Suffolk/UK: Duchess launches new liner - as event raises thousands for EACH
- Credit: PA
The Duchess of Cambridge carried out her last solo engagement today before her baby is born - launching a new liner.
Kate, who is around eight months pregnant, looked relaxed as she stepped from her chauffeur-driven vehicle to the quayside in Southampton. She is due to give birth by mid-July and made the journey from London by helicopter for the naming ceremony of Princess Cruises’ 3,600-passenger vessel Royal Princess.
A musical extravaganza was staged ahead of the christening of the new vessel by the Duchess and blue carpet, not the customary red, was laid out for her arrival.
On Wednesday evening, staff and representatives from EACH, which has a hospice in Ipswich, were joined on the vessel by more than 100 of the charity’s supporters from across Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire, all helping to raise more than £50,000 in donations.
She took her place on a stage in blustery conditions that threatened rain and seated opposite in a large grandstand were guests associated with charities that have the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge or Prince Harry as their patrons.
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Spectators were from East Anglia’s Children’s Hospice, Kate’s charity, SkillForce which has William as its figurehead, and Harry’s organisation WellChild.
Kate, who wore a black and white print Hobbs coat, is the new liner’s godmother, a symbolic position similar to a patron or sponsor that dates back to the mid-19th century when leading women were selected for the honour.
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Princess Cruises has a history of illustrious godmothers for past ships including Diana, Princess of Wales, who named the first Princess Royal in 1984, actress Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and Baroness Thatcher.
The Band of her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth accompanied by the Pipers of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards gave the start of the ceremonies a military flavour.
They lined Kate’s route to her seat after playing rousing tunes such as Pomp And Circumstance, sea shanties and a march called HMS Queen Elizabeth.
The musical celebrations also featured pop singer Natasha Bedingfield, who sang her hit Unwritten.
The performer, who wore a figure-hugging fluorescent green skirt and multi-coloured top, sang in the shadow of the huge liner.
The Royal Princess embarks on its maiden cruise to the Mediterranean on Sunday and will sail those waters throughout the summer until it begins a series of eastern Caribbean cruises in the autumn.
Features of the new ship include a top deck, glass-bottomed walkway extending 28ft (8.5m) beyond the edge of the ship, the largest pastry shop at sea and balconies on all outside staterooms.
The vessel is 141,000 tons, has 19 decks and can carry passengers at a speed of 22 knots.
Spectators were treated to a performance by Suffolk singer Kerry Ellis, a well-known face on the stages of London’s West End, who was backed by the Mass Ensemble.
The musicians are known for their unusual instruments and dynamic performances and one band member played the earth harp - a three-necked guitar, dubbed the world’s largest stringed instrument.
A large noise from inside the hull of the ship caused the Duchess and guests to look over, but it did not stop the performance.
Alan Buckelew, president and chief executive officer of Princess Cruises, gave a speech praising the Duchess for taking part in the naming ceremony.
He said: “This is, indeed, a very proud day for all of us at Princess Cruises, because it marks the culmination of several years of designing, building and delivering this spectacular ship.”