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Learning About Royalty on Cunard’s Queens

May 14, 2009

We Are Cunard

Posted in: Updates

While I am at home in Wiltshire on leave you may be asking yourself, what can he write about? Well, worry not; I have lots to tell you about with help from my colleagues on board Queen Mary 2 and Queen Victoria as well as interviews and Guest Blogs. Talking of which; as most of you will know Cunard has always had royal connections, with all of our Queens being named by royalty. In talking to our guests, it seems to be a topic of conversation that continues to fascinate. With the Cunard Insights lecture programme we have a great variety of speakers, and it’s always great to welcome those who can give our guests more in depth knowledge of royal matters. A few weeks ago we were delighted to have Christopher Wilson on board Queen Victoria, and he kindly offered to write a guest Blog. Firstly though, here’s “This week in Cunard’s History” for the week of the 15th to the 21st May:

May 15 2006

Cunard announces Queen Victoria’s maiden World Cruise

May 18 1972

Royal Marine Special Boat Squadron, bomb disposal team, parachute to QE2 mid Atlantic following a bomb scare which proved later to be a hoax

May 19 2006

Queen Victoria Keel Laying Ceremony takes place in Italy

May 21 1983

QE2 makes her maiden call to Genoa, Italy

I have worked with Christopher a number of times and his knowledge is amazing, you really feel like you are that much closer to the Royals. For those of you who don’t know him, Christopher Wilson is a well-known face on UK and US television as a commentator on the lives of the British royal family. Now a best-selling biographer, he was formerly a columnist on The Times, Daily Telegraph, and Daily Mail newspapers in London.For some years he authored the world-famous William Hickey column on the Daily Express. He has written books on Princess Diana, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and Sarah Duchess of York. He is also co-producer of an upcoming TV documentary on Prince William’s long-time girlfriend Kate Middleton, and is currently working on a biography of Prince George, Duke of Kent (1902-42).

While he was on board Queen Victoria recently, he gave four lectures discussing matters including The Duchess of Cornwall, The secret love affair of the Duchess of Windsor which started on a Cunard liner half-a-century ago, the life and amorous times of Georgy, Duke of Kent, uncle of the present Queen and someone who looks to be destined to be the future wife of Prince William; Kate Middleton. His lectures were of course very popular as guests enjoyed gaining a greater insight in to the lives of the British Royal Family. So here he is with this week’s special guest Blog.

Guest Blog – Royal Author – Christopher Wilson

In all my years of chronicling the fortunes of the Royal Family, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Queen looking so radiant, so happy, as the day last year she came to lunch aboard QE2.

Like the finest vintages Her Majesty improves with age, and these days there seems to be altogether a new spring in her step.Certainly that day, at a farewell lunch to the Cunard ship which had borne her name around the world for the best part of her reign, she was on top form as she chatted with the then captain Ian McNaught, Cunard’s lively president Carol Marlow, and many long-serving members of the crew. It was a special day for Cunard but, I could quite easily see, an extra-special day for the Queen.

There’s a special affinity between our royals and Cunard line, so much so that another ship will bear Elizabeth’s royal name before too long – something no other shipping line can claim.And so it seems natural that when it comes to fuelling the deliciously diverse lecture programme on their ships, Cunard like to have a liberal dollop of royal speakers.

I’m lucky to be one of them. Perhaps my books on Duchess Camilla, on Diana and Charles, on the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, on Fergie and others might qualify me to stand on that stage and offer up titbits, opinion, rumour and (occasionally) hard fact – but there’s no way of knowing how it’s going to go down with the audience.

Because, as I discovered fifteen years ago when I gave my first talks aboard QE2, you can never tell who’s going to be sitting there in front of you. As I finished my first talk – it was about the Queen and her many Prime Ministers – I suddenly recognised in the front row a high-up official from Downing Street during the 1970s. A man who knew far more than I ever could just how things went between the sovereign and her premiers Wilson, Callaghan, and Thatcher.

Mercifully, I got the thumbs-up from this mandarin, and in a way it gave me the confidence to face future Cunard audiences – on QE2, on Caronia, on Queen Mary 2 and on Queen Victoria. Always well-informed, always ready with searching questions, but above all always ready to listen, it really is a great pleasure to share what I know with such discerning ears.

And of course, you all know a great deal more than I do.There was one gentleman who came up at a book-signing session and told me his father had been the Duke of Windsor’s attorney in New York.Nice chap, I asked?”Never paid his bills,” was the growled response.

Yes, many of you have intimate knowledge of Britain’s first family, both past and present, and often you’re generous enough to share it with me – indeed, that’s how a biographer goes about his trade, keeping his ears open and hoping that people will be kind enough to impart what they know.

In America the social glue which holds people, high and low, together is that all-important discussion about the ball-game. In Britain – after the weather! – the one topic we all have an opinion on is our royals. They’re somehow a weather-vane on what’s happening across the rest of the country – but because they have personalities, human characteristics both elevated and humdrum, they invite our close scrutiny.

In my time I’ve been a columnist on various national newspapers writing about politics, the environment, and the arts.But nothing draws opinions out of people more dramatically than a discussion on royalty – and once I discovered that, and wrote my first royal book, there seemed to be no turning back.

Currently I’m engaged on a biography of the Queen’s uncle, Prince George Duke of Kent (1902-42).It’s an uphill struggle because most of those who knew him are dead, and those that survive tend to be rather circumspect about his harum-scarum life.So next time you see me in the Chart Room with a half-finished drink and a furrowed brow, please come over and tell me something I don’t know.It’ll make my day!

You can learn more about Christopher Wilson’s work at www.christopherwilson.info

Thanks very much Christopher for a great Blog and we look forward to seeing you again soon. Next week I have a long awaited interview with Captain Ian McNaught which I know many of you are looking forward to. Also I know many of you are waiting for more news on Queen Elizabeth and her progress in the ship yard. Well there’s not too much to tell you on that at the moment but I hope to get some pictures to you within the next few weeks of the early stages of her construction, and of course if there is any news about her progress I’ll let you know straight away. In the meantime please keep those comments and questions coming in. Cheers Alastair


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