Thursday, 20 January 2011

Royal Couple Visit the U.S., 1939

American Pride and Presidential Style on the Brink of WWII
(President Franklin D.) "Roosevelt believed so strongly in the need for cooperation that he pursued this change in foreign policy at the risk of losing domestic support from the very strong isolationist and anti-British segments of the electorate. FDR planned every minute detail of the visit to ensure the King's success in winning over the sympathy and support of the American people.


After two days in Washington, the tone of the royal couple's visit transformed from formal to informal as they accompanied the Roosevelts to their home in Hyde Park, New York. The King and Queen's stay in Hyde Park illustrated to the American people that although they were Royalty, they also enjoyed the simpler things in life. In contrast to the formal State Dinner at the White House, dinner at the Roosevelt's Home "Springwood" was described to the press as a casual dinner between the two families; their evening entertainment was simple conversation, unfettered by formalities. Even more relaxing and informal was the following day's event - a picnic. FDR brought the couple to his new hilltop retreat - Top Cottage - on the eastern portion of his estate for an old-fashioned, American-style picnic. Much to the horror of FDR's mother Sara Roosevelt, the King and Queen of England were served hot dogs on the front porch of the cottage. Although the press made a great deal about the hotdogs (the picnic made the front page of the New York Times), the menu also included more delicate fare fit for a King and Queen: 

MENU FOR PICNIC AT HYDE PARK
Sunday, June 11, 1939
Virginia Ham
Hot Dogs (if weather permits)
Smoked Turkey
Cranberry Jelly
Green Salad
Rolls
Strawberry Shortcake
Coffee, Beer, Soft Drinks

The royal couple delighted in their Hyde Park experience. In a letter to Queen Mary, her mother-in-law, Queen Elizabeth wrote: "They are such a charming and united family and living so like English people when they come to their country house." Their departure was emotional; a large crowd gathered at the small Hyde Park train station to wish the couple luck as they returned to an uncertain and perilous world on the verge of war.


The royal visit accomplished President Roosevelt's goal when it came to pleasing both the American people and the British Monarchy.  The economy was in dire straits, and the Roosevelts pulled no pretentious poses. They were proud to serve foods that the American people typically ate on picnics and at home. The royal couple were impressed, even with those hot dogs.
~~M-J