THE Duke of Edinburgh will cement his long- standing connection with Southampton-based shipping line Cunard when he visits the company’s flagship, Queen Mary 2, in the port on Friday.

Prince Philip will tour the liner and meet crew members before attending a champagne reception and a gala lunch on board the ship in the city’s Eastern Docks.

The occasion, which will celebrate the tenth anniversary of QM2 becoming Cunard’s flagship in May 2004, will be the first time the Duke of Edinburgh has been back on board the ship since he accompanied the Queen when she officially named the vessel in the docks a decade ago.

The royal visit reaffirms Cunard’s long-standing and unique association with Buckingham Palace and members of the Royal family.

Cunard’s historian Michael Gallagher said: “No other company in the industry, or even in shipping, can talk about as many royal visits, with the first to Cunard dating back to July 1913.

“When Her Majesty The Queen named Queen Elizabeth in October 2010 in Southampton, Cunard was able to claim, much to her obvious delight, that no one else in the audience had an association longer with Cunard than the Queen, for she had been present at the launch of the original Queen Elizabeth 78 years earlier in 1938.”

On Friday, Cunard will be able to say the same about the Duke of Edinburgh, whose first Cunard association dates back to October 30, 1947, when, as Prince Philip, he accompanied the then Princess Elizabeth to the launch of the former liner Caronia.

It was their last public engagement together before their marriage.

He also had a long association with Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth 2 having toured the uncompleted ship before accompanying the Queen to the launch in 1967.

In May 1969 the Royal couple visited Southampton to tour QE2 before her maiden voyage.

In July 1990, the Duke accompanied the Queen as they reviewed ships of the Cunard fleet from the Royal Yacht Britannia at Spithead as part of the company’s 150th anniversary before the couple boarded QE2 for lunch as the liner returned to Southampton.

That was repeated in 1994 when the Duke accompanied the Queen as she reviewed QE2 from the Royal Yacht Britannia in the Solent as part of the 50th Anniversary of D-Day, and nine years ago when the royal couple reviewed QE2 from Britannia as part of the Trafalgar 200 Commemorations in the Solent.

November 11, 2008, was a date filled with memories and nostalgia for the Duke of Edinburgh when he came to Southampton to say farewell to QE2 on the day the liner departed her home port for the last time.

This Friday’s royal occasion will be completed by a spectacular firework display at 10pm over Southampton Water as QM2, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth depart from the port.