On Tour with Queen Marie


Laying Plans

AS SCOTT has so graphically demonstrated in his pages of another day and another queen, an event so weighty as a royal visit, no matter what the period nor what the country, cannot take place and be sustained fittingly without the behind-the-door plans, the late-at-night schemes of those who devised the visit, those who issued the invitations, and those few harassed gentlemen who accepted the responsibility of the whole matter.

In early September of 1926 rumors began to float, first by tongue and then in the press, that the Queen of Roumania contemplated a visit to America. The quickly whipped-up excitement of the press created an instant demand for news of the truth. Her Majesty, so consistently a front-page subject all her life, was by no means unknown in this country. Her beauty, her war-time bravery, her fame as the mother of queens, had all been the basis from time to time of absorbing stories in our papers, and had thoroughly identified her in the consciousness of the people. Queen Marie was a character already fairly legendary when news came that she was to be seen in this country in the flesh, and she was, therefore, a character more than usually exciting and expected. Feminists especially were delighted that one of their sex, whose wits had devised many a coup d'état, whose brains had thought out many a difficult problem for her people, who had used the gifts that had been given her to further every good purpose, was coming among them to be fittingly received and applauded. Men everywhere were interested in getting a glimpse of a woman famed already as the possessor of wonderful beauty and charm. People as a whole in this great republic were elated at the thought of the nearness of Royalty, that glamorous term so little understood here and, as a consequence, so very fascinating. Few queens had honored us with their presence. Princes of all nations and colors had considered it a part of their education to submit themselves to a "round" of American living, but queens . . . somehow it seemed proper that they should stay and guard the hearth-fires while their kings and sons flitted. The modest Queen of the Belgians had once come with her king for a brief visit, and years ago the dusky Hawaiian ruler had honored us, but there had been no others. The time could not have been better set.

A few words about the planners and the plans that brought the Queen will not come in amiss before the trip itself is described. Without them there would have been no trip.

First, Her Majesty herself. It had long been her dearest dream to make so "grand" a tour, to interest the New World in her country through herself. Long ago Her Majesty had discussed such dreams with my husband and myself when we visited her in her Cotroceni palace. Roumania needed, as she said later in this country, to be brought into the consciousness of the world, and then, as a reaction to that, to come into consciousness of itself as an identity among the nations of the world. To wake up nationally, as it were. She wanted her people's needs known to a country generous to the wants of others. In addition to all this there was the very human, womanlike desire to make the visit, to accept the hospitality of those many friends on this side who had long begged and pleaded with her to honor them. For Queen Marie of Roumania has here many staunch friends whom her charm and hospitality had captured and bound. They were delighted at the prospect of a visit from her. Nothing should stand in the way of its success.

This small group of loyal friends rehearsed faith fully the details of such a venture as a queen's trip through this democratic country. But the way was smoothed by the dedication and service of that group of friends of Her Majesty and of Roumania, that far-off country emerging into her "place in the sun" partly through the efforts of a clever woman who is at the same time queen.

Through the weeks preceding the Queen's arrival, we had numerous conferences when the thousand and one details of the trip were fully discussed and arranged. The world can only guess at the innumerable complexities involved in such arrangements, the schedules that were drawn up and torn up to save the feelings of all the hosts of people who sprang up over night with generous offers, as well as those with selfish demands upon the time of the Queen. All must be responded to in some manner. Telegrams, three and four pages long—from far-off mayors of little towns and big cities, with the lavish plans and details of their proffered entertainment—began to pour in, to conflict with one another, to trip up the committee who had in hand the business of making the schedules. The offers ranged from the most beautiful to the most absurd. Every organization wanted to be represented, every one begged for her presence, to be allowed to make gifts, to be of real service. The railroad schedules alone required a master mind to fathom. I look back on it now in complete amazement at the smooth working out of things. At the time I thought, how on earth can we fail to meet ourselves either coming or going! But we did not. The plans laid down were marvelously explicit and faithfully adhered to in spite of temptation and coercion.

