On Tour with Queen Marie


The Freedom of the City—And Washington

THE MORNING of the Queen's expected arrival found me in a mad rush. We had been up late the night before, talking, planning, discussing; and I had slept ill on account of the ceaseless buzzing of ideas and hints in my mind about the entertainment I was planning for Princess Ileana, which seemed to be gathering in size and detail as the days passed like a snowball enlarging as it rolled. Nevertheless, on the morning in question the secretaries who were helping me to carry out my plans found me up and dressed in street clothes and hat and already breakfasted when they arrived early to get my hurried last-minute instructions. We were to leave for Washington that day and I would not see them again until my return. The scene in my room cannot well be described; even as phrases form I remember something else that arose to break up whatever I have in mind to tell about. My maid was following me about on her knees to get my slippers fastened, another was madly searching my bags for a needed address, the secretaries were dashing around me with papers wildly waving . . . "Mrs. Morris, where did you say I could reach Mrs. B—?" . . . "Mrs. Morris, how many tickets? . . ." "Madame, hold still!" "Lily!!" thundered from my husband in the hall. "You have twenty minutes! The boat is in! You cannot be late! You must not! . . . " My maid finally, in hysteria, "Madame, I resign! I go back to Paris! Right now! . . ." And then as I dashed past, the frantic cry of one of the girls, "Mrs. Morris! You have no blouse on!"

I looked down. It was true! "Oh," I cried, "don't stop me now! It's too late!" And out I went!

So it was that I met Her Majesty, without a blouse and half my wits, buttoning my coat up high and my fur scarf up higher, trying desperately to appear to the public as though I were fully clothed and in my right mind.

To return to the scene of the Queen's arrival, where I left her receiving the thousand cheers and greetings that welcomed her to City Hall, New York.

She stood, at that moment in the morning of October 18, a most colorful and exhilarating figure against the dark recesses of old City Hall, joyous, alight, admired and admiring. The Queen's beauty may be described as every inch queenly; her stateliness is imposing, and her fair coloring, on that dark day in particular, enhanced by the rich and sober shades of winter clothes, had a shining quality. Her smile was on this day of her arrival certainly the complete signature of a thrill. We all felt it. If one hadn't it in oneself, it was caught by contagion from the crowd assembled and from the hearty good-will and excitement in the faces of all the dignitaries who surrounded her.

The official announcer had called her name in loud and awesome tones, the Roumanian charge d'affaires, M. Djuvara, had preceded her with our Assistant-Secretary of State, Mr. J. Butler Wright, my husband and others of the official hosts, and now, under the flags that swayed in folds of red and blue and yellow in the light, and to the airs of martial music, she stood, a very radiant figure, and returned America's smiles.

Our slim and smart-looking young Mayor, Jimmy Walker, completely at home in the situation, summed up for us all, I believe, in that moment, our sentiments, when he gracefully proffered her the old-time honor of the city's freedom.

As he spoke, my companion, Mrs. Haskell, wife of Colonel Haskell, one of the Committee, and I sat down in front and studied the scene before us. The Queen held a great armful of American Beauties, and I must say they became her and her costume of deep claret-colored velvet bordered with sable, and the sharp metallic glister of her draped golden turban. She listened with the deepest attention, but occasionally her charmed eye would wander over this exciting scene. Her two children who attended her on the trip, Prince Nicholas, her second son, and young Princess Ileana, her "baby," stood back of her and seemed fairly dazed by their tremendous ovation. They are such young and charming people, so unspoiled, so untouched yet by the hardness of high position. I may honestly say that Ileana is one of the most beloved young girls of my acquaintance. Further companionship with her, throughout the trip we were to take together, only increased my first opinion. The photographs of the two are probably as familiar to the public as are their own faces in the mirror, but after all a photograph does not color, and on this first American morning of theirs Princess Ileana's hair looked blacker than ever in the artificial light and her eyes almost as dark, though they are in reality a clear and grayish blue. She wore a squirrel coat, soft pale gray, and carried the flowers of girlhood, pink buds. Prince Nicholas' likable face is as fair as his mother's, though so unlike, the pastel shades of a blonde deepened in a man to a ruddy coloring under light hair and eyes. His eyes held a glimmer of amusement as well as interest.

