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VI

The Conference delegates were received by the King of Italy with great formality in the Quirinal Palace, the residence of the Kings of Italy since 1870. In the piazza, in front, are a couple of magnificent groups of statues—two youths leading a restive horse— attributed to Phidias and Praxiteles. A fountain plays into a basin of Egyptian granite. The Quirinal Palace is many centuries old, and at one time the Popes spent


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some part of the year in it. On the grand staircase there is a fresco representing Christ the Redeemer, remarkable for the singularly poignant expression of Christ as the Man of Sorrows.

The reception took place in a vast hall beautifully coloured in pink, gold and grey, with a wonderful painted ceiling; the attendants were arrayed in the royal colours, whilst the corridors and ante-chambers were lined with soldiers in gorgeous uniforms.

The King was probably the shortest man present, but he was affable, and when he spoke he was impressive. His conversation indicated mental alertness. He also showed himself to be very well informed, highly intellectual, interested in what he was told and anxious to exchange ideas. He was dressed in the grey-blue military uniform of an Italian general. The delegations were presented in alphabetical order, and the King spent some time with each delegation, speaking to most of them in their own language. The first on the list was Afghanistan, represented by two young men, well groomed and in perfectly fitting morning dress, with whom the King conversed in French.

His Majesty spent quite a time with the British Empire delegation, talking English freely. When he met the two lady members of the House of Commons he was evidently much interested, and inquired how many women were members of the House of Commons and the other Parliaments of the Empire.

Before leaving London all the British delegates had met in the House of Commons to discuss the Conference agenda and other matters. A unanimous desire


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was expressed that they should, if possible, secure an audience with the Pope. Various difficulties were experienced. Hopes of success had been abandoned almost, when one morning in Rome a message was received that His Holiness had complied with the request of the British delegates and their wives, and would receive them at six o'clock that afternoon. The matter had been arranged through the influence of Sir Robert Clive, British Minister to the Vatican. The party presented, including ladies, numbered thirty-five, and but two of them were Roman Catholics. The men were required to wear full evening dress with white ties and white waistcoats, whilst the ladies were in black from their necks to their ankles, with black mantillas covering their heads.

At the Vatican we were met by picturesque Swiss guards, with halberts and bright red and gold uniforms. Then we were brought up a wide imposing staircase, through lofty rooms, with decorated ceilings, and finally we reached a small audience chamber, round which the delegates were ranged. Presently His Holiness entered, a simple figure in white—white hair, white cape and white soutane. A crucifix was hanging by a chain from his neck, and his shoes were red. His face was kind and benevolent. His whole appearance suggested calm, unconscious dignity. There was a complete absence of ostentation. He bore his age well, and it was difficult to believe that he was seventy-six.

His Holiness went round the group, gave his hand to each of them and then spoke to them collectively in French, saying that he welcomed them, and was pleased that they had expressed a wish to come and see him. He hoped their efforts would always be directed


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towards the promotion of the peace and well-being of the peoples of the world, and gave them all his blessing, blessing their countries, their homes, their families and all whom they held dear. Then, bidding them farewell, His Holiness slowly withdrew.

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