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Why do we smash champagne bottles against new ships?

Launching a ship has always been accompanied by some form of sacrificial ceremony...

Lady Hall launches the British India Company passenger liner SS Uganda in Clydeside docks with the traditional bottle of champagne, 1952. The first time champagne was used to launch a ship was when Queen Victoria launched HMS Royal Arthur in 1891. (Photo by George Douglas/Getty Images)
Published: November 23, 2016 at 12:02 pm
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The Babylonians are said to have slaughtered an ox whenever they launched a ship while the Vikings killed a slave.


In 15th-century England it was customary for a representative of the king to drink a goblet of wine, sprinkle some on the deck of a new ship and then throw the goblet overboard. But by the 18th century so many ships were being launched that all this goblet throwing was proving rather expensive - bottles of wine were used instead.

The first time champagne was used instead of ordinary wine was when Queen Victoria launched HMS Royal Arthur in 1891. Champagne isn’t exclusively used though. Cunard ships are launched using white wine, the Queen used a bottle of whisky when she launched HMS Queen Elizabeth, and submarines are traditionally launched with a humble bottle of home brew beer.


This article was taken from BBC History Revealed magazine


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