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Royal and Imperial Yachts
Monarchs and Emperors found good use for steamships for their own private use, for visiting far-flung dominions and for diplomatic functions. The British monarch Victoria, later to become Empress of India at the Zenith of the new British Empire became possibly the world's most powerful ruler at a time of industrial expansion and technical change. Britain was at the forefront of these development and with dominions stretching across the globe had the world's leading shipbuilding industry to support her international trade, security and military ambitions. It was therfore natural that Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert who had a major interest in technical matters would look to have the finest of vessels available for their use.

Although sailing ships were available for the monarch to use, the new paddle steamer Victoria & Albert, which became available for service in 1843 was a sea-change in quality. A number of new paddle steamers designed specifically for royal use followed and other monarchs had their own steamers built for their own purposes. Royal yachts remain in service with many monarchs and in other countries, vessels remain available for use by state presidents both for state and personal purposes.  Whilst paddle steamers gave way to screw steamers and motor ships, one remarkable vessel, Egypt's El-Mahrousa survives. Originally a London-built paddle steamer launched in 1865, it clearly reflected the fascination Egyptian Khedive (Ismael Pasha) had for matters British, including Victoria's own vessel Victoria & Albert.  Although subsequently lengthed and converted to turbine power with screw propulsion in 1906, her paddle heritage remains and she is still in regular use by the Egyptian Navy and available for use by the President of Egypt. A number of paddle steamers on the Nile have been used for royal and presidential purposes including Kassed Kheir and the still-in-service quarter-wheel steamer Karim.

The number of paddle yachts built for royal purposes was very limited and all appeared to share a similar outward design principle. By the late 19th century a number of extremely wealthy entrpreneurs, initially concentrated in the USA began to consider purchasing yachts for private use. It would appear that no paddle steamers were specified for this purpose but steam and later motor yachts of considerable size and luxury were built in significant numbers. 


Above : Osborne was the last British paddle steamer built specifically for royal use. It is seen here in a photo taken in the 1890s on a visit to Kiel in Germany 

Victoria & Albert
(1843-1868) 1034 GRT. Renamed Osborne in 1855
Victoria & Albert (1855-1901)  300 ft long, 2470 GRT. Scrapped in 1904
Osborne (1870-1908)  250 ft long, 1850 GRT

Small paddle steamers designed to transport the royal family and visitors, mail and supplies to their Isle of Wight residence (Osborne House) from Portsmouth

Elfin (1849-1901)
Alberta (1863-1912) 

Queen Victoria died in January 1901 whilst a new royal yacht, destined by be called Victoria & Albert was fitting out. Although it had a highly-traditional appearance, it was a screw steamer.


Denmark can claim the most modern paddle steamer built in Europe for royal use and the last such vessel to be decommissioned

Dannebrog entered royal service in 1880. She is seen above in 1913 after a major reconstruction in 1907 when she was lengthened, re-engined and received a second funnel. She was replaced in 1932 by a diesel-engined screw ship of the same name and was scrapped during 1934 
Photo by kind courtesy of Nationalmuseet Kobenhavn : Creative Commons licence


(1878-1909, renamed Kaiseradler in 1892 when a second Hohenzollern, a screw steamer, entered service)

Built in Kiel by Norddeutschen Schiffbau AG, the 82 m long paddler entered service in 1880. Replaced as principal yacht in 1892, she still took part in many activities, notably the opening of the Kiel canal in 1893.  Removed from service in 1909. she was scrapped in Danzig (now Gdansk)
Photo in the public domain - from the collection of  Gesellschaft fur Kieler Stadtgeschichte


Fantasie (1858) -
Built by G Rennie. A present from he Emperor to his brother, Grand Duke Maximilian


Dzerhava (1871-1898, surviving as a training ship until 1905)  Length : 94.8 m
Livadia (1873-1878, wrecked on the Crimean Coast during the Russo-Turkish war)
Tsarevna (1874-1917)



Jingei was already outdated when she was commissioned having been in construction for almost ten years. She was used very little and was turned over for various Imperial Navy purposes, remaining in service until 1903 and then hulked


Above : French Imperial Royal Yacht L'Aigle at Port Said in 1869 on the occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal, attended by Empress Eugenie.
Source : wikipedia - photographer unknown

Built in Cherbourg in 1857 to replace the previous vessel "La Reine Hortense"
Overall length 90 metres (82 at the waterline)
2 x cylinders of 2000 mm - piston stroke 1800 mm
Converted to a gunboat in 1870 and from 1873 was a corvette renamed "Le Rapide"
Decommissioned in 1885 and sold in 1891. Scrapped at Cherbourg

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Historical Database