David Windsor in 1924

David Windsor at University of Chicago
Photo: University of Chicago Archives

October 13, 1924

An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Foster Place. The first excerpt is here.

The small cavalry and a half dozen motorcycles serving as escorts waited, as did six black cars. So, too, did Captain Eunice Flint of the Salvation Army. Holding a basket, she would stand patient, waiting for hours while Edward, Prince of Wales, signed the official University of Chicago guestbook inside President Ernest DeWitt Burton’s office.

Initial formalities complete, all items on the day’s itinerary pre-approved in advance, David Windsor reemerged into the overcast of an October afternoon. 

Five thousand people — from freshman to graduate students, club girls, flappers, and faculty members — erupted in cheers including the exuberant “Chicago for Wales” rah led by William Kerr. 

“Real college enthusiasm — cheers, and songs, and football yells should strike the keynote of Chicago’s greeting to the Prince,” Gordon Jennings Lang, Dean of the Faculties and in charge of the reception said. “We want to show His Highness our college spirit, and we must, to act as naturally ourselves as possible.”

The enormous crowd, some cordoned off with ropes, stretched from University Avenue past the physics building and the botany building. Special policemen cleared a path for the Prince, his party, the President, marshals, and aides as they crossed Hutchinson Commons, modeled after Christ Church at Oxford. The University of Chicago was, after all, the Oxford of America.

Admission to catch a glimpse of David Windsor that day was granted only to those with tuition receipts, one of the benefits of attending such a prestigious institution. Wales, pink-cheeked and shy, paused for a moment to tip his hat and offer an accented “Hello!” to the assemblage. 

Amid the those vigorous delights were the chatters.

“Oh. How short he is!” one young woman remarked at David Windsor’s 5’6 stance. 

“He looks like a good lad, doesn’t he?” One man man shifted the disappointing comments in a more positive direction. 

As Miss Charlotte Vanderlip told The Daily Maroon days before, “The Prince of Wales is of the type whom everyone would want to meet, but my personal impression is that he is rather afraid of the general interest in which he has created,” she said, having seen him at Meadow Brook polo grounds at the end of summer. “He seemed not to enjoy the stares and interest of the American crowds in New York. Once at the polo games, I saw him with the visor of his cap pulled down over his face in an effort to escape the hungry gaze of the mob. I hope the students here will be more considerate of the prince than were the people of New York.”

In 1924, admiration for the heir to the British throne was at its height. In other words, a fevered pitch. A Prince’s visit to Berlin to meet Adolph Hitler was over a decade away.

But that afternoon, the admiration was evident. At the other side of Hutchinson Commons, two marshals, dressed in full cap and gown, were stationed at Mitchell Tower. Gothic windows, like eyes, presiding over the manicured quadrangle and commotion below. 

Upon admission to the building, those invited to the private luncheon received a copy of the guest list and were directed to the South Room. There, guests could check their hats and wool coats. Within the North Room, a committee ensured all those in attendance were properly introduced to each other before meeting the guest of honor. 

Above their heads on the upper floors of the Reynolds Club, Wales checked his Fedora in preparation for the mechanical pre-luncheon reception to come. Shortly before 2 o’clock, President Burton and David Windsor descended the grand staircase, the polished dark-wood landing flanked by two aides: Mari Bachrach and Elizabeth Barrett. Preceding the two men were Merrill McClintock and Rollins Thomas Chamberlain. 

Mr. R.V Merrill, whom the Prince attended Oxford with back in 1912, took his place at the North door while Mr. Burton stood next to the Prince of Wales. 

“Your highness, may I have the honor to present,” Mr. Merrill said before introducing each guest. 

The Prince officially recognized each with a smile, a handclasp, and a release. 

Next. 

A murmur. A bow. 

“Greetings!” The decorum was broken by one man whose enthusiasm was better served outside among the jubilant. 

