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Royal yacht or fishing trawler? Either way, not even the royal family is interested.


The truth is that Britain did well without Britannia. While Queen Elizabeth II famously wiped away a tear while attending the yacht’s decommissioning ceremony, the royal family has decided to replace her. According to The Daily Mail, it turned down a proposal to name the new ship the Duke of Edinburgh after the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, who died in April. The Duke, a former naval officer, helped shape the original Britannia.

Under the influence of Prince Charles, the royal family became sensitive to ostentatious displays of wealth, especially when they withdrew public funds. The 95-year-old Queen no longer travels overseas, so the yacht is used by her heir Charles and son Prince William, neither of whom have her emotional connection to Britannia.

Some wonder if the whole concept of a royal yacht is obsolete at a time when Britain is negotiating complex bilateral trade deals with Australia, the United States and other countries.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 the UK signs a trade deal or not.”

The yacht also has no apparent military purpose, even if the Department of Defense were likely to muster its crew and pay at least part of the bill for its operation.

But all of this can miss the point. Andrew Gimson, one of Mr. Johnson’s biographers, said his favorite projects – whether it’s groovy retro buses or bridges with garden spiers – all have a political purpose. Mr. Johnson, he said, was like a Roman emperor putting on public spectacles. A royal yacht evokes the glory of Britain’s imperial past for a country still looking for an identity after Brexit.

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