Westleigh,  History

Westleigh: Part Eight

Edward, Prince of Wales, to Visit the United States

July 1924

The Prince of Wales was coming to the United States. The exciting — and definite — news broke on July 12, 1924, when American polo player Earle W. Hopping arrived on the Berengaria from England with word that the Prince would sail to America on August 26. Preceding the Prince would be eight of his private polo ponies, arriving on July 26, along with the entire string of Great Britain’s sixty mounts.

The excitement on Long Island was mounting as well.

Mr. Hopping, a substitute on the American team in 1921 that brought back the international trophy, had been in England taking notes on the so-called “invaders” style of play while participating in the trail matches closely watched by the Prince. In July of 1924, Mr. Hopping was back on home turf, hoping for a place on the American four, the team looking to defend the international title come September. 

The Prince would be in New York to witness the matches, taking place at Meadow Brook — the oldest polo club in the United States and the setting for the first international polo match the year prior. While the Prince would not participate in the tournament, he would be on hand to participate in the trails. Whether his private ponies would be used by the British team remained unclear. 

It was also unclear whether or not the Prince would stay to witness the Monty Waterbury Cup series. Either way, the British team and all of America seemed ecstatic. 

“The British players were greatly enthused when they learned that the Prince of Wales will make the trip to the United States and witness the matches at Meadow Brook,” Mr. Hopping said upon his arrival. “Naturally, the presence of the Prince will be an incentive for them, in addition to the one of winning the International Challenge Cup.”

And the American polo team was enthusiastic over the chance to drill with the British heir who had, five months earlier, broken his collar bone. R.V. Merrill, it seems, had been too confident with his observations. Accidents happen. 

“His Royal Highness is one of the best men to hounds in England,” Major E.D. Metcalfe, temporary equerry to the Prince of Wales, said one month later. “When you consider that he hunts three times a week and rides as hard as he does, it is surprising he doesn’t have more falls. If he weren’t the Prince of Wales, his falls would not be mentioned as anything extraordinary. I train all the Prince’s horses. If I were to fall twelve times a week, no one would ever give it a thought. But if the Prince is thrown, the news is flashed all over the world. It has been figured out by the press that he has been thrown or fallen about four times a year in the last four years.”

“The Prince of Wales will be accompanied on the man-of-war on which he will make the voyage by his official equerry, Major Metcalf. I do not believe it has been definitely settled just where he will stay while in this country, but the man-of-war which brings him across the ocean probably will be his headquarters. After he leaves here, he will visit his ranch in Canada before returning to England.”

Edward, known as “David” to family members and close friends, had been making international headlines with his good looks, fashionable attire, and charm. His younger brother Albert, known as “Bertie,” had married Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon the previous year, and rumors were circulating around the heir-apparent’s marriage plans — or rather the lack thereof, gossip regarding his preference for unavailable women also making discreet headlines in the American newspapers. 

Meanwhile, a business tycoon named Louis F. Swift sailed the Atlantic in June, arriving in South Hampton on the Majestic. And two paths would cross soon. 

An excerpt from my forthcoming book, Foster Place.
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