At a final dinner the night before the expected arrival, some of Her Majesty's friends met to put the last touches on plans that all felt, from over-anxiety, were not perfectible. It was a group of interesting people around the table that pledged the success of the venture. Among them, and to figure largely in later events, was Mr. Sam Hill, perhaps our most romantic figure. Ruddy-faced and snowy-haired, broad and bluff—bordering on genius—he is the Dreamer of the Northwest. A man of great wealth, he had turned it like un-dammed water to sail the ships of his prodigal fancy; he had built roads like aerial imaginings up the steep heights of the Columbia River; he had put up a portal to commemorate the age-long peace between Canada and the United States; and now the dream of his heart was an art museum, the Maryhill, named for his wife, which the Queen of Roumania was coming all the way to a new world to dedicate. His romantic, idealistic friendship for the far-off lady had commenced abroad years ago when he became interested in the cause of Roumanian charities. These two, the quixotic gentleman and the woman who was a queen, found a prairie fire of common interests spring up between them in the short while they knew each other. The friendship had continued through the years. Mr. Hill's devotion to the Queen's cause had kept him for years constantly pleading that she come to his country, partake of his air and mountains and plains and freedom, and crown the summit of his romantic career with her dedicatory touch.

Colonel John Carroll, who was to figure prominently in our later dramas, was present also that night. A gentleman much accustomed to public life, the railroads had thought him fitted to take charge of the trains, to represent them.

M. Radu Djuvara, the Roumanian charge d'affaires, could not be present. He is typical of his nationality—dark, brilliant, imaginative; I have heard him play as prisoned Lucifer must have played when he dreamed of asphodels, and the next instant, whirling from the piano, he presented the finished scholar of diplomacy. At first a bit anxious, when he found his Queen was actually coming, he threw his whole heart into the project.

Mr. William Nelson Cromwell, with his dignified and aristocratic head, was not with us that night, but his devotion to the Queen made him play an important part in her visit to New York. He is President of the Friends of Roumania, through an interest in Her Majesty and things Roumanian acquired during the War. He is a delightful gentle man of the polished cultured school.

Miss Loie Fuller, who was keenly interested in this visit of the Queen to America, was present with us that night only in thought. To comprehend the friendship of Her Majesty with Miss Fuller needs better understanding of the character of Queen Marie. For truly she is a law unto herself. Before she was a queen she was born a human being with a pulse that beat fervently to Beauty. That in itself is a mainspring of character so great that it must be regarded as explanation for many of her friendships. Always she has fearlessly patronized the arts, that form of beauty which creates. She has discovered singers, writers, players of her own country, and if they can be so fortunate as to please her inner eye and ear, there is no limit to her interest. Twenty or more years ago she was not a queen but, one can imagine, a rather lonely princess laboring to adapt her personality to her position—a job that seems to take the best years of us all. Accustomed to the formalities of the old-style classic ballet, which has been poured into a mould and got thoroughly hardened, the rhythmic, pliant freedom of Loie Fuller's dances, then the last word in innovations, must have taken her beauty-seeking heart by storm. For her day and time these dances were a revelation. Miss Fuller conceived the idea of depicting, translating, emotions with the aid of colored lights on the fluent folds of shifting chiffons instead of with the stilted postures and muscular contortions of the old ballet. Her effects were dreamlike, ethereal, enchanting. So much of the sort has been done since that one can little realize the charm of it as first the young Princess did. She sent for the dancer, and a true friendship sprang up between them. Then during the late War, Loie Fuller it was who threw aside everything else personal, needs, duties and even the interests of self-protection, to fly to the side of the Queen who was then besieged on all sides by her enemies. Such a thing as that cannot be forgotten. It was the Queen's wish that Miss Fuller's performances should be given during her American tour and as an act of friendship Miss Fuller helped with others to make the Queen's trip a reality. She has the mind of a Brigadier-General. Owing to recent ill health, she keeps her bed frequently and one is ushered into the presence of a scarfed and wrapped little Buddha-like figure propped up in bed, whose pointing finger says, "Go—Come—Do—Don't" with an uncanny insight of the whole. Sheets of letters in the Queen's familiar handwriting were in evidence whenever I called.

These were some of the friends who overcame the difficulties, smoothed the way and laid the trail of travel for Queen Marie.