A gathering of Cunard Queens is always a huge draw to spectators. Whether it’s the ships’ association with royalty, or the romantic heritage of the line, or the simple fact that Cunard’s ships are so famous, there’s always a party when the sisters get together.
In New York last year, spectators braved freezing January conditions to watch a procession of three Cunarders heading out of Manhattan to a 21-gun firework salute, as the Empire State Building was turned ‘Cunard’ red in honour of the occasion. Weeks later, when Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary 2 arrived in Sydney together, hundreds of small boats turned out to escort them into Sydney Harbour.
June 5, when all three gather in their home port of Southampton, will be not only the first time the three current Queens have assembled in Europe, but it’s the culmination of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebratory weekend, which, as we all know, means four days of street parties up and down the country, a spectacular pageant of boats on the Thames and an extra bank holiday. Cunard reckons that its Southampton party on the Tuesday will be the biggest single celebration outside London over the weekend.
What makes the combination of the royal festivities and the three Cunarders extra-special is the long-standing association between the two ‘families’; the Queen named Queen Mary 2 and Queen Elizabeth (and before either of those, the QE2 in 1967; she also attended the naming by her mother of the original Queen Elizabeth in 1938). The Duchess of Cornwall named Queen Victoria. Although Cunard is now American-owned and its vessels no longer flagged in Britain, as far as we’re concerned, its ships remain, like the monarch herself, a national treasure.
And for good measure, another national icon, the Red Arrows aerial display team, will be thrown into the mix, a squadron of seven aircraft performing dazzling stunts over Southampton for the first time. The day will end with a massive fireworks display, after which the vessels will file down the Solent in formation. A big deal? You bet it will be.
By Sue Bryant
Follow our coverage of the event over the next few days, from where to watch the fireworks to what the other lines are doing to mark the Jubilee.
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