Traditionally the use of royal barges was of high importance in southeast Asian monarchies such as Siam, Burma, Brunei, Riau and Cambodia.
The Royal Barge Procession is a ceremony of both religious and royal significance which has been taking place for nearly 700 years. Some of the royal barges are kept at the National Museum of Royal Barges.
The Thames was a regular thoroughfare for the Sovereign until the middle of the 19th century, on state occasions or between the Royal Palaces of Windsor, Westminster, Hampton Court, Greenwich and the Tower of London.
There is currently no State Barge, but the Royal Nore, owned and maintained by the Port of London Authority, is used whenever a member of the Royal Family travels on the river Thames for an official engagement.
When The Queen is on board the Royal Standard and Regalia are displayed. The Queen is always accompanied by her Bargemaster, along with eight Royal Watermen in full ceremonial dress standing on the fore deck.
A new royal barge named Gloriana was built in 2011–2012 to mark the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, the first such craft to be built for 100 years. Gloriana is a rowing barge, powered by 18 oarsmen; it took a leading position in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on 3 June 2012 and carried ten flags, among them those representing the four home nations: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as the flag of the City of London and the flag of Cornwall.
MV Spirit of Chartwell
During the celebrations on 3 June 2012, the Queen travelled aboard the MV Spirit of Chartwell, which acted as royal barge for the occasion. A special warrant was issued by the Secretary of State for Defence to permit the MV Spirit of Chartwell to wear the White Ensign whilst serving as the royal barge on 3 June 2012. When the Queen was on board, it also flew the Royal Standard of the United Kingdom from the bow.
- The Royal Household. "The Queen's Watermen". Retrieved 2/6/2011.
- Woods' Silver Fleet. "The Royal Nore". Retrieved 2/6/2011.
- Daily Mail (25 April 2012). "Queen names Gloriana". London. Retrieved 2012-04-28.
- Bartram, A Visual Guide... p.5.
- Paul Harrison (11 December 2011). "Royal Barge 'Jewel' For The Queen's Jubilee". Sky News. Retrieved 9 April 2012.
- Bartram, A Visual Guide... p.16.
- Bartram, Graham (2012). "A Visual Guide to the Flags used in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant". The Flag Institute. Retrieved 7 June 2012.