Collection Spotlight

The Royal Caroline

Back in the day, royalty liked to travel in style, and what could be a better means of transport than a handsomely fitted out yacht. The history of royal
yachts in Great Britain began with the 1716 conversion of a small 190 ton frigate, Peregrine Galley, into a well appointed yacht, Carolina, named for the Princess of Wales, Caroline of Brandenburg-Ansbach, George II’s future queen. In 1749 a new yacht was constructed for George II, Royal Caroline. George III became owner when he ascended to the throne in 1760, and sailed aboard the Royal Caroline for most of his reign.

She was luxuriously appointed and decorated. Of her total cost of 12,390 pounds, 30% went for appearance and comfort, 1,360 pounds for furnishing and fitting, 906 pounds for sculpture, and 1,507 pounds for gilding. The surviving record indicates that 120,000 gold leaves were used to gild the stem, stern and sculptures. Silk, damask and the finest linen was used
for upholstery. Although the Admiralty did not seem to be worried about costs, they did negotiate a discount of 2 pounds on the 18 pound cost for a stern lantern To indicate the extent of expense that went into this vessel, a totally fitted out, 80 gun, 3-decked ship of the line cost about 38,000 pounds.

Royal Caroline served for a long period ferrying members of the royal family around Great Britain and to the Continent. She was finally laid up in 1806 and broken up shortly afterward. It would be nice to know what became of the gold leaf that covered the vessel.

The original Admiralty plans for the yacht are preserved in the National Maritime Museum, and F. Chapman’s book, Architectura Navalis Mercatoria has a contemporary drawing of the decorations. A painting of the vessel under sail by John Cleverley gives an excellent depiction of the rigging. Based on these sources it is possible to build an accurate model of the Royal Caroline, and the HM’s model was constructed by Ronald Roberti who has many other examples of his fine workmanship on display in the museum.

By: Charlie Cozewith, Docent

Excerpt from The Anchor Newsletter, February, 2014.

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