These photos are of an occasional table from Queen Mary‘s Long Gallery. It is 1 of only 2 known in existence. Press photos taken in 1936 of the liner’s opulent interiors clearly show 2 in a pre-maiden voyage snapshot but as far as anyone knows, there were only the 2. In addition to the stamp or branding evident on most furniture, this one also has a plastic nametag which indicated the room the piece was intended. With a ship so large, the designers devised this system so that every stick of furniture found its home. The design is called art-deco but is truly an exclusive design for Queen Mary alone. Indeed, all of the First Class furnishings could be called “one-offs”, a British term for one of a kind which was used extensively to describe the liner herself. There has never been another like her. While most liners of previous years like Titanic, Olympic, Mauretania, and Lusitania all had similar interiors reminiscent of eras like Victorian and Edwardian, the Queen was not severe and heavy but rather elegant and restrained. Over 200 different woods were used on her interior walls and furniture prompting her to be called “The Ship of Beautiful Woods”. This made her much more attractive to male passengers who had previously been relegated to the fussy, feminine decorations of previous liners. As a matter of fact, many prominent male passengers stated that she was their favorite liner, men like Alfred Hitchcock (who used footage of one of her arrivals in New York in “Dial ‘M’ for Murder”), Bob Hope, the Duke of Windsor, David Niven, Cary Grant, Clark Gable, etc.
Tag Archives: Cunard White Star
In 1930, the Cunard Line laid the keel of a ship then known as #534. Cunard officials had planned on naming her Victoria since the -ia suffix was used on their liners (Mauretania, Lusitania, Aquitania, etc.) while the White Star Line used an -ic suffix on their liners (Olympic, Titanic, Majestic, etc.). In 1931, however, Cunard shut down building of their superliner due to the Depression. Over 80% complete, the hull rusted on the stocks until 1934 when the British Parliament agreed to a government loan to complete the giant with the stipulation that the rival lines merge and become Cunard White Star. The president of Cunard had a golf date with King George and requested permission to “name the ship after England’s greatest queen”. Without batting an eye, the King replied, “My wife would be delighted!” So, #534 was launched in September and christened Queen Mary by her majesty. In this way, the suffixes for each line’s ships would be eliminated. From the time Queen Mary made her maiden voyage in 1936 until her retirement in 1967, she flew a double house flag on her aft mast. In the attached photos, one can see the flags whipping high above the deck. I own the last house flags she waved and have them displayed on my living room ceiling. They are too large to mount on the wall as they are over 6 feet tall and 9 feet wide. Because of the Titanic disaster, Cunard White Star Line dissolved the corporation by liquidating White Star’s assets and became simply Cunard. The White Star Line became a memory, synonymous with the legendary disaster that befell its greatest ship.
Prior to the 1950s when significant advances in air travel were made from technology gained during World War II, ocean liners were the only way to “cross the pond”. When members of the Royal Family traveled, they of course chose British-built ships and Queen Mary was invariably their favorite. The Queen Mother (Queen Elizabeth II’s mother) was not shy in stating that Queen Mary was her favorite and, likewise, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor (the former King Edward who gave up the throne for “the woman I love” Wallis Simpson) held the same sentiment as well as governmental royalty such as Sir Winston Churchill who crossed aboard her exclusively in both times of war and peace. While Cunard White Star advertised Queen Mary‘s younger running mate Queen Elizabeth as the line’s flagship, passengers both royal and common flocked to Queen Mary. She simply had (and still has) an intangible essence of a living thing or soul. Alfred Hitchcock, Elizabeth Taylor, the Kennedys, and other elite passengers made her their liner of choice. But being a British liner, the officers and crew took great delight in treating the Royal Family to perks not offered to commoners, regardless of their rank and circumstance in politics, entertainment, or wealth. Above is a photo of a life preserver displayed only when members of the Royal Family boarded. There are 3 known in existence and I have 1. The other photo is a cup, saucer, and cake plate decorated in gold used exclusively by the Royal Family. While other passengers took their afternoon tea and crumpets in the famous Foley pattern reserved for First Class, the Royals were served in these ornate pieces. I am fortunate to possess a set as not many sets were made owing to the relatively small numbers of royalty making them rare collectibles indeed.