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'Gloriana' to lead the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant

It can now be revealed that the “mystery” vessel being constructed in a secret location by the Richmond boatyard run by Mark Edwards will be a massive 88 ft long, with a 12 ft beam and will closely resemble the Royal Shallop shown in last month’s Waterways World. It is almost certain that it will lead the pageant, bearing military trumpeters to herald the arrival of the Queen. 

With the Queen’s Bargemaster at the helm, Olympic oarsman, Sir Steven Redgrave will join a further 17 of Her Majesty’s 24 watermen to row the ten-ton craft, which will be called the Gloriana. She will be graced with a mermaid and serpent and will be decorated with around £4,000 worth of gold leaf, reminiscent of the spectacular boats belonging to the 12 great livery companies that formed the18th century pageants that so impressed Canaletto. 

Mayor Boris Johnson said the barge will be a "truly striking addition to the Jubilee celebrations". Her cabin will be able to accommodate 58 passengers and she will be fitted with two electric engines for use if necessary in strong tides.

Initially, the vessel was to carry the Queen and other members of the royal family to Hampton Court, but unfortunately, this plan was defeated by extensive health and safety issues, and the role was subsequently allocated to the Spirit of Chartwell. However, Gloriana will afterwards be presented to the Queen. 

Alternative space had to be found to build the boat – hence the secret location - because she was too big to fit inside any of the boatyard’s buildings, so although she will be kept at Richmond, she will remain afloat. 

As the Queen’s official royal barge, it is anticipated that in the future, she will regularly be called upon to take part in ceremonial and charity events. The £500,000 cost is being underwritten by the Conservative peer, Lord Sterling, who not surprisingly is hoping to receive donations!  He said: "If you didn't do something for the Diamond Jubilee, when would you ever think was an appropriate time to do something?"

The initiative for a specially built boat came from Prince Charles who contacted Lord Sterling almost two years ago. Sweet chestnut from Highgrove, Prince Charles’s private estate, is among the materials used in her construction. Craftsmen are energetically involved in the drive to meet the 20 week deadline. 

Such a vessel, hand built entirely of wood, would normally take nine months to complete and most evenings Mark Edwards can be found hard at work till 10 pm and beyond.  He is no stranger to this type of boat; he created the Jubilant, used as the Mayor’s Shallop last November when the annual Lord Mayor’s pageant was returned to the Thames after pollution 160 years ago caused it to become a land-based event.

Sir Steve, who has visited the yard where she is under construction, commented, “I was captivated not just by the beautiful lines of this magnificent vessel but by the infectious energy and enthusiasm of the young team working to build it. I can't wait to have a go at rowing it”

Tom Chaplin 

Artist's impression of Gloriana, a brand new Royal shallop based on an 18th Century design, and built by Mark Edwards' Thames boatyard at Richmond.

Friday 20 January  | Andrew Denny  | 12.20pm, Friday 20 January 2012

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