On November 4, 1926, Queen Marie of Romania (1875-1938), her son Prince Nicolas (1903-1977) and her daughter Princess Ileana (1909-1991) visit Seattle. The royal family is in the United States at the invitation of Sam Hill, whose Maryhill Museum Queen Marie dedicated the day before. Arriving by train four hours behind schedule due to a stop at Longview, Queen Marie finds Seattle citizens almost apoplectic with excitement.
A Queen in World Politics
Queen Marie of Romania achieved near universal popularity during the 1920s. The granddaughter of both England’s Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II of Russia, in her youth she was considered to be one of the most beautiful women in the world. Married at age 17 to the future King Ferdinand of Romania, Queen Marie was a highly romantic figure. Her staunch efforts on the part of her country during World War I helped bring Romania’s struggles against the Germans to wide attention.
In the war’s aftermath she was sent by Romania’s ministers to represent the country at the 1919 Paris Peace Conference at Versailles. During the Paris Peace Conference she met Sam Hill. She wrote fairy tales and articles that were published and widely read. On August 4, 1924, she appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
The American Tour
Her visit to the United States was rumored in the press for several years before it actually came to pass. During her North American trip Queen Marie wrote a series of articles called My Impressions Of America for the American Newspaper Alliance.
The Queen arrived in the United States October 18, 1926. After a visit to President Calvin Coolidge in Washington, D.C., and several days in New York, she traveled on her special train across the continent. The Queen visited towns and cities along her route and many minute details of her activities were reported widely by the press contingent traveling with her.
Washington's Own Queen
By November 3, 1926, when the Queen arrived in Goldendale to dedicate the half-finished shell that was to become the Maryhill Museum, residents of the state of Washington were clamoring for their chance to see her. From Goldendale the royal party traveled by car to Portland. After attending a banquet and horse show in Portland, the royal party spent the night on their train, then departed Portland for Seattle early in the morning on November 4.
A scheduled stop in Longview to tour the Long-Bell Lumber Company’s plant stretched to four hours. Sam Hill cabled the Seattle City Council, “Due in Seattle 1:30. Hope to make up later for this discourtesy. Not my fault” (The Seattle Star, November 4, 1926). Seattle mayor Bertha C. Landes (1868-1943) busied herself in her office. Governor Roland H. Hartley (1864-1952) waited at his hotel. The mayors of Victoria, B.C., Edmonds, Bremerton, Toppenish, Port Angeles, and Everett, in Seattle to welcome the royal party, cooled their heels.
Seattle Goes Apoplectic
Many Seattle residents had been waiting at King Street Station since dawn. On November 4, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer alone carried 10 articles about the royal visit. For those lucky enough to actually meet Queen Marie, the paper advised, “With queens ... be natural. Be yourself. Be simple. Use common sense ... When in doubt, let the Queen do it first ... no, no, no, you do not kneel to her” (“Be Yourself When Visiting Royal Guest”).
Queen Marie’s train, the Royal Roumanian, pulled into King Street Station at 1:30 p.m. Queen Marie and her children were driven in Lincoln limousines to City Hall. Mayor Landes, Governor Hartley, and as many other dignitaries as could squeeze into the line of limousines then joined the royal party for a motorcade through the city.
Thousands jammed the route of Queen Marie’s motorcade. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer stated, “Michael Carrigan of the Chamber of Commerce ... has omitted no point of interest between Seattle and Fort Lawton, the waterfront and Sand Point Field (“Queen Comes To Seattle, But When?”).
The Seattle Star reported:
“Seattle citizens along Fourth Avenue, along University Way, along Lake Washington Boulevard, along Twenty-third Avenue, caught fleeting glimpses of a smiling face, tucked deep in a heavy sealskin coat, and a wisp of lace handkerchief, waving lightly in the wind…Down 14th Avenue NE, thru the University from the north entrance of the campus to the south entrance, across the Montlake Bridge, around the boulevard, past Washington park, past Denny-Blaine park, past Mount Baker Park to Franklin High School the party sped” (“Royal Party Has Busy Visit”).
