Princess Marie of Edinburgh, Queen of Romania
Queen Marie of Romania was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and perhaps one of the most polarizing royals of her time. She was born Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria of Edinburgh on October 29, 1875 at Eastwell Park, Kent. Her parents were Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (later Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha), and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia. Through her mother, she was also a granddaughter of Tsar Alexander II.
Missy, as she was known in the family, was christened on December 15, 1875 at Windsor Castle, with the following godparents:
Growing up primarily at Eastwell Park and Clarence House, the family also spent some time living in Malta where her father was stationed several times, most recently from 1886-1889. After Malta, they took up residence in Coburg, where her father had become heir-presumptive to his childless uncle, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Missy’s mother quickly worked to make her daughters more ‘German’ than ‘British’, and had them confirmed in the Lutheran Church instead of the Anglican church in which they had been raised.
Missy had always been very close with her cousin, the future King George V. He had been a frequent guest while the family lived in Malta, and the two considered marriage. While Queen Victoria and both of their fathers were very supportive of the match, their mothers were not. The Princess of Wales disliked all things German, still reeling over the Schleswig-Holstein issue. And the Duchess of Edinburgh disliked all things British. She didn’t want her daughter to remain British, and was also against the marriage of first cousins, which was forbidden in her Orthodox faith. So when George did propose, Marie was obliged to refuse. The two remained devoted to each other for the rest of their lives.
Instead, Marie was soon engaged to the Crown Prince of Romania. Born Prince Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, he was the heir-presumptive to his uncle, King Carol I of Romania. After gaining the approval of Queen Victoria, Marie and Ferdinand were married on January 10, 1893 at Sigmaringen Castle. Following the civil ceremony, both Catholic and Protestant ceremonies were held due to their different religions. The couple had six children:
- King Carol II (1893-1953) – married (1) Ioana “Zizi” Lambrino, had issue; (2) Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark, had issue; (3) Elena “Magda” Lupescu, no issue
- Princess Elisabeth, Queen of Greece (1894-1956) – married King George II of Greece, no issue
- Princess Maria, Queen of Yugoslavia (1900-1961) – married King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, had issue
- Prince Nicholas (1903-1978) – married twice, no issue
- Princess Ileana, Archduchess of Austria (1909-1991) – married (1) Archduke Anton of Austria-Tuscany, had issue; (2) Dr. Stefan Issarescu, no issue
- Prince Mircea (1913-1916) – died at age 3
Marie found her new life quite challenging. Being very free-spirited, she found the strict Romanian court to be stifling. Her husband’s uncle, King Carol I, controlled every aspect of the couple’s lives. Her relationship with Ferdinand was also a struggle, as the two tried to settle into a content relationship. She later wrote to her husband that “it is such a shame that we had to waste so many years of our youth just to learn how to live together!”
With a growing family, and a stifled existence in the Romanian court, Marie is alleged to have embarked on several affairs, possibly even giving birth to a child by one of her reported lovers. It is also speculated that several of her younger children were from another man, but they were recognized and acknowledged by Ferdinand as his own.
Just after the beginning of World War I, King Carol I died and Ferdinand ascended the Romanian throne. Drawn quickly into the war, the new Queen Marie threw herself into her charitable work, rallying support for the war effort, and serving tirelessly as a nurse. In 1919, after the war, she represented Romania at the Paris Peace Conference, replacing the Romanian delegation which had left due to extreme conflict with the French prime minister. The Queen is often credited with smoothing the situation and helping to bring about Romania’s huge gains at the end of the conference.
In 1922, a huge coronation ceremony was held for Ferdinand and Marie in Alba Iulia. An Orthodox cathedral was built there (known as the Coronation Cathedral) and the two were crowned in an elaborate ceremony full of pomp and pageantry. A few years later, Marie converted to the Orthodox faith, an act which further endeared her to the Romanian people.
The next years saw The Queen travel extensively. Visits to Britain and the United States brought huge crowds out to see the famous Queen of Romania, and she didn’t disappoint them. While in the United States in 1926 with two of her children, Queen Marie met with President Calvin Coolidge and his wife. She also traveled to Washington State, where she presided at the dedication of The Maryhill Museum, being opened by her friend, Samuel Hill. She later donated many possession to the museum, which are still on display today. (Read more about Queen Marie and The Maryhill Museum HERE.)
Soon after her return to Romania, King Ferdinand died on July 20, 1927. As their son Carol had previously renounced his right to the throne, it was Marie’s grandson, Mihai, who succeeded Ferdinand. Mihai was just 5 years old, and a Regency Council was established, led by Marie’s younger son, Prince Nicholas. Three years later, Carol would return and reclaim the throne. (He would later abdicate in 1940, returning Mihai to the throne.)
In January 1928, after several months in seclusion following her husband’s death, Queen Marie returned to public life. In the above photo, she is seen with her daughters Ileana and Elisabeth at a public function in Bucharest. Following her son Carol reclaiming the throne in 1930, Queen Marie found herself more on the fringes of the Romanian monarchy. She spent her remaining years enjoying the company of her grandchildren, and enjoying her homes at Bran Castle and Balchik Palace. Throughout the years, she had written her memoirs, which were published in several volumes.
portrait of Queen Marie by Philip de László, 1936. source: Wikipedia
Queen Marie of Romania died on July 18, 1938 at Peleş Castle in the presence of her son Carol, daughter Elisabeth, and grandson Mihai. Her body lay in-state for three days at Cotroceni Palace before she was buried at the Curtea de Argeş Cathedral, Curtea de Argeş, Romania. At her request, her heart was interred in the Stella Maris chapel at her beloved Balchik Palace. After Balchik became part of Bulgaria, Queen Marie’s heart was moved to a chapel at Bran Castle by her daughter, Ileana.
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