Still, the procession continued. Each guest greeted Mr. Burton before passing marshals Kenneth Laird and Josephina Mackay, who stood on either side of the door to the grand hall. The vaulted room, flanked by two fireplaces, was decorated with lush, tall palms. British and American flags hung from the walls. The long tables — twenty in all — were adorned with sprays of lilies and dahlias. 

It was obvious to observers that the last six men to greet the Prince had done so already. Blonde hair apparent, David Windsor brushed his palm across his forehead. 

The half dozen or so men kept private company for several moments in the Reynolds Club before parting. At long last, David Windsor and eight others made their way down the center aisle toward the dais “entering the great gray vaulted dining room, whose lofty windows, stained with the grime of tradition years, let filter through them the rays of early afternoon sun with the frosted candelabra in illuminating Hutchinson Commons.”

Those were the words reported in The Daily Maroon the following day. One hundred years before this writing and not present to witness the event, I could not describe such a moment better.

In the upper east balcony, the Benson Orchestra played “God Save the King” and “O Say Can You See.” And as the final note sang out, David Windsor and eight men were seated at the head table, the President and the Prince in high-back chairs. At David Windsor’s right were Harold Swift, Mayor Dever, and Vice President Tuff. To Wales’ left, President Burton, Louis F. Swift, E.A. Bancroft, and the Prince’s private party. 

Waiters, brought in from the Hotel LaSalle, served luncheon to esteemed professors, money moguls, and entrepreneurs to ten men per table. They dined on Canapé a la Drake, Consume, olive, celery, and lima beans. Alligator pear salad was also on the menu. When the final course of cheese, wafers, and demitasse was served, President Burton stood and spoke. 

“In deference to the wishes of our guest, His Royal Highness, there are to be no speeches today, but I am sure he will permit me on your behalf to express out great appreciation of his courtesy in coming to us and sitting down at our table. And I must beg his indulgence also long enough to add that we all heartily wish that he may live long to symbolize and foster the friendship between Great Britain and the United States. May his nation and ours ever stand shoulder to shoulder in the maintenance of the highest ideals of national life and in the promotion of international peace and welfare.”

The Prince acknowledged President Burton’s heartfelt words with a brief bow.

One observer noted, “The relief of the Prince as he lunched was apparent, even from the front end of the hall. His smile became more natural, his actions less guarded.” 

I remember occasions such as this so well. A moment of clarity and feeling like myself within the eighteen-inch-thick walls of an estate. The well-bred — all of us well-mannered — engaged in conversation over foie gras before turkeys were pulled from ovens or filet mignons were lifted from grill tops. The children, still young, played together without constraint, a family gathered in a breakfast room that once hosted royalty.

No one in the clan yet knew of “Libbie” who had snuck in to eavesdrop beneath a clothed table. I have photos and memories of myself — a stranger now — easing back in a chair to watch the splendor unfold. Young, it would be years before I learned more and all that an abdication entailed — such treachery. 

But on an afternoon in 1924, David Windsor — not yet king, not yet married to Wallace Simpson whose house he drove by earlier that day — entered the upper rooms of the Reynolds Club to retrieve his Fedora at the conclusion of luncheon.

When he returned, he mingled momentarily with John, G. Shedd, President Burton, and several others. The Prince of Wales and his party slipped below the watchful gothic eyes of Mitchell Tower, bid Mr. Burton a fond farewell, and was about to enter Louis F. Swift’s limousine when Captain Eunice Flint of the Salvation Army approached. 

In the basket she’d held for hours were juicy doughnuts, “to give the Prince this remembrance from her organization.” 

David Windsor thanked the woman with a smile before departing for the Field Museum. 

