LONDON — What do you get for a monarch who has almost everything? Not, apparently, a new yacht, at least not one paid for with taxpayer funds.
That was the message Monday as a brief boomlet of support for the idea of providing Queen Elizabeth II with a new royal yacht to mark her Diamond Jubilee was quickly deflated by Prime Minister David Cameron.
It is estimated that a new yacht would cost at least 60 million pounds ($92 million).
Cameron's spokesman Steve Field said it would not be appropriate for public funds to be spent on a new yacht during times of economic hardship. But he said the government would be supportive of private efforts to provide a new ship for the queen.
He acknowledged that ministers have been approached over plans to raise donations for a privately funded vessel and that the government "would react favorably" to a firm plan.
"There are a number of proposals out there for a privately financed yacht," Field said.
Cameron has been contacted over the proposals and Britain's government could potentially play a role in facilitating the construction of a new royal flagship – even though no taxpayer money would be used.
"I don't think anyone is suggesting public money should be used for this," Field told reporters Monday. "There is a difficult economic situation, there are scarce public resources, therefore we don't think it would be an appropriate use of public money."
The idea of a new royal yacht was proposed by Education Secretary Michael Gove, who suggested in a leaked letter that the queen should receive a replacement for the Royal Yacht Britannia, which was decommissioned in 1997 after 44 years as a floating royal residence known to have been cherished by the queen.
He said the jubilee offers a "tremendous opportunity to recognize in a very fitting way the queen's highly significant contribution to the life of the nation and the Commonwealth."
Royal watchers who have followed the queen's long career remember that one of the very few times she has shown emotion in public was when she shed a tear at the decommissioning of the Britannia, which is now berthed in Edinburgh as a tourist display.
The ship sprang a leak earlier in January, requiring repair work.
It is not clear if the queen even wants a new yacht. She is in her mid-80s and her husband, Prince Philip, is 90 and was recently found to have heart disease.
Buckingham Palace officials said they would not be commenting on the matter.