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Karen's posy for the Queen

Floral design for Britannia cruise ship

No doubt you saw it in the news: last week Her Majesty the Queen launched Britain’s largest cruise ship, Britannia. And I was the event florist for the glittering ceremony. Find out what happened, below – and why I was thrilled to hear the Queen was dressed in peach…

Britannia naming Karen Woolven stage flowers
Surrounded by my red, white and blue floral arrangements, the royal party watches the band play on. Photo: P&O Cruises.

When and where

On Tuesday 10 March 2015 Her Majesty The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, named P&O Cruises’ new £473 million ship, Britannia, at Ocean Terminal, Southampton.

My job

The four main tasks I had were to:

  • Decorate the huge Ocean Terminal, the first space that all the guests and VIPs saw when they arrived.
  • Decorate the stage Her Majesty the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh sat on during the naming ceremony (and from where the Queen smashed a bottle of champagne against the hull).
  • Create two Union Jack flags made of roses and thistles.
  • Design a posy for Her Majesty the Queen.

The flowers

The main flowers for my floral design scheme were roses, hydrangea and delphinium. And the colour scheme? Red, white and blue of course! They brought out the giant union flag on Britannia’s bow.

Britannia launch Queen Karen Woolven florist
The Queen smashes a bottle of champagne against Britannia’s bow. Photo: P&O Cruises.

The lead up

Like any event this size, it took months of planning, designing and meetings to make sure everything would work. There are massive logistics around ordering, buying and getting the flowers delivered to the right place, as I used around 3,000 stems throughout the terminal and the naming stage.

Karen Woolven florist Union Jack flags Britannia launch Queen
I’m very proud of the Union Jack flags we created from roses and thistles.

There’s also manpower to think about, and working out how many extra staff I’d need (and on which days).

The Queen’s posy

One of the special parts of the job was being asked to create a posy for the Queen to carry. But with no information on the colour she’d be wearing, it was all down to guesswork.

The launch was on a beautiful spring day, and working on the assumption she’d be dressed in a pale colour, I created a beautiful posy of peach avalanche roses, pearl avalanche roses, pale peach ranunculus, white freesia and white anemones.

As soon as I saw the Queen arrive wearing peach, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. My flowers matched her outfit perfectly.

Queen posy Britannia Karen Woolven
My posy is presented to HM the Queen. Photo: P&O Cruises.

The challenges

Another huge challenge was keeping the flowers in the terminal alive. They were in situ for 10 days, and needed to look great each and every day – even after the launch – until Britannia set off on her maiden voyage to Gibraltar on Saturday.

It was hard work keeping them fresh and vibrant, and having the air conditioning and heating both on at the same time in the space made it even trickier.

To combat this, we kept checking, spraying and changing each section’s water. This process took five hours every time. Although I sprayed them all before I went to bed every evening, I couldn’t help but worry they’d have to go through the night before they got any more water.

Britannia launch Karen Woolven florist Lesley Bellew
A tweet from cruise journalist Lesley Bellew who visited Britannia.

My highlights

I’d worked on the flowers for other cruise ship ceremonies, including the inauguration of The Royal Princess which HRH The Duchess of Cambridge attended, but the sight of a brand new ship coming into dock never gets any less thrilling.

Designing the Queen’s own posy has to be another highlight. I love the photo of one of Britannia’s third officers, Elizabeth Anne Phillips, presenting the flowers. Who knows? Her Majesty may well be thinking: ‘What a clever florist, guessing I’d be dressed in peach!’

Floral design help

Working on launch ceremonies for huge cruise ships like Britannia is fun (if not exhausting!), but of course I’m also available for smaller events. Give me a call on 01322 558016 or email for a chat.


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