The Earl of Wessex paid a visit to Belfast on Wednesday, touring the birthplace of the famous ocean liner Titanic.
Prince Edward had made an express wish to visit ‘Titanic Belfast’, one of Northern Ireland’s top visitor attractions. The Prince was shown a number of the galleries learning about the social context of the city of Belfast and the working conditions of those who built the ill-fated liner.
Designed by naval architect, Thomas Andrews, Titanic was the largest ship afloat in the world at the time of her construction. One of the three vessels, she was built in Belfast by the shipbuilders Harland and Wolff.
Billed as being ‘unsinkable’ – the claim would prove to be untrue when she struck an iceberg and sunk on her maiden voyage to New York on April 15, 1912.
A brief security alert saw Edward arrive to bomb disposal squads investigating a suspicious package, which was later declared as ‘nothing untoward’.
The Earl of Wessex was shown the shipyard, learning about the workings and processes of the ship’s construction throughout the early 1900s before touring the site’s new gallery that focuses on Titanic’s launch.
The ship took 62 seconds to launch before it was fitted out with various furnishings. Edward viewed the First, Second and Third Class cabins and the opulent and grand décor, or lack thereof. The liner could accommodate 833 First Class Passengers, 614 in Second Class and 1,006 in Third Class, including space for over 900 crew members.
At the time, the interior design was very different from that of other passenger liners, which had typically decorated in the style of a manor house or an English country house. The Titanic, by comparison, used London’s Ritz Hotel as a source of inspiration and drew upon much lighter and contemporary designs.
Titanic was travelling at near full speed when her crew spotted the iceberg that would seal her fate. Unable to turn to stop quick enough, she hit the iceberg at 23:40 on April 14, 1912 and sank almost three hours later at 02:20.
With only 20 lifeboats, most of which were launched half full due to inadequate evacuation, over 1,500 people lost their lives. Over 1,000 were still onboard as she sank, and those who abandoned ship died of hypothermia within minutes of hitting the icy waters.
The sinking and its ensuing outcry over the lack of lifeboats and discrimination between classes prompted the start of e International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). SOLAS still governs maritime safety today.