Friday, September 3, 2010
Death of Mrs. William Hitt
September 3, 1936
The New York Times is reporting the death of Mrs. William F. Hitt of Washington, D.C. Mrs. Hitt died today at Roosevelt Hospital after a brief illness. The former Katherine Elkins was the daughter of the late United States Senator Stephen B. Elkins of West Virginia.
For two years, from 1908 to 1910, Katherine Elkins "was the heroine of the one of the most interesting romances that ever involved an American girl and a European royal family." So many newspapers "published so many columns of rumors pro and con as they did during that period on the question" of whether Miss Elkins would marry the Duke of Abruzzi, "noted explorer and cousin of King Victor Emmanuel of Italy."
It was in October 1908 when it was reported that they were "actually betrothed, and the next day a beautiful ruby ring, said to have been a gift from the Duke to Miss Elkins, was seized by customs authorities in Pittsburgh."
Katherine's family denied all reports of an engagement.
Miss Elkins first met the Duke when he came to the United States "in command of the Italian war vessels sent to the Jamestown Exhibition."
There were many explanations for why they never married including the "statement that the American girl could have become a morganatic wife, but that she and her father insisted that marriage could only take place if she became a member of the royal family with all the rights to involved."
The "upshot of it all" was that the Duke of the Abruzzi "went to India to climb mountains and hunt big game." In 1913, Miss Elkins married William F.R. Hitt, son of the late Representative Robert R. Hitt. Mr. Hitt had been one of Miss Elkins' "earliest suitors and had continued to pay court at every opportunity, even during the days of the Abruzzi attachment."
During Theodore Roosevelt's presidency, Mr. Hitt and Miss Elkins were members of the "inner circle" of Washington's younger set, which included Alice Roosevelt, daughter of the President; Miss Mathilde Townsend; Amy McMillan, daughter of Senator McMillan; Eleanor Terry, daughter of Rear Admiral Yerry, who married Captain Filippo Camperio of the Italian Navy.
The Duke of the Abruzzi died on March 18, 1933, at the age of 60 in Abruzzi City, Somilialand, "which he founded in 1920 as the center of a vast plantation for growing colonial products." He died unmarried. It was recalled that he "was said to have declared to the King that if his marriage to Miss Elkins was opposed he would never marry anyone else."
Mrs. Hitt is survived by her husband. The funeral will be held tomorrow in Washington, D.C.