• Iulia Andreescu

Marie - the Queen of Romania


One of the most prominent and loved feminine characters in the history of Romania is Queen Marie (Regina Maria). With a strong personality and a sincere love for her people, Marie managed to make herself and the country known worldwide.


One of her favorite quotes was ‘Character is destiny’ attributed to the Greek philosopher, Heraclitus, and later, discussed by Frederick Nietzsche. In this article, we are going to see how her strong and vivid character shaped her destiny.


Early life and marriage

Princess Marie of Edinburgh was born in 1875 into the British royal family. Her father was Prince Alfred, duke of Edinburgh and her mother, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Her early childhood and upbringing were a mixture of strictness and rumbustious freedom: no emotional displays, no refusing food at the table, no over-familiarity with elders, but still being allowed to socialize at table conversations, to play pirates or cowboys, to climb trees or, to play in the mud at Buckingham Palace, when she was visiting her grandmother, Queen Victoria[1].


When Marie grew up and turned into a beautiful young lady with blue eyes and fair hair, she was courted by several royal bachelors. One of the bachelors was young Winston Churchill and another one, her Russian second cousin, Grand Duke George Mikhailovitch. At that time, King Carol I of Romania was looking for ”a suitable bride for Crown Prince Ferdinand”[2] .


However, motivated by the idea of removing tensions between Russia and Romania (in order to gain control over Bessarabia), Marie’s mother insisted that she should meet Ferdinand. They were first introduced to each other during a gala dinner and soon after, they got formally engaged [3].


Marie and Ferdinand got married on 10th January 1893, at Sigmaringen Castle. Their wedding ceremony was split into 3 separate events: the civil wedding, the Catholic one (Ferdinand's religion), and one Anglican. Marie and Ferdinand spent a few days of honeymoon at the Castle of Krauchenwies in Bavaria. From there, they left for the countryside, stopped at Vienna to meet Emperor Franz Joseph. After crossing Transylvania by train, they arrived at night in Predeal, where ” Marie was warmly welcomed by the Romanian people, who were longing for a more personal monarchy” [4].


Life at Court

At the beginning, Marie had difficulties in living in Romania, mostly because of her personality and because she disliked austerity. Even her marriage was not very easy at the beginning, as Ferdinand gave her no support and having only few common interests (flowers and photography). Gradually, the couple's relationship ”became based on a cordial friendship: Marie accorded Ferdinand respect she believed he was due as a man and, later, as king, and he respected her because he realized that she had a better understanding of the world than he did”. [5]


Marie and Ferdinand – Photo in the Balchik Palace (personal archive)

Marie became the mother of Carol 9 months after her marriage. During her life, she gave birth to 6 children: Prince Carol, Princess Elisabeth, Princess Maria,Prince Nicholas, Princess Ileana and Prince Mircea. Right from the start, King Carol and his wife, Queen Elisabeth, interfered in the way the children were educated, because they considered their parents too young for raising them properly.


In spite of all restrictions, her strong personality made her disobey the rules. She continued riding the horse although this was not considered an activity suitable for women. When Carol restricted her journeys outside Romania, Marie attended a ball, in Russia (in 1896), with her sister, Victoria Melita. [6]


Despite her refusal to respect Carol’s interdictions, she showed deep respect to the country and to Romanians. Soon after she came to Romania, she learned to speak the language and she followed her mother's advice ” to dress carefully and show respect for Orthodox rituals”[7]. After the Romanian Peasant’s Revolt in 1907, she decided to dress in Romanian traditional costume, both at home and in public, initiating a fashion trend among young upper-class women.


Activity during wars

The Tsardom of Bulgaria declared war on Greece on 29th of June 1913. Few days later, Romania entered the Balkan war, supporting Greece. This war was worsened by a cholera epidemic. Helped b y Dr. Ioan Cantacuzino and Sister Pucci ( a Red Cross nurse), Marie traveled between Romania and Bulgaria, moving from one hospital to another, ”bringing in cigarettes, food and other comforts for the men and sat by cholera victims”.[8]These events would prepare her for her future experiences in the Great War, gaining courage to face everything.


Soon after King Carol’s death, on 11th October 1914, Marie and Ferdinand were acclaimed as king and queen in the Chamber of Deputies.[9] Marie and Bratianu started pressuring Ferdinand into entering the World War I, favoring the alliance with the Triple Entente(Russia, France, Britain), mostly because of her origins.


During the war, Marie joined the Romanian Red Cross and worked in hospitals daily. Although in November 1916, their youngest son, Prince Mircea, who had been sick with typhoid fever, died at Buftea, she continued her activity as a nurse in military hospitals, going daily to the train station, receiving the injured soldiers and transporting them to hospitals[10].


The Coronation

After the War and after the the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 (when supported Romania’s cause in front of the Powers of the Entente) , she was a ”national heroine, a personality in her own right”, and the Queen of Romania[11].


Queen Marie - Photo in the Unification Museum, Alba Iulia

Life after the War and the visit to the United States

In the 1920s, Marie started her career as a publicist, ”stating her opinions about men, marriage, fashion, beauty and, more seriously, women's rights and the lives and aspirations of Romanians”[12]. In 1925, she used her fiftieth birthday to write an article entitled "Facing Fifty".


In 1926, she left for a 2 months tour in the United States, where she was treated like a star. She was also received at the White House by the president Calvin Coolidge, and his wife, Grace. Before this tour, in 1924, Queen Marie was the first queen who was on the cover of Times magazine. After this great experience, when she came back, her life had changed as her husband was dying.


Widowhood and death

After Ferdinand’s death, Prince Carol started the dynastic crisis by renouncing to succeed his father to the throne[13]. Despite all the cruelties her son had done, Marie could not abandon him entirely, and never lost the hope that one day, he would change. As she waited, Marie occupied herself with her grandchildren, with horse- riding, with gardening, and with the publication of her autobiography. She spent her rest of her life in Bran, and in Balchik- where she had built a palace and a small chapel called Stella Maris.


This sufferance made her very ill and soon she died (on 18th July 1938, at Sinaia). At Queen’s death, Bucharest ”turned out in mauve, the mourning color she had requested” (and her favorite color during her life), and „ all along the rail line taking her to the cemetery at Curtea de Arges, peasants knelt in prayer”[14].




Sources

<http://www.tkinter.smig.net/QueenMarie/MammaRegina/index.htm>

<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_of_Romania>


Notes

[1] www.tkinter.smig.net/QueenMarie/MammaRegina/index.htm

[2],[3],[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_of_Romania

[5] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_of_Romania

[6] http://www.tkinter.smig.net/QueenMarie/MammaRegina/index.htm

[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_of_Romania

[8] http://www.tkinter.smig.net/QueenMarie/MammaRegina/index.htm

[9], [10] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_of_Romania

[11], [12] http://www.tkinter.smig.net/QueenMarie/MammaRegina/index.htm

[13] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_of_Romania

[14] http://www.tkinter.smig.net/QueenMarie/MammaRegina/index.htm

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