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Royalty At Play
by [?]

Few more amusing sights are to be seen in these days, than that of crowned heads running away from their dull old courts and functions, roughing it in hotels and villas, gambling, yachting and playing at being rich nobodies. With much intelligence they have all chosen the same Republican playground, where visits cannot possibly be twisted into meaning any new “combination” or political move, thus assuring themselves the freedom from care or responsibility, that seems to be the aim of their existence. Alongside of well-to-do Royalties in good paying situations, are those out of a job, who are looking about for a “place.” One cannot take an afternoon’s ramble anywhere between Cannes and Mentone without meeting a half-dozen of these magnates.

The other day, in one short walk, I ran across three Empresses, two Queens, and an Heir-apparent, and then fled to my hotel, fearing to be unfitted for America, if I went on “keeping such company.” They are knowing enough, these wandering great ones, and after trying many places have hit on this charming coast as offering more than any other for their comfort and enjoyment. The vogue of these sunny shores dates from their annexation to France,–a price Victor Emmanuel reluctantly paid for French help in his war with Austria. Napoleon III.’s demand for Savoy and this littoral, was first made known to Victor Emmanuel at a state ball at Genoa. Savoy was his birthplace and his home! The King broke into a wild temper, cursing the French Emperor and making insulting allusions to his parentage, saying he had not one drop of Bonaparte blood in his veins. The King’s frightened courtiers tried to stop this outburst, showing him the French Ambassador at his elbow. With a superhuman effort Victor Emmanuel controlled himself, and turning to the Ambassador, said:

“I fear my tongue ran away with me!” With a smile and a bow the great French diplomatist remarked:

Sire, I am so deaf I have not heard a word your Majesty has been saying!”

The fashion of coming to the Riviera for health or for amusement, dates from the sixties, when the Empress of Russia passed a winter at Nice, as a last attempt to prolong the existence of the dying Tsarewitsch, her son. There also the next season the Duke of Edinburgh wooed and won her daughter (then the greatest heiress in Europe) for his bride. The world moves fast and a journey it required a matter of life and death to decide on, then, is gayly undertaken now, that a prince may race a yacht, or a princess try her luck at the gambling tables. When one reflects that the “royal caste,” in Europe alone, numbers some eight hundred people, and that the East is beginning to send out its more enterprising crowned heads to get a taste of the fun, that beyond drawing their salaries, these good people have absolutely nothing to do, except to amuse themselves, it is no wonder that this happy land is crowded with royal pleasure-seekers.

After a try at Florence and Aix, “the Queen” has been faithful to Cimiez, a charming site back of Nice. That gay city is always en fete the day she arrives, as her carriages pass surrounded by French cavalry, one can catch a glimpse of her big face, and dowdy little figure, which nevertheless she can make so dignified when occasion requires. The stay here is, indeed, a holiday for this record-breaking sovereign, who potters about her private grounds of a morning in a donkey-chair, sunning herself and watching her Battenberg grandchildren at play. In the afternoon, she drives a couple of hours–in an open carriage–one outrider in black livery alone distinguishing her turnout from the others.

The Prince of Wales makes his headquarters at Cannes where he has poor luck in sailing the Brittania, for which he consoles himself with jolly dinners at Monte Carlo. You can see him almost any evening in the Restaurant de Paris, surrounded by his own particular set,–the Duchess of Devonshire (who started a penniless German officer’s daughter, and became twice a duchess); Lady de Grey and Lady Wolverton, both showing near six feet of slender English beauty; at their side, and lovelier than either, the Countess of Essex. The husbands of these “Merry Wives” are absent, but do not seem to be missed, as the ladies sit smoking and laughing over their coffee, the party only breaking up towards eleven o’clock to try its luck at trente et quarante, until a “special” takes them back to Cannes.