The Luncheon Guests

J.Y. Aitchison, K.L. Ames, A.W. Armour, P.D. Armour, F. Austin, C.F. Aselson, Edgar A. Bandroft, F.M Burrows, E.S. Bastin, R.R. Bensley, A.D. Bevan, Frank Billings, H. A. Blair, W. McBlair, W.S. Bond, W.W. Baird, James J. Breasted, Walter Brewster, C.E. Brown. Carl D. Buck, E.J. Buffington, Clarence Burley. W.F. Burrows, Inspector Burt, L.A. Busby, Rush Butler, R.W. Campbell, A.J. Carlson, Chas. Channell, W.R. Clark, T.G. Cox, W.C. Cummings, F.L. Carey, E.F. Carry, L. A. Carton. W.J. Chalmers, John M. Coulter, W.E. Clow, E.A. Cudahy, and J.M. Cudahy. 

Abel Davis, W.R. Dawes, Mayor William E. Dever, A.B. Dick, J.S.. Dickerson, T.E. Donnellley, J.B. Drake and his brother, Tracy Drake. Scott Durrand, Jerry Durrand, B.A. Eckhart, Eli Felsenthal, J.A. Field and Stanley Field, R.J. Finnegan, R.T. Forbes, O.G. FNAME, J.B. Forgan, and D.R. Forgan.

H.G. Gale, Edgar Goodspeed, T.W. Goodspeed, J.E. Gorman. H.A. Hamill, F.W. Harding, Edward Hines, E.D. Hofstetter, D.R. Holden, F. N. Hurley, E.P. Irons. 

Allan Jackson. S.C. Jennings, T.D. Jones, E.D. Jordan, C.H. Judd, Harry Pratt Judson, R.D. Keehn, W.V. Kelley and D. F. Kelley. W.H. Kenyoh, Rollin Keyes, S.T. Kiddoo, Preston Keyes, Gordon J. Lang, R.P Lamont, Captain Lascelles, J.L. Laughlin, A.G. Leonard, F.R. Lillie, Frank H. Lindsay, R.H. Little, J.A. Lynch. 

J.M. Manley, C.H. Markham, Clayton Mark, B.H. Marshall, L.C. Marshall, F.R. Meecham, Arthur Meeker, C.E. Merriam, R.V. Merrill, Major Metcalfe, A.A. Michelson. F.B. Minor, Count James Minotto, L. Mitchell, E.H. Moore, F.R. Moulton, Rev. J.G.K. McClure, C.H. McCormick, A.D. McLaughlin. F.C. McLan, M.H. McClaim, George McKinlock, James MacVeagh. 

A.H. Niblack, W.A. Nitze, J.E. Otis, Honore Palmer, Potter Palmer, Henry Patton. Augustus Peabody, Sir Walter Peacock, J.T. Pirie, R.H. Poole, W.E. PosH, F.H. Prince.

George Ranney, P.L. Reed, A.H. Revell, Arthur Reynolds, G.M. Reynolds, H.A. Richards, Rev. George Roberts, Julius Rosenwald, J.S. Runnelly, Edward L. Ryerson and Edward L. Ryerson, Jr. 

C.H. Sawyer, C.H. Schwappe, F.H. Scott, G.E. Scott, W.D. Scott, J.C. Shaffer, John G. Shedd, A.W. Shere, Paul Shorey, James Simpson. A.W. Small, H.J. Smith, T.G. Soares, O.N. Stanton, Julius Stieglitz, W.H. Storey, Major Salbert, B.E. Sunny, Alden Swift, Charles Swift, E. Swift, E. Swift, Jr., Harold Swift, Louis F. Swift, Philip Swift, and W.E. Swift.

W.B. Raynor, Lucius Teter, S.E. Thomasson J.E. Thompson, General Trotter, J.H. Tuffts, E.J. Warner, L.H. Whiting, V.A. Wieboldt, E.H. Wilkins. J.P. Wilseon, T.E. Wilson, W.H. Wilson, G. Woodreuff, F.C. Woodward, and William Wrigley. 


University of Chicago. Office of the President. Harper, Judson and Burton Administrations. Records, Hanna Holborn Gray Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library

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