The Duke of Edinburgh had a significant impact on Britain’s maritime heritage during his lifetime, being influential in the survival of various key craft now listed on the National Register of Historic Vessels, maintained by National Historic Ships UK.

His family’s connection with the sea is remembered through the Royal Yacht Britannia which the Duke played a guiding hand in designing and ocean racing yacht Bloodhound, onboard which his children Prince Charles and Princess Anne learned to sail.  Both these vessels are now on public display in Leith, Scotland.

The Duke of Edinburgh is also known for his role as founding patron of the Maritime Trust which played an instrumental part in securing the future of vessels including clipper Cutty Sark, schooner Kathleen & May, spritsail barge Cambria, sloop HMS Gannet, coastal steamer ss Robin, battleship HMS Warrior, research vessel RRS Discovery and tug Portwey.

Hannah Cunliffe, Director of National Historic Ships UK, said: ‘the Duke of Edinburgh showed consistent support of all things maritime and his continued involvement in events and activities associated with historic vessels helped to raise the profile of our sector and highlight the importance of this part of Britain’s heritage’.

The Duke’s commitment to the sector is recognised in vessel histories across the National Registers which detail royal visits or recall his support for campaigns and commemorative events.  His name is also remembered through the Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme, which provides transformational experiences for thousands of young people each year, some hosted on operational historic vessels.

Highlights of the Duke of Edinburgh’s association with the historic vessel sector:

August 1956 – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip sailed from Ambleside to Bowness in Windermere onboard historic excursion vessel Teal

1958 – passenger ferry Balmoral carried the Duke of Edinburgh for the opening of the new locks at Shoreham

1966 – ‘Save the Wherry’ week was held for the Broads wherry Albion under the patronage of the Duke of Edinburgh

1969 – The Maritime Trust was founded with the Duke of Edinburgh as its patron

1970 – Duke of Edinburgh boarded the ss Great Britain on the final leg of her homecoming journey in Bristol which had seen her travel 8,000 miles across the Atlantic

November 1976 – His Royal Highness Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen, the Queen Mother and eight other members of the royal family visited HMS Bronington to see HRH Prince Charles in command

June 1977 – the ferry Royal Iris carried Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and His Royal Highness Duke of Edinburgh as part of their Silver Jubilee celebrations

1980 – Duke of Edinburgh visited the replica ship Golden Hinde at Cowes Week following its commemorative circumnavigation

1990 – The first Cutty Sark Medal recognising outstanding contributions to ship preservation and seafaring was presented to Frank Carr by HRH Duke of Edinburgh

2007 – HRH Duke of Edinburgh unveiled a monument at Chatham Historic Dockyard as HMS Cavalier was dedicated the National Destroyer Memorial

2012 - HM The Queen, accompanied by The Duke of Edinburgh, visited and reopened  Cutty Sark and the National Maritime Museum’s exhibition Royal River

2013 – Duke of Edinburgh unveiled a plaque to inaugurate SS Robin’s new permanent home in Royal Victoria Dock, Newham, forty years after he started the campaign to save her for the nation.

Note to Editors

  1. This statement may be attributed to ‘National Historic Ships UK’

Issued 09 April 2021 by National Historic Ships UK.

Tel: 0208 312 8558


National Historic Ships UK advises the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport and a range of grant giving organisations on priorities for ship conservation and is the official voice for historic vessels in the UK.  It maintains: the National Register of Historic Vessels which lists over a thousand significant craft; the National Archive of Historic Vessels for those craft now destroyed; the UK Replica List and the Overseas Watch List which tracks vessels of outstanding significance outside the UK.  It is the initiator and manager of the Shipshape Network, which was set up to promote the regeneration of traditional maritime skills, encourage regional activities and improve communication amongst heritage training schemes.