On Tour with Queen Marie


Winnipeg and the Entourage

THE FIRST THING that struck the eye when nearing the city was the huge building of the Honorable the Hudson Bay Company, who seem to own the town of Winnipeg. I think their activities center here, for they are erecting a wonderful new building which is to occupy an entire block. At the railroad station we were met by the usual officials and taken under the usual canopy to the usual flock of Lincoln cars which carried us safely to the usual best hotel in the town. Here the Governor lives. He had just arrived in the Province and was making this hotel his home. After that, the usualness ceased for this is a city with a character all its own. Judging from the reception which took place immediately before dinner in the parlors of the hotel, Winnipeg is a typical frontier town. The people who had assembled were a rugged-looking lot, very different from the Canadians we had previously seen. We were conscious of being in the West where people dress and think as they please and are not the slaves of conventional ideas. Splendid broad-shouldered women, clear eyed as morning, strode by us; gracious enough but unflustered by ceremony or society, dignified by an innate simplicity. Men moved past with the look of the visionary in their faces, the candor of pioneers who must put by fear and hew straight to the line. The small evasions, the hesitant complexes, the quenched spirits in the faces of those in a more civilized life, were absent entirely from the countenances of these people born free in a new land. Here was a city emerging out of the wilderness, evolving in great rugged shapes that time alone must smooth, that had need for the best in every man and woman who would brave the rigors and the hardships she mixed with her splendid opportunities. Here was a city still in the Age of Innocence as contrasted to the age-old, wearied sophistication of cities whose growth has ceased to be outward, but inward—inward to the stressed souls of its inhabitants. These people were new and free, open as the day. That palpable, evident sincerity in the faces passing be fore us was very winning. I had an interview just before dinner with one of the fur merchants, and found that the prices of furs here were almost the same as in Chicago, and that the quality was nothing unusual. As is customary, the best products go to the foreign markets. Mrs. Washburn had telegraphed ahead to the Hudson Bay Company to bring those heavy Indian blankets which one can obtain only in Canada. They are deliciously warm and very picturesque, with their colored stripes on a white ground. We added these to our already rapidly accumulating collection of luggage.

We left our hotel for another where the Winnipeg branch of the Ladies' Canadian Club gave a dinner in honor of Her Majesty. The Queen responded to the gracious speech of the President, mentioning, as she always did among the Canadians, her love for their country and that of her "Granny," Queen Victoria, and her long dreams of seeing Canada in reality. At last she had come and was now surrounded by the women of this vast country whom she respected with all her heart. She said she had always been on the side of women; that she understood their problems, and had always been their champion; that she perhaps was being criticized for having stepped aside from the usual procedure of queens, doing so radical a thing as to journey round the world without her husband. She had always had the courage of her convictions, and was willing to take whatever criticism might arise. She saw no reason why a queen should not have the privilege of seeing the world the same as other people, and she was glad that she had come. What would her dear old "Granny" have thought could she see her standing there and traveling about as she was doing? she said. "Times have changed and one must feel the pulse of one's generation." She was her most charming self that evening, and won everybody. As she stood there facing this audience of ladies she made a lovely picture in an American-beauty velvet gown with strings of pearls, and her tight fitting cap. The setting of the room was rather severe, and the table decorations were very prim and tidy, but the Queen in her magnificence needed no ornaments. After dinner we all went to Parliament House, which is a really beautiful building, perfectly proportioned—a masterpiece of architecture. Evidently there is not much graft in this country, as the people have got their money's worth in this noble building. We wandered through marble halls to a huge rotunda under the dome. Here chairs were arranged in a semicircle close to the walls, with a throne in the center where the Queen took her seat. As a background to the regal setting was a glorious fresco by Brangwyn, the English painter. The police that night had all they could do to control the enormous crowd which was allowed to enter. I have never seen a greater demonstration anywhere. First came delegates of Roumania, carrying flowers, who stopped and read proclamations which were engrossed on parchment rolls. Then children in Roumanian costume presented flowers, and then an endless crowd passed for nearly two hours. A heavy rope had been strung across, to protect the Queen. The people had evidently come straight from the streets and were dressed in their street clothes. They came from the highways and the byways—some sullen, some gay, some deeply respectful. At least ten thousand passed before the doors were closed and the mob outside, which was still waiting, was turned away. We then went into the library where a supper was served. I was seated next to the Governor's daughter, a charming young girl, and a very lively aide-de-camp who told me many interesting things about Winnipeg. Later we were taken into a beautiful oak-paneled circular room in the Capitol Building, which was much ad mired by the Queen. We all felt that Winnipeg was justly proud of this wonderful example of modern building. My last impression of Winnipeg is a picture of the Queen on a sofa in this room with the Prince and Princess on either side resting their heads on her shoulders, worn out with the exertions of the evening, but happy over this great demonstration.

