The King has enjoyed a tour and reception on the Royal Yacht Britannia to mark 25 years since her arrival in Edinburgh.
His Majesty’s visit forms part of the Royal Family’s Holyrood Week, which will see the monarch stay in the capital for several traditional events in Scotland.
The week also includes a special ceremony of thanksgiving at St Giles’ Cathedral on Wednesday, where Charles, 74, will be presented with the Honours of Scotland – the nation’s crown jewels.
To mark his tour of Britannia, the Royal Family’s Instagram account shared a throwback image this evening, of a young Charles, then Prince of Wales, with his sister, Princess Anne, and their parents Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on-board the yacht in 1956.
The King – who swapped the traditional tartan kilt and sporran that he was seen in earlier in the day for a smart navy suit – joined former Royal Yacht Britannia sailors in reviving an old navy tradition – and drank a tot of rum.
The King, who donned a stylish suit for the occasion, could be seen grinning widely during his visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia
To mark his tour of Britannia, the Royal Family’s Instagram account shared a throwback image (pictured) this evening, of a young Charles, then Prince of Wales, with his sister, Princess Anne, and their parents Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip on-board the yacht in 1956
Charles returned to the vessel the royal family called home at its dock in Leith in Scotland and reminisced with the men who kept things ship shape above and below deck before it was decommissioned in 1997.
Standing on deck for the first time in more than 25 years, the King was toasted by the old sailors and returned the tribute, saying: ‘To all the marvellous Yachties who keep it all going, you are all brilliant.’
When Britannia ruled the waves: Why the Queen adored her ‘country home at sea’
The Queen once described Britannia as the one place in the world she felt she could truly relax.
She was often seen wandering the decks in an old headscarf and slacks, and the royal apartments were filled with photographs of her family and heirlooms — including an ingenious nautical side-table designed by her great-great-grandfather, Prince Albert.
Britannia was commissioned for the Queen’s father King George VI, but he died before the keel could be laid. One of his daughter’s first acts on becoming monarch was to reject the designs for its royal apartments as too stuffy and opulent.
She opted instead for white-painted walls, mahogany woodwork and brass metalwork, with homely touches including chintzy sofas and armchairs.
‘The overall idea was to give the impression of a country house at sea,’ said Sir Hugh Casson, Britannia’s architect. ‘There was no question of her saying ‘That will do’. She had definite views on everything, from door handles to the shape of the lampshades.’
On April 16, 1953, the Queen launched Britannia from Clydeside with a bottle of Empire wine. At 412ft long, and weighing nearly 6,000 tons, she was then the largest yacht in the world.
Many summers saw her travelling to the Cowes Week regatta off the Isle of Wight, and then on to Scotland for the Royal Family’s holiday in Balmoral.
But her main task was to take the royals on the 968 official voyages she completed during more than a million miles and nearly 44 years of service.
Sailors in the Royal Navy were issued with a daily ration of rum until 1970 when the practice came to an end, and the late Queen was the only person able to continue the alcoholic treat for Britannia’s seamen on special occasions with the words ‘splice the mainbrace’.
A laugh went up before procedures began when someone dropped a glass, and after taking a sip of the drink – traditionally three measures – Charles puffed out his cheeks as the Pusser’s Rum – labelled gun powder proof – went down.
The Association of Royal Yachtsman, formerly known as the Royal Yacht Britannia Association, is drawn from the men who worked on the royal ship during its 43 years at sea, and every year many return for a few days to give staff who maintain Britannia as a visitor attraction a helping hand.
Mark Carron, 49, served on Britannia from 1994-98 doing a variety of tasks to keep the ship running smoothly and later became a policeman in his home county of Kent before taking early retirement.
He said after chatting to the King: ‘He said “I’ve always loved the smell of rum, it’s a unique smell”.’
Mr Carron added: ‘This was the place out of the public eye, they could relax and be themselves. On board Britannia that was their family time and it was our job to make their stay comfortable.’
Upon his arrival this evening, the monarch was greeted by Bob Downie, Chief Executive of The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust, and introduced to Rear Admiral Neil Rankin, Chairman of the Trust, and to Commodore Anthony (Tony) Morrow, Chairman of the Association of Royal Yachtsmen (ARY).
He also met former crew and staff before joining a reception with the Trust’s Trustees and Senior Management team in the State Dining Room and Drawing Room.
In 1998, the year after the yacht was decommissioned, Royal Yacht Britannia docked in Leith, Edinburgh where it has been for 25 years. Charles last formally visited the yacht in 1997.
HMY Britannia was built at John Brown’s Shipyard, Clydebank and was launched on 16th April 1953.
The Royal Yacht was commissioned into the Royal Navy on 11 January 1954 and proudly served the nation for 44 years, undertaking nearly 1,000 state visits to 135 countries, and sailing over 1 million nautical miles, until it was decommissioned on 11 December 1997.
Britannia would normally have had a complement of 22 Offices and approximately 220 crew members.
