HMS Queen Elizabeth hits the waves, kind of…


HMS Queen Elizabeth took to the waves yesterday at the Scottish Dockyard Clyde. The aircraft carrier is the biggest warship the Royal Navy has ever constructed and will most definitely expand on the nations global maritime influence. 

Earlier this month Her Majesty The Queen officially named the vessel. 

Royal Navy’s largest warship HMS Queen Elizabeth officially named by Her Majesty


Today Her Majesty The Queen will officially name the Royal Navy’s largest ever warship after smashing a bottle of Whiskey against the ships hull. HMS Queen Elizabeth weights 65,000 tonnes and can carry 40 jets and helicopters at a time. It will have a permanent crew of almost 700 when it enters service in 2020.

Six shipyards in the UK – Appledore, Birkenhead, Govan, Portsmouth, Rosyth and Tyne – have been involved in building parts of the carrier. More than 10,000 people in more than 100 companies have worked on HMS Queen Elizabeth, which has been beset by construction and design delays. The estimated cost of the aircraft carrier and its sister ship is £6.2bn, well over the initial projected cost of £3.65bn.

There has only been one previous HMS Queen Elizabeth, which was completed 100 years earlier. The new ship’s name is both the continuation of this historic Royal Navy name and a tribute to the Queen. Those behind the project, which costs an estimated £6.2 billion overall, say the QE Class will be the centrepiece of Britain’s naval capability. David Cameron today hailed the ship as a symbol of ‘a truly great country’ which has its roots in maritime prowess. In a comment for the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s naming book, he said the ship would help secure ‘British prosperity and our country’s place in the world’. He wrote: ‘Defending our nation, protecting our way of life, promoting our national interests: these are the vital priorities of Government and in each of them the Royal Navy has a key part to play.

The unusual choice of whisky – rather than champagne – for naming the ship was made as a nod to the prominent role Scottish docks and workers have had in its construction. The variety chosen was from the Isle of Islay, one of the Outer Hebrides, as was provided by the island’s Bowmore Distillery. Earlier First Sea Lord George Zambellas, the head of the Royal Navy, described the ship as ‘a steel-clad phoenix’ which will give rebirth to British sea power when it becomes fully operational in 2020.

At the naming ceremony, Her Majesty said:

In sponsoring this new aircraft carrier, I believe the Queen Elizabeth, a flagship for the Royal Navy, will be a source of inspiration and pride for us all. The Lord High Admiral, the Duke of Edinburgh, joins me in congratulating all in the Aircraft Carrier Alliance on this magnificent achievement and wishing the first ship’s company well in the time ahead. Wherever this ship may serve, whatever tasks may be asked of her, let all those who serve on her know that on this day she was blessed with the prayers of us all for her success and for her safe return to calm waters. I name this ship Queen Elizabeth, may god bless her and all who sail in her.

The State Opening of Parliament: Her Majesty’s new Diamond Jubilee State Coach #QueensSpeech


The Queen’s new Diamond Jubilee State Coach will be used for the first time today at the State Opening of Parliament, it is only the second new Royal Carriage to be built in a century. What makes this one so special however is that it contains relics of key moments and incidents from more than a thousand years of British history. The State Coach was designed by Australian Jim Frecklington, 64.

Surmounted by a crown made from the timbers of HMS Victory, which houses the royal website’s ‘coachcam’ – allowing users at home to get a Monarch side view of the procession. The panelling inside includes slivers of Scott’s Antarctic Sled, Sir Isaac Newton’s apple tree, Hut Six at codebreaking centre Bletchley Park, one of Sir Edmund Hillary’s Everest Ladders and the beams of most of our great Cathedrals.

Below the Queens seat inside the carriage is a capsule carrying a piece of Scotland’s Stone of Destiny, upon which monarchs are traditionally crowned, and surrounded by a bolt from a Spitfire, a musket ball from the Battle of Waterloo, a bolt and rivets from the Flying Scotsman and a button from Gallipoli. There’s even a fragment of the bronze cannon from which every Victoria Cross is cast, and a piece of metal from the wreckage of a 617 Squadron Dambuster.


The three-ton Coach – 18ft long – has taken 50 people more than ten years to assemble. The Australian who created her, Jim Frecklington, 64, worked in the Royal Mews as a young man before returning home to help organise  the Queen’s Silver Jubilee exhibition in Australia. Having repaired carriages on the family farm in his youth, he set about building a replica of the 1902 State Landau.

This led to something even more ambitious and, in 1986, he built the Australian State Coach, a gift from the people of Australia to the Queen to mark the country’s bicentenary. It proved a very popular addition to the Royal Mews, not least because it was the first state coach with heating. But Mr Frecklington, whose family emigrated from Britain to New South Wales in the 1850s, was not finished.

