The King And Queen Of The Belgians Visit Niagara Falls

In 1919, the Belgian royal family toured the United States. One of their stops was Niagara Falls. Here’s an account of their visit:

Since Louis Hennepin, the Belgian explorer, described Niagara Falls for the first time in 1663, much has been written about this wonder. Still, as Roosevelt said, one can only realize what these falls are really like when one has seen them with one’s own eyes.

The King remained for a long while leaning over the railing of one of the rocks which dominated the falls. His wide open eyes and the delighted expression on his face showed his admiration for this great river which swept down in immense waves, hurling itself from a height of 167 feet. A column of mist and water-dust rose from the abyss across which a rainbow, like a jewel sparkling through golden hair, described its luminous arc. As one of the guides explained to our Sovereign, scientists calculated that it must have taken the river 35,000 to 75,000 years to gnaw through the coralline stone, which formerly made it change its course and precipitate itself at this spot. Fifteen million cubes of water fall there per minute.

From where he was standing, the King suddenly caught sight of little wooden bridges at the bottom of the roaring, boiling abyss which the daring Americans had built from rock to rock hardly more than a hundred yards from the foot of the cataract. The dauntlessness of our Sovereign is well known. He immediately expressed a desire to take the trip across the bridges. Wherever the King goes the Queen goes too. She also wanted to be part of the expedition. And naturally the “Suite” followed, among whom I knew more than one would have preferred not to step into the costumes which were given us.

Except for the helmet which was replaced by a rubber hood, it was really a diver’s suit which they put on the royal pair and their companions. When the explorers came out of their cabins thus muffled up and met each other, everybody was frankly hilarious. Indeed, this coarse uniform was not flattering to our little Queen, who is always so graceful. We read on her face a real terror when she had to pass in front of the inevitable lenses of the herd of photographers and moving-picture men stationed, as they never failed to be, in every corner.

Huddled on the little bridges to which we descended, our little troop contemplated the gorgeous spectacle of the river, which crashed at our feet with a great noise like an immense cry of horror. Under the bridge ran the river, boiling and hissing with the speed of an express train, less than three feet away from us. A spray of rain lashed our rubber coats like hailstones and hit us in the face, while gusts of wind took our breath away. “You would think we were in the trenches,” said General Jacques, twisting his long mustache from which water flowed fast.

The King and Queen were delighted with their little excursion to the bridges. “A walk like that is worth more than the cures in all our sanatoria,’ said our Sovereign, smiling.

Further reading:
Across America With The King Of The Belgians by Pierre Goemaere

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