THEY arrived from all corners of the world, gathering together in the port of Southampton to celebrate a major birthday.

Cunard's fleet of three "Queens" are in the city to mark the 175th anniversary of the shipping line and to thank the city of Southampton and its people for its support and continued welcome over the decades.

Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth, and Queen Victoria arrived in the early hours of morning to berth alongside the city' historic waterfront before they set sail in convoy at about 4.30pm down Southampton Water and then out in the Solent.

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The three vessels, with QM2 leading the other two ships, will be a dramatic sight as they salute the city Cunard has called "home" for many years.

Cunard is hoping its fleet of ships will be followed out to sea by a flotilla of small craft, yachts and pleasure cruisers as QM2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria sail past Marchwood, Hythe, Weston Shore, Netley, Fawley and Calshot.

But before the spectacle on the water begins, a gala reception and lunch will be held on Cunard's flagship, QM2 attended by civic representatives of the city, well known television personalities, together with members of Southampton based shipping industry and port community.

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Picture by Andrew Sassoli-Walker

It was back in 1840 that Cunard's founder, Samuel Cunard won the government contract to carry mail across the Atlantic from the UK to North America so beginning one of the most famous shipping lines in history.

  • THEY may have been gathered to celebrate the three Queens - but thoughts were also with a new princess as celebrations to mark the 175th birthday of Cunard got underway today.

Southampton based Cunard ships and crew sent “many congratulations” to Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge on the arrival of their baby girl.

Company chairman David Dingle speaking on board Queen Mary 2 sent the good wishes as he welcomed hundreds of specially invited guests to a gala lunch.

Mr Dingle, pictured below, recalled that Cunard's connection with Southampton went back many decades.

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“A service to Canada was established here in 1911 and after the First World War Cunard found it politic to operate its express liner service from Southampton and in 1919 an office was established in the port.”

Soon Cuinard's “big three”, Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengaria, were running from Southampton to New York via Cherbourg, France.

Also on board, a painting was presented to the city of Southampton by artist Robert Lloyd of the three ships in port together back in 2012 to mark the Queen's diamond jubilee, pictured below.

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However Mr Lloyd could not be present for the ceremony after a car crash while travelling to Southampton today.

The Daily Echo understands he was not badly injured.