King George V's Britannia
and The Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert

Britannia, the Prince of Wales’s First Class Cutter

Britannia was ordered in 1892 by the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and designed by George Lennox Watson.

Britannia was launched on 20 April 1893 and joined a fleet of first class cutters that was growing fast as others followed the royal lead. In a highly competitive fleet, Britannia soon set about achieving the race results which would eventually establish her as the most successful racing yacht of all time.

By the end of her first year’s racing, Britannia had scored thirty-three wins from forty-three starts. In her second season, she won all seven races for the first class yachts on the French Riviera, and then beat the 1893 America’s Cup defender Vigilant in home waters

Despite a lull in big yacht racing after 1897, Britannia served as a trial horse for Sir Thomas Lipton‘s first America’s Cup challenger Shamrock.

After the death of King Edward VII in 1910 it was inherited by King George V.

In 1920, King George V triggered the revival of the “Big class” by announcing that he would refit Britannia for racing. Although Britannia was the oldest yacht in the circuit, regular updates to her rig kept her a most successful racer throughout the 1920s. In 1931 she was converted to the J class with a Bermuda rig. Her last race was at Cowes in 1935. During her racing career she had won 231 races.

King George V died in 1936 and his dying wish was for his beloved yacht to follow him to the grave. On 10 July 1936, after Britannia had been stripped of her spars and fittings, her hull was towed out to St Catherine’s Deep off the Isle of Wight where she was sunk by HMS Winchester .

Britannia’s 51-foot (16 m) long gaff, the king’s chair, tiller, some mast hoops, blocks and rigging, anchor chain and clock are preserved in the Sir Max Aitken Museum in Cowes High Street and the remains of her spinnaker boom are at Carisbrooke Castle, also on the Isle of Wight.

The Royal Yacht Victoria & Albert II

HMY Victoria and Albert (II) a 360-foot steamer launched 16 January 1855, was a royal yacht of the sovereign of the United Kingdom until 1900, owned and operated by the Royal Navy. Of 2,470 tons, the yacht could make 15 knots (28 km/h; 17 mph) on her paddles. There were 240 crew. From 1893 to 1896 Rear Admiral John Denison commanded the royal yacht. Victoria and Albert was scrapped in about 1904.

Anthony Blake, 'Britannia, the Prince of Wales’s First Class Cutter, passes the Royal Yacht Victoria and Albert off the Royal Yacht Squadron, Cowes' oil on canvas, 61 x 102 cm, signed lower right

This painting is currently on display at Jonathan Grant Gallery in Significant Works, an Exhibition of Maritime Paintings

For more information please contact the gallery. 

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