Mr. Reid to Mr. Hay.

No. 1.]

Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge your instructions of March 18, in pursuance of the commission issued to me on February 3, 1902, as ambassador extraordinary of the United States on special mission, representing the Government at the coronation of His Majesty Edward VII, and to report that in the absence of definite information as to the time at which the special representatives of other Governments would be expected in London, I decided to sail by the steamer St. Paul, of the American Line, on June 14, and advised the other members of the embassy of this purpose. A communication subsequently received from the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, proposing to confer a degree upon me on the 10th, led me to anticipate that date and sail instead by the Umbria on the previous Saturday, May 31.

On arrival at Liverpool at 11 o’clock on the night of Satuarday, June 7, I was met by the lord mayor and other dignitaries of the city. They presented Colonel Collins, of the British army, who informed me that he was one of the equerries assigned by His Majesty to the special embassy during our stay in England and that he had been ordered to conduct me immediately to London, where I should be met by Lieut. Col. Right Hon. Sir Fleetwood Edwards, G. C. V. O., K. C. B., long an equerry and one of the private secretaries to Her Majesty, the late Queen, and the chief of the three equerries assigned to the embassy, and that royal carriages would be in waiting.

Proceeding directly to London, I was there met by the secretaries of the embassy, Mr. J. P. Morgan, jr., Mr. Edmnnd Lincoln Baylies, and Mr. William Wetmore, and by Lieutenant-Colonel Borup, of the staff of the general attached to represent the War Department, and was taken at once to Brook House, which I had engaged for my own residence and as the headquarters of the special embassy. The next morning calls were received from Sir William Colville, the King’s master of ceremonies, and from the equerries.

Mr. Choate advised me that Lord Lansdowne had named Monday afternoon for the presentation of my credentials at the foreign office. The reception was most cordial, and his lordship said that the King would receive me the next day. I assented immediately to this appointment, but Mr. Choate here kindly intervened with the explanation that it would prevent me from receiving the degree at Cambridge on the 10th, for which I had come over on an earlier steamer, and Lord Lansdowne assured me that His Majesty would not think of allowing the early appointment he had made to interfere with that engagement. [Page 503] Within an hour after I had reached Brook House again a letter came form Lord Lansdowne saying that His Majesty had been glad to change the date for the audience to the following day.

At the time appointed I waited upon him at Buckingham Palace in company with Lord Lansdowne, and was received with every courtesy and much cordiality. The King talked freely of his relations with the United States, which he hoped might always remain on the present friendly footing, and made many inquiries showing his intimate acquaintance with American affairs and the public men of the country. He appeared in excellent health and spirits.

Rear-Admiral Watson, U. S. Navy, reported on June 13, accompanied by his staff officers, Commander W. S. Cowles and Lieutenant Watson; and General Wilson, U. S. Army, retired, the next day, accompanied by Major Biddle and Lieutenant-Colonel Borup.

Within the next week the arrangements for the coronation began to take clear shape, the details being generally communicated first by Sir Fleetwood Edwards, and coming afterwards in official form from the offices of the earl marshal and the lord chamberlain. The assignment of places in the abbey and in the royal procession the next day, as well as at the state banquets to be given by the King and Queen, by the Prince of Wales, and by the secretary of state for foreign affairs, so clearly showed the desire of His Majesty and the authorities of the court to manifest all possible respect for the representatives of the United States that a few details which it would not otherwise be thought needful to report are summarized in a memorandum hereunto attached.

While the arrangements for the coronation were thus completed down to the minutest details, some anxiety began to be manifested as to the condition of the King’s health. It was said that he had overexerted himself in the review at Aldershot. He had undoubtedly exposed himself in witnessing a torchlight parade there in a damp and chilly evening, and reports were current that an attack of lumbago had been brought on. The uneasiness was quieted for a time by the King’s going from Aldershot back to Windsor and by newspaper statements that he was driving out there every day. When it was seen, however, that he did not attempt to attend Ascot, either on the opening day or on cup day, for both of which a royal procession was expected, the feeling deepened that the situation must be more serious than the guarded reports from the castle had implied.

