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Despite the heavens opening today the rain stopped as the Queen and Prince Philip arrived in Greenwich for a day of nautical inspired celebrations.

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The pair listened to the premiere of a specially composed piece of music Diamond Greenwich which celebrates the Queen’s Jubilee and the creation of the Royal borough of Greenwich.

Children holding umbrellas listened to the choir of children from ten schools and the Trinity Laban Symphony Orchestra perform the piece composed by Greenwich resident Errollyn Warren.

The orchestra had just one week to rehearse and violinist Medina Mekhtieva from Victoria said: “it was nerve racking to play for the Queen and Prince Philip but it was enjoyable. Even in the cold it was a great experience.

Watched by invited guests including Stephen Lawrence’s mother Doreen who has been granted freedom of the borough Prince Philip too was given this special honour in recognition of the links he has with the Cutty Sark and Royal Naval College.

Sailors had climbed the rigging of the Cutty Sark despite the heavy rain for a special welcome to the royal couple.

“He was very concerned that people were up there in quite difficult conditions,” said Richard Doughty, director of the Cutty Sark Trust who showed the couple around the decks of the newly restored ship.

It has taken six years, with an interruption after a fire in 2007, to complete the £50 million restoration project.

Mr Doughty said: “The Queen was very animated and asked a lot of questions. She was intrigued to see the difference between the original material and the new steel work that we put in.”

The ship was originally built as a cargo ship in 1869 and carried tea.

Mr Doughty added: “The thing that seemed to amuse the Queen was the fact that the ship carried enough tea in a single journey to make more than 200 million cups of tea.”

The Queen and Prince Philip took time to look at a plaque on the floor marking the role of merchant sailors.

He said: “Prince Philip reminded me of that and he was pleased the plaque was in its proper place as that was one of the reasons the Cutty Sark came to us here in Greenwich in the 1950s.”

Christopher Nash, a partner at Grimshaw Architects was introduced to the Queen as the man who came up with the idea of raising the ship 11 feet in the air (3.3 m) revealing the hull and allowing visitors to walk underneath the ship.

The Highgate resident said: “We are delighted that we have come to this point in the work and it’s been a great honour to work on this project.”

Sir Nicholas Grimshaw added: “The fact that the Queen was coming gives people a target , which is incredibly valuable.”

The Queen reopened the ship, which she first opened to the public in 1957 and the royal couple were given a send off of three cheers.

The Queen and Prince Philip also visited the National Maritime Museum which celebrates its 75th birthday this year.

Queen Elizabeth opened the Royal River exhibition which celebrates the river’s role in royal pageantry and was shown round by guest curator David Starkey.

*See this week’s Bexley Times for more pictures and royal wellwishers from Bexley

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  • I went to see the Cutty Sark on Friday, as I've long been a fond enthusiast and have visited many times over my 42 years. I was sad to see how much of the deck had disappeared, and although the renovations are beautifully crafted, felt the magic of the old clipper had gone. Whitewashed hull and what looked like Lino flooring gave a bland impression, and the enclosed nature of the exhibit has removed any sense of the ship being surrounded by water. The figurehead display was fantastic however, and the staff were keen . Overall, it's better than nothing, but I think the temptation to turn the ship into just another tourist attraction has removed the historical authenticity that made it so fascinating in the first place.

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    Anne Hempstead

    Sunday, April 29, 2012

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