Exhibit shows how Queen Victoria’s secret flotilla helped win a spot on American soil

Forging your way through Europe with the aid of a royal convoy and a flotilla of luxury steamships is a bold move. But it happened in the early 1900s, and a new exhibit at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum shows how a little-known ship called The Red Bee helped Queen Victoria and King Edward VII celebrate the Queen’s coronation and travel with a ritzy escort.

The Queen’s coronation in 1897 was watched by millions across the world, but only a small fraction of her entourage made it from Edinburgh to London. So in 1896, the Royal fleet was given the distinct honor of escorting the queen and the prince on their first transatlantic crossing. Six ships — including The Red Bee, which was built in 1894 — made the journey to North America, carrying 120 royal guests. “The transatlantic aspect of it was crucial to not only England and Scotland being represented as well as they could, but also having the best potential guests given first priority,” said Stuart Campbell, the museums’ head of special exhibits.

Originally named the Queen Mary II, the ship was sold to a private investor and converted into a luxury liner. Its beautiful design made it a favorite of Queen Victoria, but it suffered substantial damage in a fire at sea in 1931. Today, the MV Britannia — rechristened the Red Bee in 1914 — is the last royal cruise ship.

Read the full story at Time.

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