But on the Monday of coronation week the King came up to London and proceeded at once to Buckingham Palace in an open carriage, accompanied by the Queen. Some of those who saw him thought that he looked ill, though the spectators generally, as well as the newspapers, seemed to unite in declaring that he appeared much as usual. The next morning I received at Brook House a telephone message from Buckingham Palace saying that the royal dinner for that evening would be postponed on account of His Majesty’s health. A little later, as I was driving about with the royal equerry, Sir Fleetwood Edwards, completing the official calls upon the other special embassies, we were stopped on the street, near St. James’s Palace, by an officer of the household under great excitement, who announced that the King was alarmingly ill, and that the coronation must be indefinitely postponed. We drove as soon as possible to Buckingham Palace to inscribe and make inquiries, and there learned that the situation had been found so [Page 504] grave that an operation had just been performed, for appendicitis the court officials thought, and that the King seemed to be rallying from the shock.

It was soon ascertained that the disease for which the operation had been found necessary was not appendicitis at all, but perityphlitis, resulting in a large abscess, some inches from the appendix, on or over the great intestine. It was currently believed that a surgical operation for this abscess should have been performed at Windsor Castle shortly after the first attack, but that the King’s resolute desire to avoid the enormous disappointment and loss to his people involved in a postponement of the coronation led him to overrule his physicians, at the risk of his life, as they assured him, in a determined effort to keep up until the ceremony should be concluded. Palliatives were then resorted to and some of the physicians were supposed to believe that they had been more or less successful, while others insisted that the delay greatly increased the danger. One of the surgeons was credibly quoted as saying the next week, as he took a sheet of paper in his hand, “there was not the thickness of that between His Majesty and death when we operated.” As late as Monday evening, however, the night before the operation, the King had still insisted that he would go through the ceremony on the following Thursday at whatever cost, and it was not till the peremptory declaration of the surgeon of greatest authority among those in attendance that without a prompt operation he would absolutely refuse to assume further responsibility or attend in the case that His Majesty finally consented even on Tuesday morning to submit to their demand. Then instead of allowing himself to be carried to the operating table he walked there, and it was said to be the opinion of some of the surgeons that this was possibly one of the circumstances contributing to the success of the operation, since, owing to the excessive distension of the abscess, the strain to which it would have been subjected in an effort to carry him might have proved fatal.

The great national ceremonial thus postponed had had no parallel in England for over sixty years, and its startling and dramatic interruption is probably without a parallel in history. The first effect on the public mind seemed to be simply stunning. Then the dogged disposition with which the English people receive reverses asserted itself. There was not a symptom of disorder, and while extraordinary disappointment and the keenest desire for the King’s recovery were everywhere manifest, there was nowhere any sign of apprehension for the Government or for the secure maintenance of England’s position, even in the case of a fatal termination. The composed and serious courage with which the people faced the sudden situation challenged the notice of all observers.

For the first week the anxiety was naturally intense, and the evidences of profound sorrow were visible everywhere throughout the capital. The mottoes and transparencies on the streets were in some cases changed. In many places fresh ones were strung across the streets or against prominent buildings with merely the words “God save the King.” For the first forty-eight hours it is probable that the majority of the public expected a fatal termination and that even the professional opinion inclined that way. The King himself, however, seems never to have lost nerve or hope.

On the day after that which had been fixed for the coronation a [Page 505] solemn service of intercession was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral, to be attended by those who had been provided with seats in Westminster Abbey for the coronation itself. The notice was so brief that Major-General Wilson and his staff officers did not find it practicable to attend, but all the other members of the special embassy were present, and the authorities took pains to seat them in the places of honor in the choir. A similar service was held in St. Paul’s on the following” Sunday, attended by the general public, and others were held in nearly every church in London and almost everywhere throughout the British Isles.

No one then supposed that, in case of the King’s recovery, the coronation could possibly take place before the latter part of September or the first of October, and the special ambassadors at once prepared to take their leave. On communicating to Lord Lansdowne my desire to do this in whatever form might cause him the least inconvenience or loss of time, he replied that, instead of my coming to the foreign office, he preferred that Mrs. Reid and I should come in and take luncheon with Lady Lansdowne and himself the next day. He thought also I should not fail to go, the day following, as he phrased it, “to say good-bye to the Prince of Wales.” After the luncheon at Lansdowne House, on what was to have been coronation day, June 26, I briefly expressed to Lord Lansdowne my sense of the courtesy with which the President’s representative had been received, the earnest sympathy of the President and the whole American people with the Government and with the British nation in this trial, and their sincere hopes for the recovery of the King, and then took my official leave.

