Monday, May 23, 2022

What a Surprise!


“As I looked at the young Queen and her husband, Prince Philip, on their visit to New York, it seemed that she was filling her role with great dignity but also with some weariness. How very young this couple looked—and how we do make our visitors work!”  (Eleanor Roosevelt diary entry, October 26, 1957)


On October 21, 1957 and for a mere 15 hours, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were in the United States for their first state visit.  During those hectic hours they were honored with a ticker-tape parade on Broadway, had lunch with dignitaries at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, followed by the Queen’s speech at the United Nations and a return to the Waldorf Astoria for dinner.  The dinner was co-sponsored by the English-Speaking Union of the United States and the Pilgrim Society of the United States.  At 2 AM the royals were at Idlewild Airport where they boarded a plane for a return to the United Kingdom.  Yes, this is the same Queen; Queen Elizabeth who continues her reign today and marks the 70 anniversary of her coronation. 


Much to my surprise and Gena Branscombe’s grandsons’ surprise, we recently learned that Gena had been invited to attend the dinner honoring the royals at the Waldorf Astoria on that October evening.  With many thanks to John Lyons of Picton, Ontario for his researching and discovering an article that Gena Branscombe penned for the Picton Gazette on November 8, 1957. 


In vivid detail Gena described the Waldorf Astoria’s Grand Ballroom décor of blue satin draperies, a gold throne like chair, guests decked out in “marvelous gowns, superb jewels and evening furs, the men in uniforms or white ties and tails.”  Queen Elizabeth’s gown was pale pink, green and blue with embroidery and a fan-like train.  She wore diamond and sapphire jewelry and the “Russian-fringe tiara – made solidly of diamonds.”


Continuing on Miss Branscombe wrote of Canadian Members of Parliament in attendance, ambassadors and a toast given to President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  One can tell that Gena was impressed with Her Royal Highness, the speech she gave mentioning the Commonwealth and especially Canada.  Prince Philip was mentioned for his dignity, warm kindness and his sense of humor.

Having read this article five times, I find Gena’s writing formal, eloquent and yet, underlying all of that was her excitement, honor and awe of being in the company of the royals, dignitaries and all others that filled the ballroom. 


Again, thank you to John Lyons for his research. 

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