It has always fascinated me that we, citizens of a republican nation proud of its overthrow of a monarchy in the 18th century, have been so enamored of royalty. For example, in December, newspapers and electronic media were full of news and speculation about the love life of Prince Harry of England. We are very proud that we do not have a monarchy, yet we seem to be entranced by stories about princes and princesses.
This interest in royalty is by no means new. When Queen Victoria married Prince Albert in February of 1840, her wedding sparked a trend that has not abated here, including white wedding dresses, bouquets of flowers, and elaborate receptions after the ceremony. Later in the 19th century, as wealthy American women began to marry European royalty, Americans eagerly paid attention to all of the details, including the lists of wedding presents.
Many members of royal families were just as curious about Americans as we were about them, as evidenced by the many visits paid by royals to the U.S. In March of 1902, Prince Henry of Prussia, the younger brother of the bombastic Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany, and a grandson of the late Queen Victoria, visited the U.S., and his train made a short stop here in Syracuse, New York. When his train pulled into the station, the mayor, a welcoming committee, and ten representatives of German women’s societies in Syracuse were there to meet him; thousands of other people crowded into downtown as well to try to gain a glimpse of the handsome, and (unlike his brother) genial, prince. (One newspaper estimated the crowd at 12,000 while another newspaper asserted the crowd was over 15,000; then, as now, crowd estimates were open to interpretation/exaggeration). The crowd yelled “Hurrah! Hurrah for Prince Henry!” and there was nearly a stampede as the crowd surged closer to the Prince’s party. The Prince apparently never lost his composure.
Another grandchild of Queen Victoria, Queen Marie of Romania, visited Syracuse two decades later. In 1922, Queen Romania visited the U.S. with two of her children; her train stopped in Syracuse for only 15 minutes, but the publicity for her visit had started weeks before. An estimated 20,000 people surrounded the train station, and an official welcoming committee presented the gracious monarch with a huge bouquet of flowers in the colors of Romania (red, gold & blue). Also there to greet her was a member of the Onondaga Nation, wearing full war paint (was there a chance that the Onondagas were going to declare war on R0mania?). The city council was also there, having adjourned their meeting, and sitting members of a grand jury were also released so they could see the Queen, who the Syracuse Herald later proclaimed had “won the hearts of Syracuse.”
But fascination with royalty wasn’t just limited to members of European royal families. In 1902, the Crown Prince of Siam, Vajiravuda, also travelled throughout the U.S. after completing his education in England. He particularly asked to visit Syracuse. Why? His Siamese tutor had taught him how to type – on a Smith-Premier Typewriter, manufactured in Syracuse. This particular typewriter was the first to use a Siamese alphabet keyboard. So, when the 22-year old prince came here to visit, Lyman C. Smith, the founder of the company, hosted a large dinner party for the prince at his home. The prince ascended the throne of what today we know as Thailand in 1910, where he worked to improve his nation’s educational system, having also been deeply impressed by Syracuse University.
Prince Harry of Great Britain has not visited Syracuse – yet – but such a visit would probably still bring out the crowds!