Camilla’s Navy lark: Duchess of Cornwall smashes a bottle of malt whisky over Charles’s head… and everyone loves it!
The Duchess of Cornwall smashed a bottle of malt whisky over the Prince of Wales yesterday and several thousand people burst into applause – led by the prince himself.
Britain’s newest aircraft carrier may have at least a year to go before it even floats – and it will be years before the first plane lands on board.
But, as of yesterday, ‘Ship 2’ in the Royal Navy’s £6billion Queen Elizabeth Class carrier programme was formally named HMS Prince of Wales, becoming the sister ship to HMS Queen Elizabeth, which has just taken up residence in Portsmouth. Each weighing 65,000 tons and capable of carrying 1,600 crew and personnel, the two ships are by far the largest in Royal Navy history.
Since ships are always named by women, the duchess was the guest of honour at Rosyth Dockyard yesterday, with the prince at her side in his admiral of the fleet’s uniform.
Dressed in a navy blue dress and coat by Fiona Clare and a Philip Treacy white and navy blue hat, the duchess reminded the quayside gathering of naval chiefs, families and civilian workers that this was the seventh Royal Navy ship to bear this illustrious name.
The last Prince of Wales, launched in 1939 , had a short but distinguished career, hosting a meeting between Churchill and Roosevelt and attacking the German flagship Bismarck. Having been branded ‘unsinkable’ – just like the Titanic – she was sunk by the Japanese in the South China Sea in 1941 with the loss of 327 men.
The duchess welcomed a gallant trio of the survivors yesterday, including former boy seaman Chris Peacey who had been just 17 at the time, having lied about his age to enlist. The duchess also paid tribute to her own naval forebears, among them six admirals including Augustus Keppel. ‘Unfortunately, one of [his] many claims to fame is that he lost most of his teeth to scurvy!’
Having concluded with the immortal words – ‘May God bless her and all who sail in her’ – she pressed a button that released a bottle in a hessian sack, draped in red, white and blue, against the bow.
This being a Scottish dockyard, the customary champagne had been replaced by a bottle of the Prince’s favourite malt, Laphroaig. There was much holding of breath. Many regard a non-breaking bottle as a bad omen.
A reassuring brown trickle down the hull showed that it had worked. No one was more relieved than Emma Lennox, 27, the naval architect deputed to construct the bottle-smashing contraption. ‘We’ve tested it so many times but you never know,’ she said afterwards.
The day was a vital landmark for the Royal Navy which regards its two new carriers as heralding a new chapter in Britain’s maritime story. Although the Queen Elizabeth is only at the sea trials stage and the Prince of Wales is far from completion, this project has still come a very long way. As the Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon, pointed out at this week’s pre-naming dinner in London, the new carrier programme has already gone through the hands of four prime ministers and nine defence secretaries.
One can but wonder what might happen if Jeremy Corbyn is the PM who finally takes delivery of all this kit. The main political parties were represented yesterday, along with Britain’s most senior allies and all three armed services. The ship will have formal ties with both the Welsh Guards and the Royal Lancers, who had turned up with a Scimitar tank yesterday. It looked like a child’s toy parked against this sky-blocking grey behemoth.
On a day like this, the First Sea Lord, Sir Philip Jones, did not opt for understatement. ‘This ceremony, and all that it represents, demonstrates the United Kingdom’s determination to see through our strategic intent and to fulfil the promise of our maritime renaissance,’ he declared.
‘If building one carrier is a statement of national ambition, then building two is an unmistakable sign of commitment, to our own defence and that of our allies.’
With two carriers, Britain can always have one on operations, unlike the French whose solitary carrier can only operate between repairs. After two flypasts and some stirring music by the band of the Royal Marines, the crowds adjourned to celebrate.
The prince and the duchess were introduced to the veterans who had served in the previous Prince of Wales, among them Rear Admiral Sir Peter Anson, a junior midshipman when his ship was hit.
He was sunk again in his next ship the following year and, after 24 hours in the water, was taken prisoner by the Japanese for three years. ‘People ask me why I stayed in the Navy but I suppose I was too stupid to do anything else,’ he explained.
His wife, Elizabeth, delighted the Duchess with a postscript to the story about her naval ancestor who had lost his teeth. Sir Peter’s own forebear, Admiral Anson, was his commanding officer at the time and ordered the ship’s carpenter to make Augustus Keppel a set of wooden dentures.
The Prince of Wales – or Duke of Rothesay as he is always styled when in Scotland – was later introduced to some of the families of the 10,000 people involved in the ship’s construction.
Among them was 18-month-old Imogen Holm who took a great fancy to his gold braid, much to the prince’s amusement: ‘I was fascinated by all this, too, when I was a child,’ he said. Imogen was enthralled and positively furious when the prince had to move on.
But then there is so much about the Navy that can be confusing to outsiders, not least the fact that, as of yesterday, the Prince of Wales and Queen Elizabeth are now sisters.
Source: DAILYMAIL MAILONLINE
Tags: Prince Charles, Camilla Parker Bowles, Camilla and Charles, Prince Charles and Duchess of Cornwall