Today, The Queen was joined by Princess Anne in Portsmouth to attend the commissioning ceremony of the HMS Queen Elizabeth. The vessel is the Royal Navy’s most powerful, weighing in at 65,000 tonnes, and is informally known as ‘Big Lizzie’.
The Queen arrived into the naval base on a South Western Railway train, sitting with her aides in a first class coach. She was joined by her only daughter, The Princess Royal, as they boarded the ship, and both seemed in good spirits despite the stormy weather.
The Princess Royal was there in her capacity as Commodore-in-Chief of HMNB (Her Majesty’s Naval Base) Portsmouth and was in full uniform for the occasion, while Her Majesty is the carrier’s Lady Sponsor. She actually named the vessel back in 2014.
Accompanying the royal guests was First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Phillip Jones. Prime Minister Theresa May had been scheduled to attend the ceremony, but had to cancel due to ongoing talks on Brexit.
The trio was greeted onboard by the HMS Queen Elizabeth’s captain, Commodore Jerry Kyd, who then took the guests on a tour of the ship and her facilities.
The warship can be used as an aircraft carrier and is the largest ship ever built for the British Navy. From the keel to the top of the mast, the ship is the same height as Big Ben! Building the ship has been no mean feat, involving more than 10,000 people in six shipyards throughout the UK.
During their tour, The Queen and Princess Anne took time to inspect the Royal Guard, with the reigning Monarch inspecting the front flank while her daughter inspected the rear. They also spoke to members of the crew and their families; the crew is currently made up of 700 members, although this figure is expected to rise to 1,600 when the full air crew joins.
The royal party had lunch with senior naval figures prior to the ceremony, enjoying a double-rib lamb chop and an orange tart.
The commissioning ceremony was accompanied by music from the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines, who played the National Anthem.
Her Majesty also made a speech to mark the warship’s commissioning: “We are gathered here in Portsmouth today, just a short distance from HMS Victory, a flagship of our seafaring past and a reminder of the debt we owe to the Royal Navy, which, for more than 500 years, has protected the people of this country and our interests around the world.
“Like HMS Victory, HMS Queen Elizabeth embodies the best of British technology and innovation. At the forefront of these responsibilities will be the men and women of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, supported by the Army, Royal Air Force and by coalition partners.
“As the daughter, wife and mother of naval officers, I recognise the unique demands our nation asks of you. I will always value my special link with HMS Queen Elizabeth, her ship’s company and their families. As you prepare to take this country’s message of peace, partnership and prosperities across the seas and oceans of the world, the Lord High Admiral The Duke of Edinburgh, joins me in wishing you well in all your endeavours.”
There was also a fantastic cake, which was a replica of the ship itself, complete with fondant figures of The Queen and the ship’s personnel. Her Majesty had a giggle at the cake, which included her sugar-crafted figurine referring to the warship as ‘HMS Me’.
The royal guests were introduced to the cake’s decorator; the cake was actually made in Scotland and transported to Portsmouth for the ceremony. As is tradition in the Royal Navy, the cake was not cut by The Queen, but by Commodore Kyd’s wife and the youngest member of the ship’s crew.
Her Majesty received three cheers from the ship’s company to end the ceremony. HMS Queen Elizabeth has been formally handed over to the Royal Navy, and is expected to begin her operational duties in 2021.
Mother and daughter got to speak to the crew, their families and those involved with the vessel afterwards. The Monarch saw singer Katherine Jenkins twice in two days, after attending a church service yesterday to celebrate 150 years of the Scripture Union. The service was filmed and will be featured in ‘Songs of Praise’.
Before departing, The Queen was presented with a posy.