This week, The Duchess of Edinburgh carried out a special engagement, where she was joined by representatives from the RNLI at Windsor Castle for the retirement of RNLB Her Majesty The Queen .
The retired lifeboat was stationed outside King George IV Gateway at the castle, which overlooks Windsor Park and the Long Walk. The Gateway was part of the remodelling project at the Castle commissioned by George IV between 1820-1830.
The Mersey class all-weather lifeboat was originally named on 16 July 1993 by Elizabeth II at Ramsgate Lifeboat Station. During the lifeboat’s service, she launched 201 times, saved 33 lives, aided 175 people and spent 3,057 crew hours at sea over the course of 30 years.
The lifeboat’s last operational journey was from Isle of Man to Fleetwood, Lancashire on 6th May 2023 – the same day as the Coronation of The King.
The Duchess of Edinburgh signed the lifeboat’s logbook, which marked the official retirement of RNLB Her Majesty The Queen from operational duty.
Sophie met with RNLI Chair Janet Legrand, Chairman of The Historic Dockyard Chatham Admiral Sir Trevor Soar, RNLI Chief Executive Mark Dowie, former volunteer crew of RNLB Her Majesty The Queen from Lytham St Annes Lifeboat Station, and volunteers from the RNLI Historic Lifeboat Collection at The Historic Dockyard Chatham.
The event acted as a recognition for the volunteers – both those who looked after the lifeboat during her operational service and those who will care for her in her new home at the heritage site, which was once a core part of Britain’s shipbuilding industry and naval story.
Attending the event was RNLI Fleet Staff Coxswain, Martin Jaggs, was coxswain of RNLB Her Majesty The Queen during the lifeboat’s 20-year service at Lytham St Annes in the north west.
Martin said: ‘It has been a great honour to have served on RNLB Her Majesty The Queen for more than 20 years along with all the fantastic volunteers at Lytham St Annes.
‘I was lucky enough to be on her last sail on the Coronation Day of The King and Queen, which was a great experience and to also be at the official retirement at Windsor Castle has been truly amazing. RNLB Her Majesty The Queen served her crew and the RNLI well, keeping them all safe and saving many lives.’
RNLI Chief Executive, Mark Dowie, said: ‘Windsor Castle provides a spectacular backdrop for this special event, organised to recognise our outstanding volunteers but also to commemorate 70 years of service by our late Patron, Queen Elizabeth II.
‘As we look to the Institution’s 200th anniversary next year, today’s event has been a poignant reminder of our Royal heritage and RNLB Her Majesty The Queen’s service to saving lives at sea. It is very fitting this lifeboat will continue to raise awareness of our lifesaving work as part of the RNLI’s Historic Lifeboat Collection in Chatham’.
Elizabeth II served as Patron of the RNLI for 70 years starting from her accession in 1952; it is a role held by every reigning British Monarch since George IV in the 1820s.
On 17th July 1972, Elizabeth II became the first reigning Monarch to name a lifeboat. Members of the Royal British Legion had raised £51,000 towards a new Solent class lifeboat, to mark the Legion’s 50th anniversary. Her late Majesty named the lifeboat The Royal British Legion Jubilee.
The naming ceremony took place at the Henley Royal Regatta, some distance from the sea, and Elizabeth II noted that the unusual location showed ‘a recognition of the wonderful support which the Royal National Lifeboat Institution receives from its inland branches as well as from the coastal towns and villages’.