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 Sunday, 22 December, 2002, 14:56 GMT
Britannia items 'should be returned'
Former Royal Yacht Britannia at Leith
The former Royal Yacht is berthed in Edinburgh
Buckingham Palace is being asked to return items taken from the former Royal Yacht Britannia by the Duke of Edinburgh.

The call has come in a letter from Scottish National Party culture spokesman Mike Russell.

He believes the items should be on display on board the yacht in Edinburgh and not as part of a Britannia Room in the Royal palace at Frogmore.

Mike Russell
This is a matter of considerable public interest, particularly in Scotland

Mike Russell
The MSP said he had no objection to Prince Philip retaining some objects of sentimental value, but claimed that the Duke took the contents of the yacht's dining room.

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said decisions about where items would be displayed were taken when the yacht was decommissioned in 1998.

And she stressed that they all remained part of the Royal Collection and were not in the Duke's personal collection.

Britannia was brought to Edinburgh in 1998 following more than 40 years of service to the Royal family.

The yacht is now owned by a charitable trust and has become one of the UK's leading tourist attractions.

Items including dining room furniture and paintings were removed from the Britannia before it became a floating tourist attraction.

Personal nature

They were used to create what is now known as the Britannia Room at Frogmore House, near Windsor.

Buckingham Palace said at the time that the artefacts which were retained were mainly of "a personal nature."

However, the SNP believes that many of the items were national treasures and should be on full public display.

Prince Philip
The items are not in Prince Philip's private collection
In his letter to the palace, Mr Russell said he wanted to know whether they were "gathering dust" in store rooms or being used in places not open to the public.

"In any case if they are still in the Royal Family's possession it would also, I believe, be appropriate to consider returning them - even on loan - to the yacht given the difficulty of viewing them at Frogmore, or arranging for them to be on permanent display elsewhere," he wrote.

"I am sure you will agree that this is a matter of considerable public interest, particularly in Scotland, and I look forward to hearing from you."

Mr Russell said that Frogmore was only open to the public on a handful of days each year while the Britannia was open all year round.

Royal Collection

A spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace said that Mr Russell's letter had not yet been received, but would be responded to in due course.

She said that the items on board Britannia had to be sorted out when it was decommissioned.

Some belonged to the Ministry of Defence, other items had come from previous Royal yachts, and others formed part of the Royal Collection.

She said these were sorted through at the time with an inventory. Some were retained for public display in Edinburgh while others went to Frogmore or other palaces.

See also:

19 Oct 99 | Scotland
19 Aug 98 | UK
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