I saw my old friend Mme. Procopiu, the Queen's lady-in-waiting, who had come to us when my husband was Minister to Sweden and she was fleeing with her children from a besieged city. Her fine dark face brought up many memories of perilous days and moments of intimacy when our hearts rocked at every word of news. I would be happy to talk with her again. I saw too Mme. Lahovary, another lady-in-waiting, whom I had known at Cotroceni. Three gentlemen were in the group that followed the Queen, whom I did not know then but was to know well later. I found afterward that they were M. Laptew, Professor Petrescu and Colonel Athanasesco. Representatives of the women's organizations were massed on the platform among the numberless ones who formed the official committees. On all the faces there was the eagerness of attention.

It was during the Mayor's speech of welcome that I was obliged to slip out and make my way to the Washington train which left at twelve noon, since I had been too rushed to find out whether I had been assigned accommodations on the Royal Train. Colonel Haskell insisted that I take his army car to Pennsylvania Station since it had the right of way through the crowds. I had only half an hour to make the considerable distance. It was raining in a gray drizzle, but when I came out into the street I found the cavalry and infantry formed into a hollow square and thousands of people still waiting in a solid mass entirely filling the space around and beyond City Hall. The loud speakers protruding from every corner repeated the Mayor's speech as distinctly as one could hear it within.

When I got to the station the royal party, I was told, were just arriving. It was a miracle to me how they did it almost as soon as I did, as the Queen's speech followed the Mayor's. I read it eagerly a few hours later when the papers appeared on the train.

The royal train pulled out ahead of the one on which I was. It delayed our arrival in Washington to five o'clock, since it had right of way and sped on unimpeded. My husband was with the Queen and said that she seemed elated beyond words, just sat and beamed.

When I arrived in Washington I found it difficult to get a taxi, every one, they said, had been taken by people following the royal party. It was getting late, and still in my blouseless condition, I began to look forward to being fully clothed again and on time for whatever was scheduled. At last I managed to get my maid and bags and myself stowed in a car and started toward the Wardman Park Hotel where arrangements had been made for us, but again we were delayed by the royal procession coming down Massachusetts Avenue, a troop of cavalry galloping ahead and effectively clearing the way. The masses of human beings who lined the streets and hurrahed were kept in beautiful order by Washington's efficient police. It was growing dark as the procession dashed through the streets bound for the Roumanian Legation. It was a beautiful sight in the gray dusk of that lovely white city so used to like demonstrations throughout the years. One wonders where all the acclaiming shouts of greeting the old city has listened to have gone. In some never-never land they must be making an awful din, all bottled up together.

Upon my arrival at the hotel I found that Mr. Morris's valet had got there with all the extra luggage, and I was told to hurry into an evening gown as the initial dinner to be given at the Roumanian Legation was to be promptly at seven o'clock. I began the second of my wild and hurried toilettes that were to become a habit before the Queen's visit was over.

Only those intimately connected with the royal party and representatives of the Army and Navy were invited to that evening's dinner. The British chargé d'affaires represented Sir Esme Howard, the British Ambassador, who was away at the time. On account of the Queen being an English Princess by birth, the British Embassy was represented. M. Djuvara seemed quite elated as his guests arrived, and the event was successful in every way, official and yet at the same time attractively informal. When all were gathered in the drawing-room Her Majesty was announced. She entered, brilliant in Nile-green velvet and rhinestone embroidery, followed by her children, and proceeded at once to greet each person individually. We were arranged in a semicircle, as is customary on these occasions, in the order of our importance. The Queen seemed pleased to see me and greeted me with much cordiality. It was the first time we had met face to face in America. This reception briefly over, we proceeded with our dinner partners into the dining-room. The sight was a gay and festive one, the gorgeous gowns and bright lights, shining with silver and glass and the deep enrichment of red roses. The Queen occupied a throne chair, M. Djuvara at her left, and Mr. Butler Wright to her right.

I had a most delightful time at that dinner. I was seated between Admiral Long and Colonel Poillon, the latter at one time military attaché in Roumania. The talk was delightful, and all seemed buoyed up by the happy arrival.

In the drawing-room again, the Queen held an informal reception and conversation was general.

