The Duchess of Cambridge arrived in Southampton this morning as she took part in her final solo engagement before she takes maternity leave.
The mum-to-be arrived to a rapturous applause from the waiting crowd, who had waited in the blustery conditions hoping for a glimpse of the Duchess.
Kate, was taking part in the launch of the new stunning cruise ship ‘Royal Princess’ and was following in the footsteps of The Queen and Diana, Princess of Wales by becoming ‘Godmother’ to the ship.
The Duchess, who is to take maternity leave from this weekend, arrived looking confident and elegant wearing a £169 monochrome leopard print coat from one of her high street favourites Hobbs. Kate was spotted in a similar dress to the one worn today back in 2008.
Kate, who is eight-months pregnant appeared happy to be attending as she stepped out her chauffeur-driven car in Southampton, after making the journey from the capital by helicopter.
As the crowds cheered the expectant royal, Kate was given a musical welcome by the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth and The Pipe Band of 1st Battalion.
Quickly taking to her seat, the beautiful royal was given a performance by pop sensation Natasha Bedingfield. Joining the royal was celebrities Sir Bruce Forsyth, Des O’Connor and Liz McClaron who all watched from the audience.
As the Duchess became Royal Princess’ Godmother, she followed a long royal tradition of regal ladies who have launched cruises onto the sea. Kate follows on from The Queen and Diana, Princess of Wales who have both named ships by the Princess Cruises’, the company who have made the spectacular 3,600 passenger Royal Princess.
The late Princess of Wales named the original Royal Princess in 1984.
After watching the performance by Natasha Bedingfield, the mum-to-be was passed a pair of scissors by two children, Isobel Rowbotham, 14 and her eight-year-old brother Charles. The two were chosen after they lost their brother due to a brain tumour as a toddler. The young child had been staying at East Anglia Children’s Hospice, of which The Duchess of Cambridge is patron off and representatives of the organisation were present at today’s naming ceremony.
Kate quickly took on her role to name the vessel, making her way up on to a raised platform, the Duchess made a short speech announcing “I christen this ship Royal Princess. May God bless her and all those who sail in her” which was met by applause from the crowd.
The Duchess, who gently held her bump throughout the ceremony, then cut the blue ribbon which released a bottle of the Moet and Chandon champagne which was smashed against the ship’s hull as part of the name ceremony tradition. Kate appeared happy and smiled as the smashing was met by music and confetti.
After the naming ceremony, Prince William’s wife was given a tour of the Royal Princess by Captain Tony Draper, where she admitted she had never been on a cruise before.
The Duchess also told Doug Morrison, Port Director of Southampton she had previously visited Southampton.
“She said she’s been to Southampton a few times but this was her first time on a cruise ship,” Doug revealed.
“She was delightful. She has this wonderful ability to make people relax,” he added.
Thursday’s visit to Southampton marks Kate’s final solo engagement. The Duchess will join the Royal Family on Saturday for the annual Trooping the Colour, however after this it is expected the mum-to-be will begin maternity leave ahead of her mid-July birth.
Kate’s final solo engagement was a special one for the royal, as it echos her very first engagement she undertook with husband Prince William.
Just two months before their wedding at Westminster Abbey, the couple took part in a RNLI Lifeboat naming ceremony in Treaddur Bay, near William’s Anglesey base.
Since then, the Duchess has undertaken royal duties around the world visiting Canada, Los Angelas, Denmark and South-East Asia.
After giving birth, Kate is expected to take a considerable amount of time off as she settles into motherhood, although it is expected in 2014, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will take on a overseas tour, with reports suggesting they will take the royal baby with them.
The ship, from the Princess Cruises fleet, is over 1000ft long and can carry 3600 guests. It has its own spa, casino, a glass bottomed viewing walkway, a shopping atrium, an art gallery and 10 restaurants – a luxurious liner to say the least.
The CEO of Princess Cruises, Alan Buckelew said of the Duchess ‘She is admired around the world for her style, her grace and her compassion for others’.
The ship will leave port on Friday for a 2 night voyage of preview, then leave for its maiden voyage on Sunday, where it will be based in the Mediterranean Sea during the summer. For the winter, Royal Princess will be stationed in the Caribbean.