National Geographic : 1953 Nov
667 National Geographic Photographers B. Anthony Stewart and Johln E. Fletcher Visitors Strolling Down South Lane Pass the Reconstructed Coach House George and Martha may have ridden in the Samuel Powel coach, which Mount Vernon has exhibited for half a century. The General's "white chariot" was broken up for souvenirs long ago. In fancy I could picture again the simple funeral procession, including the General's saddled and riderless horse, as it moved slowly from the portico down the snow-covered hillside. The old tomb is empty now. In 1831 the bodies of George and Martha Washington, together with those of other members of the family, were removed to the new vault, built in accordance with the specific and practical provisions in Washington's will. Visiting Celebrities Make News Day after day, year in and out, modern pilgrims stand silently before the ivy-framed gateway to this tomb. Even the youngsters' gay chatter dies away momentarily. On Washington's Birthday, organization follows organization in presenting floral tributes. The Veterans of Foreign Wars alone, in 1953, laid 29 wreaths at the grave. Most of the visitors to the Washington shrine are plain Americans-seniors and jun iors, boy and girl scouts, honeymooning tour ists, and GI's. But royalty and other news-making celebri ties, accompanied by reporters, photographers, and State Department protocol officers, often pay their respects and leave a wreath at the tomb. Four British sovereigns-ruling then or later-have called at Mount Vernon to honor the rebel Washington. The latest was Prin cess Elizabeth, now Queen, who came with her handsome husband in November, 1951. A few months later I was privileged to join the official party of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and her husband, Prince Bern hard (page 678). For Juliana this was a repeat performance. On her previous trip she had been a princess, eclipsed by her reigning mother, Wilhelmina. Now the mother of four daughters herself, Queen Juliana made the tour of the house with a homemaker's attention. When she left, she wore a corsage of white stock, a typically 18th-century flower cut from Wash ington's garden. To riffle through the pages of Mount Ver non's two-volume guest book is to bring back many a past news era. I came on the signa tures of King Albert and Queen Elizabeth of Belgium, General of the Armies John J. Pershing, and Queen Marie of Romania, the "Marie" in bold letters that take up almost a quarter of the page.