Thursday, January 26, 2006

a ship worthy of the name "Queen Mary"

Have you been following the current South American voyage of the world’s largest, most luxurious, and grandest ship, the Queen Mary 2 (QM2)? Well, I have, and the latest is that more than 200 passengers out of a total of 2500 on board have initiated a mass lawsuit.

(Cunard's The Queen Mary 2)

This is because apparently the ship is two days behind schedule, and missed two of its ports-of-call after damaging one of its four propellers, and it is alleged that captain and crew didn’t tell the passengers about the change in the itinerary.

So, when the ship docks tomorrow at Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, many passengers are threatening to stage a mutiny. Yep, they’re going to stay in their cabins and will not go out.

There are two opinions about this. One loyal passenger says:

“I am currently on board the Liner Queen Mary 2. I think it is about time someone commended Commodore Warwick, his Officers and Crew for a superb job. This is also difficult for them. I have seen many negative reports in the media and feel it is all very biased. I have been reading these stories with interest as I am in the middle of the 'action' so to speak. Am I the only one to notice that most of the stories seem to come from the same person? This is the same person that is trying to persuade passengers to stage a 'sit-in'.”

However, one person with family on board is sympathetic to the mutiny:

“My parents and Uncle and Aunty are all at sea on this most expensive ferry ride from hell. I have heard from them on a daily basis since this fateful journey began and I can tell you they are extremely disappointed and dissatisfied with their horrendous holiday and above all the compensation they have been offered. They have been attending the meetings on board and yes I totally agree, they should with the rest of the passengers stage a mutiny when they arrive at Rio on Friday.”

Oh my. Cunard has offered a 50% discount off the cost of the cruise, but this hasn’t placated some of the passengers. [Update: Cunard has announced at 22:12 GMT today that it will give a full refund to its passengers.]

What a tragic thing to have happened to this majestic, royal ship. What would the person for whom the ship is named, Queen Mary (1867-1953), the consort of Britain’s King George V, say?

There is a story that Cunard originally thought of naming the QM1--which is now retired in Long Beach, California, serving as a hotel---after Queen Victoria. So Cunard approached King George to ask for his permission that the ship be named after “England’s greatest queen.” And George replied, “Oh my wife will be delighted.”

So Cunard got stuck with the name. But in light of the sterling and majestic countenance and demeanor of Queen Mary the person, Cunard had nothing to be ashamed of.

Here was indeed a queen known for her keen sense of duty, her patriotism, and her unflinching faith in the institution of the British monarchy. It can be said that she put her duty to the Crown ahead of her family life. But, she’s a queen, and queens do what they have to do.

She was known for her wide knowledge of antiques and has catalogued many of the antique furniture in the royal houses of Britain.

She was also well-versed in the dynastic intermarriages in all of the royal houses of Europe: she knew which royal cousin is married to that German princess whose brother, a king, is married to a distant aunt whose nephew is the grandson of this or that emperor.

Many suspect that the present British queen, Elizabeth, inherited this capacity to comprehend intricate pedigrees from her grandmother Mary; but whereas Mary did this for Europe’s royal families, Elizabeth seems to do this only for horses.

Anyway, look at some of the pictures of Queen Mary, and you will recognize that she was indeed the “antithesis of fashion,” as Vogue once called her. She looked every inch a queen, and in many of her photographs she was literally “bedecked with her jewels” to use a phrase from the prophet Isaiah (Is. 61:10).

(Queen Mary "bedecked with her jewels")

("At your right hand,
the queen stands in gold of Ophir,"
Ps. 45:10)

Many people have admired her carriage. In spite of the many jewels around her bodice, she bore them as if they were merely light sequins.

She also did a lot for Britain's war effort during the two world wars. For instance, she collected unused metal objects to contribute to Britain's munitions factories. During one of her drives she spotted what looked like an unused plow. And in her enthusiasm she took it, which left the owner--the farmer--running after Her Majesty's daimler to retrieve it.

And she almost dragged the gramophone of her unfortunate son, the epileptic Prince John, to add to the war effort. She had to be disssuaded from taking it by his sitter, Lala Bill.

All this notwithstanding, Mary's kindness, good knowledge of history, compassion, and devotion to her duty and her country are well-known.

If you would like to know more about the woman who was arguably Britain's most intelligent queen consort, the definitive biography about Queen Mary is the official one written by James Pope-Hennessy. It is a massive book.

In it you will not find intimate details of Mary’s relationship with her husband, with her children, or her inordinate fondness for other people’s antiques. Those are the stuff of tabloid newpapers and contemporary scandalous biographies.

(Queen Mary with some of her children:
Prince Henry to her left, Princess Mary,
and Prince Albert, the future
King George VI)

Instead, in Pope-Hennessy’s book you will find lovely descriptions of her homes and of her world, the Victorian and Edwardian eras, periods in time which seem like long ago and nearly vanished.

In Pope-Hennessy's book, you will find a dignified treatment of a great lady who stood for duty and service, qualities which may be presently stranded in Cunard's QM2, but which the oceanliner will do well to remember and to keep.

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