The Literary Digest, 6 November 1926
Vol. 91, No. 6, Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York


As Honorary Colonel of the "Queen's Own"—the Fourth Roumanian Cavalry—Queen Marie plays a congenial rôle, and wears her dashing uniform like a huzzar to the manner born.    Photograph by Underwood & Underwood

A Queen Among Us Taking Notes

WHERE ARE THE REPORTERS?" The speaker was Queen Marie, of Roumania—"a journalist a thoroughly modern journalist—and the first queen-journalist of modern Europe." She had just arrived at the Paris Peace Conference, where statesmen were "dividing the spoils of war and drawing new boundary lines, Roumania's included." Other queens had come to Paris in those first days of peace, relates a writer in The New Republic. "Other queens had ridden through the streets, and bowed to the crowds, and smirked, and, overcome by the warmth of their reception, retired to their chambers." But only Marie, it appears, wished to know, "Where are the reporters?" And she received them in a multitude—"foreign and domestic, highbrow and lowbrow, Americans and Argentines, Japanese and Siamese, asking no more than that they be reporters of the news, people who were telling other people (by the hundred thousand) what was happening in Paris to everybody's claims, Roumania's included." And, of course, continues the chronicler—Charles Merz—she "bowled them over." They found Roumania's Queen quite irresistible, and "next morning the press of twenty nations paid its tribute." We are reminded that "in America the feature-writers had a Roman holiday," and even the Associated Press, "which does its best to be unenthusiastic," spread itself upon this gracious, democratic lady, "whose beauty enhances the charm of her forceful personality." Following which, "Roumania's claims, languishing all winter, picked up suddenly in the news." And something like an echo of that achievement, and a confirmation of the Queen's éclat as a journalist, seems to lurk in a Washington dispatch telling of Queen Marie's noble refusal, on her American tour, to use French soap. She "asked that American soap be provided," we read in the New York Evening Post, which adds:

"I want to use everything American while I am in America," she told one of the attaches. Already she is asking for apple-pie and American oysters.

While the American public's furor of interest and curiosity over our royal guest has evoked a certain amount of irony from cynical commentators both here and abroad, the majority of our people have shown themselves content to accept Queen Marie at her face value as a romantic, famous and admirable figure, dominating the passing show for the time being; and for this instinctive attitude they find encouragement in the parting words of Lady Astor, at the conclusion of her recent visit. As we read in the New York World:

"No woman in all Europe," Lady Astor said, "has a better war record than Queen Marie. She showed the greatest courage, tenderness, and devotion. Do you know that she went into places where nobody else would go—into leprous buildings and villages filled with influenza, where the dead were piled high and people dying of disease, and others were afraid to enter?

"What she did is amazing; but in all her writings which are read in America she never spoke of these accomplishments. She has never written a great story about it—merely fancy things.

She has the blood of all the Czars in her veins, and is a courageous and powerful woman of great charm. She is like a warm fire when you go into a room. There is nothing small or mean about her, and she is like Catherine the Great. Every one about her loves her."

From which point of view it is possible to condone an eager public interest in the Queen's pilgrimage and everything connected with it, including the "permanent wave" she procured in Paris, the embrace she bestowed upon her errant son, Prince Carol, and day-by-day accounts of what she said, what she did, what she wore and what she ate—100 per cent American food, by the way—on the voyage. Of her reception in New York, The World tells us that it was "the most elaborate in the history of this city." And here's the proof:

There were more police in line: 592 patrolmen (twelve mounted, thirty on motor-cycles), forty-six sergeants, thirty-nine lieutenants, nine captains and three inspectors. There were more fire-boats—three—spouting water for her entertainment. The Reception Committee never was more carefully selected or more uniformly attired: only the dark lacquer canes being forgotten, and Ira Nelson Morris being without the specified gray cravat.

But the rain persisted. It held the street crowds to a thin curbstone line and dampened their enthusiasm, so the few huzzahs keeping pace with the Queen's car in the procession up Broadway seemed like the slow fizzling of a wet fuse.

The Queen's reception was, in a word, a flop. Only the Queen herself saved it from being a dismal affair from beginning to end.

It was she, who, over the grave head-shakings of her resplendent staff, pressed forward to the open window of the pilot-house of the reception boat, Macom, on its way up the bay from Quarantine. Already she had spoken briefly to reporters and posed for photographers aboard the Leviathan, and the men who surrounded her felt that was a royal plenty.

