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Royal Reception


Today, in 1941, the Ward County Independent reported on royalty here in North Dakota.

Formerly King Edward of England and American-bred Mrs. Wallie Simpson, the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were traveling through North Dakota on their way to the Duke’s large E. P. Ranch in Alberta. He bought it in 1919, after falling in love with the area. The paper noted the Duke planned his visits for “when the ranch [was] bathed in changing colors of trees and shrubs, and the mountains [were] glistening with new snow.” On the way to his land, the train stopped briefly at regular intervals, in Hankinson, Wyndmere, Enderlin, Valley City, Kensal, Carrington, Harvey, Drake, Minot, Kenmare, Bowbells, Flaxton and Portal.

The royal party traveled in three special cars attached to the end of a Soo line train. They had sixty pieces of luggage, and were well-guarded.

The reception in Minot was “necessarily brief, but impressive,” the paper reported. Three, maybe four thousand people stood in the October cold on that Sunday, spread over a distance of more than a block along the Soo Railway, waiting for the Duke and Duchess.

When the train stopped, the royal couple stood in the back of the train so people had a chance to see them. Then eight-year-old Carol Weiss of Minot presented them with gifts. The couple received a bouquet of roses from Minot’s Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions and Cosmopolitan service groups. W. M. Smart, the president of the International Peace Gardens, resident of Minot, gave two enlarged photos of the Peace Garden. George Valker, who had a Floral Company, gave the Duchess a Gardenia corsage.

Locals also gave personal gifts, like farm woman Mrs. Allan Campbell, who bought the couple flowers from Valker’s Floral Company. She wanted to give the Duke and Duchess something, but her own flowers were all frozen. She skipped church so she wouldn’t miss seeing the couple, and she presented them the flowers herself, after pushing her way through the crowd. She even talked to the Duke and Duchess.

“[The Duke] is just a common-looking man no better looking than anyone else,” she declared, and she said the Duchess was “just nice.”

Young Donald Helgerus of Harvey also gave the royal couple a personal gift: he gave them a pheasant he had just killed, since the hunting season had opened. This so pleased the Duke he asked officials of the Soo line to get the name and address of the boy, so he could send a thank-you.

The Duke, a graying man, and his wife, who was overall described in the paper as “much more beautiful than her pictures would indicate,” were well-liked and well-received.

In Baltimore, Maryland, the Duchess’ hometown, only fifty people waited to see them. North Dakotans made up for this lack of solicitude. The Duke and Duchess were in Minot for all of ten minutes, and many other stops averaged about the same length, but they were greeted throughout North Dakota; shouts of “Hi Wally!” and “Hello, Duke!” followed their path.

Written By: Sarah Walker

Sources: Ward County Independent, October 2, 1941, p. 1 and 4