All eyes are on the British royals as the monarchy prepares to welcome a new member on May 19: Meghan Markle. Prince Harry is set to marry the American actress at St. George's Chapel on the sweeping grounds of Windsor Castle, located about 25.6 miles west of London.
Millions will be watching the televised event as Meghan, whose father Thomas has gone back and forth on whether he will attend the wedding and walk her down the aisle following a reported heart attack and paparazzi scandal, says "I do." Harry—having faced many challenging moments in the public eye, including the tragic death of his mother, Princess Diana, at the age of 36 in 1997—is no stranger to coping with controversy. But the former military captain has also led a life of privilege that has included living at historic palaces, an education at the prestigious Eton College, picture-perfect safari vacations in Africa (including a rather romantic trip to Botswana in the summer of 2016, during which Harry said he and Meghan “slept under the stars”), and trips aboard many impressive sea vessels.
It’s quite fitting, then, that Her Majesty's Yacht Britannia—a former royal yacht for Queen Elizabeth III that was decommissioned in 1997—is hosting an unofficial celebration (for those of us who weren’t invited to the actual wedding, of course) in Edinburgh, Scotland, where the 412-foot yacht is permanently birthed. Organizers haven’t overlooked a single detail to make the tribute on the Britannia—where Harry and his brother Prince William reportedly spent summer vacations as children—reflective of the newlyweds-to-be.
According to Scottish Field, the ship’s Royal Deck Tea Room will serve some of Harry and Meghan’s favorite dishes. “The set-price celebratory menu includes a roast chicken sandwich, inspired by Harry and Meghan’s proposal dinner, a lemon and elderflower cake, based on their choice of wedding cake, and a Negroni cocktail,” the publication reports. “The Negroni is the bride-to-be’s favourite cocktail, made with gin, Vermouth Rosso and Campari, garnished with a swirl of orange peel.”
Beginning with the Britannia, Harry and his famous family members have long been fans of indulging in luxuries at sea. As we gear up for his royal celebration, take a look back at some of the Windsors’ most memorable boating moments of yore.
1. Princess Diana and Prince Charles’ Honeymoon on the Britannia
Before Prince Harry was even born, Princess Diana and Prince Charles spent two weeks aboard the Britannia on their honeymoon following their royal wedding in 1981. In the vintage British news report below, you can see the royals board the impressive ship, which the official Britannia website describes as a “floating royal residence” that has the “same formality and grandeur as any of the Royal palaces.” In fact, the ship features lavish “Royal Apartments” that have hosted the likes of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and Rajiv Gandhi.
“This is where I can truly relax,” Queen Elizabeth has said of the yacht — and it’s not hard to see why. Popular spots include a state drawing room, the home of a baby grand piano; a state dining room decorated with gifts Queen Elizabeth received on her extensive travels; a sitting room for the queen comprised of furniture from older royal ships; a sun lounge complete with a record player and games; and well-appointed royal bedrooms.
If you can’t get enough of the Britannia, take a royals nostalgia deep-dive with a look at historic photos of her voyages.
2. Prince Harry Scores Second Place in Yacht Race
Ever the competitive royal, Harry took part in the 85th J.P.Morgan Asset Management Round the Island Race—one of biggest yacht races of its kind—on the coast of the Isle of Wight in July 2016. Harry, friends, and Paralympian athletes took the Invictus—millionaire Keith Mills’ 40-foot yacht—to second place, finishing six minutes behind a team on the Gladiator, according to the Daily Mail. Photos of the race, in the video below, show Harry making the most of his day on the water, smiling and waving at fans cheering him on.
3. Princess Diana Aboard a Luxury Yacht in Italy Before Her Death
The late Princess Diana was the subject of countless instantly iconic photographs, including one taken of her perched on a diving board and looking into the water in Portofino, Italy. The image was snapped just one week before her death on Aug. 31, as she spent some of her final days aboard a cruiser formerly known as the Jonikal. Diana’s time on the yacht with boyfriend Dodi Fayed—whose father, former Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed, bought the vessel—has been chronicled by numerous news outlets, including Vanity Fair. In the video below, Inside Edition shows happier times spent on the Jonikal with her sons William and Harry, who rode Jet Skis with their mom and bonded with the crew while out at sea. “They would come down...and sit there and chat with the crew and bodyguards and help themselves to ice cream and wash up their plates,” Deborah Gribble, who worked on the yacht, told Inside Edition.
The 208-foot yacht was certainly fit for a royal, as it features a helicopter landing pad, swimming platform, jacuzzi, and nine guest cabins. “Timeless styling, beautiful furnishings and sumptuous seating feature throughout to create an elegant and comfortable atmosphere,” according to Yacht Charter Fleet, which says the mega yacht is available for charter.
4. Prince Charles and Camilla Soak Up in the Sun in Greece
Being the heir apparent to the British throne comes with its advantages, including some top-notch vacations. In August 2017, the future king of England and his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, were spotted getting some fresh air aboard the OKTO, a superyacht owned by Greek businessman Theodore Angelopoulos, off the coast of Corfu, Greece.
At 216-feet, this palace on the sea packs a movie theater, swimming pool, and dancing deck, according to the Daily Mail. A video of the trip below shows the royal couple, donning casual white and blue resort wear, lounging on the yacht and socializing with friends. Who needs Buckingham Palace and formal attire anyway?
5. Kate Middleton Beats Prince William, Leading to Good Laughs
The new generation of royals might be weary of being photographed amid the luxury of a superyacht, but they’re not opposed to a good competition at sea. On their epic royal tour in April 2014, Prince William and Kate Middleton participated in a race with America’s Cup yachts in Auckland, New Zealand—and they were on separate teams. In the end, Kate—who sailed as a little girl—came out ahead “not once, but twice,” as the correspondent in the news report below states. “It was sabotage,” William can be heard joking to his wife.
It all leads to one question: When will we see Meghan and Harry throw down an anchor? Stay tuned!