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Queen Marie of Romania and Princess Ileana and Prince Nicolas visit Seattle's Roosevelt High School on November 4, 1926.
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On November 4, 1926, Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938) and her children Princess Ileana (age 17) and Prince Nicolas (age 23) visit Roosevelt High School at the invitation of the Roosevelt Girls’ Club. Queen Marie and her children are in Seattle after dedicating the Maryhill Museum in Goldendale, Washington. The visit to Roosevelt is just one feature of a day jammed packed with motorcades and public appearances, but Queen Marie and Princess Ileana, charmed by the Roosevelt girls, insist on alighting from their car to pay their full respects.
Courting the Queen
The Roosevelt Girls’ Club first courted Queen Marie in the spring of 1926 by writing to her and inviting her to visit their school if her long-rumored trip to Washington ever came to be. They also requested her photograph to use in a booklet of her sayings that they had been collecting. They sent along a copy of the Roosevelt “R” Book, a 3 x 6 inch, green student handbook emblazoned with a golden “R." The book outlined all of Roosevelt’s rules and regulations, school songs and creeds, and the constitution of the Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs.
Queen Marie’s participation in the 1919 Paris Peace Conference and her 1924 appearance on the cover of Time magazine, as well as her published articles and fairytales, made her a role model for many women and girls.
The Roosevelt News reported the student body’s excited preparations for the royal visit:
“In honor of the royal party the Roumanian flag will fly immediately below the flag of the United States; the band will stand at the right of the flagstaff and play the Roumanian national air as the Queen alights from her automobile ... the Rough Riders are to form a guard of honor on both sides of the front steps while the Aurora Guards will line up in front of the entrance ... the stage will be decorated with the American and Roumanian colors” (November 4, 1926).
The Aurora Guards were a group of female students with red hair who greeted visitors to the school and helped new students acclimate. The group's founder was Roosevelt High School's girls guidance counselor, Rose Glass (1880-ca.1965), a flamboyant redhead, who may have met Queen Marie while performing volunteer service with the YMCA in France during or just after World War I.
Queen Marie noted in her diary, “I stopped my motor and the chief-girl came out with flowers and told me that they had been awaiting me with intensest (sic) eagerness because they were the school that had corresponded with me this spring and I had answered sending them my picture. I then suddenly remembered the name Roosevelt High School Seattle and how they had sent me a little book with the ‘statutes’ of their school and how they classed all the red-haired girls for certain charges of duties, and there indeed stood up in a special row were about two dozen girls every one of them with red hair. It was like a dream to be really there” (America Seen By A Queen, p. 102).
A Fine Lot of Young People
Queen Marie’s American hostess, Constance Lily Morris, remembered the Roosevelt students:
“A fine lot of young people crowded the high flight of steps leading to the front door -- boys and girls looking the picture of health. A few of them ushered the Queen up the front steps while the rest of the assembled crowd shouted ‘M-A-R-I-E’ in unison a number of times, ending with a loud war-whoop. When the Queen reached the top of the landing, she saw a row of red-headed girls, and she immediately remembered that she had been corresponding with these girls for some time as they had sent their pictures to Roumania, and called themselves ‘The Red-Headed Band.’ They seemed like old friends, she said. It was a unique demonstration, and she enjoyed it thoroughly, and often laughed about it afterwards” (On Tour With Queen Marie, p. 135).
The crowd gathered on the Roosevelt lawn was 2,000-strong. Roosevelt was the only spot on Queen Marie’s long motorcade where the royal party alighted from their Lincoln limousines. The Roosevelt News quoted Queen Marie as saying “I cannot disappoint them -- I must get out” (“Assembled Students Cheer Heartily ..."). Roosevelt Girls’ Club president June Voss welcomed the royal party and led them up the steep, broad stairway to a specially erected dais.