But other reporters and other photographers waited in the rain on the open forward deck or the Macom to see and talk with her. She leaned out the window, smiled with the curiously set spread of her lips which is always at her command, and said:

"Here I am."

Thereupon something close to the following dialog took place:

The Queen—"I understand you couldn't get on the big ship. I'm so sorry."

Reporters—"Do you intend to go to California?"

"Yes, indeed."

"Palm Beach?"

"I hope so; but there are so many things to see, and I want to see them all, particularly your organizations—you are great organizers—and the work your women are doing."

"We understand you are the most energetic woman in Europe."

"Oh, no, not especially. I'm not like the American women. They are the most energetic in the world. But I'm happy to come to you all, and I hope you'll like me."

"Will you take reporters with you on your Western trip?"

"Oh, there are so many of you. But I should like to, it would be interesting to have you. But that is for those who are planning my trip to say. I think they'll have to have ten trains to take you all."

"The Roumanians and Americans are much alike, aren't they?"

She shook her head slowly, and smiled again.

"You're so efficient. Of course we're much slower, but ours is a lovely country."

"Will you see Yellowstone Park?"

"No, I'm afraid I'm too late for that."

"The Grand Canyon?"

"Yes, I hope so. I hear your falls are so wonderful. Tell me about them. Am I too late to see the beautiful colors, the reds and yellows? I hope you don't disappoint me with your beautiful trees."

Questioned about her interest in American literature, she said:

"I like to read your Western stories. They are so exciting. Of course, it isn't like that any more, I understand, but they are particularly nice to read when one is tired. And I like social books, too. And I have read a book by Mr. Ford."

At this point the one question which State Department officials and her social advisers had hoped to avoid, intruded. It related to her eldest son, Carol, who renounced his right to the throne and ran away from Bucharest with a woman other than his wife.

"Will you take Prince Carol back to Roumania with you?" the question was.

The answer came promptly, nor did she change expression:

"No, I'm afraid not right away," she said. "He has made a great mistake with his life and must take his punishment like any one else, Prince or no Prince. But I hope he will one day."

"Does the Princess Ileana help you with your writings? The radio has said she wanted a typewriter."

The Queen smiled at her young daughter, who stood beside her.

"She spells too badly," said the Queen.

"Are you going to write your memoirs?"

"I should like to, but I fear you'll all keep me much too busy."

Thereupon the interview ended, to be followed by a casual, easy conversation as the Macom pushed closer to the buildings of Manhattan, shadowed in mist and rain. The Queen, her straight-backed, pleasant-looking daughter, Princess Ileana, and her sallow, long-faced young son, Prince Nicholas, remained looking out the open windows of the pilot-house. All were genuinely interested and excited, apparently, by their approach to the largest city in the world.


With a numerous police escort, the Queen of Roumania is being driven from the waterfront to the City Hall to receive the official compliments of the occasion, while the financial district showers her with ticker tape and other impromptu confetti.    Photograph by Wide World Photos

Here the World man plucks up courage to describe the much-described Queen without a trace of heroics:

The Queen is a tall, robust woman of even features and direct manner. Beautiful she is not, in the opinion of this reporter, on any standards except, perhaps, those of royalty. Her hair—that is, as much of it as could be seen from under her small cloth-of-gold hat, which covered her ears—is light yellow, almost the golden it has been described. Her eyes are of a pale, expressionless blue. Her mouth is large, her nose strong, her chin delicately molded.

Only her skin betrays her fifty years of age. She uses no make-up, except the carmine rouge on her lips, and faint lines are visible about her eyes and mouth where the flesh no longer is firm.

"I don't feel any the worse for my fifty years," she said, "but if you say half a century, I feel very much older."

Her fifty-first birthday will be October 29, the subject which caused her comment. She answered all questions readily, seemingly surer of herself and her audience than were the various officials behind her. Only one question seemed to bewilder her a little. It was whether she had learned a royal way for eating corn on the cob. Twice she had it asked, but finally gave up trying to understand and responded:

"No, no. I like to eat a little bit of everything."


Surely a crowd may look at a queen, even if it has to do a little burglarizing to obtain a view of her. Enterprising members of New York's welcoming throng are here seen stealing an entrance to the City Hall during Queen Marie's reception—only to be thrown out again.    Photograph by Underwood & Underwood

As Marie was an English Princess, daughter of Queen Victoria's second son, the Duke of Edinburgh—England's "Sailor Prince" of the Victorian era—it is not surprising to learn that she speaks English "with unfailing grammatical accuracy." She is further quoted:

"You know why I have come here. I've come to see and thank you all for all you have done, not only for my country, but for all other countries. I hope you will all take me to your hearts, as I have taken you to mine. I come to see all and not any special person. I know what America represents to the world. I am very pleased to see you all together. I knew about your coming on board the boat. I have been waiting for this moment."

