• U.S.

U.S. At War: Return Visit

3 minute read

Eleanor Roosevelt could wait no longer: she had to see for herself. Besides, there was a standing invitation on royal stationery. Last week she flew to England, accompanied by her longtime secretary, Malvina Thompson. Each took along the regulation 44 Ib. of baggage.

London had learned of her pending visit, but no one said just when she would arrive. Even when the royal red carpet was rolled out in Paddington Station, no official winked significantly. Said a loitering cabbie: “Naow, they told me the Queen was giving away chocolates.” When the station’s news vendor finally caught a glimpse of her, he let out a surprised murmur: “Well, who would have thought it?”

The King, in the powder blue uniform of an air marshal, and the Queen, in mourning for the Duke of Kent, were there to greet her. As Mrs. Roosevelt stepped off the train, she smiled broadly, walked straight to the Queen, over whom she towered by a full head & shoulders. Said Mrs. Roosevelt: “How nice to see you again. How are you?” Newsreels ground away as she chatted with the royal couple; the crowd let out a ready cheer as she drove to Buckingham Palace.

“Hi, Eleanor!” Then began a heavy schedule such as Eleanor Roosevelt can take. After tea at the palace, a chat with the two young Princesses, a state dinner with the Churchills and the Mountbattens, she stayed up until 2 a.m. talking with second son Lieut. Colonel Elliott Roosevelt, now assigned to London. Next day the passport room at the American Embassy was cleared of desks and filing cases for a press conference. Mrs. Roosevelt called the conference to order like a ladies’ club meeting, apologized for her slight deafness, charmed the 100 reporters with quick, unhesitating answers. Question : “What do you think of Anglo-American relations after the war?” Answer: “People in England know very little about the U.S.—our history for them stops at the Revolution. There is a mutual lack of knowledge, but I do not think you can have so many people working together without increasing understanding.”

With the King and Queen she toured London’s bomb-gutted East End. In lofty St. Paul’s she bowed her head before the ornate sarcophogi of Nelson and Wellington; in a cavernous bomb shelter (8,000 capacity) she was particularly interested in the children’s toothbrush rack. When she got to the Red Cross’s Washington Club on Curzon Street, the American doughboys greeted her with shouts of “Hi, Eleanor.” In a short speech in the cafeteria—filled with the good smell of hot coffee and doughnuts—she made a motherly promise to the troops: warmer socks and faster mail. She left to see the rest of the country. As with her own countrymen, Britons did not know where her curiosity and energy would take her.

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