A royal yacht is a ship used by a monarch or a royal family. If the monarch is an emperor the proper term is imperial yacht. Most of them are financed by the government of the country of which the monarch is head. The royal yacht is most often manned by personnel from the navy and used by the monarch and his/her family on both private and official travels.
Some royal yachts have been/are small vessels only used for short trips on rivers or in calm waters, but others have been/are large seaworthy ships.
Depending on how the term is defined royal yachts date back to the days of antiquity with royal barges on the Nile in ancient Egypt.
Later the Vikings produced royal vessels. They followed the pattern of longships although highly decorated and fitted with purple sails (purple sails remained standard for royal vessels the next 400 years).
In England, Henry V sold off the royal yachts to clear the Crown's debts. The next royal vessels in England were built in the Tudor period with Henry VIII using a vessel in 1520 that was depicted as having cloth of gold sails. James I had the Disdain, a ship in miniature (she was later recorded as being able to carry about 30 tons), built for his son Prince Henry. The Disdain was significant in that she allowed for pleasure cruising and as a result can be seen as an early move away from royal ships as warships.
The first ships to unquestionably qualify as royal yachts were those owned by Charles II of England Scotland and Ireland. The first was gift from the Dutch but later yachts were commissioned and built in England. This established a tradition of royal yachts in Britain that was later copied by other royal families of Europe. Through the 19th century royal yachts got larger as they became a symbol of national wealth. World War I brought this trend to an end and the royal families that survived found it harder to justify the cost with the result that there are only three royal yachts left in use in Europe. For the most part royal yachts have been superseded by the use of warships in this role, as royal yachts are often seen as a hard-to-justify expenditure. In addition most monarchies with a railway system employ a special set of royal carriages. Most monarchies also employ aircraft as a luxurious (and much more speedy and timely) mode of transportation.
The Danish royal family have had several royal yachts. Two of them have been named Dannebrog.HMDY Sophia Amalia (1650–?)
HMDY Elephanten (1687–1721)
HMDY Kiel (1824–1840)
HDMY Ægir (1841–1855)
HMDY Slesvig (1855–1879)
HDMS Jylland (1874–1885) – a frigate which served as a royal yacht on occasion.
HDMY Dannebrog (1879–1932)
HDMY Dannebrog (1932–present)
Dubai is the personal yacht of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. Completed in 2006, she is the third largest yacht currently in service at 524 feet (162 metres) long. She came to world media attention when she sailed out to welcome the retired ocean liner, RMS Queen Elizabeth 2 to Dubai in November 2008.
Another personal yacht of the Sheikh, is the 40 metre Alloya. Built by Sanlorenzo in 2013.Mahroussa (also known as El Horria) (1866–1951) was built for Isma'il Pasha, the Khedive of Egypt. She passed the Suez Canal during its opening. Lengthened twice, she was converted from paddle steamer to screws. She now serves as a school ship for the Egyptian Navy.
During the existence of the German Empire, the Kaiser used these imperial yachts:SMY Hohenzollern (1878–1912); renamed SMY Kaiseradler in 1892
SMY Hohenzollern II (1893–1914)
SMY Hohenzollern III (begun in 1914 but never finished)
The Kriegsmarine fleet tender Grille was built as a state yacht for Adolf Hitler.Cleopatra's Barge (1820–1824) renamed Haʻaheo o Hawaiʻi ("Pride of Hawaii")
Kamehameha III (until 1849), seized by the French when they invaded Honolulu
Trinacria (1900-1925), former steamship "America
De Groene Draeck (1957–present)
Jumbo VI Prince Bernhard's yacht, a Moonen 85
King Haakon VII received the royal yacht Norge as a gift from the people of Norway in 1947. The royal yacht is owned by the king but maintained and manned by the Royal Norwegian Navy. Before this other naval ships had served as royal sea transport and the king used some smaller boats for short trips mostly on official occasions.Sophia Amalia (1650–?)
Stjernen I (1899–1940)
Stjernen II (1945–present)
The Imperial Ottoman Government used many yachts for its head of state. These include:Tesrifiye
The Republic of Turkey also has presidential yachtsVeloz (22,6 m): 1858
Sirius (22,5 m): 1876
Amélia I (35 m): 1888
Amélia II (45 m): 1897
Amélia III (55 m): 1898
Amélia IV (70 m): 1901
The Portuguese King Charles I used four successive royal yachts, all named Amélia, after his wife, Queen Amélie of Orleans. These yachts were, mainly, used by Charles I his oceanographic missions. It was in the Amélia IV that King Manuel II and the Portuguese royal family left the country for the exile, after the republican revolution of 5 October 1910. In the republican regime the Amélia IV was renamed NRP 5 de Outubro and operated by the Portuguese Navy.
Imperial yachts employed by the Tsar of Russia:Alexandria (I) (1851–1906)
Standart (I) (1857–1892)
Livadia (1873–1878); wrecked in Crimea October 21–22, 1878
Livadia (1880–1926); flawed experimental ship, retired and hulked soon after commissioning. Used by the Romanovs only twice.
Polyarnaya Zvezda (1890-1917/1961)
Alexandria (II) (1904-1917/1927)
Standart (II) (1895-1917/1936-1961 as Soviet Navy minelayer Marti)
Saudi royal yachts have included the following:Prince Abdulaziz (1984–) Now owned by Prince Sultan bin Abdul Aziz
Al Riyadh (1978–)
Al Salamah (1999–)
Issham al Baher (1973–)
The United Kingdom has had 83 royal yachts since the restoration of King Charles II in 1660. Charles II himself had 25 royal yachts, while five were simultaneously in service in 1831. Since the decommissioning of Britannia in 1997 the Queen no longer has a royal yacht. She has since, on occasion, chartered other vessels, such as MV Hebridean Princess.
Other nations that employ some form of yacht presently or in the past include China, Iran, Sarawak and Sweden.
The Principality of Monaco owned the princely yacht Deo Juvante II between 1956-1958. This Camper and Nicholsons yacht was a wedding gift from Aristotle Onassis to Prince Rainer and Grace Kelly and was used on their honeymoon. The yacht, now called the M/Y Grace, is now owned and operated by Quasar Expeditions.
Yugoslavia had some royal yachts before World War II (most notably, one was a sister ship of the Ilinden which sank in Lake Ohrid in 2009).
Zanzibar had only one naval ship in 1896, the royal yacht HHS Glasgow. It was sunk by the British during the shortest war in history, the Anglo-Zanzibar War.