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The soldier who spent 34 years on the Queen’s Britannia

As the unofficial nanny of a young Prince Charles and a constant presence aboard the yacht that was the Queen’s home away from home, Petty Officer Ellis Norrell, who has died aged 87, was familiar with a side of the royal family that is so few will ever have. experience.

Norrell, known by his nickname ‘Norrie’ by those closest to him, including the Queen, served the Royal Family for over 34 years aboard the royal yacht Britannia, once described as the Queen as ‘the only place I can truly relax'” .

He worked his way from Able Seaman to Warrant Officer, was the longest-serving member on the ship, and served everyone from the Duke of Edinburgh to Princess Anne and Princess Diana who once reprimanded him for making her feel like a ‘naughty schoolgirl’.

When he retired in 1988, the Queen gifted him a pair of cufflinks and an autographed photo and he became a member of the Royal Victorian Order.

As the unofficial nanny of a young Prince Charles and a constant presence aboard the yacht that was the Queen's home away from home, Petty Officer Ellis Norrell, who has died aged 87, was familiar with a side of the royal family that is so few will ever have.  experience.  In the photo, the Queen greets Norrie during a walk aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia in the 1950s

As the unofficial nanny of a young Prince Charles and a constant presence aboard the yacht that was the Queen’s home away from home, Petty Officer Ellis Norrell, who has died aged 87, was familiar with a side of the royal family that is so few will ever have. experience. In the photo, the Queen greets Norrie during a walk aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia in the 1950s

He worked his way from Able Seaman to Warrant Officer, was the longest-serving member on the ship, and served everyone from the Duke of Edinburgh to Princess Anne and Princess Diana who once reprimanded him for making her feel like a 'naughty schoolgirl'.  Pictured, Prince Charles and Princess Diana with Norrie on their honeymoon aboard the yacht

He worked his way from Able Seaman to Warrant Officer, was the longest-serving member on the ship, and served everyone from the Duke of Edinburgh to Princess Anne and Princess Diana who once reprimanded him for making her feel like a 'naughty schoolgirl'.  Pictured, Prince Charles and Princess Diana with Norrie on their honeymoon aboard the yacht

He worked his way from Able Seaman to Warrant Officer, was the longest-serving member on the ship, and served everyone from the Duke of Edinburgh to Princess Anne and Princess Diana who once reprimanded him for making her feel like a ‘naughty schoolgirl’. Pictured, Prince Charles and Princess Diana with Norrie on their honeymoon aboard the yacht

Norrell, known by his nickname 'Norrie' by those closest to him, including the Queen, served the Royal Family for over 34 years aboard the royal yacht Britannia, once described as the Queen as 'the only place I can truly relax'

Norrell, known by his nickname 'Norrie' by those closest to him, including the Queen, served the Royal Family for over 34 years aboard the royal yacht Britannia, once described as the Queen as 'the only place I can truly relax'

Norrell, known by his nickname ‘Norrie’ by those closest to him, including the Queen, served the Royal Family for over 34 years aboard the royal yacht Britannia, once described as the Queen as ‘the only place I can truly relax'” . Pictured, in 2013

His unofficial duties included babysitting a young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, who spent much of their childhood on the ship and were said to be fascinated by the crew.

He previously recalled teaching the royal siblings to fly kites and lay lobster pots, organize treasure hunts, and have them pretend to pilot the ship.

Norrell explored the Greek Isles with the Prince of Wales on their honeymoon and told the Princess not to play the piano in the seamen’s recreation room – but was later turned away by the Royal Yachts flag officer after Princess Diana complained.

“Your Royal Highness, you shouldn’t be here, I’ll be happy to escort you back to your quarters,” Norrell reminded Diana.

Norrie was among the 220-strong crew on the ship's maiden voyage in 1954, traveling with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, then aged five and three, to meet their parents in Tobruk, Libya.  Pictured, Charles and Anne on another Royal Yacht Britannia voyage that year

Norrie was among the 220-strong crew on the ship's maiden voyage in 1954, traveling with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, then aged five and three, to meet their parents in Tobruk, Libya.  Pictured, Charles and Anne on another Royal Yacht Britannia voyage that year

Norrie was among the 220-strong crew on the ship’s maiden voyage in 1954, traveling with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, then aged five and three, to meet their parents in Tobruk, Libya. Pictured, Charles and Anne on another Royal Yacht Britannia voyage that year

When he retired in 1988, the Queen gifted him a pair of cufflinks and an autographed photo and he became a member of the Royal Victorian Order.  Pictured is the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh thanking Norrell for his services prior to his retirement that year

When he retired in 1988, the Queen gifted him a pair of cufflinks and an autographed photo and he became a member of the Royal Victorian Order.  Pictured is the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh thanking Norrell for his services prior to his retirement that year

