On Tour with Queen Marie


The Heart of Canada


We had savored little England already in Canada and now we were to come upon one of the most amazing phenomena in colonization. French Montreal awaited us with all the Gallic esprit of its Parisian forebears. It was positively wracking to decide which we loved better—the best of England in Toronto or the best of France in Montreal. Charming, kaleidoscopic, to be whirled from one to another with no preparatory body of water between; just the same stretches of snow-mantled forests, the same formations of land which harbored what different spirits of men!

There was the usual pompous platform, the usual so red carpet and what looked like the usual body of men until speech began. Then what a difference! And Monsieur le Maire Martin this time was elegant, magnificent in a purple gown bordered with sable, collared in the massive gold chain of his honored office. The liquid syllables of his charming address came out in French, and suddenly it spouted up on all sides of us, the city's official language. It sounded like the crisp spray of Niagara felt. There was a difference in the Queen's car this time also. It was open and lined with a heavy fur rug hung over the back. As the day was foggy, she wore a coat of black karakul and a black hat and plume, but true to her taste to avoid black in favor of emphatic, arresting colors, her gown beneath was vivid green. At City Hall, a most impressive building, and in a room most dignified, she was throned in state and given the city's freedom. Senator Dandurand was always at her side. They had many topics of mutual interest to discuss as he was president of the Geneva League of Nations and rescued many Roumanians. After all of us registered in an official-looking book, a view of the city was in order. At the plant of La Presse, Montreal's leading news paper, we dropped Prince Nicholas, or he dropped us, I can't say which. This young man is so thoroughly interested in things mechanical that he couldn't be budged from the vast array of machinery which only looked terrific and rather fearful to me. People born with that insatiable mania "to see the wheels go round," as he confided to me he was, get a different thrill out of it altogether.

Her Majesty, in accordance with her system, did not fail to attend the city's one Roumanian church, where the hearts, passionate, sad, poetic, of these long submerged people rose up into the devoted eyes that followed her. There was pathos in the submissive, serflike air with which they kissed her hand. Dark, all of them, swart, low, stocky people, the mark of their many bloods commingled speaks in contradictions on their faces. In a new world so alien to their indecisive spirits it goes hard with them to survive and many are flung off at a tangent from the great moving fan-belt of competition. But always, wherever they congregate, will be found one of their churches, no matter how poor and spare, always devout.

Outside the church so many had congregated we had to force our way to the cars through people who were more like ours in their enthusiasm than the quieter English.

Mr. Morris and I went on to the Ritz-Carlton to see that all proper arrangements were made for the party who were to follow shortly. We found things beautifully settled, flowers and gifts from friends filling the Queen's apartment. The Mayor had us to a luncheon of about three hundred guests and afterward we went to visit Montreal College, a Catholic institution where French is spoken, the quaint customs of another day surviving in the uniform beret and stick of the University which Prince Nicholas received. Another flying trip took us to McGill University, which I only knew of as the school where the great wit, Stephen Leacock, is professor. The Queen was received by the President and shown the library treasures. The girls couldn't be left out, so Her Majesty went on to a convent which she told me later impressed her vastly, as the little girls in their black frocks and gloves acted like automatons under the severe discipline of the nuns.

Since we were to be in Canada some while, it was decided I should procure some wine for our private use in Canada. Much to my surprise I found the Canadian regulations as strictly supervised as ours. It was only through the intervention of one of my Montreal friends, Mrs. George Browne, that I was able to procure what I desired and then only one bottle of liquor could be bought at a time. No wines are sold after five P.M., I learned.

That night the Roumanian consul of the city gave a dinner to about fifty people, mainly officials, and to my surprise I had known two of the members before. One gentleman, now American consul in Montreal, was formerly American consul in Stockholm, and the other had been Norwegian charge d'affaires there during the time Mr. Morris was American Minister. In these travels I am constantly meeting old friends. We had greetings and many reminiscences. Despite the glowing tiara and her gown of orange chiffon, the Queen looked weary, as well she might. Chaliapin was to sing for her in a gala performance of the Barber of Seville, and promptly at eight-thirty the Queen rose, leaving the meal half finished, to repair to the huge barn of a hall. We were all exhausted after this most fatiguing day, and although the splendid voice of Chaliapin was at its best, some of us could hardly keep awake. I should not tell tales on the Queen since I was in the same boat, but it is my private belief that we both napped. The same committee that had met us, looking as spick and span as in the morning, saw us off at mid night. Good-by to la belle France for a while!

