People were seeing double in Portsmouth today, where The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall were present – in both human and cake topper form! – to attend the official commissioning ceremony for the HMS Prince of Wales.
Prince Charles and Camilla arrived to drizzly weather at the naval base, to officially launch the ship, of which the Duchess is Lady Sponsor. The couple were greeted with the sound of the band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Collingwood, and by Navy officials.
The weather may have been grim, but that didn’t dampen a special day for the future King, who was also made Honorary Commodore-in-Chief of Aircraft Carriers by the Navy.
HMS Prince of Wales is a 919ft aircraft carrier and can be used in high-intensity war fighting or in providing humanitarian aid and relief disaster. It is the second Queen Elizabeth Class aircraft carrier, and the largest warship ever built for the nation, with its sister ship being the HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The ship is the eighth Royal Navy vessel to bear the name ‘Prince of Wales’ and The Duchess of Cornwall was made the ship’s Lady Sponsor (a godmother-like role). She will attend significant events connected to the ship over the course of its career.
The couple headed inside of the hangar, where the ceremony was to take place in front of an audience of 2,000 people, from industry, allies, friends and families. Among those watching were the First Sea Lord, Admiral Tony Radakin, ambassadors from France and USA, and the commander of the US Sixth Fleet, Vice Admiral Lisa Franchetti.
While there, the couple spoke with Navy Officers before they watched on as the Royal Navy officially welcomed the ship. Some of those present for today’s ceremony were Charles’ former shipmates from HMS Bronington, a minesweeper he commanded 40 years ago. He looked pleased to see them, even joking with them about his new role, while Camilla learnt more about her husband’s naval days from the men.
Both Camilla and her husband inspected the navy troops gathered as part of the ceremony.
As sponsor of the ship, Camilla gave a speech to those gathered for the ceremony – among them, former SAS serviceman’s Bear Grylls. It had been two years since the last time she had seen the ship, which she hailed as the “beginning of an exciting new era in our long naval history”.
In her speech, The Duchess of Cornwall spoke of the sheer size of the carrier saying how: “Clarence House would fit nearly 25 times onto the flight deck”.
And she showed how proud a wife she was: “May I say how pleased I am that this great ship shares my husband’s name. And now, as Honorary Commodore-in-Chief, Aircraft Carriers, I am delighted that he will have an even stronger link to this ship and her sister.”
Commanding Officer, Captain Darren Houston, read the commissioning warrant to the crew and guests gathered in the hangar; this area will later house F-35 jets and a variety of helicopters.
In a humorous move which followed the same one shown to Her Majesty in December 2017 as she commissioned HMS Queen Elizabeth with daughter Princess Anne, figurines of Camilla and Charles were created for the occasion. Sitting on top of a cake, a figurine of a sailor held a sign saying; “This time is HMS…”, while the figure of Camila held a matching sign which said “Him”, and pointed to the figure of Charles.
The cake, featuring those figurines, was cut following the ceremony by the Commanding Officer’s wife, Mrs Liesl Houston, and the company’s youngest member, Chef Seth Day who is only 17-years-old.
As the white ensign was hoisted, the ship was officially designated as part of the Royal Navy’s operational fleet. The operational life of the eighth HMS Prince of Wales has now begun.