April 16, 2012
Letter from Theodore Roosevelt to John Hay, September 29, 1902, in which he gives his thoughts on his daughter’s honor. From the Library of Congress Manuscripts division
Emperor William II of Germany took great interest in naval affairs and was an enthusiastic supporter of the Imperial German Navy. He dreamed of a German fleet that could challenge the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy. He also competed at international yachting regattas with a series of racing yachts that were always named Meteor. The third Meteor was built in the United States by the Townsend-Downey Company. SMY Meteor III was ready for launch in February 1902 and Emperor William II suggested that Alice Roosevelt, President Roosevelt’s eldest daughter, sponsor the yacht.
President Roosevelt agreed to these arrangements and served as host to William’s representative at the launch, Prince Heinrich of Prussia. Heinrich was the Emperor’s younger brother and a career naval officer. Buoyed by some bottle smashing practice, Alice was excited for the ceremony which was held at Shooter’s Island on February 25, 1902. She successfully broke the bottle of champagne on Meteor’s bow and cut the last rope mooring the yacht. For her efforts, Prince Heinrich gave her a diamond bracelet with a miniature of William II. Her success was not only a boon to German-American relations but made the eighteen year old budding socialite a global sensation.
Alice would receive further honors from William II in the form of a namesake vessel…a vessel built for the Imperial German Navy and armed with torpedoes. Alice had joked with Prince Heinrich that she wanted to be named a colonel of a German lancer regiment, which would have been an honorary patron type position and not an actual cavalry officer. President Roosevelt was uncomfortable with these honorary titles and described them as “preposterous” to Secretary of State John Hay. However, he found a namesake boat to be acceptable and the torpedo boat D2 Alice Roosevelt would be in commission at least through the outbreak of the First World War.
Massie, Robert K. 1991. Dreadnought: Britain, Germany, and the coming of the Great War. New York: Random House.
Cordery, Stacy A. 2007. Alice: Alice Roosevelt Longworth, from White House princess to Washington power broker. New York: Viking.