Monday, February 13, 2017

My Great Grandfather, Queen Marie and the Maryhill Museum

It is Valentine's Day 2017.  Love is in the air.   It is only fitting to write about romance.

Thomas Tileston Wells 1865-1946
Queen Marie of Romania 1875 - 1938

My great-grandfather, Thomas Tileston Wells, may have had an affair with Queen Marie of Romania.*  What is the evidence for this assertion?

Queen Marie's Chair
Maryhill Museum
Goldendale WA
1) My own grandmother, Georgina Van Rensselaer (Wells' only daughter), believed that her father had an affair with Queen Marie.
Queen Marie Bust
Maryhill Museum, Goldendale WA

2) Queen Marie had an "open" marriage with King Ferdinand of Romania.  She had many affairs with a number of men including at least one other American  -- William Waldorf Astor.  Queen Marie was a spirited woman and the granddaughter of Queen Victoria.

3) Wells, an American, served in New York City as Honorary Consul from Romania from 1918 until 1941.  Queen Marie, who died in 1938, was, in a sense, Wells' boss.  It must have been unusual and somewhat irregular for an American to serve as a Romanian diplomat.

In 1926 Wells helped to organize Queen Marie's visit to the United States.  Marie had led her nation into war on the Allied side during World War I and was a hero to many Americans.  She was widely accounted to be a fearless Amazonian leader with a much stronger character than her feckless husband.  Queen Marie visited spots such as Niagara Falls.  She also went out west to Washington State where she dedicated the building that became known as the Maryhill Museum in Goldendale on the banks of the Columbia River.

Queen Marie's 1926 Visit to the USA

The Maryhill Museum ( is one of America's most extraordinary museums.  Far from any major city, it is open seasonally each year from March to November.

Native American Gloves
Maryhill Museum
It offers an eclectic combination of Rodin sculptures, Native American art and artifacts from the reign of Queen Marie.  The structure for the museum was built by Sam Hill ( an entrepreneur who was a pioneer in road and highway construction in the west.  This museum is well worth a visit when you are in the northwest.

Maryhill Museum
Goldendale WA
Rodin Thinker
Maryhill Museum of Art

You will learn much more about Wells' adventures and misadventures in An Adventure in 1914!

You can purchase a signed copy of An Adventure in 1914

Or regular copies on

* Who was Queen Marie of Romania?  In America Invades we wrote this about Queen Marie of Romania...

Mrs Cortlandt Schuyler Van Rensselaer
Née Georgina Wells
"My grandmother, Georgina Wells (1902-1997), had visited Romania twenty-one times by her twenty- first birthday, becoming acquainted with Romania’s Queen Marie, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of Prince Alfred, brother of the future King Edward VII.

Queen Marie of Romania
During World War I, Romania, like us, initially remained neutral but later, influenced by Queen Marie, joined the Allied side. As a result, most of Romania ended up being occupied by enemy troops in the ensuing conflict. However, Queen Marie, with the assistance of her friend the American dance pioneer Loie Fuller, got hold of a major American loan that helped the Romanians to resist.
When the Russian Revolution took Russia out of the war, Romania found it could not fight on alone, and it was forced to seek peace with the enemy. It only re-entered the war (on the Allied side) on November 10, a day before the armistice.
Loie Fuller Poster
Maryhill Museum of Art
Goldendale WA
After the Allied victory in 1919, Romania received some compensation for all its suffering. Thanks largely, once again, to the energetic efforts of Queen Marie, a woman to some extent in her grandmother’s mold, Romania acquired large tracts of territory that had previously been part of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires.

Queen Marie's Crown
Maryhill Museum
In 1926, this soldier queen made a triumphant visit to the United States facilitated by Thomas Tileston Wells. Despite having played such a significant role in World War I, she was not, however, to play any part in World War II. She died in 1938."

You can purchase signed copies of America Invades

Or you can find regular copies here on


Albert Ross said...

>> It must have been unusual and somewhat irregular for an American to serve as a Romanian diplomat.

Is it so unusual for a national domiciled in their own country to be an "Honorary consul" for another country? I wouldn't think so and a little research reveals that even the US accepts their credentials albeit with rules as to their functions. In the case of Romania in the first half of the twentieth century the job could have been quite arduous in NYC given that there would have been merchant sailors etc from Romania getting into trouble when out on a spree or migrants needing papers issued or certified.

Here in Australia some prominent people with quite tenuous connections to a small country (such as Monaco or Fiji) would wangle a HC gig in days past. The theory being DC plates conferred some immunity in regard to parking tickets etc. But I think this has been tightened up even here.

Grahame Greene's 70s spy novel "The Honorary Consul" is worth a read. An old fogie :-) like you would probably enjoy it.

Commander Kelly said...


Thanks very much for your thoughtful comment. An "old fogie" like me will have to pick up a copy of the Honorary Consul!