Following in the footsteps of Queen Elizabeth II and her late mother-in-law Princess Diana, the Duchess Kate traveled to Southampton, England, on Thursday to name Princess Cruises' latest ship, the Royal Princess. The pregnant 31-year-old royal dressed her baby bump in a $265 Dalmatian print coat by Hobbs and wore a black fascinator for the occasion. Looking radiant as ever, the Duchess of Cambridge walked the blue carpet as the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion Irish Guards gave her a musical salute.
The event marked Duchess Kate's final solo engagement before her maternity leave begins; she is due to give birth on July 11, sources reveal in the June 24 issue of Us Weekly.
Upon her arrival, the Duchess shook hands with officials and representatives from the cruise line. After a performance from "Pocketful of Sunshine" singer Natasha Bedingfield, the duchess met two young children. Middleton invited the Rowbotham family, from Milton near Cambridge, to join her for the celebrations; they received care and support from EACH, one of the many charities she supports.
Alie Rowbotham attended the naming ceremony along with her husband, Mick, and their children Izzie, 15, and Charlie, 8. Her son George was diagnosed with a brain tumor in July 2003; she spoke to reporters about the organization and the duchess' involvement before Thursday's ceremony. "Izzie and Charlie will be giving the scissors to HRH the Duchess of Cambridge to cut the ribbon," she said. "We're all very excited about meeting the Duchess of Cambridge and very proud and honored to be representing EACH. We're very passionate about the work EACH does with children and their families, having experienced the difference that it makes firsthand."
She added, "The hospice really is a place for living with so much to offer. George especially loved the sessions in the swimming pool and sensory room. It was a place where he could live, rather than being ill all the time. He had lost his sparkle when he was in hospital, but at the hospice he shone again and those memories we will remember forever."
The duchess later walked to a podium where she smashed a bottle of Moet & Chandon champagne against the hull of the Royal Princess. She then looked on as the Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion Irish Guards staged a colorful parade to round off the christening ceremony. Afterwards, the duchess took a tour of the boat.
The vast cruise ship features a games room, a casino, a spa, a 28-foot glass-bottomed viewing gallery, 10 restaurants and 1,780 luxury staterooms. Despite the ship's regal name, the vessel was not named after Middleton. Instead, the name was taken from the original Royal Princess ship which launched in 1984 and is no longer in service; Prince William's late mother christened that liner.
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