In a royal ceremony with as much pomp, pageantry, and nostalgia to satisfy the most avid Anglophile, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II gave Cunard Line’s new Queen Elizabeth her name and bestowed her blessing upon the liner. The christening began yesterday with performances by the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and Chorus and the Massed Bands of the Coldstream Guards, Scots Guards, and Fanfare Trumpeters of the Irish Guards.
As invited guests took their seats, Her Majesty toured Queen Elizabeth, and guests in the grandstand on the pier were treated to a stroll about the ship along with Her Majesty via live video feed as she stopped on the bridge to chat with the officers and surprised the assembled group pierside by blowing the ship’s whistle. Interspersed with the live feed were videos of the young Queen Elizabeth II doing the same things aboard the world’s most famous ocean liner, Queen Elizabeth 2.
When The Queen arrived in the open air amphitheater via her royal Bentley to take her place in the royal box, the festivities began with the singing of Great Britain’s national anthem. After an introduction by Peter Shanks, CEO and Managing Director of Cunard Line, Her Majesty rose to perform the christening, “I name this ship Queen Elizabeth. May God bless her and all who sail in her.” With that, she pushed a button that sent a jeroboam of Cunard Graves, Baron Phillipe de Rothschild, 2009 smashing against the hull, the ship’s whistle sounded once again, and streamers filled the air. Captain Wells led guests in three cheers for Her Majesty before the royal car whisked her away.
On a personal note, this was certainly one of the most memorable events I’ve had the honor of attending. The moment that really took my breath away during the ceremony was the appearance of bagpipers in Queen Elizabeth’s open forward hatch. As they played Amazing Grace, Lesley Garrett, Britain’s most popular soprano sang the haunting melody. I know I wasn’t the only one in the audience who got misty-eyed
To give you some idea of how important the launch of the new Cunarder was here in Great Britain, tour operators offered a close up look at Queen Elizabeth from the water as she awaited her naming (pictured here). The spectators waved and toasted the latest entry into the roll call of famous liners. As Queen Elizabeth leaves this afternoon on her maiden voyage, Southampton’s harbor banks will no doubt once again be lined with locals to see her off and wish her fair winds and calm seas.