The King looked dapper as he was escorted to the dinner table by Bob Downie, Chief Executive of the Royal Yacht Britannia, ahead of tonight’s festivities
King Charles led the guests into a toast to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Britannia’s arrival in Edinburgh
Former members of the crew watched on while the King waved as he made his way back to land
King Charles III meeting guests during a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia, to mark 25 years since her arrival in Edinburgh
The monarch, who looked dapper in a navy suit, shook hands with some guests onboard the Britannia
To mark the 25th year of the ship’s arrival in Edinburgh, the King was treated to a tour of the Britannia
King Charles also enjoyed a conversation with some of the former royal yachstmen working on the ship
The dapper monarch was seen sharing a laugh with members of the crew upon arriving on the Britannia
The King was all smiles as he raised his glass with members of the royal yacht tonight in Edinburgh
The former yachstmen raised their glass to the King during his tour of the yacht tonight in Edinburgh
On state visits, a Royal Marine Band of 26 musicians would also have accompanied the Royal Family.
In April 1998, Britannia was purchased by The Royal Yacht Britannia Trust. Since opening to the public in October 1998, Britannia has become a multi award-winning 5-star visitor attraction that has welcomed over 6.5million visitors over the last 25 years.
Earlier today, the King took part in the historic Ceremony of the Keys – the traditional opener to Holyrood Week for the Royal Family.
What is the Ceremony of the Keys?
As part of the Ceremony of the Keys, the King is welcomed into the city of Edinburgh, His Majesty’s ‘ancient and hereditary kingdom of Scotland’, by the Lord Provost, who offers him the keys of the city.
The monarch then ceremoniously returns the keys, entrusting them to the elected officials of the city.
He also inspects a guard of honour, provided by the Royal Regiment of Scotland.
Holyrood week celebrates Scottish culture, history and achievement.
Today’s event saw the King handed the keys of the city and welcomed to his ‘ancient and hereditary kingdom of Scotland’. A Guard of Honour was formed by members of Royal Company of Archers.
During the ritual, the monarch ceremoniously returns the keys, entrusting them to the elected officials of the city.
Ahead of the ceremony, Charles visited Kinneil House in Bo’ness, Falkirk, to meet representatives from charities including his own, The Princes Trust, as well as Cycling Without Age Scotland and Sustainable Thinking Scotland.
Dressed in a traditional tartan kilt and sporran, he was welcomed by crowds upon his arrival at the house, where he viewed the cylinder of the engine erected by famed Scottish engineer James Watt.
The house – the historic home of the dukes of Hamilton – and nearby James Watt Cottage were the setting for the engineer’s secret development work on the prototype steam engine in 1765-73.
The King also planted a tree to commemorate the centenary of the estate becoming a public park and met charity representatives and beneficiaries.
Among those he greeted was Bo’ness Fair Queen, Lexi Scotland, who was wearing her ceremonial robes and a crown.
The visit is the first of a series of engagements in Scotland, marking the first Holyrood Week since his coronation.
There will be a special ceremony of thanksgiving at St Giles’ Cathedral on Wednesday, where Charles will be presented with the Honours of Scotland – the nation’s crown jewels.
Each year, the monarch traditionally spends a week based at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, known as Holyrood Week or Royal Week in Scotland.
In 2022, Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II travelled to Edinburgh to be present at the Palace of Holyroodhouse for what was her final Ceremony of the Keys, despite winding back her official duties due to mobility issues.
The King today took part in the historic Ceremony of the Keys – the traditional opener to Holyrood Week for the Royal Family
Today’s ceremony saw the King (pictured) handed the keys of the city and welcomed to his ‘ancient and hereditary kingdom of Scotland’
A Guard of Honour was formed by members of Royal Company of Archers. Pictured, Charles at the event
As part of the Ceremony of the Keys (pictured), the King is welcomed into the city of Edinburgh, His Majesty’s ‘ancient and hereditary kingdom of Scotland’, by the Lord Provost, who offers him the keys of the city
King Charles (pictured right) was dressed in a traditional tartan kilt and sporran for today’s outing
The late monarch, who passed away in September 2022, and had a deep love for Scotland, was joined by Prince Edward and Sophie – who have since assumed the titles of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh following her death.
Dressed in a powder blue silk wool coat and dress by Stewart Parvin, paired with a hat by Rachel Trevor-Morgan, the Queen was symbolically offered the keys to the city by Edinburgh Lord Provost Robert Aldridge.
The tradition dictates that the monarch returns them, entrusting their safekeeping to the city’s elected officials.
Meanwhile, the order of service has been unveiled for the event in Edinburgh this week to mark the coronation of the King and Queen.
Charles will be presented with the Honours of Scotland – the country’s crown jewels – during the service of thanksgiving and dedication at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh on Wednesday.
The service will feature centuries-old aspects of Scottish royal tradition along with new additions such as pieces of music written specially for the occasion, a psalm sung in Gaelic and the use of passages from the New Testament in Scots.
The Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, Rt Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, will preach the sermon and then provide a blessing to close the service.
Others involved will include violinist Nicola Benedetti, who will be among the musicians playing, and Olympic rower Dame Katherine Grainger who will carry the Elizabeth Sword which is being used in place of the Sword of State.
