Duchess of Cambridge makes final solo visit before baby

The moment the duchess broke a champagne bottle against the Royal Princess ship

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The Duchess of Cambridge has officially named a new cruise ship on her last solo public engagement before she is due to give birth in July.

She attended a ceremony in Southampton to bless the 3,600 passenger liner.

The duchess, who is eight months pregnant, is expected to attend one more event before her baby is born.

Observers said she looked relaxed and happy as - in keeping with tradition - she smashed a bottle of champagne worth £1,250, against the ship's hull.

Officially naming the 1,000ft Royal Princess cruise ship, she told onlookers: "May God bless her and all who sail in her", before smashing the 15 litre bottle, known as a Nebuchadnezzar.

At the scene

It was more "grey British summer" than "Caribbean cruise" weather for the Duchess's last solo engagement before the birth of her baby.

Although she was dressed in a warm animal-print coat, Kate's pregnancy was obvious as she made her way - in high heels - onto the podium to smash a giant bottle of champagne and launch the Royal Princess cruise-liner.

Although the Duchess is expected to appear at Trooping the Colour in London this weekend, the visit to Southampton will be the last official function she carries out alone before she begins her own voyage into motherhood.

She looked relaxed, calm and happy.

Her "maternity leave" begins this weekend.

Among the crowd were spectators from East Anglia's Children's Hospice, where the duchess is patron, Skill Force, which has Prince William as its figurehead, and Prince Harry's charity Well Child.

Music came from singer Natasha Bedingfield, the Band of her Majesty's Royal Marines Portsmouth and the Pipers of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

They lined the duchess's route to her seat after playing Pomp and Circumstance, sea shanties and a march called HMS Queen Elizabeth.

It is traditional for members of the Royal Family and other noteworthy women to name Princess Cruises' ships.

Vessels in the past have been named by Lady Thatcher, Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren.

The duchess will now become the ship's "godmother" - a symbolic position in line with the company's tradition.

Lord Sterling, the former P&O chairman, said he had been present when Princess Diana named her first cruise ship, also the Royal Princess, in 1984.

BBC correspondent Jon Kay said she was looking "relaxed, calm and happy" as she took to the stage in blustery conditions.

Duchess of Cambridge meeting the ship's crew The duchess took a brief tour of the cruise liner

Italian firm Fincantieri built the ship for Princess Cruises, which is part of Miami-based Carnival Corporation - the biggest cruise company in the world.

The Royal Princess, which is set to depart Southampton for Barcelona on Sunday, will go on Mediterranean cruises this summer followed by eastern Caribbean cruises beginning in the autumn.

President and chief executive of Princess Cruises Alan Buckelew said the duchess was "admired around the world".

"We can think of no more fitting godmother for our magnificent new ship."

The Right Reverend Tim Dakin, Bishop of Winchester, read a prayer before the duchess blessed the ship.

Her final engagement before she is expected to break from official duties to give birth will be at Saturday's Trooping the Colour ceremony.

Meanwhile Prince Philip will miss the ceremony as he remains in hospital for an eighth day at the private London Clinic after having exploratory abdominal surgery.

His son Prince Andrew visited him on Thursday for about half an hour, leaving without saying anything.

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