought back a lot of memories for Elizabeth from her younger days. “The Crown” Season 5 focused on this topic, which loomed throughout the season. The aging monarch, Elizabeth, is very much in her 60s but is hearty and healthy, keeps herself busy with as many engagements as possible, and tries to spend as much time with her family. Elizabeth and Philip have reached a stage in their lives when slowing down is not an option, especially for Philip. Though Elizabeth craves slowing down, there are a lot of things she will have to let go of, she realizes in the process of life moving forward.

Spoilers Ahead

Britannia And Elizabeth: What Does It Symbolize?

In episode one, titled “Queen Victoria Syndrome,” Philip, Elizabeth, and Anne are headed on a trip to Scotland on their royal yacht, Britannia. Britannia is their palace on the water and Elizabeth’s favorite home. A few days into the voyage, Philip notices some mechanical issues with the ship. One inspection concluded that this ship is almost 30 years old and might require massive repairs, which will cost a lot. Philip and Elizabeth initially think of asking the new Prime Minister, John Majors, for the funds to repair it.  However, Prime Minister Majors, a conservative, finds it odd that the Queen and her family are expecting the taxpayer’s money to be used to repair a ship meant only for the royal family. Majors makes it clear to the Queen that the ship cannot be repaired using the taxpayer’s money. The family will have to fund the repair work itself. To which a visibly angry Queen responds, “The yacht was issued by me, and it was inaugurated by me.” She is proud of this ship because she believes it is something that is hers, and she has not inherited it from her families like her palaces and jewels. Britannia, therefore, is close to her heart, and she can’t think of separating from the yacht, which cannot be decommissioned at any cost.

In the same episode, there is a mention of something called “Queen Victoria Syndrome.” In a poll conducted by a national newspaper, the results of the poll reflect the headline, which stated that the population would prefer Charles as their monarch over Elizabeth because he is young and understands the need to empower the youth. Elizabeth is initially kept away from the news but soon finds out and realizes maybe the article had some truth in it and starts doubting her ability. As “The Crown” Season 5 progresses, Elizabeth notices Philip spending more of this time with his peers and colleagues and, most of all, with his godfather’s wife. Elizabeth assumes it is an affair, but Philip confirms it is just a friendship between like-minded people. He begs her to form a friendship with Penny, so she also realizes how smart she is.

Throughout all these transitions, Elizabeth realizes she somehow has been left behind, but the world around her, including her husband, is moving ahead and is getting to know about world affairs and developments happening in science. Elizabeth at places feels handicapped and left out, for she feels how come she never evolved with time. Her approach to Anne’s second marriage and Charles’s separation seems very out of touch. Even after being told repeatedly that separation or a second marriage are not frowned upon, Elizabeth knows her thinking is probably incorrect. She cannot seem to come to terms with the world changing and their opinion of important institutions changing. Elizabeth, at this point, feels handicapped, for she thinks she has been bound by traditions, rules, regulations, unwritten laws, and her mother, who has tied her hands by stating she is a sovereign. She is the head of the church of England, which means God, and she need not act like a human, for the public always considers her as the divine. Elizabeth soon starts showing her emotions, which puts her mind at ease.

Elizabeth also notices Charles owning up and becoming confident since the legal separation and has started becoming vocal about the work he wants to do for the growing modern democracy. He wants to help the youth by starting a charity for at-risk and low-income kids. He aims to provide them with free education so that they can take charge of their lives and live independently. Charles repeatedly talks about making the monarchy modern, but Elizabeth initially does not realize the importance of doing so as the world will be entering a new millennium. With the cold war over, countries reuniting, the USSR disintegrating, and the youth over there wanting more than just communism, Elizabeth wonders if sticking to the past just for the sake of glory and nostalgia is the right thing to do for the monarchy. Even after the debacle of an interview with Diana, the PR crisis made Charles voice his opinion on modernizing the monarchy, which will include cutting down on a lot of bureaucracies and excessive spending for a sovereign who does not need much.

Amongst all the internal and external turmoil that Elizabeth faced in the last decade, which included the burning down of Windsor Castle, the marriages of her kids falling apart, and Philip and her becoming distant, Elizabeth felt more and more attached to Britannia and was unwilling to give up on her yet. Britannia is not just her first commissioned yacht for her family; it symbolizes her independence, which was nonexistent in other aspects of her life. Britannia was not just her home; it also provided her with a sense of security, something that only belonged to her and no one else. The fact that the yacht was not a hand-me-down but her very first, which will go down in history with her name right on top as the first owner of the ship, made her feel deeply attached to the vessel. Not once in her life had Elizabeth thought she would have to give up on her this soon. Just like her commitment to her country, her commitment to her yacht will be till death do us part. Charles, though, is in favor of decommissioning the ship, for he believes it would cost the government and people a lot. Charles does not want the people to turn hostile towards their family, and that’s why he requests his mother to move forward and give up on it.

Elizabeth receives a ludicrous offer from the newly elected prime minister, Tony Blair, which Elizabeth is not ready to accept. Elizabeth decides to let the government decommission Britannia, and it would be the best thing to do. For Elizabeth, letting go of Britannia, decommissioning a 30-year-old yacht would mean accepting that she has also become old, and just like her royal yacht, she might become obsolete, irrelevant, and difficult to work around, whose repairs would cost a lot. The thought of her becoming invisible, irrelevant, and old makes her wonder if she will move on with the world, as Charles always suggests. Keeping this thought in mind, Elizabeth finally decides to let go of one of her favorite homes and realizes that it is important to accept reality and that it would be better to let it go than hold on to it. Britannia symbolized Elizabeth, for she grew as an adult just like Britannia grew old with her. But like Britannia, Elizabeth has not come close to giving up on herself yet. In her way, she has decided to move forward as the world is heading towards modernity. Season five of “The Crown” made sure this topic of Britannia concluded in the right way. The subject is mentioned in the first episode, and the subject is closed in the last episode, seizing the circle of the doubt that Elizabeth had about herself and the yacht and what it symbolized then and what it symbolizes now.

See More: ‘The Crown’ Season 5: Ending, Explained – What Was The Conflict Between Queen Elizabeth And Prince Charles?

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Smriti Kannan
Smriti Kannan
Smriti has started to believe in a fictional world called cinema that is much more than real life itself. Cinema brings her joy. She believed in herself, and now she has become a full-time cinephile who enjoys writing about films and their characters, who have inevitably become a part of her world. From time to time, she likes to explore more about films and television series and indulge herself in fan theories around them.

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