Today, Kate Middleton made what's believed to be her last official solo appearance before the birth of her child. Parting the crowds in a festive Dalmatian print coat dress, the Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Southampton, England to christen Princess Cruises’ latest ocean liner, the Royal Princess.The event has been billed, according to the Associated Press, as her last official appearance before she embarks on maternity leave, though the Palace has not officially provided a confirmation.
The ceremony, broadcast live at 6:15 a.m, EST, included performances by the Royal Marines Band, the pipers of the Irish Guard, pop singerNatasha Bedingfield, and West End star Kerry Ellis, and is available to watch on demand on the Princess Cruise website, Princess.com.
The event was a celebration of the ship, but also very much a celebration of Middleton and her iconic position in both the U.K. and the world. By accepting the honor of naming the ship, Middleton also accepted the role and title of its “godmother.” Other iconic women who’ve filled this role for vessels have included Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Loren, and of course, Princess Diana.
“Naming ceremonies date back thousands of years,” Princess Cruise CEO Alan Buckelew said during his opening remarks before a crowd of thousands, all of whom were waiting for a glimpse of the duchess. “The ritual marks the birth of the vessel and a blessing for the safety of the ship, its crew, and the passengers. A godmother is the figurative patron of the ship for its entire life, symbolizing the spirit of the vessel.” Middleton, Buckelew explained, “is an inspiring ambassador for Britain admired for her style, grace, and compassion for others.”
Upon introduction, Middleton stepped onstage and was greeted by the Captain Tony Draper. “I name this ship the Royal Princess,” said Middleton. “May God bless her and all who sail in her.” These were the same words Princess Diana spoke in 1984, during the naming ceremony for the original Royal Princess.
According to nautical tradition, a bottle of champagne is then broken across the hull of the ship. The bottle of Moet chosen for Thursday's ceremony clocked in at a staggering 85 pounds and contained nearly 15 liters. Luckily, the eight-months-pregnant duchess didn’t have to do the heavy lifting. The bottle was attached to a ribbon Middleton cut after her blessing. Upon release, the bottle swung and smashed successfully against the ship—a seafaring ritual intended to give the ship good luck on future voyages.
Meanwhile, Middleton, whose rumored due date is a exactly a month away, continued her own tradition of impeccable department-store style. Her black-and-white Dalmatian print Hobbs of London coat dress is listed as available for purchase for $264 (169 euros) at U.K. store John Lewis. And she topped off her look with a black fascinator, a signature of her style since before her pregnancy.