Queen Elizabeth’s fans seek to buy her a new yacht – or two


Supporters of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II have floated rival attempts to buy her a new yacht for her diamond jubilee to replace the decommissioned Royal Yacht Britannia.

A self-described “group of ordinary people” have launched the Jubilee Yacht Appeal -- under the slogan “yacht or not” -- in which fans of the monarch can either donate to a yacht or to a group of charities supported by the queen.

They aim to raise £60 million ($94 million, 75 million euros) to buy “one of the top 100 yachts in the world” and present it to the queen and husband Prince Philip in 2013, for use partly by them and partly for charity fundraisers.

“It’s a big challenge. It’s about the people giving a gift to the queen and her charities in the year of the jubilee,” project spokeswoman Elaine Skinner told AFP.

“We haven’t heard from Buckingham Palace but I am sure she would be very happy about the project.”

The old Britannia, much-loved by the queen, was decommissioned in 1997 and the monarch was seen to shed a tear at its farewell.

Education minister Michael Gove suggested in January that the nation could give the queen a new royal yacht “to commemorate this momentous occasion” of her 60 years on the throne.

But Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman moved fast to sink suggestions that taxpayers might pay, after the idea met with scorn amid cuts to public services under Cameron’s austerity program.

A second new yacht project, the Commonwealth Flagship, would cost a more ambitious £100 million and be used partly for development and trade missions in the 54 countries, mostly ex-British colonies, that make up the Commonwealth.

“This ship would have much the same mission (as Britannia) but probably with less emphasis on the royal family, because I think perhaps these days people don’t want the royal family to have a private yacht,” said spokeswoman Marina Johnson.

“We need to make sure that we get the public on our side -- it’s not an exclusive ship for royalty,” she said.

That project, founded by businessman Ian Maiden, would be funded by donations from private philanthropists and Commonwealth countries, plus gifts “in kind”, such as steel from India.

Britain is to celebrate the queen’s diamond jubilee with a four-day public holiday on June 2-5 and festivities including a pageant of more than 1,000 boats on the Thames.

The monarch is said too have expressed a preference for low-key celebrations in keeping with the economic crunch in Britain, which slumped back into recession late last year.