Thursday, April 21, 2011
King Albert I and Queen Elisabeth in America
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.