The Seattle Star noted, “Cameramen and motion picture operators almost spoiled this event by boring inside the lines of students and arranging themselves in a row in front of the dais where the queen and her two children stood. Marie, seeing nothing but clicking shutters in front of her, turned a haughty, royal back on the cameramen” (November 5, 1926). According to The Roosevelt News, Princess Ileana told the girls around her, “This is the first school we have visited and I’m glad it could be this one. I have wanted to visit your school ever since I have read your creed” (“Queen Marie Visits”).
The Girls’ Club presented Queen Marie and Princess Ileana with bouquets of pink Ophelia roses. Prince Nicolas was given a felt Roosevelt banner. Loud cheers for each member of the royal family, led by cheerleader Kenneth Wilcox, followed.
A Handsome Prince
“The immaculate young prince wore a delighted grin as he heard the students’ voices echo his name with real fervor,” reported the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. “An irrepressible little minx, standing on the sidelines, just couldn’t resist the temptation and, as Prince Nicolas passed, she reached out and plucked at his arm. ‘Oh, you sheik!’ she cried -- and if there wasn’t pure adoration in her smile there’s no such thing in all the world. Prince Nicolas seemed just a bit put out at first, but her smile was too much for him” (“Marie Rushed Hither, Yon ...").
Young women of the 1920s used the term “sheik” as a high compliment referencing silent film star Rudolph Valentino’s 1921 movie The Sheik.
Roosevelt High School received a thank you letter written by Queen Marie’s personal secretary, Robert Papworth, from her train, The Royal Roumanian. A few weeks later The Roosevelt News reported that the Girls’ Club was sending Queen Marie and Princess Ileana a Christmas gift: “To Queen Marie will go the creed of Seattle and the Girls’ Club creed printed in poster form and Princess Ileana will receive the Roosevelt creed ... Nothing will be sent to the Prince Nicolas unless the Boys’ Club should decide to send something” (“Girls Send Gifts To Queen And Princess”). Queen Marie’s response to these gifts, if any, does not appear to have survived.
Marie, Queen of Romania, America Seen By A Queen: Queen Marie’s Diary of her 1926 Voyage to the United States of America (Bucharest: The Romanian Cultural Foundation Publishing House, 1999); Gene Smith, “Queen Marie: In the Delirium of the 1920s, She Became, For A Little While, The Most Popular Woman In The Country,” The American Heritage, Vol. 45, No. 6, October 1994; Constance Lily Morris, On Tour With Queen Marie (New York: Robert M. McBride & Co, 1927); Boys’ and Girls’ Clubs of Roosevelt High School, The “R” Book 1927-28, (Seattle: Roosevelt High School, 1927); Mari Brattain, “Queen Marie Honors Roosevelt With Visit Today,” The Roosevelt News, November 4, 1926; “Royal Gratitude Is Shown In Letters,” Ibid., November 12, 1926; “Girls Send Gifts To Queen and Princess,” Ibid., n.d., probably December 1926; "Queen Marie Visits," Ibid., November 12, 1926; “Yell Leaders To Give Marie a Thrill Today,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 4, 1926, p. 2; “Marie Rushed Hither, Yon, But Likes It,” Ibid., November 5, 1926, p. 1; "Assembled Students Cheer Heartily...," Ibid.,, November 12, 1926; “With The Queen In Seattle,” The Seattle Star, November 5, 1926, p. 6; “Royal Party Has Busy Visit,” Ibid., November 5, 1926, p. 6; “Mayors, Soldiers, School Children Cool Their Heels,” Ibid., November 4, 1926, p. 1; Hannah Pakula, The Last Romantic (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984); Time magazine, cover, August 4, 1924; Doris Hinson Pieroth, Seattle's Women Teachers of the Interwar Years (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2004), p. 178.
Note: This essay was expanded slightly on February 19, 2006.
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At Roosevelt High School, (l to r.), Kenneth Wilcox, Prince Nicolas, June Voss, Queen Marie of Romania, Princess ILeana, Seattle, November 4, 1926
Courtesy MOHAI (Neg. 86.5G1829)
Letter from Queen Marie of Romania to Roosevelt High School Girls' Club, May 31, 1926
Courtesy MOHAI (Neg. 86.5G1825)