King Charles III (right) plants a tree to commemorate the centenary of the estate becoming a public park during his visit to Kinneil House
King Charles III greets the Bo’ness Fair Queen, Lexi Scotland, during his visit to Kinneil House, marking the first Holyrood Week since his coronation
King Charles – dressed in a traditional tartan kilt – meets members of the public during his visit to Kinneil House
King Charles is all smiles as he meets beaming members of the public during his first engagement in Scotland
King Charles (pictured shaking hands with a youngster) donned a traditional kilt and sporran for his first engagement in Scotland today
King Charles has arrived in Scotland for Royal Week as he marks a series of ‘firsts’ since he ascended the throne
King Charles watches as a tree is placed in the ground ready for him to plant at Kinneil House
Meanwhile, the order of service has been unveiled for the event in Edinburgh this week to mark the coronation of the King (pictured today, centre) and Queen
The Prince and Princess of Wales, known as the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay in Scotland, will be among those at the event.
Scotland’s First Minister Humza Yousaf will give a reading during the service, while others attending from the world of politics include Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.
Rev Calum I MacLeod, minister of St Giles’, will provide the Welcome and Call to Worship at the start of the service.
He said: ‘It is a great honour and privilege to welcome their majesties King Charles and Queen Camilla to St Giles’ on such a joyous occasion.
‘His majesty has visited the cathedral many times and this will certainly be a fitting place to have a service of thanksgiving and dedication during his majesty’s first visit to Scotland following the coronation in May.
‘St Giles’ was probably founded by David I in around 1124 so there has been a strong royal connection since the beginning, nearly 900 years ago.’
The service will feature five new pieces of music commissioned to mark the occasion including Balmoral Flourishes, by composer Paul Mealor, which will be performed by the State Trumpeters of the Household Cavalry.
A Gaelic Psalm by Mealor, written especially for the service, will be sung by Joy Dunlop, in recognition of Scotland’s linguistic heritage. There will also be contributions from other faiths and Christian denominations.
During the ceremony, the sceptre and crown from the Honours of Scotland will be presented to the King, along with the Elizabeth Sword.
This is a new sword specially crafted to be used in place of the current Sword of State, gifted to James IV by Pope Julius in 1507, which can no longer be used due to its fragile condition.
Dame Katherine will carry the Elizabeth Sword; Lady Dorrian, the Lord Justice Clerk will hold the sceptre and the Duke of Hamilton the Crown of Scotland.
Mrs Foster-Fulton said: ‘What a joy to welcome their majesties the King and Queen back home to Scotland and to participate in the national Service of thanksgiving and dedication on July 5.’
Charles (pictured today) will be presented with the Honours of Scotland – the country’s crown jewels – during the service of thanksgiving and dedication at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh on Wednesday
King Charles III (left) during his visit to Kinneil House, marking the first Holyrood Week since his coronation
Dressed in a traditional tartan kilt and sporran, he was welcomed by crowds upon his arrival at the house (pictured), where he viewed the cylinder of the engine erected by famed Scottish engineer James Watt
The house (pictured) and nearby James Watt Cottage were the setting for the engineer’s secret development work on the prototype steam engine in 1765-73
Later today, Charles (pictured left) will also attend the Palace of Holyroodhouse, where he will take part in his first ever Ceremony of the Keys as monarch
King Charles III (centre right) during his visit to Kinneil House, marking the first Holyrood Week since his coronation
King Charles III meets members of the public during his visit to Kinneil House
King Charles waves to the welcoming crowd during his visit to Kinneil House today
The King (pictured visiting Kinneil House) opted for a striped tie and navy blazer when wearing a traditional tartan kilt today
Charles (pictured during today’s outing) will be presented with the Honours of Scotland – the country’s crown jewels – during the service of thanksgiving and dedication at St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh on Wednesday
Beaming! The King speaks to smiling members of the public during his visit to Kinneil House
Before the service, a people’s procession of about 100 community groups will collect the honours from Edinburgh Castle.
The procession will then be escorted to the cathedral by the Royal Regiment of Scotland and its Shetland pony mascot, Corporal Cruachan IV, supported by cadet musicians from the combined cadet force pipes and drums.
Meanwhile, a royal procession will travel from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to the cathedral, with members of the public lining the Royal Mile to view both processions.
Rehearsals were held on the Royal Mile and outside the cathedral on Monday ahead of the events later in the week.
A 21-gun salute will fire from Edinburgh Castle at the end of the St Giles’ service, before the royal procession travels back to the palace.
The Stone of Destiny will be in the cathedral during the ceremony, and there will also be a fly-past by the Red Arrows following the event.
Anti-monarchy campaign group Republic will be staging a protest along the procession route and said it expects a large turnout.
The organisation will also be collaborating with Scottish republican group Our Republic, which will be staging a rally outside the Scottish Parliament.
Graham Smith, Republic’s chief executive officer, said: ‘Everyone in the UK should have the right to choose our head of state – not be told it will be Charles. Charles does not represent the people of Scotland any more than he represents the rest of the UK.’