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Queen Marie of Romania visits Blaine to rededicate the Peace Arch on November 6, 1926.
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On November 6, 1926, Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938) rededicates Samuel Hill’s Peace Arch in Blaine on the border of the United States and Canada. (The arch had been dedicated twice before, in 1921 and 1922.) With her are her youngest surviving son and daughter and the 85-person retinue accompanying her on her United States tour. The party arrives in Blaine from Vancouver B.C., aboard the Royal Roumanian, a special train made up of railcars donated by the officials of several different railway companies. After the dedication, the Queen and her children continue to Seattle by car.
Bickering at the Peace Arch
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer described Queen Marie as “tired and strained” and her children’s faces as “frankly expressing a mild amazement at what John A. Kellogg, mayor of Bellingham, called ‘this new and somewhat raw land’ ” (“Blaine Hears Queen Marie Make Brief Speech”). The irony of a stop to dedicate the Peace Arch was not lost on Hill, the newspaper reporters, or Queen Marie: As every newspaper covering her visit was quick to point out, Sam Hill and others in the party were bickering over the schedule and over the Queen.
Queen Marie described the Peace Arch in her diary as “a weird construction in concrete to consecrate 100 years [of peace] between America and Canada. So one foot of the portal is on American and the other on Canadian ground. The idea is fine but the monument itself is of mean proportions, without beauty or particular dignity and stands so that it has neither background nor foreground. It is one of the Hill-Loie imaginations, full of big thoughts and just a little grotesque. The ceremony was simple with a touch of the absurd because old Hill is scatter-brained and simple in spite of his world-wide schemes” (p. 106). American modern dancer Loie Fuller was a highly dramatic friend of both Hill and the Queen and was part of the royal party.
“We were rather disillusioned,” wrote Queen Marie’s American hostess, Constance Lily Morris, in her memoir of the trip, “but not really surprised to find that this arch of which we had heard so much was, like the Maryhill museum, built of stucco and in a rather dilapidated condition, studded with electric lights” (On Tour With Queen Marie, 141).
The royal party had actually seen the Peace Arch briefly on November 5 when they stopped en route to Vancouver, British Columbia, to have breakfast at Samuel Hill’s Blaine bungalow. Hill, who was very proud of his modern electric house, insisted that Queen Marie cook the breakfast waffles herself on an electric waffle iron plugged in at the breakfast nook. Hill had intended this as a treat for the Queen, Prince Nicolas, and Princess Ileana, but Marie’s entire retinue came along, filling the house to overflowing. Queen Marie noted in her diary, “There was not even anything to eat because we were to cook our food but of course so many appearing spoilt the whole thing and made ridiculous what might have been cozy” (America Seen By A Queen, 104).
Royalty Hits the Road
After the dedication the royal party returned briefly to Seattle, driving from Blaine to Bellingham and then to Seattle on Chuckanut Drive. Queen Marie, Sam Hill, and Colonel Carroll took one of the fleet of Lincoln Town Cars provided for royal use; Prince Nicolas and Ford employee L. M. Larson took another; and Princess Ileana a third. At one point on the journey Ileana’s car skidded on wet pavement. Larson told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “It skidded around at right angles with the road and my heart went right up in my mouth. But the Princess just leaned on the wheel like a racing driver and brought the car out of the skid pretty as you please” (“Royalty Hits 70-Mile Pace On Highway"). Prince Nicolas, Larson added was “having the time of his life on this trip.”
En route they stopped at a creamery in Burlington, of which Queen Marie noted in her diary, “They make conserved milk, powdered milk, cheese, butter, everything by machine, the hand never touches anything ... I never saw anything so clean, appetizing and smelless. The people did not expect us, but they were awfully nice” (America Seen By A Queen, 107).
