Mrs. Roosevelt Visits Luxembourg
For those of you who don’t know us, we have a soft spot for the formidable “First Lady of the World,” Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt served as First Lady of the United States for an unprecedented 12 years and had an impressive diplomatic career after the death of her husband, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The Roosevelts have several connections to Luxembourg, including the Roosevelts’ friendship with Grand Duchess Charlotte during WWII. However, FDR’s ties to Luxembourg go back much further; his ancestors came from the Grand Duchy. The De Lannoy family (“Delano”) were previous owners of Clervaux Castle in the 17th century. FDR’s roots and his status as a liberator of Luxembourg endeared him to the hearts of many Luxembourgers during and following the war. This admiration equally transferred to Mrs. Roosevelt, who continued to foster this friendship.
While on a trip to Europe in July 1950, Mrs. Roosevelt visited the “continuously lovely country” of Luxembourg (My Day June 24, 1950). Referencing her My Day articles and the Luxembourg Bulletin (London), we get a glimpse of the country’s reception of the former First Lady and their attitudes toward Americans directly following the war.
Joined by her son, Elliott Roosevelt, and two grandchildren, Mrs. Roosevelt was toured around the country by the U.S. Ambassador to Luxembourg, Mrs. Perle Mesta. Grand Duchess Charlotte hosted a dinner in her honor, and “great crowds assembled before the Palace to cheer Mrs. Roosevelt” (Luxembourg Bulletin London June/August 1950). Mrs. Roosevelt recalled: “People have been more than kind in their welcome here, and to show their appreciation they even stood in the rain, outside the palace, until we went to the windows and waved to acknowledge their cheers” (My Day June 23, 1950).
Mrs. Roosevelt attended a remembrance ceremony at the American Cemetery in Hamm, where she paid her respects to General Patton and the thousands of American soldiers buried there. She called the cemetery “a beautiful spot, the rolling country and the surrounding woods make it peaceful and quiet. And the little crosses stand, side by side, in simple but sombre dignity. It was a most moving experience” (My Day June 24, 1950).
Numerous Luxembourg admirers greeted Mrs. Roosevelt in each town she visited. Ettelbruck honored her visit with “Luxembourg and American flags” and an archway that proclaimed “F.D. Roosevelt is in our hearts and may God bless his noble wife” (Luxembourg Bulletin). She visited the devastated town of Wiltz and toured the castles of Vianden and Clervaux (her husband’s ancestral town). In her public speeches, Mrs. Roosevelt recalled how FDR “had talked to her of the little country from which his ancestors came” and how he always had a “vivid interest in Luxembourg” (Luxembourg Bulletin). She also praised Luxembourg for being “so firmly attached to its traditional liberties, which would always preserve it” (Luxembourg Bulletin).
Mrs. Roosevelt was keenly aware how the “enthusiastic reception” of the Luxembourg people reflected their attitudes of Americans as liberators (Luxembourg Bulletin). In one of her My Day articles, she notes this connection between WWII and Luxembourg’s post-war sentiments about Americans:
“One is very conscious of what Nazi occupation meant to these people, and how strongly they fought against it, in spite of the overwhelming odds against them. They are grateful to all those who liberated them and they never fail to show their appreciation in the welcome they give to all Americans, and by the stories they tell about the troops that fought on their territory.”(My Day June 24, 1950)