"What do you think of the skyline?" asked a young woman.

The Queen looked puzzled momentarily; the Leviathan was anchored miles from the city, and the skyline hidden behind mist and rain. Then she replied:

"I haven't seen much of it yet. I got up early this morning and saw the sun. I couldn't sleep, I was so excited. So I took up my pen, as I always have plenty to write."

"Do you intend to write here?"

"I will try to write, of course, as I must write home to my people, who are depending on hearing from me."

Thereupon, as if in explanation of her writing of articles for publication by newspapers, she said this would be easier for her than giving numerous interviews. She praised the Leviathan and Commodore Hartley, its commander, who was later to kiss her hand as she left the vessel.

In response to a question as to her greatest interest in America, the Queen told the reporters:

"I am interested in art and a great lover of all things beautiful.

I am particularly interested in the position of women in America and their work for world peace. We've all had enough of war, haven't we? I am confident that women will end all wars, if they do not quarrel among themselves."

"How seriously do you take the clothes or marvelous wardrobe reports say you are bringing with you?"

"I don't think I take my wardrobe seriously. I certainly do not spend the fantastic sums on my clothes which have been reported. Of course, I do like clothes."

"Did you like the American cuisine?"

"Didn't I?" replied the Queen laughing. "I enjoyed it immensely."

"How many buckwheat cakes did you eat?"

"One at a time," was her reply. She closed the interview with a slight wave of her hand and the words:

"I am glad to have seen you all and I hope you will believe I am your real friend."

Another question caught her as she was turning to go.

"Would you be willing, Your Majesty, to have your son or daughter marry an American?"

She raised both her hands in a gesture of mock dismay.

"They're much too young," she said, "to think of that."

"Will you play in the movies?"

"I am not going to play in any motion-pictures," she concluded.

It was as she drew close to Manhattan on the Macom that the Queen became the interviewer.

"The buildings look Egyptian," she said, "as if the Pharaohs had built them. What do the people in the streets look like from them?"

"Like ants," said a bystander promptly.

The buildings became clearer in outline.

"They look more friendly than I had thought they would," she said. And, seeing the spouting fireboats, she ejaculated:

"Isn't that nice? I'd like to have them for my garden. Wouldn't Michael like them?" (Michael is her grandson by Prince Carol's royal marriage.)

And then came the business of going ashore in the rain.


Coming up the bay on the official tug, the Queen and her two children—Prince Nicholas and Princess Ileana—evinced a lively interest in the tall buildings and the Statue of Liberty.    Photograph by Underwood & Underwood

Like other noted arrivals, from Marshals of France to Channel swimmers, Her Majesty was treated to a ride up Broadway, with its accompaniment of curiosity, cheers, and a rain of ticker-tape and torn paper from sky-scraper windows. Following which came a reception in the City Hall, where Mayor Walker presented the royal visitor with a medal and a scroll of welcome. And here Queen Marie availed herself of an opportunity to address an immense audience by radio. This is what she confided to the microphone:

"I really do not know with what words I can thank you all for this wonderful reception. It has been for many years my great dream to come to your wonderful country. Now that I have put my foot upon your ground, that I have entered your great city, it seems to me almost incredible.

"Already on your wonderful ship the Leviathan, I felt so at home. I was received there with a welcome I shall never forget. It prepared me in a way for the welcome I am receiving now from your streets, but I did not expect that it would be as wonderful as it is. I saw in all faces a real pleasure to see me among you, and I can only say that my pleasure is as big as yours, if not larger and bigger still.

"I am very happy to hear you speak with such love of my Roumanians, whom I have come here to see as well as you all. We certainly have made our country larger. God was very good to us, and I hope that we are worthy of carrying on a work which we believe in.

"His Majesty the King would have loved to come with me; but he is necessary in his own country, and as he knew that many American hearts beat for his wife, he told me that I could come myself to tell you that he as well as I love and trust the American people.

"I can not say all that I hope to see here in your big country, but I know all that you can teach old Europe. It is a greeting from the whole of Europe that I bring you, because I think that both Europe and America must stretch out hands one toward the other, and that great force of love which the world ought to be full of will perhaps be brought over to you a little bit through me. If I can do anything to make the world in general feel that we have entered a time of peace, I will feel that my visit to you will not have been in vain.

