Written by Emma Rountree.
On 18 October 1926, Queen Marie of Romania arrived in New York City to cheering crowds and a ticker tape parade. She had come at the behest of her American friends, businessman Sam Hill and modern dancer Loie Fuller. Hill wanted her to speak at the dedication of his new museum, the Maryhill Museum of Art in Washington State. Marie was accompanied by her two youngest children, Nicolas and Ileana.
Marie visited many cities in the United States and Canada, with some events being particularly notable. Her visit with President and Mrs Coolidge was awkward as the reserved president was not overly fond of the flamboyant foreigner. In South Dakota, Marie was inducted into the Sioux tribe and given the title of “War Woman” in honour of her role in World War I and the name “The Woman Who Was Waited For.” In Chicago, the press and members of the public mobbed Marie twice on the same day: the first time in a Marshall Field’s department store and the second time at a jewellery store. The dedication of Maryhill took place on 3 November, which Marie carried off admirably with a speech, though she had to hide her surprise and embarrassment as Hill had not informed her that the museum was not finished being built.
Marie was one of the first royals to truly become a modern celebrity, as evidenced by the cheering crowds that appeared everywhere she went. In her journal she wrote, “I cannot describe in detail the degree of honour paid me everywhere. I can only say it is incomparably bigger than any I have received elsewhere. The American[s] have made a sort of hero out of me in their hearts & minds, and I am received as such by a nation of hero-worshippers. I am astounded & often feel humble before the degree of virtues they believe I have & love to honour.”
There are many reasons why Americans were so fascinated by Marie. In addition to the general American interest in royalty, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Queen of a country considered exotic by many Americans, had also made a name for herself. Her heroic actions as a nurse during World War I, her participation in the Paris Peace Talks, and her published books and articles all made her particularly fascinating. Marie’s dynamic personality and willingness to engage with people of all backgrounds also made her popular.
Unfortunately, Marie’s tour was cut short when she received news on 17 November that her husband King Ferdinand was in ill-health. She returned to Europe on 24 November. Marie, who died in 1938, would never again visit North America, but her daughter Ileana spent most of the last forty years of her life in the United States, where she founded the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in 1967.
An account of Marie’s trip, On Tour with Queen Marie, was published in March 1927 by her American hostess, Constance Lily Morris.