Paris And " Son Altesse Royale "
( Originally Published 1917 )
IT was in March last—just three months ago—that the King saw his son off to Paris from Victoria Station. The young Prince, the newspapers stated, was looking pale. Suppressed emotion of King George when he shook hands with the boyish traveller. Then the Prince at the carriage window, the Prince decidedly perturbed, and the King smiling encouragingly, his silk hat in his hand, as the train moved away. Back to Buckingham Palace went his Majesty ; away to the boulevards with his tutor sped the Comte de Chester—not so very unofficially after all, since he was to pay his respects to President Fallières in the palace of the Élysée, and be ready with polite speeches. Speeches in French, too ; then a gallant compliment for Madame Fallières, and the military honours rendered Son Altesse Royale in the courtyard of the Élysée to be " graciously " acknowledged. Yes, it was a matter of being " graciously pleased " to do this and say that—at the early age of eighteen ! One would have to control one's voice, study one's gestures, remember the innumerable subtleties and intricacies of the Republican protocol—although one was only a boy ! Then the scrutiny of the public, who would not fail to take the liveliest interest in Son Altesse Royale. Imperative to make a favourable impression on the Parisians ! Indispensable that they should exclaim : " Il est chic—il est sympathique--il est gentil ! " All-important that one should be considered worthy of one's grandfather, who was known plainly, familiarly and affectionately on the boulevards as " Edouard."
Well, at the Gare du Nord, the magnesium explosions of the inevitable photographers that made Son Altesse Royale start. But nothing in that ; " Edouard himself abhorred those sudden lurid flashes, and it was at his strongly worded request that no photographers were admitted into the French Northern Railway station when his late Majesty visited Paris. On the platform, the Marquis de Breteuil—the Prince's host—and, of course, M. Lépine, the Chief of the Paris Police, both of whom had been intimate friends of the boyish traveller's popular grandfather. Then into a motor car. Present at the departure, hundreds of spectators. No cheers, because his Royal Highness was incognito. But, as the car disappeared, unanimous exclamations of : " Il est gentil—il est sympathiqe il est chic."
Very flattered were the Parisians that their city should have been chosen as the scene of the Comte de Chester's studies ; very delighted, too, at the Prince's simple and yet dignified demeanour. " Ah, les Anglais, they are astonishing ! " ex-claimed M. le Bourgeois. " They send their heir to the throne, only eighteen years old, abroad—and already, at that tender age, he wears a frock-coat and goes to the races, and visits the Opera and Comédie Française, and becomes the friend of our admirable Lépine ! "
And it was true ; the Prince witnessed ballets and enjoyed Molière, appeared top-hatted at Long-champ and viewed monuments, State industries and dingy, dubious neighbourhoods in the company of the lynx-eyed, white-bearded Chief of the Police. Indeed, the Comte de Chester went here, there and everywhere, so that his experiences were at once " extensive and peculiar." From the fine salons of his-host's mansion in the Avenue du Bois to the musty amphitheatres of the Sorbonne University; then to debates in the Senate and Chamber ; then to a sitting of the Immortals of the Académie Française ; then to shops, picture galleries, communal schools, churches. And after that—and more recently—away to Toulon, where Son Altesse Royale boarded a submarine ; and next a long motor trip to the wonderful old historic châteaux of beautiful Touraine.
—Only eighteen years old, and already examining submarines and inspecting ruined, ghostly castles ? M. le Bourgeois was loud in his praise of the " enterprise " of the Comte de Chester ! More wonderful than that, Son Altesse Royale had actually succeeded in outwitting the notorious M. Marcel Hutin—the Yellowest of the Yellow Paris journalists—who pursued the Prince about Touraine with the object of obtaining an inter-view. M. Hutin it was who got over a garden wall in the days when the King of Spain was engaged to Princess Ena, and boldly addressed the Royal fiancés as they sat sentimentally together in an arbour. M. Hutin who forced " confessions " out of Madame Steinheil, who is the terror and nightmare of statesmen and celebrities, who regards himself, and is generally regarded, as indomitable, irresistible. Yellow M. Hutin was none the less baffled by the boyish Altesse Royale.
It was impossible to " corner " the Comte de Chester. " Ce sacré Hutin has met his master," exulted M. le Bourgeois. " Ah, les Anglais, they are incredible ! They send their heir to the throne—only eighteen—to France, and he proves too much for even our terrible Hutin ! "
However, in spite of his incognito, the Prince has had flowers left for him by unknown admirers at the Marquis de Breteuil's residence, and penny bunches of violets thrown at him by the charming, bare-headed midinettes of the Rue de la Paix. His passing in a motor car has provoked as much excitement amongst Mesdemoiselles des Midinettes as did the appearance of King Edward, whom the Germaines and Yvonnes of the fashionable dress-makers' shops idolised. Blushing of Son Altesse Royale ; increased delight of the girls ! Then it has been stated that burly, white-headed President Fallières has spoken most highly of the " gifts " of the Comte de Chester, and that he desires to invest him with the Grand Cordon of the Legion of Honour—and only eighteen !
According to the chroniclers of Court news, his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales is to spend this week-end in his own country. Today, the Channel ; on Saturday and Sunday, Windsor ; on Monday, London; and on Tuesday or Wednesday, back to France under the title of the Comte de Chester. Thus, not much of a holiday ; and in the brief period of a week-end not even the most eloquent, the most garrulous of boys could be expected to give a full and detailed account of the amazing experiences his Royal Highness might relate when he spends this week-end in England. But what modesty will forbid his stating is that he has completely won the hearts of the French people. They admire the slight figure, the candid, open expression, the frank, boyish smile. Most certainly—in his frock-coat and top hat—he is a grandson worthy of " Edouard ! " Most assuredly he is a credit to " la vieille Angleterre ! " Most indisputably : " Il est gentil—il est sympathique—il est chic."