Thursday, April 21, 2011

King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth in America

Dear Madam Queen:

I am a little American girl. I go to a school on a mountain covered with pines. I heard that you were going to Washington. I hope that you will also come to see me in my school. I know a great many things and I will tell them to you. I helped to make clothes for the Belgian children during the war. I prayed for you alot. My sister prayed too. I have never been to Washington. I am ten years old. My sister is eight. Goodbye! 

Here is an online version of Pierre Goemaere's charming book,  Across America with the King of the Belgians (1921) , a first-hand account of the Belgian sovereigns' triumphal tour of the United States in 1919.  Albert and Elisabeth were welcomed everywhere as heroes. (Above is a letter from one of their youngest admirers). Harvard University conferred an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws upon the King, in recognition of his defense of right during World War I. The book is replete with interesting observations, praise and criticism of the United States. I do think, though, that M. Goemaere over-stated his case in claiming that this -  admittedly relatively young-  nation had "no history" and "no traditions" (!). It is particularly odd, since he also described the King's impressions upon visiting places of deep historical significance, such as the tombs of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.


MadMonarchist said...

Looks interesting, I'm not sure if I ever knew the King and Queen came to the States. There was a great deal of sympathy for Belgium over here, history having left some bad blood between the US and Britain and France at times, but Belgium was a country everyone could sympathize with, guilty of nothing but being 'in the way'.

As for history and tradition in America, it is true that the union is not all that old, the "country" is much older and the government has now been around longer than probably most in the world. Belgians have been around from early on too. I seem to recall BelgieRoyalist telling me that Peter Minuit was actually a Belgian (in Dutch employ) and I have seen maps for the area later called New Netherland (New York area) labeled as "Nova Belgica".

Viola said...

Thank you very much for this post and the book. I hope to read it. I still don't know very much about Belgian royalty but I hope to learn much more!

One can only wonder what King Albert would have thought of Australia!

Matterhorn said...

Good points, MM.

Viola, thank you! I'm sure King Albert would have enjoyed Australia!

rtaylor1802 said...

Thanks for the link. Finally had a chance to read it.

As an ardent mountaineer, what must have gone through the King's mind as he gazed upon the purple mountain majesties of Colorado and the time of year and a tight schedule did not permit time for a climb? No mention of it in the book. It's too bad he never returned for a climbing vacation - my "half savage" forebearers (page 72) would have loved him.

Thanks again Matterhorn!

Matterhorn said...

You are most welcome!