Elaine Page – ‘The First Lady of British Musical Theatre’ – is set to preside over the naming ceremony for a new cruise ship in the beautiful harbour of Valletta, Malta later today.
Her part in today’s naming ceremony is due to the fact that Elaine is ‘Godmother’ of the new Seabourn Ovation, “the world's finest ultra-luxury cruise line”.
So what is the role of a ship’s godmother, exactly?
For as long as ships have been built there have been blessings and ceremonial launchings prior to their maiden voyages. Dating back thousands of years, ancient Babylonians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans would all participate in various ceremonies, calling on their gods to protect seamen and blessing ships with water, wine and even sacrificial blood.
But as time went on the custom has been refined and revamped, andthese days the tradition is for influential women to be named as sponsors and protectors and – in the case of big cruise ships – godmothers.
They are the stars of modern-day naming ceremonies, and as well as christening a vessel are believed to bring good luck to the ship, her crew and all who sail on her.
Some of the most famous godmothers over the years include Audrey Hepburn, Julie Andrews, Margaret Thatcher, Diana Ross, Mariah Carey, Dame Helen Mirren and Sophia Loren, who is godmother to an extraordinary eight ships.
Royal godmothers include Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge (who blessed Princess Cruises’ Royal Princess in June 2013) and Princess Diana, who named an earlier Royal Princess in 1985 (it has since been renamed).
The most famous godmother of all is the Queen, who christened Queen Elizabeth 2 (a.k.a the QE2) in 1967, Cunard’s Queen Mary 2 in 2004 and Queen Elizabeth in 2010, and P&O Cruises’ Britannia in 2015.
But our favourite godmother moment has to be the time in 2002 when Dame Judi Dench was christening Carnival Cruise Lines’ Carnival Legend. It famously took her three attempts to smash a bottle of Champagne against the ship – and when it finally smashed she got totally soaked!
So, of course, there was only one way the headlines could refer to the beloved actress after this: “Dame Judi Drench”!