Queen Marie, also known as Marie of Romania, was one of the most beloved royals in this country. She was the was Queen consort of Romania from 1914 to 1927, as the wife of Ferdinand I of Romania.
Marie of Romania, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria of Great Britain
She was born on 29 October 1875 at Eastwell Park in Kent, the eldest daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia.
Her father was the second-eldest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Her mother was the only surviving daughter of Alexander II of Russia and Maria Alexandrovna of Hesse.
The marriage of Marie of Romania was a disaster
After a failed attempt to marry her first cousin, Prince George of Wales, later King George V of the United Kingdom, her mother, who didn’t like the British royal family, decided she will marry Ferdinand of Romania, the German-raised nephew of the King Carol I of Romania (and a distant cousin of the rulers of Prussia).
Princess Marie married in Sigmaringen, Germany, on 10 January 1893. The bride was 17 years old and the groom was 10 years her senior. As her letters to a close friend show her marriage was a disaster. However, she gave birth to three daughters and three sons. Historians say that not all the children were Ferdinand’s.
No one knows how many children King Ferdinand and Queen Marie really had
During her marriage to Ferdinand, Marie committed adultery repeatedly. It is said that Prince Mircea, her last born, resembled more her lover Barbu Stirbei, than her husband. Also, her second daughter was born after an affair with an officer named Zizi Cantacuzino. Other names like William Waldorf Astor and Canadian Joe Boyle are said to have been on the Queen’s lovers list.
It seems that King Ferdinand was fully aware by the Queen’s escapades but he chose to support the façade marriage for political reasons. He also committed to being the father of all six children that the Queen gave birth to.
Marie of Romania dedicated her life to serving the country
After the First World War started, Marie became a Romanian patriot, and her influence in the country was large. People loved her as she loved them back.
During the first war, she volunteered as a Red Cross nurse to help the sick and wounded and wrote a book titled My Country to raise funds.
With the country half-overrun by the German Army, she and a group of military advisers devised the plan by which the Romanian Army, rather than retreating into Russia, would choose a triangle of the country in which to stand and fight; and through a letter to Loïe Fuller she set in motion the series of events that brought a timely American loan to Romania, providing the necessary funds to carry out the plan.
After the war ended, the Great Powers decided to settle affairs at the Paris Peace Conference. The Romanian goal was to secure the Romanian-inhabited territories from the now-defunct Austria-Hungary and Russian Empire, thereby uniting all Romanian-speakers in a single state. Romanian diplomats at the peace conference sought to achieve recognition by the Allies of the Unions of Bessarabia, Bukovina, and Transylvania with Romania, proclaimed during 1918.
Queen Marie: “Romania needs a face, and I will be that face,”
With the Romanian delegation losing ground in the negotiations, Prime Minister Ionel Bratianu called upon the Queen to travel to France. Marie famously declared that “Romania needs a face, and I will be that face” calculating that the international press was growing tired of the endless negotiations and would be unable to resist the glamor of a Royal visit.
The arrival of the so-called Soldier Queen was an international media sensation and she argued passionately that the Western powers should honor their debt to Romania (which had suffered a casualty rate proportionately far greater than Britain, France or the USA). Behind the scenes, she alternately charmed and bullied the Allied leaders into backing the Romanian cause. As a direct result of her charismatic intervention, Romania won back the initiative and successfully achieved all its pre-conference aims, eventually expanding its territory by 60%, gaining Bessarabia, Bukovina, Transylvania, as well as parts of the Banat, Crişana and Maramureş.
Marie of Romania died at the age of 62, in Peleş Castle
After the death of her husband in 1927, Queen Marie remained in Romania, writing books and her memoirs, The Story of My Life. She died in Peleş Castle on 18 July 1938, and was buried next to her husband in the Arges Monastery . In accordance with her will, her heart was kept in a cloister at the Balchik Palace which she had built. In 1940, when Balchik and the rest of Southern Dobrudja were returned to Bulgaria, Queen Marie’s heart was transferred to Bran Castle.
Marie’s heart in a shoebox
In 1968 Communist partisans defiled the marble sarcophagus in which the heart was preserved. Both silver coffers containing Queen’s heart were transferred to Bucharest and today are in the custody of National Museum of Romanian History as well as Queen’s heart. The coffers are part of Romanian National Thesaurus and can be seen at National Museum of Romanian History. Her heart remained for many years in the Museum’s basement in a dusty shoebox.
Bran Castle had been her principal home for much of the early 20th century, and the artifacts with which she chose to surround herself (traditional furniture and tapestries, for example) can be seen by visitors today.