'We love the royals and we love cruising,' says Lynda Kirby
Dubai's royal revellers mark the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on board QE2
A Royal Wedding with the Queen is one thing. A royal wedding on the QE2? It could only be in Dubai.
The former luxury liner, now moored permanently in Port Rashid as a floating hotel and tourist attraction, was the perfect venue to watch the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle - or at least a live stream from Windsor on Sky television.
About 100 members of the city’s Anglophone community gathered to watch at the ship’s Golden Lion bar, its wooden panelled interior sensitively shielded for both Ramadan and republicans by heavy red velvet curtains.
Among those attending was Lynda Kirby, wearing a blue feathered hat adorned with an ostrich plume.
“It’s 1920’s” she explained. “I sell vintage clothing.” Her outfit include elbow length white gloves “They’re 1950s”, and a floor length dress of French lace.
Royal wedding: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle tie the knot
For decoration there were around a dozen brooches, including an original from the QE2 in her cruising days.
Mrs Kirby and her husband Martin have lived in Dubai for 17 years and were also celebrating their 24th wedding anniversary.
“We love the royals and we love cruising,” she said. “I’d love to have tea with the Queen but this is the next best thing.”
To make the occasion complete, the Golden Lion was decorated with cutouts of London buses and beefeater guards, more properly known as Yeomen of the Guard, while each table was decorated with a centrepiece of plastic Union Jack flags.
Chefs on the QE2 had laboured to produce a feast of traditional British dishes that included mushy peas*, chicken tenders, Scotch eggs and onion bajis. At the centrepiece was a classic cheese and pineapple hedgehog**.
For Lesley Jones it was all eerily familiar. She had served on the ship as a purser when it was the Far East in 1989.
“The moment I walked in, it was exactly as I remembered it,” she said.
In Windsor it was a balmy Spring morning. In Dubai, thanks to the QE2’s vigorous new air conditioning, those in less formal clothing were able to call for fake fur throws to wrap around themselves as protection against hypothermia.
As the guests arrived in Windsor, attention on the QE2 turned from sausage rolls and miniature pots of jelly and custard to the high point of any royal wedding: the hats.
There was applause for Amal Clooney’s large yellow saucer, a cheer for the Duchess of Cornwall’s floral arrangement, and an even larger one for arrival the footballer David Beckham and his wife Victoria 'Posh Spice' who had chosen sober black number. A chorus of "ahhs" greeting the bride's mother, Doria Ragland.
It was the first glimpse of the bride, though, and the arrival of the Queen, that produced a roar of approval that set the old lady rocking (the ship, obviously).
By the time Harry and Meghan were exchanging vows, the plastic flags were beginning to wave. The sermon by the US Bishop Michael Curry was another highlight, even if there were some reservations expressed vocally at its length on one table. (“Stop, please stop now”, said one).
Everyone cries at a wedding, and this was no exception. An entire table of young women wept in unison, as the couple were finally pronounced man and wife by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.
They recovered to join the rest of the gathering in a rousing chorus of God Save the Queen, the UK national anthem. By then there was not a dry eye, nor a glass, in the house.
*Mushy peas are a popular dish in the north of England, made of dried peas which are boiled for several hours and then mashed
**All the rage in 1970’s Britain, chunks of cheddar cheese and pineapple are alternately threaded on toothpicks and embedded in a half pineapple to vaguely resemble a hedgehog