When he retired in 1988, the Queen gifted him a pair of cufflinks and an autographed photo and he became a member of the Royal Victorian Order. Pictured is the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh thanking Norrell for his services prior to his retirement that year

The Queen Mother greets Warrant Officer Norrell aboard Royal Yacht Britannia.  Norrell was entrusted with looking after the royal family on board the yacht

The Queen Mother greets Warrant Officer Norrell aboard Royal Yacht Britannia.  Norrell was entrusted with looking after the royal family on board the yacht

The Queen Mother greets Warrant Officer Norrell aboard Royal Yacht Britannia. Norrell was entrusted with looking after the royal family on board the yacht

Among the earliest state visits during Norrell’s time in Britannia were Princess Margaret’s journey through East Africa, the opening of the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 by the Duke of Edinburgh and the Queen’s trip to Portugal in 1957.

He was among the 220 crew on the ship’s maiden voyage in 1954, and traveled with the young Prince Charles and Princess Anne, then aged five and three, to meet their parents in Tobruk, Libya.

When Britannia ruled the waves: why the queen adored her ‘manor house by the sea’

The Queen once described Britannia as the only place in the world where she felt she could truly relax.

She was often seen across the deck in an old headscarf and trousers, and the royal chambers were filled with photos of her family and heirlooms – including an ingenious nautical side table designed by her great-great-grandfather, Prince Albert.

Britannia was commissioned for King George VI, the Queen’s father, but he died before the keel could be laid. One of his daughter’s first acts of becoming a monarch was to dismiss the designs for his royal apartments as too stuffy and opulent.

She chose white painted walls, mahogany woodwork and brass metalwork instead, with homey touches like chintzy sofas and armchairs.

‘The general idea was to give the impression of a country house by the sea,’ says Sir Hugh Casson, Britannia architect. ‘There was no question of her saying ‘I will’. She had a clear picture of everything from door handles to the shape of the lampshades.’

On April 16, 1953, the Queen launched Britannia from Clydeside with a bottle of Empire wine. With a length of 412 feet and a weight of almost 6000 tons, she was the largest yacht in the world at the time.

Many summers saw her travel to the Cowes Week regatta off the Isle of Wight, then to Scotland for the Royal Family’s holiday at Balmoral.

But her main job was to take the royal family on the 968 official voyages she made over more than a million miles and nearly 44 years of service.

“It was the Queen’s house,” Norrell said in an interview. “Wherever she went in the world, she could come back to her own staff at night. It was a place where she could kick off her shoes and relax.’

He also recalled the moment when an adult Prince of Wales brought the first double bed to the ship for his honeymoon with Diana.

In 1973 Norell was awarded the Royal Victorian Medal, a personal gift from the Sovereign, for his exemplary seamanship and leadership.

Britannia retired in 1997 and the bronze from one of the propellers was reused to create a statue of Norrell in the uniform of a capable sailor.

The statue can now be found along the gangway of the decommissioned ship in Edinburgh.

Norell was discharged into retirement, but was soon re-employed at Windsor Castle.

For the next eight years he was part of the royal household, acting as a keeper of artefacts – meaning he ensured the safety of royal heirlooms during the renovation of the castle after the fire in 1992.

He said his most prized possession was a painting of himself of the Prince of Wales, which the royal family had done during his honeymoon, according to The times.

Born on December 7, 1933 in Portland, Dorset, Norrell married Grace Michie while serving in Britannia, and they had three daughters Katrina, Sheena and Audrey. His wife died in 2005.

They would love to travel together when he wasn’t working, vacationing to Hong Kong, Florida and Croatia, and even to a secluded cottage in Balmoral.

Born on December 7, 1933 in Portland, Dorset, Norrell married Grace Michie while serving in Britannia in 1957, and they had three daughters Katrina, Sheena and Audrey.

His wife died in 2005.

He enlisted in the boys’ navy, HMS St. Vincent, in Gosport. In 1954 he was admitted to the Permanent Royal Yacht Service, following in the footsteps of his father, who had been a Boy Seaman in the previous Royal Yacht, Victoria and Albert.

Warrant Officer EV Norrell, born December 7, 1933, died October 9, 2021.

Norrell with the autographed photo the Queen gave him on his retirement in 1988.  After leaving the Royal Yacht Britannia, he was re-enlisted at Windsor Castle

Norrell with the autographed photo the Queen gave him on his retirement in 1988.  After leaving the Royal Yacht Britannia, he was re-enlisted at Windsor Castle

Norrell with the autographed photo the Queen gave him on his retirement in 1988. After leaving the Royal Yacht Britannia, he was re-enlisted at Windsor Castle

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