A Royal Visit

BACK TRACKS

November 03, 1991|By FRED RASMUSSEN

The news in October 1941 of an impending visit by the Duke and Duchess of Windsor sent Baltimore society scurrying to its closets to dig out its best dresses, striped trousers and silk hats.

This was the first visit to Baltimore of the duke and duchessince their marriage in 1937 and the first visit of the former Wallis Warfield to her native city in more than a decade.

The appetites of the town's royalty watchers had been whetted a month earlier when the Windsors made a five-minute appearance here on the observation-car platform of a train bound for Chicago. Squads of police had to be called to control the crowds.

It was to be a warm-up for the civic hysteria that would greet the Windsors when they returned in October to visit Wallis' uncle, Gen. Henry M. Warfield, at his home, Salona Farm, near Timonium.

All arrangements for the entertainment of the Windsors had been made by Mayor Howard W. Jackson; Frederick Huber, municipal director of music; and Wallace Lanahan, a Baltimore banker and philanthropist. The public observances included a visit to City Hall, where the couple were to be greeted by Maryland officialdom. This was to be followed by a motor cavalcade up Charles Street, University Parkway and Roland Avenue to the Baltimore Country Club, where they were to be entertained at tea.

On Saturday, Oct. 11, the Windsors arrived in Timonium aboard a private railroad car. On the platform to greet them was General Warfield and his daughter, Mrs. Zachary Lewis.

The duchess, wearing a light blue suit, stepped off the train and embraced her uncle and cousin. The duke, hatless, stepped to )) the ground and extended his hand to General Warfield.

More than 600 spectators jammed the tiny Baltimore County flag stop -- the largest crowd seen there on a Saturday afternoon since the State Fair, a Sun reporter wrote.

Monday, Oct. 13, was the day that Baltimoreans would have to show their enthusiasm for the Windsors.

All work was suspended in the city as people headed for the travel route to catch a glimpse of the Windsors. Crowds of schoolchildren filled the streets and the downtown department stores were emptied of their shoppers.

At 3:05 p.m. the couple and their hosts arrived at City Hall. Eight minutes later they boarded their cars for the country club. As the Windsors came into view, the crowds surged, allowing just the royal car to get through. On East Lexington Street the entire procession was stopped by the adoring crowds. (A police estimate put the spectators at more than 200,000.)

As the touring car bearing the Windsors crossed Biddle Street, the duchess strained her neck hoping to catch a glimpse of her former home.

The procession slowly moved up Charles Street toward the country club, where the town's elite awaited. When the Windsors finally arrived, a cheer went up as an orchestra played "There'll Always Be an England." Near the end of the afternoon, opera star Rosa Ponselle, Mayor Jackson's daughter-in-law, stepped to the end of the porch and sang "Home, Sweet Home."

The Windsors wound up extending their three-day visit to a week and while here visited the headquarters of British War Relief and the National Emergency Blood Donor Project. The duke also managed to play a little golf.

While the Windsors would visit Maryland many times in the future, none of those visits would have the impact of the one in the fall of 1941.

It also turned out to be one of the last joyful civic moments in the city for a long time. Pearl Harbor and World War II were less than two months away.

Carleton Jones is on vacation. He will resume writing this column when he returns.

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