11 DECEMBER 2007

In a signal honour usually reserved for the Queen, the Duchess of Cornwall presided over the unveiling of shipping giant Cunard's newest ₤300-million liner Queen Victoria on Monday.

Elegant in a pale blue coat dress and striking hat Camilla was all smiles as she arrived at the Southampton docks, clearly mindful of having been tasked with a very special role.

Watched by her husband Charles and a 2000-strong VIP audience, the royal went on push to a button sending a bottle of Veuve Clicquot against the flank of the spectacular 16-deck cruiser.

Even the failure of the bottle of bubbly to smash couldn't take the shine off the occasion. As the Prince of Wales led the clapping his wife's smile didn't falter, and moments later another bottle was successfully broken over the side.

After a ceremony featuring fireworks and a performance by opera sensation Katherine Jenkins the royal couple went on board to inspect the luxury facilities, which include an 830-seat theatre, the vessel's own Golden Lion pub and a spa.

Photo: ©
Prince Charles' wife was invited to do the honours before Queen Victoria's maiden voyage, becoming the first non-monarch to perform such a role Photo: © PA
Photo: ©
When the royal couple went on board to try out their sea legs Camilla got to sound the horn Photo: © PA