Sunday, October 31.

We are due in Minneapolis this afternoon. Olive branches do wither—I wonder if Noah knew as well as I—but fortunately they freshen again to prevent despair. Since leaving Winnipeg last night, ours has had a decided droop to it. Colonel Carroll will brook no interference or competition in his role of "official host." People of unusual charm in this world are oftentimes embarrassed by the excessive devotion of their followers, and Her Majesty has no doubt come across it many times among the men, women and children who have encountered her spell. Queen Marie, with her usual graciousness, is willing to do anything to please the powers that be. She realizes that the journey has been a tremendous expense to the officials of the road, and wishes to make up for it in every way in her power. M. Laptew is on the verge of exploding with indignation over the continual assertion of control. He is a typical Latin of the best type; although he looks rather comfortable and good-natured, he is capable of positive action when necessary. The Roumanian aide-de-camp, Colonel Athanasesco, is extremely suave, a man of culture and refinement. He was formerly military attaché in Berlin, and shows the effects of Teutonic discipline in the perfect control which he exerts over himself. I have never seen him lose his temper, although he is a keen observer and well aware of everything that transpires on the train. The Professor, who forms an important part of this Roumanian group, also looks very placid, but nothing escapes his watchful eye. He is rather short and has a jolly face. He evidently is a man of learning, and shows his wisdom like the wise old owl who "the more he heard the less he spoke." These three Roumanian gentlemen were our constant companions, and usually lunched in our car with M. Tirman and sometimes Chardon or one or two of the ladies-in-waiting.

The two ladies-in-waiting, Mme. Procopiu and Mme. Lahovary, were old friends of mine whom I had met in my various visits in Roumania at Cotroceni, the Queen's palace in Bucharest. Mme. Procopiu it was who presented me with a decoration from the Queen during the War on a special mission to Paris. I have always been devoted to her. She is a woman of the utmost refinement and a subtle intelligence which sees many things, but tells none of them. Her adoration for the Queen and the royal family is beautiful. Her face is that of a marquise in the days of the most exquisite refinement of France, and her soft white hair, beautifully ondulé, forms a charming frame for clear cut features and bright brown eyes that circle about like a bird's. She dresses in the most exquisite taste, and beautifully sets off the more brilliant figure of the Queen. Her great gift for making friends wherever she goes has been a wonderful asset to Her Majesty. I have found her in her quiet way a most efficient and clever person, for nothing escapes her. From morning till night on the train she keeps busy answering letters in her exquisite handwriting, which is so characteristic of her personality. She seems to write English as fluently as she does French and Italian, although she has difficulty in speaking it. Thousands of letters stream in which she and Mme. Lahovary, the Queen's other lady-in-waiting, take care of. I feel free to go into their car whenever I please and have always found them busily occupied in answering these numerous requests and sending letters of thanks to the many hundreds who have sent flowers and gifts of every kind to Her Majesty. Mme. Lahovary is a most active, business-like and brisk person, a decided contrast to Mme. Procopiu. She is exceedingly up-to-date, and almost American in her activity and efficiency. Every weighty question which requires immediate attention is handled her with great promptness. I presented her with the latest model of an Underwood typewriter in Montreal, and she has already learned to use it effectively. She represents the modern school, while Mme. Procopiu is, in my eyes, an ideal example of the conservative, a truly aristocratic lady. I have never seen anybody capable of transacting more business in a short time than Mme. Lahovary. She seems indefatigable, and is one of the few people who can keep pace with Her Majesty's dynamic energy. Miss Ida Marr is a decided contrast to these two ladies. She has all the characteristics of the English woman of education, a keen intelligence and an accentuated sense of responsibility as regards her charge, Princess Ileana. She has been the constant companion of this lovely girl for so many years, living for her alone, that I imagine the very thought of being separated from her "child" would be torture to this loyal soul whose religion is devotion to duty. Her delightful sense of humor, too, has been a broad relief to us all. We are all grateful for the splendid accommodations which we are enjoying, and for which we are indebted to the railroad officials, as I was told "there never was nor ever would be another train like this one." It really is a marvel of railroad skill, and as the train is our real home we are inexpressibly grateful for the wonderful beds which enable us to endure the fatigue of the journey, although I think a haystack would have been acceptable after some of our strenuous days.