Queen Victoria or Queen Mary


May 1, 2010
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First of all, I am new to this so I hope that I am doing this right......Has anybody heard the story of the naming of the Queen Mary? I vaguely remember reading or hearing somewhere that when she was still hull no.534, some bigwig at Cunard was discussing the subject with King George and simply said something to the effect of: "would you mind us naming our new ship after Britain's greatest Queen" on which he replied: "Why you may certainly name your ship in honour of my wife". The bigwig at Cunard had to concede, as he was actually referring Queen Victoria.

Does anyone know more about this, or is this just another legend? I live in San Diego CA, USA, and have just recently been to the Queen Mary, and no one I talked to there could remember anything about it>
 

Dave Gittins

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Steven, it's a good story, but it isn't true. The name was probably given to mark the combination of the Cunard line with White Star. It ended the tradition of giving Cunard ships names ending in "ia" and White Star ships being given names ending in "ic".

You'll have to take my word for it, but I think somebody on the forum has documentation.

While I'm at it, welcome to our merry band!
 

Bob Godfrey

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Also, the naming of ships after monarchs was at that time a privilege traditionally reserved for the Royal Navy and its greatest battleships. Likewise, the Queen Elizabeth was named after the wife of the ruling monarch King George VI, not Good Queen Bess. Even the Queen Elizabeth 2 was named as a reference to the original liner, not to the reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II.
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Dave Gittins

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I seem to recall that Cunard had to persuade the owner of an existing Queen Mary to change the name of his little ship so the liner could be registered. Anybody know this tale?

Another tale is that the battleship Queen Elizabeth once met the liner Queen Elizabeth at sea. Some wag smartly signalled, "Snap!"
 

Bob Godfrey

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That's right, Dave. The original Queen Mary was a little Clyde steamer, which obligingly changed its name to Queen Mary II. When the big 'un was finally de-registered and consigned to Long Beach the little 'un reclaimed its former name, and I believe it's still using it to this day. It was moored on the Thames embankment in London till recently - possibly is still there.
 

Adam Eickholt

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Hi Steven, and welcome to the forum!

The story is indeed true and has been attested to by noted maritime historians like Frank O. Braynard. Just pick up a copy of "Floating Palaces" on VHS and you can hear Braynard tell the story himself.

Also, David Ellery, in his book RMS Queen Mary: The World's Favourite Liner relates:

But, in truth, Cunard planned to call their new superliner 'Victoria' and politics didn't play a part in the last-minute switch to the name Mary.

Sir Ashley Sparks, then Chairman of the Cunard Line in America was part of a small delegation that called on King George V to ask his permission to name No. 534 after Queen Victoria. Sir Ashley's daughter recalled: "My father opened the conversation with His Majesty by saying something to the effect that Cunard wished to name its new liner 'after England's greatest queen.' Queen Mary, who was with her husband on this occasion, smiled and said, I would be delighted'." And so one of the greatest names in maritime history came about purely by chance.

I should note, however, that the Braynard version has King George responding "My wife would be delighted" instead of Queen Mary herself saying "I would be delighted."

I hope that helps some!

Adam
 

Bob Godfrey

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I suggest caution here. Frank Braynard first published this story back in 1947, after hearing it informally from a Cunard executive. But, as Frank himself later related, few other maritime historians were prepared to accept it as fact and he was often accused of giving undue prominence to an anecdote unsupported by direct evidence. Much later, Sparks' daughter remarked that it was a favourite story about her father, but did she ever state directly that she heard it from him? Maybe Frank's version of events had come back full circle.

We can at least be reasonably sure that there was never any intention to name the liner Queen Victoria, as Cunard must have been aware of the existence of a battleship of that name. Just Victoria was a possible choice, but without the royal title why would they feel any need to seek the approval of royalty? Ironically, the lady at the centre of this debate was actually christened Victoria (though known to her immediate family and friends as 'May'). On the accession of George V to the throne, his wife became Queen Mary (using her second name) in deference to the wishes of her illustrious forebear that history would remember only one Queen Victoria.
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Adam Eickholt

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Hello Bob, I don't believe there was ever a battleship named Queen Victoria in the Royal Navy. Perhaps, you were thinking of HMS Queen Elizabeth? Also, the fact that the battleship Queen Elizabeth and Cunard's Queen Elizabeth both coexisted at the same time proves that there was no problem with the same royal name being shared by commercial and naval vessels.

There was an earlier pre-dreadnought battleship named simply Victoria, though, that sank in a collision in 1893. It's wreck was recently discovered in the unusual position of standing perpendicular to the seafloor. However, having a lost battleship that had previously used the name Victoria wouldn't seem to present a bar to its use on a liner. Especially, when you consider that a battlecruiser by the name of Queen Mary was sunk at Jutland with a huge loss of life.

Adam
 

Bob Godfrey

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Hallo, Adam. Queen Victoria was the first of a whole class of battleships, I believe. The QV herself was completed during the First World War and served right through to beyond the end of the Second. But I take your point about the Queen Elizabeth, which certainly does establish that there was no barrier to using the same name in both services. No excuse for my getting that wrong since Dave had already mentioned the two QEs meeting at sea!

As to the Queen Mary debate, I'm still on the fence and I can't see a proven case either way, but I'd like to believe that Frank got it right, as it's a great story - but perhaps too good to be true. Where's Jim Kalafus? Can you shed any light, Jim?
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Dec 2, 2000
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A complete listing of all British Dreadnaught and super dreadnaught type battleships can be found at http://www.hazegray.org/navhist/battleships/rn_dr.htm

No mention of an HMS Queen Victoria here, although there was a battlecruiser named Queen Mary. Unfortunately, she suffered the same defect of inadaquate armour that all battlecruisers did and she was sunk at the Battle of Jutland due to a main battary magazine explosion.
 

Dave Gittins

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Google and ye shall be tricked!

I'd throw myself into the nearest billabong, but it's bone dry here.

I'm still sure that somebody has the facts on the original topic. Maybe it was John Maxstone-Graham.

Exit, wiping egg from face!
 

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