Meeting Queen Elizabeth.
In September 1938, a 12-year-old Princess Elizabeth attended the first of what would be many events with Cunard.
How many times have we witnessed that heart-stopping moment when a new ship is launched? Normally baptized with champagne, their names proudly painted on their newly created bows, these giants of the ocean slide into the water and into history. And in the case of the Cunard Queens those naming ceremonies have so often involved members of the Royal Family, most notably our recently departed and much-loved monarch, Queen Elizabeth II.
She was just 12 when she accompanied her grandparents King George V and Queen Mary to the launching of the first Queen Elizabeth in 1938. This turned out to be the first of an Elizabethan hat trick for our Queen: she was to go on to launch the iconic QE2 in September 1967 and in 2010 did the same for the current Queen Elizabeth. In 2004 she named the great fleet flag ship ‘Queen Mary 2’, the famed transatlantic liner which bears her grandmother’s name.
That she enjoyed life at sea is beyond doubt: newsreels of her journey to South Africa in early 1947 show the then Princess Elizabeth having a great time enjoying deck games as so many guests continue to do today. And that trip marked her 21st birthday, an occasion when she broadcast to the world that her intention on that day was to devote her whole life, however long or short it might be, to our service. She kept that vow to the letter, travelling millions of miles on land and sea in her role as our Head of State. Who will forget the visible tears that fell down her face as she watched the decommissioning of her beloved Royal Yacht Britannia in 1997, ending the long tradition of such yachts that dated from King Charles II in the 1600s. What memories she must have had of happy times on board that floating home from home, of times spent with her husband Prince Philip who had served with distinction in the Royal Navy.
When her great-great grandmother Queen Victoria died in 1901, someone remarked that it was like witnessing a magnificent ship slowly sink and finally disappear from sight. HM Queen Elizabeth may have disappeared from our view, but she is surely moored forever in the harbour of our hearts.
Monarch, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she was a Queen for all seasons, for all times good and bad, and a focus for the nation that grieves her loss. Happy and glorious, she did indeed reign long and well, echoing the words of the National Anthem which was truly her signature tune during her record-breaking Platinum reign.
The world salutes a great Queen, and Cunard is proud that her name is emblazoned on one of their Queens, a fitting memorial to a life given unstintingly to duty till the very end.