It was a sad day for the Royal Yacht Britannia moored at Portsmouth. Queen Elizabeth dabbed her eyes; Prince Philip, in his uniform as Admiral of the Fleet, the Prince of Wales, and other Royals in uniform and in mufti saluted; and the Royal Marine Band played "Rule Britannia" as the 44-year-old ship was decommissioned.
Launched in the year of Queen Elizabeth's coronation, the Britannia is listed in British naval annals as the 83rd royal yacht. She also is the last, for her decommissioning ceremony on 11 December 1997 ended a 337-year tradition of having a specific ship assigned as the sovereign's yacht. In a farewell message to the ship's company, past and present, Queen Elizabeth declared:
Looking back over 44 years, we can all reflect with pride and gratitude this great ship which has served the country, the Royal Navy, and my family with such distinction.
Britannia has provided magnificent support to us throughout this time, playing such an important role in the history of the second half of this century.
She concluded her remarks, "It is with sadness that we must now say good-bye."