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British RoyalsPrince Charles and Camilla

The Duchess of Cornwall launches the HMS Prince of Wales


The Duchess of Cornwall attended the Commissioning Ceremony for the HMS Prince of Wales, the Royal Navy new aircraft carrier, accompanied by her husband, The Prince of Wales.

A Commissioning Ceremony in the Royal Navy marks a “ship’s acceptance into the Royal Navy Fleet,” which is signalled by the “hoisting of the White Ensign (flag) for the first time,” according to Clarence House.

The HMS Prince of Wales is the second of two new aircraft carriers for the Royal Navy. Its sister ship in the HMS Queen Elizabeth.

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Per Clarence House, the HMS Prince of Wales is a 65,000-tonne ship that will have a crew of at least 700 (but has an embarked force capacity for 1,6o0 personnel) that will “meet the widest range of tasks around the world, including humanitarian relief, maritime security operations and warfighting.”

Like an aircraft carrier, its flight deck is 70m wide and 280m long, which is three football pitches; and can embark 36 F-35 Lightning jets and four Merlin Mark 4 helicopters.

As Lady Sponsor of the HMS Prince of Wales, Camilla gave a speech at the commissioning ceremony, saying in part:

“Now I know that all of you will face long periods of separation from those you hold dear, but I feel sure that the support of your families will strengthen and comfort you in the challenges you will face on the high seas.  As your proud Lady Sponsor, please remember that you will also be in my thoughts and prayers.  You will serve your country in an extraordinary Ship, at the beginning of an exciting new era in our long naval history. 

“Wherever in the world [the] HMS Prince of Wales is sent, may she acquit herself with honour, and return safely home. I wish you all fair winds and following seas.”

Her full speech can be found here.

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In a statement on the Royal Navy’s website, Captain Houston, the Commanding Officer, said that “As we lower the Blue Ensign and raise the White Ensign, this day marks the culmination of over a decade of work by the country’s maritime and ship-building industry who have come together with the Ministry of Defence to deliver this magnificent ship through the Aircraft Carrier Alliance.”

He continued, “The men and women of my Ship’s Company have demonstrated significant flexibility, patience and resilience. However, I also want to recognise the wider naval family for their support of our achievements, and I am so pleased that so many of our families and loved ones are able to share this special day with us.”

Prince Charles was also on hand and was given a new honorary title, that of Honorary Commodore-in-Chief, Aircraft Carriers, to mark the event.

The Duchess commented on her husband’s new role, saying that, “May I say how pleased I am that this great Ship shares my husband’s name. And now, as Honorary Commodore-in-Chief, Aircraft Carriers, I am delighted that he will have an even stronger link to this Ship and her sister.”

The Royal Navy said in a release that the Prince of Wales’s new title “highlights the continued relationship between the Royal Navy and the Monarchy and gratefully acknowledges the service of many members of the Royal Family.”

Following speeches by Camilla and Captain Houston, the final part of the Commissioning Ceremony saw the attendees observing strict naval tradition, where the “Commanding Officer’s partner and the youngest member of the ship’s company cut the Commissioning Cake made by Royal Navy chefs.”

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After the ceremony finished, Prince Charles and Camilla attended a reception to meet with the ship’s company and contractors who built the HMS Prince of Wales; as well as the chefs who baked the Commissioning Cake, and the stewards who organised the reception.

About author

Jess is a communications professional and freelance writer who lives in Halifax and has a passion for all things royal, particularly the British Royal Family.