"I have an enormous and great admiration for the women of America. I know what they count for. I know what they mean. I know what they have done and it is to them also that I talk with all my heart. I hope they will have the feelings for me that I have for them.

"I am really too full of emotion to say much more at this moment, because I did not prepare any speech. The only thing that I can say is, I thank you for your welcome and I hope that you will take me up in your hearts as I already feel that you are in mine."


"The Mother-in-Law of the Balkans" is here portrayed with her daughters, Queen Marie, of Jugoslavia (left), and Queen Elizabeth, of Greece (now in exile).    Photograph by Underwood & Underwood

While the royal party entrained for Washington, the Socialists of New York bestirred themselves in protest against the politeness of Queen Marie's reception. Justice Jacob Panken, Socialist candidate for Governor, "roundly denounced officials of the city, State and nation for what he termed their 'undue zest in groveling before the Queen,'" and fiery speeches were delivered at an open-air meeting, of which we read:

The chief grievances expressed at the meeting were the alleged imprisonment and torture of 2,500 political prisoners in Roumania. It also was asserted that the Queen's real purpose in coming was to obtain capital to aid Roumania in completing her forcible domination of Bessarabia, with the ultimate purpose of allowing American oil interests to gain an advantage over British competitors in the adjoining oil-fields in Southern Russia.

The meeting adopted a resolution condemning the Queen as representing a government which persecuted workers and peasants, and censuring the Government of the United States for welcoming her to this country.

In marked contrast to the Socialist indignation was the spirit of a feminine episode thus described by the New York Times:

Scores of women decided yesterday that although they had had to stand outside the City Hall during the welcoming ceremony for Queen Marie, they could at least sit in the chair a Queen had sat in.

For more than an hour they had waited in City Hall Park while silk-hatted officials swept up to the entrance in sleek limousines, and while lucky ticket-holders filed in to see Queen Marie receive the freedom of the city from Mayor Walker. All the color and pageantry were indoors; drab, gray crowds and colorless radio broadcasting were the lot of those who stood outside in the park.

As soon as the Queen and the ticket-holders had gone, however, many of the patient watchers filed into the building, eager to see the beautiful old City Hall as a Queen had seen it. They climbed the graceful circular staircase to the second floor and poked their heads into the Aldermanic Chamber to see the flowers, the flags and the gilded chairs.

In the middle of the platform stood an empty black chair, surrounded by rows of empty gilded seats. Ordinarily this chair is used by Joseph V. McKee when he presides over the meetings of the Board of Aldermen. But yesterday it was used by a Queen. One woman saw it and had an idea.

"The Queen sat in that chair," she said. "I think I'll sit in it, too." Brushing past two astonished policemen who had remained in the hall, she sat in the chair, looked around her and arose, beaming. The idea caught hold, and a line of women began marching up to the platform to take turns in the Queen's chair.

Whether President Coolidge would or would not kiss the Queen's hand seemed to be a vital question in the minds of the correspondents "covering" the royal visitor's ceremonial call at the White House, and the reciprocal courtesies which followed. The unanimous testimony is that Mr. Coolidge's salute to Her Majesty consisted of a cautious but cordial Vermont handshake. Chroniclers of the event remind us that a President of the United States had never received a Queen before—President Wilson having been too ill to receive the King and Queen of the Belgians just after the War. A World correspondent sketches the meeting in bold strokes:

President Coolidge, reticent, almost austere, on formal occasions, standing beside his wife, a former schoolmistress, both bowing, and shaking—not kissing—the hand of the studiedly impulsive Queen Marie, whose every move is accompanied by the clatter of sabers and the clicking of cameras.

What they said, the three, none knows except themselves and Secretary of State Kellogg. The President may repeat part of it some night over the cigars after dinner; the Queen may write it to-morrow morning at 6.30 o'clock, propped up in bed and busy with pen and paper, as is reported to be her custom. But in the meantime, of the thirteen minutes they spent together, nothing is known except the picture of them standing there, and later in the Red Room, "chatting informally," as the affable but cautious J. Butler Wright put it.

Very different, declares the correspondent, was the scene exactly twenty-five minutes later when the Queen received the return call of President and Mrs. Coolidge in the drawing- room of the Roumanian Legation:

There the setting was the Queen's own. All were seated. A photographer in the corner busied himself making picture after picture of the group, the subdued rattle of his plates and camera forcing the conversation to be louder and more spirited.