Why isn't Cunard's current Queen Elizabeth called QE3?
The answer to this question is somewhat complicated and involves digging into Cunard history.
The original Queen Elizabeth, which entered service in 1940, was named after Queen Elizabeth, the wife of King George VI and mother of the current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. (The late Queen Mother).
In the late 1960s, Cunard decided to build a ship that would be successor to both the original Queen Mary and the original Queen Elizabeth. The plan called for the new ship to take on the name of the original Queen Elizabeth. Cunard's traditional practice was for ships that took on the name of earlier ships to be called by the earlier ship's name without any indication in the name that the ship was the second ship to bear that name. For example, the second Mauretania was simply called Mauretania rather than Mauretania 2. Therefore, the new ship was to be called “Queen Elizabeth.”
Her majesty Queen Elizabeth II agreed to launch the new ship. This followed tradition as her grandmother Queen Mary and her mother Queen Elizabeth had launched the ships that had borne their names. However, at the naming ceremony, the Queen surprised everyone by naming the ship “Queen Elizabeth the second.”
In order to avoid confusion between the monarch and the ship in printed materials, it was decided that the new ship's name would be written using an Arabic numeral rather than the Roman numeral used when referring to the monarch. Over time, the ship came to be nicknamed “QE2.”
Meanwhile, there was endless debate over just what Her Majesty meant when she named the ship “Queen Elizabeth the second.” Was she simply saying that this ship was the second ship to be named Queen Elizabeth, i.e. the second ship to be named after her mother? Or did she mean that the new ship was to bear her name, i.e., the name of the monarch?
In the 1990s, Commodore Ronald Warwick, who had written the authoritative book about QE2, wrote to Buckingham Palace asking for clarification as to Her Majesty's intent. He received a reply stating that the ship is named after the monarch. Thus, QE2 is not named after the original Queen Elizabeth.
Inasmuch as the original Queen Elizabeth and QE2 were named after different people, albeit people with similar names, it follows that the current Queen Elizabeth is not Queen Elizabeth the third. While the distinction is sometimes blurred for marketing reasons, she is in fact the second ship to bear the name Queen Elizabeth, i.e., the name of the 1940s liner. Thus, the current ship is not QE3.
Cruise ship feature - - Cunard Line - - Queen Elizabeth - - Not QE3