As Halloween approaches, you might be scrambling to find your costume, and you’re probably not thinking of dressing up as a European monarch or other foreign potentate. But to members of the Maidstone Club in October 1940, this was a stellar idea.
The Maidstone Club often held costume balls and other extravagant events that necessitated disguises. One of these inspired Elizabeth (Betty) Stettinius Trippe (1904-1983) and John Lord Boatwright (1898-1962) to dress as the reigning British consort, Queen Elizabeth (1900-2002), and British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (1869-1940). This Queen Elizabeth was the wife of King George VI and the mother of the future Queen Elizabeth II (1926-2022); today she is best remembered as the Queen Mother.
Chamberlain was a somewhat infamous figure; he is best remembered for his strategy of “appeasement” and efforts to avoid war at any cost during the rise of Nazi Germany. In 1938, Chamberlain negotiated what he thought would be a lasting peace with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler. By September 1939, the German invasion of Poland forced Chamberlain to declare war. He resigned as prime minister in May 1940.
This photograph from The East Hampton Star’s archive captures a fascinating moment in time, when war raged in Europe but America had not yet been drawn into the conflict. The costumed subjects were equally interesting figures in their own right. Betty Trippe was married to Juan Terry Trippe, the founder of Pan American Airlines and a longtime president of the Maidstone Club. Later in life, Betty became an advocate for social services, representing the United States on the International Council of Homehelp Services shortly before her death in 1983.
John Lord Boatwright lived in Richmond, Va., but spent summers in East Hampton, where he was involved with many local institutions. He made his living in lithography and printing, after retiring from the Navy as a lieutenant commander.
Julia Tyson is a librarian and archivist in the East Hampton Library’s Long Island Collection.