Thursday, October 28.

It was about nine P.M. when we reached Ottawa. We were met at the station by Governor-General Viscount Willingdon, and his staff. There was the same regal platform again, the red carpet and the canopy, as at Montreal, but, never let it be mistaken, this was England again. The Queen was received at Town Hall before going on to Government House, another rambling old English home, full of Japanese and Chinese curios and antiques. Though the Willingdons have been here but a few weeks, we found Lady Willingdon an ideal Governor's wife, dignified and at the same time exceedingly kindly. A group of charming women, good-looking and young, were waiting for us and escorted us to our rooms and proffered every comfort. It was sunny, cheerful, homelike, the essence of British refinement.

We were rid of the gentlemen of the party for a while as they stayed on to lunch at Government House, while the ladies followed the Queen to a most effective luncheon at Chateau Laurier where the Canadian Ladies' Club had arranged to honor her. This Club is an enormous project, having branches in each city of Canada and being open to any lady of Canadian birth provided she is approved of by the committee. Only five hundred of them could be seated at the luncheon, one of the finest affairs given the Queen. I could see she was doing her best to please them in her lovely gown of tan velvet gold-embroidered, a velvet picture hat with a sweeping feather and in long pearl earrings instead of her customary studs. The ladies responded first to the picture she made, and then even more excessively to her fine speech in which she again mentioned her delight at Canada, now seen with her own eyes as once she had seen it through Queen Victoria's. She said she would always cherish the memory of this day, and hoped some day she might come again, which sentiment was reiterated by the ladies of the Club.

Mrs. Stanley Washburn, wife of Major Washburn, who has been in our party since we left New York and has been continually threatening to leave because she had not come packed for the long trip, finally decided to-day that she would go on. She and Colonel Carroll have become fast friends. He says she must lend him her eyes, since he sees so poorly. However, I do not agree with him, since he seems to see more than most of us. Mrs. Washburn and I spent the afternoon shopping in Ottawa. Since the next day was the Queen's birthday, I found a silver cup for her and a bunch of lilies of the valley to put in it.

The Queen attended a reception at the newly finished Houses of Parliament. Since the people of Canada out-English the English, the affair was similar to a court at Buckingham Palace. After tea, Her Majesty returned to Government House.

In the dining-hall that night they served a huge state banquet that might have found great favor before the Virgin Queen at Kenilworth. All the dignitaries and notables of Canadian society responded to Lord and Lady Willingdon's invitation, and came prepared to entertain as well as be entertained. I was seated between the Roumanian consul and the Honorable Hugh Guthrie, Liberal party leader, who had been defeated in the last elections. I found him an exceedingly interesting man, thoroughly at home in world politics. He asked me the purpose of the Queen's visit in America, which seemed to be the question uppermost in the minds of most Canadians. I told him that officially she had come over to dedicate a museum of art in the State of Washington, but I believed her real purpose was purely an interest in North America and a desire to know more about this part of the world, that she is a woman of keen intelligence, up-to-date in her ideas, and takes a lively interest in all the important developments of her time. It seemed to me, I said, the duty of rulers and people in high positions to have an accurate knowledge of the affairs of the world. I did not see why she needed any other reason for coming to America, or why a queen should be barred from seeing the world. He agreed with me and was thoroughly in sympathy with the Queen. It seemed that night that she was surrounded by friends, by people of her own kind, who understood her real character and respected her. It was a very congenial atmosphere, and a dignified and delightful occasion which I shall never forget. Thanks to the Willingdons, who are ideal hosts, I met the Archbishop of Canada, a charming prelate, typically English in physiognomy and point of view. The acting Prime Minister of Canada, the Honorable J. A. Robb, too, impressed me as a very clever man. Our conversation ranged from Sweden to the League of Nations, but unfortunately was cut short as we were to leave Ottawa at eleven o'clock, I shall al ways remember that room, so dignified and still so unpretentious, such a delightful setting for the Queen, who looked most majestic in the black and silver gown of medieval design, her headdress of pearls and diamonds setting off her face so becomingly.