Kate Middleton Christens Royal Princess Ship, Starts Rumored Maternity Leave

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On Thursday, Kate Middleton made an official solo appearance in Southampton, England to christen Princess Cruises’ latest latest ocean liner, the Royal Princess for which she was named godmother. 

The event, rumored to be her last before she embarks on maternity leave, was more than just a royal ribbon cutting. The ceremony, broadcast live at 6:15 a.m, EST, included performances by the Royal Marines Band, the pipers of the Irish Guard, pop singer Natasha Bedingfield, and West End star Kerry Ellis 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 UK 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 Princess Cruise vessels have included Audrey Hepburn, Sophia Lauren, Audrey Hepburn, 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 Royal 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.” Kate Middleton, Buckelew explained, “is an inspiring ambassador for Britain admired for her style, grace, and compassion for others.”

Upon introduction, Kate Middleton stepped onstage and was greeted by the Royal Princess 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. According  to a story published Thursday in the Daily Mail, the bottle of Moet chosen for the ceremony clocked in at a staggering 85 pounds and contained nearly 15 litres.  Luckily, the eight month pregnant Duchess didn’t have to do the heavy lifting. The bottle was attached to a ribbon Kate cut after her blessing. Upon release, the bottle swung and smashed successfully against the ship—a seafaring superstition that the ship will have good luck on future voyages.

Meanwhile, Middleton continued her own tradition of impeccable department-store style, wearing a black-and-white leopard print Hobbs of London jacket, which is still listed as available for purchase at UK store John Lewis.

During the ceremony, #RoyalPrincess was a top trend on Twitter, leading many in the Twitterverse to wonder if they’d missed a major news alert. “Saw the Royal Princess trend and thought the gender of the Duchess child was revealed,” tweeted That Dude Kyam. “Just got excited that the royal baby had been born because of the #RoyalPrincess hashtag … nope, BOAT,” tweeted Amyyy_93.

And after a ceremony surrounded by tradition and superstition, we can’t help but wonder if it might be a sign that we’ll be seeing more #RoyalPrincess hashtags in a month …

photo by: Samir Hussein/Getty Images
Kate Middleton attends the Princess cruise ship naming ceremony on June 13, 2013 in Southampton, England.
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Getty Images | Photo By Samir Hussein / Getty Images
Thu, Jun 13, 2013 12:00 PM EDT