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Wake Forest College Professor William Bailey Royall made international news on May 17, 1904 when he bumped into King George and Queen Olga of Greece while touring the palace garden in Athens.
This wouldn’t have shocked anyone in Wake Forest, however. Royall had been teaching Greek at the college since returning from the Civil War at the age of 21. By the time of this meeting he’d spent almost forty years immersed in the language.
A description of the event is taken from two publications of the era, The Acropolis and The Times.
The King and the Americans
Yesterday afternoon around five o’clock, an American tourist and his wife were wandering in the Palace Garden with a guide. Along one of the paths, going in the opposite direction, suddenly appeared the King and the Queen.
When the travelers turned respectfully, the King approached and stood before the astonished strangers.
“Welcome,” said the King in English to the American traveler.
“Your Majesty,” replied he.
“Who are you?” the King asked.
“William Royall,” replied the American, “professor of Ancient Greek in the college of Wake Forest, North Carolina.”
“But you speak it with the English pronunciation,” says the King.
“We use the continental,” replied the stranger.
“How seems our climate to you?” asks the King. “Is it very cold here?”
“The climate appears to us very fine. As to the cold we are accustomed to that.”
“I rejoice much that you are pleased with Greece,” said the Queen, who stood near holding to the branch of a tree.
The King then shook hands with the American and his lady and bade them farewell. The Americans expressed themselves enthusiastically concerning the goodness and naturalness of our sovereigns.
In the letter he sent home to accompany the articles, Professor Royall added that he did not address the monarch as “Your Majesty,” and when other American visitors later asked Mrs. Royall how she acted in the presence of the King and Queen she replied, “Just as if I had been meeting kings and queens every day of my life.”