Mrs. Haskell, with whom I went to City Hall in New York, begged me to arrange for the Prince and Princess to go to West Point the following Saturday to the weekly "hop" where she assured me they would have the "time of their young lives." I knew that they would, and liked the idea extremely, though I was at a loss exactly how to go about it. All arrangements had been so carefully made for every hour. Just then the Princess came up to me and, putting her arms around me, thanked me glowingly for the entertainment which she had been told I was arranging in her honor in New York. She said she was so very grateful and felt sure it would be a success. At some of the details, as I repeated them to her, she clapped her hands in delight. One would not find a sweeter young girl in many a day, spontaneous, free, generous, and a picture of health and beauty that night in shining white. I was pledged to her at once, and told her I would do whatever I could for her and she should call on me any time. Then I brought up the subject of the West Point project. No fęted young girl in an American home could have been more thrilled with the idea. "Oh," she cried, "I would love to go! Ask Mummy! But of course we must take Miss Marr." Miss Marr, by the way, is her lady-in-waiting, and has been so long with the Princess she calls her "my child." The Prince happening to come up at that moment, I broached the subject to him. He too became quite enthusiastic, and immediately I was their accomplice. I could not bear the thought of the two young people standing wearily through the long and ceremonial occasion that their mother was to attend that Saturday evening. I went to Her Majesty at once. She started to talk with me about my proposed entertainment for the Princess and seemed very pleased over the thought. I said I hoped she too would honor us with her presence on that occasion, but she very graciously felt that this event was especially for the young girl and that the Princess should be the center of attraction. I then very diffidently approached the subject of the West Point project for the two "children" as we called them, conscious all the time that not far off two anxious pairs of ears were listening for the outcome. By this time both had come up and were pleading to go. The Queen was sympathetic at once and said she thought the idea delightful, but how could it be arranged as that was the night of the Sulgrave dinner and she did not wish to offend the Committee who had gone to so much trouble. I said I thought my husband could arrange that, and brought in some good arguments about how much it would mean to the West Pointers and to the Prince and Princess to attend one of our famed military balls. So it was finally decided that, with the consent of the Committee, they would be excused from the dinner to go to West Point. There was a great dancing around after that, you may be sure, and two pairs of bright and anticipatory eyes . . . the girl's, if anything, brighter, naturally!

That very pleasant high-hearted evening ended at about ten o'clock, when the Queen rose, and saying "Good night" to all, left the room for what we knew was a well-needed rest.

Tuesday, October 19.

At ten o'clock A.M. we left the Roumanian Legation for Arlington in the regular Lincoln cars, waiting spick and span at every occasion. The Queen looked particularly lovely that morning to match the fresh, sunny day. Her tan felt sports hat was especially becoming with a tan gown and a magnificent sable scarf which she took off before entering the open car and replaced with a heavy beaver coat. There was a brisk breeze to hearten us as we sped on, gay and happy, in a long procession through Washington's marvelous streets and out into the sloping gracious country around Arlington Cemetery. This stately burying-ground impressed me immensely. It was the first time I had been there, and the whole thing affected me tremendously. Not the usual gloomy attributes that throng even mentally the homes of the dead, but with a peculiar delight at the calmness, the stateliness, that can surround such a habitation, the entire absence of distaste that one feels in so hallowed a ground. I thought too of the vicissitudes of war that had filled these once carefree pleasure grounds of the Southern leader with the bodies of the men he had fought against, that the calm Virginia airs and blue skies he once so loved now lapped them round eternally. Somehow I felt a grievance that the United States should have confiscated his estates for just these purposes, until I remembered the little old Southern lady who had once snorted at me on the subject, "Indeed not! I think it perfectly fitting that General Lee's enemies should be buried in his back yard!"

But we had now wound through the grounds to the front. The Queen dismounted from her car at the avenue that leads to where the Unknown Soldier lies in solitary peace. I say solitary, but it is not so. Living lads march back and forth, back and forth, to keep him company, to honor the one whom we cannot honor by name. The representatives of the Army and Navy and the State Department and her own suite followed the Queen as she moved to where the beautiful tomb overlooks the magnificent vista of river and city beyond in the perspective of a dream. She stood for a moment in silence. Then she made the sign of the Cross and laid a wreath in the Roumanian colors on his stone. The military bands softly played the national anthems, and officers saluted.

In the meantime the motion picture people were there with their complete disrespect of time and place, and were taking advantage of this opportunity. The solemnity broke up and diffused, but the memory of it will remain.

