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It was the gleaming, gilded centrepiece in Sunday’s remarkable river pageant of 1,000 boats which sailed into the record books.
But the Spirit of Chartwell, which served as the Queen’s royal barge, wasbeing stripped of its embellishments and thrones so it can return to work as a pleasure cruiser within the next week.
The 100-seater vessel is operated by the Magna Carta Steamship Company and was loaned by its owner, Philip Morrell, free of charge for the pageant.
It is one of the more luxurious boats for hire on the Thames, costing up to £265 (about R3 500) per person just for a meal and afternoon cruise along the river.
After six months of intensive work transforming it into a vessel fit for the Queen, many of those involved are bound to feel a tug at the heart-strings.
The pageant organisers are, however, in talks with the Museum of London Docklands to display some of the hand- crafted decorations used to adorn it.
This will include items such as the banners, hand-sewn with half a million gold buttons, and the red velvet, gilded thrones. A spokesman for the Thames Diamond Jubilee Foundation said: “The Spirit of Chartwell is being returned to service and will be back in her usual role as a passenger cruiser on the river within the week.
“We have been speaking to the Museum of London Docklands about displaying elements of the royal barge in a special exhibition later this year. We are still to confirm the details with the museum.”
The other star of the pageant, Gloriana, will continue to be of public use.
The spectacular £1-million 94ft rowbarge, which headed the flotilla, is a gift to the Queen from Lord Sterling, the life president of P&O Cruises.
It will now be maintained by Thames Alive on behalf of the Maritime Heritage Trust for use by the Queen, members of the Royal Family and other VIPs on the river.
Plans are also under way for it to be displayed at charitable events and for the education of young people in organisations such as the Sea Cadet Corps, as well as events such as the Lord Mayor’s Flotilla and the Henley Royal Regatta. - Daily Mail