There was only ever going to be one VVVIP top of the list to name Cunard Line’s latest liner.
With a name like Queen Elizabeth, then anyone less than Her Majesty herself would have looked rather odd.
Even an A-list Hollywood actress wouldn’t really have been appropriate for such an occasion – and, anyway, Helen Mirren (who played the Queen in the film of the same name) has already been godmother to P&O Cruises’ Ventura.
It therefore came as little surprise that the Monarch agreed to attend Southampton to name the new £350 million-plus ship – the third to carry the name Queen Elizabeth – in Southampton in little over a month’s time.
Just how has Cunard been able to pull off such a coup? I suppose it helps that Her Majesty is a keen cruiser. Her Scottish Highlands holiday on a boutique Hebridean vessel earlier this summer was not her first taste of the high seas, as she has sailed in similar style before.
In fact, the royal family has a long history of involvement with some of the cruise industry’s most iconic ships going back almost 80 years.
And the Queen has witnessed the introduction of the two previous ships which carried the name Queen Elizabeth.
Queen Mary, wife of King George V, launched the vessel Queen Mary in 1934 – and in so doing became the first British Monarch ever to launch a merchant ship.
Her Majesty was present at the age of 12 at the launch of the first Queen Elizabeth in September 1938 when she accompanied the late Queen Mother – as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth – to Clydebank in Scotland for the launch.
As Princess Elizabeth, the Queen launched Cunard’s Caronia in 1947 and Princess Margaret launched Carinthia in 1955.
The Queen memorably launched Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1967 – an event I remember watching in black and white television at my primary school. It was deemed such a historic event, that the school let us off lessons to enable the whole school to gather round to witness the famous Champagne bottle smashing.
I recall thinking how amazingly huge the ship was but never thought that one day the opportunity to set sail on such a vessel would become a mainstream holiday choice.
Coming more up to date, Her Majesty also named Cunard’s flagship Queen Mary 2 in 2004.
The Duchess of Cornwall, accompanied by the Prince of Wales, named Queen Elizabeth’s sister ship Queen Victoria in Southampton in December 2007.
Pomp and ceremony
I expect much stiff upper lip tradition at the naming ceremony in Southampton on October 11.
For anyone who has experienced the last night of the Proms, then you have some kind of idea of the experience of attending a royal ship launch.
Union Jacks will be waved, the National Anthem played and, hopefully, the Champagne bottle will smash to ensure good luck to the ship and all who sails on her.
The naming will be a milestone in British maritime history and is sure to attract worldwide interest – not bad for a line with just three ships.
Sadly, I don’t have any medals to shine in preparation for the big day, but I will do my best to uphold protocol while mingling with the great and the good on the day.
I’m the last person likely meet the Queen but if I did I’d love to ask her about her experiences at sea and what she most likes about cruising. I reckon it would be a fascinating conversation and I’d have the opportunity to recommend she get her aides to book with Virgin Holidays Cruises.
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