I imagine that this Christmas will be particularly poignant for Her Majesty The Queen as it will be her first one without Prince Philip since his passing. The last time she spent Christmas without him was in 1956. That year, the Duke of Edinburgh was on official business aboard the royal yacht, Britannia, travelling around the Commonwealth. According to the Royal Family’s website, the Queen spoke with Philip via radio immediately prior to her annual Christmas broadcast. Reading through her words of that broadcast, I found them quite touching and fitting for the present day- especially considering the difficult past two years we’ve all experienced. Therefore, I thought it would be fitting to share an excerpt of her address before we begin a special tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia at Christmas:
“That joy and hope find their most complete fulfilment within the loving circle of a united family.
You will understand me, therefore, when I tell you that of all the voices we have heard this afternoon none has given my children and myself greater joy than that of my husband.
To him I say: ‘From all the members of the family gathered here today our very best good wishes go out to you and to every one on board Britannia, as you voyage together in the far Southern seas. Happy Christmas from us all’.
Of course it is sad for us to be separated on this day, and of course we look forward to the moment when we shall all again be together. Yet my husband's absence at this time has made me even more aware than I was before of my own good fortune in being one of a united family.
With that consciousness in mind, I would like to send a special message of hope and encouragement to all who are not so blessed, or for any reason cannot be with those they love today: to the sick who cannot be at home; to all who serve their country in foreign lands, or whose duty keeps them upon the oceans; and to every man or woman whose destiny it is to walk through life alone.
…I speak of a tolerance that is not indifference, but is rather a willingness to recognise the possibility of right in others; of a comradeship that is not just a sentimental memory of good days past, but the certainty that the tried and staunch friends of yesterday are still in truth the same people today; of a love that can rise above anger and is ready to forgive.
That each one of us should give this power a chance to do its work is my heartfelt message to you all upon this Christmas Day. I can think of no better resolve to make, nor any better day on which to make it…
I wish you all a Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year”.
-Her Majesty The Queen, Christmas Broadcast 1956
With those moving words from the Queen in mind, let’s begin our Christmas tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia. We’ve previously written about Britannia, so please check out that article for a general overview. Today’s tour is a wee ‘explore and discover’ mission to take in the beautiful Christmas decorations currently aboard, and along the way we may find some fun surprises. For example, one of the fun parts of touring Britannia, for young and old alike, is to try to spot the ‘hidden’ corgi stuffies throughout the ship. Delightfully, many of them are displaying their own festive cheer, so keep a sharp eye out for ‘Santa corgis’ as we journey the various decks and rooms.
The entrance to Britannia is through the Ocean Terminal shopping centre which is also beautifully decked out for the season.
Throughout the Royal Yacht, you can spot delightful Christmas trees on display:
Scroll through and look carefully at the photos below that highlight the subtle but elegant decorations that brighten various rooms and areas, including the Admiral’s Cabin and Suite, the Royal Bedrooms, the State Dining Room and H.M. The Queen’s Sitting Room (be sure to keep a lookout for Santa corgis).
When visiting the Royal Yacht Britannia, it is crucial to pay attention to the details (which are described on the free audio tour). One room that is a perfect example of this is the Wardroom Anteroom. The photo at the top of this article, right below the excerpts of the Queen’s 1956 Christmas Broadcast, is from this room.
This was the Officers’ main recreation space, and Britannia describes it as “sort of a gentlemen’s club afloat”. Here, the officers would have a drink, relax, watch television, or play games. One particularly peculiar game was called ‘wombat tennis’. It required two teams and involved a stuffed wombat (pictured above). It was described that the play would get ‘serious’ when the wombat would get stuck in the ceiling fan and teams would have to try to bat it out.
As we start to make our way out, let's make a quick stop at the gift shop. It is filled with delightful souvenirs and gift ideas including Christmas tree ornaments.
As guests exit Britannia's gift shop, they are treated with the most adorable of all Christmas trees- a corgi tree. It is a fitting tribute to that most famous breed that has been loyal to the Queen for so many years. It sure put a smile on my face as we made our way out.
If you have enjoyed visiting Britannia, be sure to also check out their sister ship, Fingal. You can have afternoon tea or even stay aboard for a truly unique experience. Sawyer loves to stop and pose alongside it whenever he is in that part of the city.
And, with that, I close out our special Christmas edition tour of Britannia. I hope you have enjoyed our posts throughout this year, but especially this past month as we’ve tried to bring a little bit of holiday cheer to all of you wherever you may be (if you missed them, please explore our articles on the Castle of Light at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh’s Christmas 2021, Mary Queen of Scots and Christmas at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, and an 1820s Christmas with Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford). This will be my last post for the year, but we will return refreshed and renewed for the new year! For, even though many of us will not be able to travel again for some time, we will continue to share virtual travels of Scotland with all of you.
So, as we close out 2021, know that we understand and share in the struggle and hardships that many of you have endured the past couple of years, and we ask you to hang in there. When life seems particularly trying, I remind myself of a quote from the man whose most famous Christmas story many of us enjoy this time of year. Charles Dickens once said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” I hope it isn’t too presumptuous to hope that our wee blog articles have helped to lighten the burden for some of you. We wish you all Happy Holidays and a very Happy New Year!
Until next time- Explore & Discover!