A Seattle Evening
That afternoon, while the Queen rested in her train, Prince Nicolas and Princess Ileana watched a University of Washington football game. In the evening Sam Hill entertained the family at his Capitol Hill mansion and as he was returning them to their train, stopped at the Smith Tower. Although the stop was nearly spontaneous, word spread quickly and by the time the royal party arrived the sidewalks were jammed with excited Seattleites. “The Lady Mayor was with us,” Queen Marie noted in her diary (America Seen By A Queen 108).
The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that as Hill, Seattle Mayor Bertha Landis, the Prince, Princess, and Queen looked out on the lights of the city from the observation deck on the 35th floor, Queen Marie exclaimed, “Wonderful!” (“Queen Looks Down On City’s Night Life”). In the early hours of November 7, the Royal Roumanian headed eastward. Queen Marie appeared briefly in Spokane, and then the royal party proceeded out of the state.
Back to Romania
Queen Marie’s trip was cut short due to continuing reports of the ill health of her husband, King Ferdinand. Queen Marie, Prince Nicolas, and Princess Ileana departed the United States on November 29, 1926. King Ferdinand died on July 20, 1927.
On July 18, 1938, Queen Marie died. She was buried beside her husband in a small chapel at Curtea de Arges in Romania, but at her request her heart was interred in a chapel at Balcic, her favorite residence, on the shores of the Black Sea.
In 1940 a portion of Romania that included Balcic became part of Bulgaria. Queen Marie’s aide-de-camp, General Zwiedineck, removed the casket containing her heart to a church at Castle Bran. Castle Bran, in the Carpathian mountains of western Romania, had been bequeathed to Princess Ileana by Queen Marie. In her memoir I Live Again, Princess Ileana wrote, “I had a little chapel carved out of the rock of the hill just behind the church, with a winding path and steps mounting up to it, and there I placed the casket containing the heart. There it stood, apart and alone, a shrine easily accessible to all”(183). The casket containing Queen Marie’s heart was later moved to the National History Museum of Romania in Bucharest.
Princess Ileana founded a hospital dedicated to the memory of her mother and worked for the Romanian Red Cross during World War II and its aftermath. In December 1947 her nephew, King Michael, was forced to abdicate and Romania came under Communist rule. Princess Ileana, her husband, Archduke Anton of Austria, and their six children fled Romania.
A Queen Mother's Tiara
Among the few possessions Princess Ileana was able to take with her was the sapphire and diamond tiara her mother had worn throughout her 1926 American tour. The tiara entered the United States wrapped in Princess Ileana’s nightgown. The sale of this tiara provided means for the family to start a new life.
In 1968, her children grown, Princess Ileana took the name Mother Alexandra and founded an Orthodox convent, the Monastery of the Holy Transfiguration, in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. Mother Alexandra died in Youngstown, Ohio, on January 21, 1991.
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); Princess Ileana of Romania, I Live Again (New York: Rinehart and Company, 1951); “Marie Party Row Has Its Climax Here,” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, November 11, 1926; “Royalty Hits 70-Mile Pace On Highway,” Ibid., November 7, 1926; “Queen Looks Down On City’s Night Life,” Ibid., November 7, 1926; Hazel MacDonald, “Blaine Hears Queen Make Brief Speech,” Ibid., November 7, 1926; Constance Lily Morris, On Tour With Queen Marie (New York: Robert M. McBride & Company, 1927); “Queen Marie’s Life Active, Eventful,” The New York Times, July 19, 1938; “Guide For Funeral Written By Marie,” The New York Times, July 20, 1938; “Queen’s Heart To Lie In Urn,” The New York Times, October 29, 1938; “Ileana Of Romania Is Dead At 82; Princess Founded Convent In U.S.” The New York Times, January 22, 1991.
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Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938), 1907
Courtesy The Story of My Life
Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938) during her American tour, 1926
Courtesy America Seen by a Queeen
Peace Arch, Blaine, ca. 1940
Peace Arch (1921), Blaine, March 2003
HistoryLink.org Photo by Priscilla Long