We left the cemetery for the lovely country roads of Virginia, passing many Negro cabins and little piccaninnies, to the Queen's delight, and arrived about twelve o'clock at Mount Vernon where the Daughters of the American Revolution, who now have the custody of the national shrine, had prepared a reception for the Queen. A few dear old ladies and many of the younger members had come from distant states to greet the Queen and offer her the hospitality of the stately old house. Here was a wonderful introduction indeed to the heart of America, this fine simplicity of our older days that testified all is not modern and crass in our civilization. The Queen seemed to appreciate it all highly as the host escorted her around the house and called her attention to the mementos of Revolutionary days. We were taken through the beauties, so clipped and formal, of the gardens, the boxwood maze and the primly laid out paths that lead down to the tomb of Washington. We stopped, and Her Majesty with fitting ceremony laid a wreath there. The sun was in splendor, the air had a specially golden quality that exhilarated with the final promises of Indian summer. The lovely grounds looked their best in the foreigners' honor that day and made the desired impression as we passed through them again in returning to the house where luncheon was served in the famous old dining-hall of another as stately a day. We were seated at round tables and it was a most cheerful function despite the absence of stimulating drinks. After the lunch the Queen sat in the hall and spoke to a number of the ladies who surrounded her.

The usual attending crowd was with us, of course, and were pushing so eagerly forward against the doors leading into the hall that the vigilance of the police was required to hold them back. Mr. Kenyon, the man appointed to be responsible for Her Majesty's safety during her visit, was on the spot and doing such efficient work that he even arrested me that day in the garden! He apologized profusely afterwards, but I was only glad to see such fine attention to the Queen.

We were once again at the Lincoln Memorial at 3:30, after a heavenly drive through the Virginia and Maryland hills, and we drew up to allow the Queen one of the rarest visions in the New World before we turned back toward the Roumanian Legation.

When I came in there a bit later I found Colonel Carroll sitting in the hall and leaning very moodily on his cane. I asked him what on earth was the matter and he complained that he had come to speak with Her Majesty about the railroad arrangements for her journey and that he couldn't get to her. I hastened up at once to Mme. Procopiu, my ready help in time of trouble, presented the Colonel to her, and an appointment was made for that evening when matters could be discussed. How like a man not to guess that a queen would be getting ready in fine feather for her visit to the executives of another nation! She told me later that she was received most cordially by the President and Mrs. Coolidge and within an hour the call was returned with the quaint formality imposed upon occasions of state, prior to the formal dinner given in the visiting Queen's honor that night.

The dinner at the White House followed the plan of all state dinners of the present administration. It was a dignified banquet of twelve courses, well served and well appointed. The omission of wine, and the old time Negro servants of the South, gave Queen Marie a real picture of American life in high places. The seating of the dinner guests was strictly American in plan. The Marine Band played during the assembling of the guests in the Blue Room which the Queen entered just before eight o'clock. All guests were presented by name to Her Majesty before the entrance of President and Mrs. Coolidge. The President at once offered his arm to the Queen and led the way to the state dining-room. Mrs. Coolidge brought up the rear with the youthful Prince Nicholas, while the Vice-President, Mr. Dawes, escorted Princess Ileana to the table. This dignified old mansion presented a beautiful spectacle that evening, embellished with masses of the flowers and palms for which the White House conservatories are famous. In all my travels I have never seen a building whose proportions satisfied me as does this stately home of our Presidents, so full of mementos of American history. The Queen was much impressed, as she told me later. She wore a gown of white velvet with a long train, the famous pearls that had been described many times and a diamond tiara; also jeweled decorations as well as rings and bracelets of diamonds. The guests included the royal party, members of the Cabinet, and their wives, and a few other distinguished members of Washington society. The complete gold service was used that evening with the heavy candelabra which were filled with tall gold-colored candles placed on a magnificent mirror which reflected the lights and the gold bowls filled with pink roses and blue delphinium. It was a superb decoration. The dignified proportions of the dining-room, as well as the very impressive architecture of the high-ceilinged reception-rooms, attracted the Queen's attention. Hanging over the mantel, directly opposite Mrs. Coolidge's chair at the dining table, is the attractive picture of the President which has recently been painted by Lárzló. The dinner was a most fitting and representative affair, and added its happy quota to the friendliness of nations.

I left that night for New York in Colonel Carroll's private car. He told me that his interview had been most satisfactory, that all plans were approved, and that he would proceed at once with arrangements to start on the journey from New York on Sunday, October 24.