That evening a communication from St. James’s Palace (where the Prince of Wales was still residing) advised me of the hour at which I should be received the next day, and that Mrs. Reid also would be expected. We were met with the utmost cordiality by their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess, and during the interview the three royal children came in and were presented. The Prince spoke with the greatest confidence as to his father’s splendid physical condition and almost certain recovery. He entered into many details as to the nature of the operation and the manner in which it was borne. The Prince was also good enough, when I finally took my official leave, to say that he hoped I would be able to return to the coronation.

The same evening Gen. Sir Stanley Clarke, equerry to the King, came to Brook House with a letter for Sir Fleetwood Edwards, and in his absence communicated to me its contents. It surprised me by the intimation that Mrs. Reid and myself were to have the honor of a farewell audience with Her Majesty the Queen the next afternoon at Buckingham Palace.

In this audience Her Majesty expressed with even more emphasis the same confidence as to the recovery of the King which the Prince of Wales had shown the day before, saying repeatedly, “Thank God, the worst is over.” She spoke warmly of the way in which His Majesty had stood the shock of the operation, and of the keen interest he was already beginning to manifest again in public affairs, and mentioned particularly his pleasure at reading himself the cable dispatch in the newspapers reporting the President’s sympathetic remarks at Harvard. She was confident that the coronation would take place this year, and probably sooner than had been expected, and repeated graciously [Page 506] the invitation to return, saying: You must be sure to come back. It will be a good omen. We shall count on you.”

I then quitted London for a short time, after engaging passage for New York by the American Line for July 26, paid a promised visit to Rear-Admiral Crowninshield on board the flagship Illinois, and have since made several visits at English country places.

I have, etc.,

Whitelaw Reid.

Memorandum of places assigned at the chief ceremonies.

Official cards of invitation for the coronation service in Westminster Abbey on June 26 were sent to the special ambassador and all the members of his suite, and when accompanied by their wives to them also. The memorandum sent with the cards assigned the special ambassador and his wife to seats on one side the choir, in full view of the altar and thrones, and in the same line with the Archduke Francis Ferdinand of Austria, Prince and Princess Henry of Prussia, the Crown Prince of Denmark, etc., while in front of them, on the lower seats on the same side of the choir, were Mr. and Mrs. Chamberlain, Mr. and Miss Balfour, Sir M. and Lady Hicks-Beach, etc. In the corresponding line on the opposite side of the choir were placed the Hereditary Grand Duke Michael of Russia, the Duke and Duchess d’Aosta of Italy, Admiral Gervais of France, etc.

The fact having been communicated that the wife of one of the naval staff officers attached to the embassy was a sister of the President, and that another sister accompanied her, places were voluntarily provided for them in the choir below the latter line and near the altar and thrones, between the Princess Henry of Pless and the Grand Duke Michael Michaelovitch.

The suites of the various special embassies were assigned to places in the nave and in the temporary addition to the abbey through which the procession was to enter.

The official programme for the royal procession the next day was also communicated. It assigned the special embassadors from the two Republics of the United States and France to the fifth carriage in the procession following the great officers of the court and preceding the royalties.

The dinner to be given by the Xing and Queen in the throne room at Buckingham Palace was to comprise 270 guests, while the suites of special embassies and others were to be seated in a large temporary dining room below, made by inclosing a piazza and hanging it in tapestries. The invitation to the dinner in the throne room was accompanied by a plan of the tables. On this the special ambassador of the United States was assigned to the table of the King, between the Earl of Pembroke, Lord Stewart, and His Highness the Maharajah of Gwalior; while Mrs. Reid was assigned to the table of His Royal Highness Prince George of Greece, placed at his side, and to be taken in by His Royal Highness Prince Philip of Coburg, with the special ambassador of France at the same table.

The details would certainly seem too trivial to be reported to the Department, even in this detached memorandum, excepting that they may perhaps be taken as indicating the strong desire of the King and of the authorities of his court to omit nothing that could serve to show the highest appreciation of the President’s action in sending the special embassy, as well as their estimate of the rank the country holds in the family of nations.