No. 534 took nearly three and a half years to build, not just because when her keel was laid she was going to be the biggest and fastest ship in the world, but it was the middle of the depression, and Cunard ran out of money, causing work to stop. Cunard approached the government for financial help, which was eventually given as it would alleviate unemployment and poverty on Clydeside, provided that Cunard merged with White Star and reduced the total number of elderly expensive to run liners competing for the greatly reduced Transatlantic trade.
The shipping line and the builders took some trouble to keep the name secret, until Her Majesty pronounced “May God Bless…” Speculation had been rife for months as to what the name would be. Cunard, for nearly 100 years had favoured names ending in “ia” but had found themselves a little stuck in 1920, in selecting a name for the former German liner “Imperator”, ceded to the company as reparation for the torpedoed “Lusitania”. The Great War was too recent for the reuse of any Cunard war casualty names, and many older traditional names dropped by Cunard had been taken up by other vessels. In the event, having run out of provinces of the Roman Empire, they settled on an obscure mediaeval English Queen – “Berengaria”. In the “trade” and in the press “Britannia” was a hot favourite, for the new liner, overlooking the fact that there already was a vessel carrying that name – a Royal Yacht used for sailing at the Cowes Regatta.
According to the story, The Cunard White Star board, their mind having turned in the direction of “Queens”, settled on “Queen Victoria” and the Chairman, Sir Percy Bates, was deputed to approach Buckingham Palace for permission, and to sound out the possibilities of a “Royal” launch. As it happened, Bates was at a function a few days later, when he was introduced to The King, who politely enquired as to the progress of No. 534. Seeking to strike while the iron was hot the Chairman revealed that it was hoped to launch in late summer, or early autumn next. The conversation seems to have gone something like this.
Sir Percy: “Your Majesty, my board was wondering if perhaps you and Her Majesty, would confer upon us the great honour of performing the naming and launching ceremony?”
The King: “With great pleasure. What name have you chosen?”
Sir Percy: “Well, for maximum publicity, we wish to keep it a secret until the actual moment of launching, but I have been asked to seek Your Majesty’s approval to name the ship after England’s greatest and best loved Queen”.
The King: “How kind! How kind! My wife will be absolutely delighted!
Sir Percy: “Err… Err… Yes, of course, Your Majesty”.
That is why we have had to wait until the 21st century for a Cunarder named “Queen Victoria”.
This is a superb production, with wonderful art works, scanned to a high resolution to produce excellent quality prints at the original size. Put the download onto a memory stick, take it to your local print shop and ask for a print out of the folding plate required on A2 size paper.
PREVIEW BELOW – MAY TAKE A WHILE TO LOAD.