Witnessing a Royal Inaugural

| Friday, 26 Apr. 2013

Editor Paul Motter is on site in Southampton for the "Naming" of Royal Princess


A pleased Kate just smashed the champagne bottle on the ship's hull

I am a very fortunate person, having been invited to witness the inauguration ceremony for the brand new, most impressive cruise ship ever built by Princess Cruise line. The ship is the brand new "Royal Princess," actually the third ship to bear this name. The first version of this ship was presented in 1984 and the Godmother of that ship was none other than Lady Diana, the mother of Duke William, the husband of Kate Middleton, who presided over this ceremony today.


Kate sits patiently waiting for her moment

I have been to other ship inaugurals involving the British Royal Family, including Camilla and even Queen Elizabeth herself. But this one was especially nice for its relative calm and civility. There was far less pomp and a far more convivial feeling of purpose among everyone in attendance.


The actual inaugural video

See all of my Inaugural pictures.

Kate, somewhere around eight months pregnant with the couple's first child, was poised and radiant. Never did she appear to be frail or helpless. She arrived by car, from which she emerged on her own, and walked steadily in high heels with no help to the podium where she sat next to Princess president Alan Buckalew. To be honest, she is showing but not nearly as much as some women will show when eight months pregnant. She carries it well.

The ceremony began with the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Portsmouth. The marching band featured a baton wielding conductor who led the 40-piece ensemble on a tight course in front of the stage involving some very tight u-turns.


The Magnum of champagne poised to christen the ship

Some very unusual music followed; featuring an instrument called an "earth harp" made with very long steel cables stretched for several yards from the stage to the top of the viewing platform. Each cable resonated at a different frequency, from low bass notes to high and singing drones. This instrument required two women to play it, each one massaging just one cable at a time to evoke a four-note madrigal- style song.

Soon they were joined by a bassist, drums and guitar, and two different popular British singers who each sang one song for the occasion. First was Natasha Bedingfield, followed by Kerry Ellis. The final act was the benediction from a local priest, after which the captain of the ship approached Ms. Middleton and asked her somewhat comically, "will you now do me the honor of naming my ship?"

See all of my Inaugural pictures.

Kate smiled sweetly, rose and stepped forward to accept a special pair of scissors from a young lady who had been sitting quietly but nervously for almost half an hour right next to me in the audience. I could why she was so nervous, the special pair of scissors tied to a small pillow which sat in her lap. At the time when she was directed to approach the stage and present the scissors to Kate we all watched Kate chat with her for quite a long time, about 30 seconds, off mike so we could not hear it. It was the only unscripted part of the entire ceremony, so I later asked the young lady what she had asked, and she told me that Kate first asked how she happened to be there (which I did not find out) and then she chatted about the weather.

Kate then carefully ascended five steps to a platform where there was a ribbon holding a rope tied to the railing, which held the traditional bottle of champagne suspended over the bow of the ship.

At that point there were no special pronouncements made, Kate executed her role with precision and purpose. She said the traditional ship's naming blessing, "I name this ship Royal Princess, and may God bless her and all who sail upon her." At that point she cut the ribbon, which seemed to take a few uncomfortable moments (was it too thick?) but that soon snapped and the bottle of champagne went crashing into the hull. It smashed perfectly, loud and shattering.

At that point confetti canons shot off thousands of pieces of cut colored paper which rained down over the entire assemblage from the royals to the audience in attendance. The ship blew its special ship's horns, which I write in the plural because the ship has eight different horns which together play the opening refrain to the theme form the television show "The Love Boat." (Love, exiting and new, come aboard, we're expecting you.).


The Young lady holding the scissors

What it means to have Kate as the Godmother of this ship

Catherine Middleton, also known as "Kate," is the recently wed and now very pregnant wife of William, the Duke of Cambridge, son of Prince Charles and the late Lady Diana. "Kate," as she is affectionately known, just performed the role of Godmother for the brand new cruise ship, Royal Princess, in Southampton, England today, June 13, 2013.

All ships have a Godmother who officially "names" the ship, preceded with a blessing that usually goes like this: "I name this ship [Royal Princess], may God bless her and all of those who sail upon her." The Godmother then cuts the ribbon that lets loose the suspended bottle of champagne that is meant to drop and (hopefully) break against the bow of the ship.

It is considered good luck when the bottle breaks and bad luck when it does not, but today when Kate took the ceremonial scissors and cut the ribbon holding the suspended magnum of champagne it swung swiftly and smashed brilliantly against the hull of brand new Royal Princess.

See all of my Inaugural pictures.

There is an historic circle of tradition to this event. Kate is married to William, the son of Charles the Prince of Wales and his first wife, the now sadly deceased Diana. It also happens that Lady Diana also served as the godmother for a previous Princess ship which was also officially named "Royal Princess" in 1984.

I asked some of the Princess team what it meant to them to have these glorious ladies of the most recognized royal family in the world christening their ships. Jan Swartz, executive vice president-sales and marketing for Princess said, "Lady Catherine is one of the most beautiful, busiest and most popular women in the world today, so the fact that she agreed to be our ship's Godmother, especially when she so close to a very important delivery of her own, makes us feel incredibly proud and honored. Plus, the fact that she is married to William, an heir to the throne, and the son of Lady Diana who was also a Princess Godmother, brings this occasion full circle for us. We feel it shows the true esteem of the British people for the Royal Family and the traditions of ocean liners and passenger ships."

Alan Buckalew, the president of Princess said, "To have Kate naming our ship is the perfect ending to the three years of effort we put into building our best ship yet. It's the highest honor; the Royal Family is very sensitive about affiliating their name, and Kate is certainly one of the most admired women in the world."

Paul Ludlow, Princess Cruises UK director said, "The privilege of having Catherine as our ship's Godmother is especially meaningful to our crewmembers and officers, many of whom are British subjects."

It is, however, ironic this most esteemed event could happen while the cruise industry is suffering its worst reputation in public perception ever. Carnival Cruise Line has been hit especially hard the last six months, but in fact Carnival is the biggest cruise fleet in the world, which made it powerful enough to create the parent company which today owns Princess Cruise Line, Cunard Line and many more highly regarded cruise brands.

See all of my Inaugural pictures.

Kate is also following in the footsteps of Margaret Thatcher, who "named" another Princess ship, the Regal Princess, in 1991. The new Regal Princess, sister ship to the brand new Royal Princess named today, will appear in just about one year, although there is not yet any indication of who the godmother will be.

Other royals who have also named ships in the recent past include Queen Elizabeth who "named" her namesake vessel, the Cunard Queen Elizabeth, in 2007 and the Queen Mary 2 in 2004. Lady Camilla, the Duchess of York and the current wife of Princes Charles, named the Cunard Queen Victoria in 2008.

Without Carnival, and the many historic British cruise and ocean liner companies that preceded it, these events never would have happened.

Side note: You can see all of the previous Princess godmothers, including Audrey Hepburn, Olivia De Havilland, Martha Stewart, and more here:

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