“I wanted to make something in honour of Her Majesty’s great reign and something which represents our extraordinary history,” he explained. So, he set about building something even larger than the Australian State Coach at his workshop near Sydney.

Mr Frecklington wanted to use the finest craftsmen and women from all over the Commonwealth. So, all the leather is English, as is the gold silk brocade upholstery (from Sudbury). The lamps are glazed with the finest lead crystal from Edinburgh. The intricate heraldic paintwork has been hand-painted by Irish-born Australian Paula Church. The door handles are from New Zealand — each is gold-plated and inlaid with 24 diamonds and 130 Australian sapphires by Kiwi master jeweller Mike Baker.

Even the bolts which fix the gold-plated hand supports to the bodywork have been finished using the same guilloche enamel as a Faberge egg. And so it goes on. Mr Frecklington has applied the same mind-boggling attention to detail to the historical artefacts which give the Diamond Jubilee State Coach its special status.

He began by asking the custodians of HMS Victory if he might have a piece of timber from Nelson’s flagship. The result is a crown resting on four lions modelled on those found on the gates of Buckingham Palace. The entire coach is covered with heraldic emblems, crests and motifs, all of which have been approved by the College of Arms.

He then broadened his quest for other historic artefacts to include every great building and institution he could think of. The trust which looks after Britannia donated some teak handrails from the old Royal Yacht. They now form the armrests (flip them up and there are discreet, Bond-style controls for the heating and electric windows underneath).

He secured contributions from Windsor Castle, Balmoral and even the old Royal Box at Ascot. St Paul’s and Winchester Cathedrals presented certified pieces, as did Westminster Abbey and many stately homes. The panelling includes yew from Glamis Castle in Scotland, where the Queen Mother grew up, ash from Blenheim Palace and oak from Althorp, ancestral home of the Spencer family. Going back somewhat further is a little bit of timber from the Bronze Age Ferriby boat found in the Humber.

A strong theme throughout is sacrifice. Hence the metalwork from a Spitfire, Hurricane and Lancaster and many of our best-known battlefields. The coach has now been formally acquired for the nation by the Royal Collection Trust following a private donation. In other words, it hasn’t cost the taxpayer a penny.

After today, though, the public will be able to view it, along with all the other coaches and carriages, during the daily opening of the Royal Mews at the back of Buckingham Palace.



The face of Buckingham Palace celebrates its 100th birthday | Royal Anniversary of the Palace


In February 1845, Queen Victoria wrote to the Prime Minister, Sir Robert Peel, about the ‘urgent necessity of doing something about Buckingham Palace’. The first monarch to occupy the Palace, she found the building wholly inadequate and required proper accommodation for her growing family, more space for official entertaining and improved offices for the staff of the royal household.

The architect Edward Blore (1787-1879) was instructed to prepare plans for a new wing, which would close the east side of the Palace courtyard and convert the building into a quadrangle. The work would be funded by the sale of Brighton Pavilion, the exotic seaside residence built by George IV, Victoria’s uncle.

The Palace’s east wing was completed in 1847. Unfortunately Blore had used soft Caen stone, which rapidly blackened and deteriorated in London’s polluted air. Only 20 years later, the state of the stonework was so poor that the sentries often had to shelter in their boxes from falling fragments of masonry.

In 1912 it was decided to use £60,000 of surplus funds from the public subscription for the national memorial to Queen Victoria to reface the east façade. Sir Aston Webb (1849-1930), architect of the Queen Victoria Memorial scheme, would carry out the work.

The national memorial to Queen Victoria was a project on a grand scale. It included the marble monument to the Queen, a new approach to the Palace along the Mall, the creation of Admiralty Arch (leading to Trafalgar Square and Whitehall), the Dominion Gates, the Memorial Gardens, and the surrounding stone piers and balustrades. Every element was designed by Webb and funded through donations raised in the United Kingdom, and the overseas realms and territories.

The task of applying the Palace’s new Portland stone façade was completed in just 13 weeks during the summer and early autumn of 1913, while King George V and Queen Mary were at their Scottish home, Balmoral Castle. A contemporary account records that ‘in August 1913 … the Forecourt of the Palace was handed over to the contractors, and suddenly became a vast deposit of building material.’

The blocks of stone had been prepared in advance and numbered before delivery to the Palace. New technologies, including electric hoists, tramways and arc lighting, allowed the contractors, Messrs. Leslie of Kensington, to work around the clock. At the conclusion of the project the King gave a dinner at the Holborn Restaurant for the hundreds of workmen responsible for such a remarkable achievement.