All hail Their Majesties!
It was November 1953, and New Orleans experienced the historic visit of a king and queen. The royal couple were King Paul and Queen Frederika of the Hellenes (as the Greeks call themselves) who, after their arrival by train at Union Station on Nov. 19, were welcomed by Mayor deLesseps “Chep” Story Morrison and members of his committee.
There was a news conference in the Roosevelt Hotel, where the Greek monarchs were lodged; a parade to City Hall (now Gallier Hall) and the official welcoming ceremonies, during which Their Majesties were designated honorary citizens of New Orleans.
The monarchs enjoyed a luncheon and a harbor tour aboard the yacht “Good Neighbor” as guests of the Board of Commissioners of the Port of New Orleans; a reception given by Mayor and Mrs. Morrison, Corinne, at International House; and a gala dinner at Antoine’s.
There King Paul and Queen Frederika were guests of the official Chairman of the Reception Committee William G. “Bill” Helis Jr., the honorary Greek consul, and his wife, Venus.
Gov. Robert F. “Bob” Kennon welcomed the royals and presented His Majesty with a memento of their visit.
The next day, there was a tour of the city with the mayor and his wife, a flight over coastal offshore drilling operations, luncheon by dignitaries of the International House at the New Orleans Country Club; and prior to a small, informal dinner at the Roosevelt given by the Morrisons, a visit to then-new Hellenic Orthodox Church of the Holy Trinity on North Dorgenois Street.
Members of the city’s Greek community attended as well. Goodbye came all too soon with a 9 p.m. departure of the king and queen by train.
Certainly one of the most coveted invitations ever in the city, the one extended by Mr. and Mrs. Helis Jr. for dinner at Antoine’s featured the coat of arms of the Royal House of Greece above the wording.
Dinner was at 8 p.m. and “black tie” the dress. The sumptuous carte de menu (written in French) stated such pleasures as oysters Rockefeller, turtle soup, trout amandine, roasted duck, the restaurant’s celebrated pommes de terre soufflées, ice creams, and café brulot.
Champagne, wines and liqueurs and Hellenic brandy were among the accompanying drinks. Among the guests enjoying all the royal and prandial pleasures were Mr. and Mrs. Constantine H. Pelias. They, as did many others, observed Kennon’s presentation of a gift to Their Majesties of a silver plaque in the shape of the United States.
In remembrance of the gala dinner, Antoine’s has a framed photo and invitation collage hanging against the far wall of the Annex. In the restaurant’s Dungeon, there is a framed cover of a Life magazine depicting Queen Frederika, a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, who, unlike her husband, was making her first trip to the States.
The grandson of Paul and Frederika, Greece’s exiled Crown Prince Pavlos, met his wife, duty-free-shopping heiress Marie-Chantal Miller, in New Orleans years ago.
With the current royal visit of King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia of Spain, the Greek royal lineage continues. His parents are the former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, the daughter of Their Majesties Paul and Frederika.