An American Woman's Influence on World Events
Reprinted from The Telegraph (Macon, GA), March 19, 2017
In the 1800s, living abroad was quite popular with young, privileged American women for whom the thought of meeting and marrying a titled Englishman or European was a dramatic affirmation of their charm and beauty and, of course, could possibly bestow on them a royal title.
Mary Esther Lee, who grew up on Union Square in New York, was the daughter of a self-made entrepreneur, who made his fortune in the grocery business, and his wife, a Connecticut socialite. Mary visited Paris in 1855, an extended trip that brought her mother and sisters to France and eventually to permanent residence in Europe.
Rick Hutto has entertained readers with his accounts of local history in “A Peculiar Tribe of People” and is known internationally as an author, a historical speaker and a consultant. In 2008, his “American Wives of Princes and Dukes” briefly included a little known Mary Lee.
However, Hutto’s fascination with her story and with the influence she wielded in political, religious and royal circles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries took him to the libraries at Harvard University and at Princeton Theological Seminary, to embassies in Washington, D.C., and to research sources in Germany to uncover the immense power Lee had as the wife of a prominent and titled man. Her access to Kaiser Wilhelm II, the king of Prussia and the man whom Hutto says can be blamed for the loss of life in World War I, is in many cases chilling — particularly in the climate of zealous religious beliefs and of rigid prejudice, which was the precursor to the reign of Adolf Hitler.
On March 12, Hutto signed books and briefly discussed his immense research for his latest book, “The Kaiser’s Confidante,” the story of the first American-born princess, Mary Lee, at Travis Jean Emporium on Cherry Street. Hutto’s account of this period is interspersed with irony and humor that reminds his readers that, among political animals internationally, there will be a number of buffoons. The book is available at Travis Jean and through local book stores.
Katherine Walden is a freelance writer and interior designer in Macon. Contact her at email@example.com