Elisabeth’s father remained dangerously ill, and the family spent the winter of 1862-1863 in Baden-Baden for his health. To introduce Elisabeth into society during this sad time, the family opened their house to a larger circle of people. Elisabeth had been looking forward to it, but the death of good friend Marie von Bibra on 20 February 1863 caused her much grief. She wrote to her brother William, “I, for my part, expect much sorrow and many tears; they came to me early, and it probably will continue to be so. One loved one after the other is taken away. Each year demands its sacrifice. At how many graves shall I have to stand till I am old?”1
At the end of 1863, Elisabeth visited Russia, but she would end her visit with an illness; she was diagnosed with a nervous gastric fever. She was well taken care of by members of the Imperial Family and was able to write home in January. Her mother was sick with worry and wrote, “My child is ill at a great distance from me, and, for the first time, I am not there to nurse her. I know she is in God’s care and nursed by loving and faithful people. But that does not take the load of anxiety off my heart.”2 Elisabeth was at last able to go outside again on 1 March. Tragically, Elisabeth was not with her father when he died on 5 March 1864. She wrote home to her mother, “As a tree that has been felled leaves a light space in the forest, so a light remains after the death of a great man!”3 She was finally able to return home in June where she helped to decorate her father’s grave after the stone was put up.
As Elisabeth’s brother William was still a minor, their mother took care of the regency. He left the college in Basel in 1865 to begin a journey to the east from Italy to Egypt. However, he was soon recalled to Germany for a war with Austria, which luckily did not last long. Elisabeth too was travelling during this time, and in September 1866 she travelled to Italy and France with her aunt Princess Therese, who had just lost her daughter Catherine. She and her aunt had met in Russia and had become close. Elisabeth also visited Sweden with her mother to visit relatives (her aunt Sofia had married the future King Oscar II of Sweden) and even learned some Swedish.
In 1869, her brother William came of age, and in August he was betrothed to Princess Marie of the Netherlands. Elisabeth had no plans to wed and instead studied to become a teacher. However, her mother had no plans to actually see Elisabeth become a teacher. Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen came back into Elisabeth’s life after being elected Ruling Prince (Domnitor) of the Romanian United Principalities. Elisabeth and her mother were spending a few weeks in Bonn when Karl came calling. Elisabeth was quite oblivious as she prepared for a musical night out, but Karl was already asking her mother for her hand in marriage. After overcoming the initial shock, Elisabeth was pleased and declared, “I am betrothed and a blissfully happy bride.”4
Four days later, 16 October 1869, Karl travelled to Neuwied to publically announce the betrothal. Elisabeth’s mother toasted the couple with the words, “Let us drink to the health of the future pair, who are today the object of our united best wishes! Every betrothal is certainly a day of rejoicing. But the betrothal of today is more. A Prince, called to the accomplishment of a high and arduous mission, has chosen a bride who, whilst remaining faithfully at his side, will take part in the fulfilment of this great duty. They have made a holy covenant between themselves, in which they have promised to devote their strength and love to the happiness of a people which, if rightly and wisely led, is called to a great and happy future. And we will herewith also express our warmest and most sincere good wishes for the fulfilment of this our hope.”5 To his soon-to-be wife, Karl gifted an album for her journal of poems, and he wrote on the first page: “Love is returned by love. Meet your people with the same love and confidence that you have shown to me, and then it will not be one heart alone which beats for you, but millions of hearts will unite with that one, and I shall deem myself happy, for you will not belong to me alone. A whole nation has a right to you. An entire people looks up to you with confidence, and will return your love by its devotion.”6
On 15 November 1869, Elisabeth and Karl were married at Neuwied in a Catholic and Protestant ceremony. Just three days later, Elisabeth and Karl left for Romania. On 22 November – which also happened to be the birthday of her late brother Otto – Elisabeth first set foot on Romanian soil. She was offered the national offering of bread and salt, along with the keys of the town of Turnu Severin. Three days later, the couple arrived in Bucharest and Elisabeth was presented with a tiara of pearls and diamonds, along with an embroidered national costume, by the ladies of Bucharest. The people loved her already.
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.71
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.85-86
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.88
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.125
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.125-126
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.127