November 12, 2013

Shopping with a Queen

In 1926, Queen Marie of Romania was invited to the United States by businessman Samuel Hill.  Queen Marie was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II, and married to King Ferdinand of Romania.  She was quite famous and well-liked in the 20s due to her time as a Red Cross nurse during World War I and her diplomatic work for Romania at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference.  Naturally, the Queen's visit to America was covered extensively in the press.

 Queen Marie visiting West Point

She came to New York on October 18, 1926 with her son Prince Nicolas and her daughter Princess Ileana.  They were welcomed by a parade and thousands of New Yorkers.  From there they traveled by train to Washington D.C. to have dinner with President Calvin Coolidge and then on to various cities and towns across the United States and Canada.  She was greeted by crowds and dressed in Paris couture, Romanian costume, or the fur coats, jewels, and diamond tiaras of a queen knowing that her trip was the first time many Americans would ever see a queen.  Of America she said,

"In no monarchy have I been more royally and more solemnly received nor had more colossal receptions as in America, in every single place.

 I thank you, great America, for the love you showed me, for the eagerness with which you received me, took me up in your hearts from one side of your country to the other."

She was accompanied by her American hostess, Constance Lily Morris for the journey and the following is from Morris' memoirs.

Tuesday, November 16

Today is to be "The Queen's own day" as she said she wanted one day to do as she pleased in Chicago. She started off by having what she termed as "a very, necessary shampoo," and at 9.30 we dashed off to the Woman s Athletic Club, concerning which I had spoken to them on the train when I promised them a swim. The Queen, Princess Ileana and I started from the hotel unaccompanied by any of the suite except "Craggie" yipping and yowling over what he felt was something fine. The lynx-eyed Kenyon was up with the Queen s Roumanian chauffeur in the Palace uniform. The Queen had a mistaken impression that she could travel incognito for one day at least, that unaccompanied by the motor-cycle police we could follow the crowd along Chicago s boulevards. She even labored under the illusion that she could go shopping unnoticed in Marshall Field's. Never was she more mistaken. I had been skeptical from the beginning but I pampered her in this whim, knowing what one such day would mean to her. Of course it could not be. Some of those energetic reporters saw us leave the hotel, and that was enough. Until we entered the doors of the Athletic Club they were right with us, but there they were balked. Being a woman s in stitution, they could not get beyond the doors. We felt like those criminals of old who have fled to Sanctuary, and, breathless with relief, we went to the top floor where the fine pool is. In a moment the Queen reappeared from the dressing-room in a dark blue knitted suit that set off beautifully her splendid proportions. She told us that she devoted at least one month of the year to her health, taking baths and treatments so as to keep herself in the best possible trim for such arduous exertions as fall to her lot. She plunged from the springboard like a girl. The Princess was a picture too, of youthful athletic beauty in a suit of gray. The swimming mistress wore one of white woolen tricot which the Queen admired so much she ordered one for herself straightway. We had a race to the end of the pool, the Queen, Craggie and I. I forget who won but it might have been Craggie, having the day of a dog s life. As we rested, we sat about smoking and munching caviar sandwiches before girding our selves up to go shopping. I had an idea of what we would face downstairs, although the Queen dressed as inconspicuously as possible and, in spite of all precautions, photographers, who had been patiently waiting, greeted us with exploding flash lights and fuses. Poor Craggie, utterly demented, dashed out into the street while we waited in agony to see him killed in the melee of wheels. The Queen could not bear it and sprang out herself after him. She boxed his ears for him and called him "a silly dog" while he ducked his cowardly head.

"Now," said the Queen, "let's do our shopping." Confidently imagining ourselves unescorted, we surreptitiously stole down the avenue and selected a quiet entrance to Marshall Field's store. How could we have been so ridiculous as to imagine that the tireless reporters of Chicago would let us "get away" with our project? In less than two minutes after our entrance they were after us with their "Look this way, Queen." . . . "Head a little higher!" Throughout the store there went a cry, "The Queen! The Queen!" and a mob pressed us into a jelly.  It was impossible to move past the first counter. Even Secret Serviceman Kenyon be came alarmed and with the assistance of an employee forced his way through the crowd. The Queen, nothing daunted by the jam, was not going to miss anything. Her eagle eye spied a lovely jade-green dressing-case in the distance and nothing would do but that she must examine this, and have it sent out to the hotel. Then she caught sight of a pleasing cloisonne carafe and tray which she also commandeered. By this time it was impossible to move. Half distraught I suggested to Kenyon that we take an elevator to the top floor as an escape. The door was closed on the crowd and we mounted to a floor which few people frequent at eleven o'clock in the morning. But word had got ahead of us and we met a mob as great when we got out. Kenyon suggested that we take the back stairs while some one held the door closed, but two stories lower it was the same performance, only the mob was denser. I looked for a place of refuge and breathed a sigh of relief when I saw a high iron fence and a wall barricading the fur department. That was the very place to go. The doors were closed and the Queen examined at leisure the display of furs which were so much finer than any we had been able to see in the headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company in Winnipeg or Vancouver. She selected a lovely gray lamb coat with a beautiful silver fox collar, for the Princess to try on. As we wanted to do some Christmas shopping, we thought next of seeking a jeweler. This was easier thought of than done. The mob that followed us down the street was so dense that State Street was practically closed. I was nervous and frightened, for I considered the venture dangerous, considering the various stories I had heard but which evidently had not come to Her Majesty s ears, about the antagonistic attitude of many of the city's inhabitants. As we all know, Chicago is the place where the melting in the pot of America comes to a boil. Here the bitter outcast, the conscientious objector, the open fanatic, the discontented representative of mankind, have collected for a few generations. In the midst of this seething mass of humanity, one cannot but fear for the safety of so outstanding a person as the Queen of Roumania. I am sure Mr. Kenyon and I realized the situation on that morning as we never had before, and I felt chills run down my backbone as we pushed through the crowd on our way to a State Street jewelry shop where the Queen admired a jade cigarette box which the manager gallantly presented to her. So far we were unmolested. But upon emerging a more thrilling climax awaited us. Bedlam had broken loose. Having no police to con trol matters, the mob had surrounded the car, were hanging over the top and on the running board.

They were by no means unfriendly, all we could hear was, "Gee, ain't she great !" . . . "She's prettier than the pictures!" . . . etc., etc., but this did not allay my fear. It takes only one madman to inflict an injury, and when the chauffeur could not possibly force a way through the crowd so dense that it filled State Street from one side to the other I was so overwhelmed with the responsibility of it all I could only put my head out of the car window and shout, "Send for a policeman!" It was only after Kenyon procured a few husky Irish policemen to beat the crowd about that we finally managed to get free. I asked the calm Queen if she knew what fear was, and she simply smiled at me and said, "I am in a measure a fatalist, and I believe that nothing will happen to me until my hour comes. I have never been afraid of the physical attack of any human being."

On Tour with Queen Marie, 1927

No comments:

Post a Comment