Many newspapers noted that the motorcade, trying to make up lost time, traveled at breakneck speed.
Roosevelt High School was the only place on the motorcade route where the royal party alighted. The Roosevelt Girls’ Club had been corresponding with Queen Marie since early spring of 1926 and the entire student body lined up on the school lawn to greet her. “Here in America schools are for boys and girls mixed and a happier, healthier crowd I have never seen,” Queen Marie noted in her diary (America Seen By A Queen, p. 102).
The motorcade ended at the Seattle Yacht Club, where an enormous crowd of dignitaries and members of Seattle society waited to meet the Queen. She planted a tree in the yard of the club, and later recorded in her diary, “We were solemnly led into the very pretty Club-house beautifully decorated with flowers, but there was an overwhelming mass of people, one was all but smothered by them, they began marching past to be presented but there were really too many; I could not possibly wait to receive them all” (America Seen By A Queen, p. 102).
Sam Hill's Special Guest
The Queen’s next stop was Sam Hill’s mansion at 814 E. Highland Drive. Queen Marie described the house in her diary:
“... almost as queer and quaint as Maryhill. Here he gave us a very hap-hazard tea and showed us about into every corner, also up on the roof where he had made a garden, at this moment one mass of chrysanthemums. Dear old Sam is really a freak and all he does, builds or invents is freakish. His ways are so disconcerting and disconcerting too are the things he says. One feels like wandering not quite in reality when in his company and one cannot help wondering: what next?” (America Seen By A Queen, p. 102).
The Seattle Star noted that Sam Hill’s neighbors gave the royal party an ovation, although the newspaper does not specify if those neighbors were gathered on the street or watching Queen Marie from the windows of their own mansions.
But The New York Times reported: “In the crowd waiting in front of Samuel Hill’s house this afternoon to see the Queen, a woman, Mrs. A. V. Brown, wife of the General Manager of the Western lines of the Northern Pacific Railroad, dropped dead of heart disease” (“Discord In Party Disturbs Queen”). The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that the cause of Mrs. Brown’s death was “apoplexy caused by the suspense and excitement of the long wait” (“Few In Crowd See Woman Die Waiting Queen”).
Interruptions and Entertainments
After a brief rest in her traincar, Queen Marie was on the go again. She greeted the Seattle Business Women’s Club at a dinner and reception at the New Washington Hotel. Sam Hill addressed the crowd. Queen Marie’s American hostess, Constance Lily Morris, reported in her memoir of the trip that the Queen was accosted by a friend of Hill’s in the audience:
“This gentleman, with his goatee and his scrawny, loose-jointed figure, walked straight across the hall, and standing opposite the Queen with his hands on the table, began to lecture her. He said that perhaps America could teach her something; that we could perhaps tell her something about business and industry and organization which they didn’t know in her country; that on the spot where she was standing lions and wolves prowled not more than forty years ago. How was that for progress? She smiled at him while he talked, and then arose and said that she had already learned much in America; that she marveled at the great gift of organization possessed by us, which had built these wonderful cities. She said that she rejoiced to find a woman mayor in Seattle, which also marked great progress, and that the business women of America were a marvel to her” (On Tour With Queen Marie, p. 137).
After the dinner a group of Romanians living in Seattle invited Queen Marie to a reception where they presented a program of Romanian music and singing. Queen Marie endured this with good grace, later noting in her diary “We were home early and that was a blessing” (America Seen By A Queen, p. 103).
Despite the widely reported arguments between Sam Hill and other members of her party over royal scheduling and royal access, Queen Marie remembered Seattle as one of her favorite American cities. “I feel quite in love with Seattle, it is really in every way a lovely, even beautiful town,” she noted in her diary (America Seen By A Queen, p. 102).