Marie Louise of Bulgaria – An exiled Princess

Marie Louise of Bulgaria
(public domain)

Princess Marie Louise of Bulgaria was born on 13 January 1933 as the eldest child of Boris III, Tsar of Bulgaria, and Princess Giovanna of Italy.

According to the New York Times, the “whole nation rejoices.” She was born at 9.30 in the morning, and a 21-gun salute welcomed the arrival of the princess. Her proud father addressed the crowds that gathered at the palace with the words, “With all my heart and in the name of my wife, I thank you in infinity. Long live the Bulgarian people! Long live Bulgaria! Her star will shine through centuries.”1

The marriage of the Orthodox Boris and the Catholic Giovanna was only approved by Pope Pius XI if Boris agreed to raise their children Catholic. Marie Louise was hurriedly baptised in the Orthodox church the day after her birth, and they did not even wait for the arrival of Giovanna’s mother, Elena. She arrived in the evening to find “her grandchild already an Orthodox Princess.” A papal representative officially protested against the Orthodox baptism.2 The Pope eventually absolved Giovanna of all blame and blamed it purely on Boris.3 In any case, Marie Louise’s younger brother Simeon, who was born in 1937, was also baptised in the Orthodox Church. Among Marie Louise’s godparents was statesman Aleksandar Malinov.4

During a visit by King Edward VIII, the precocious four-year-old Marie Louise told him in German, “I must go now. I have to go to work.” He reportedly found this hilarious and responded in German, “Me too, unfortunately!” That simple phrase later became the code phrase for the British royal family during the Second World War.5 Marie Louise was particularly close to her father, with whom she developed a ritual which they did every time he returned from abroad. Upon his arrival at the airport, he told his companions, ‘Now I have to go and report to my daughter.”6 She then happily reported the news of his return to her mother, who pretended that she hadn’t already heard.

Then the unthinkable happened. Her father had just returned from a meeting with Adolf Hitler, who had been pressuring him to send Bulgarian Jews to death camps. On 22 August 1943, Marie Louise joined her parents and brother at Samokov and spent the day together. After a great day together, they returned to Tzarska, where he received his war ministers. He had been suffering from chest pains for the last few days but did not mention this to his wife or children. The following morning, he was set to return to Sofia, and he told Marie Louise, “Be a good girl, and while I am away, listen to Uncle Kiki!”7 Once in Sofia, he consulted a doctor about his chest pains, although he continued with his day as usual. In the evening, he spoke with his sister Princess Eudoxia on the phone and told her he had not been feeling well. Shortly after the phone call, he became seriously ill and vomited violently. He was taken to bed but continued to deteriorate. Princess Eudoxia arrived at his bedside, but no one informed Queen Giovanna. Even when she telephoned to inquire after him, she was told he was too busy and a bit ill. She was told not to worry. The following day, she was again told that there was no need for her to come.

It wasn’t until Wednesday night, the 25th, that Giovanna was told of the seriousness of the situation, and she ordered a car to Sofia as Marie Louise and Boris slept in their beds. She was told that the doctors suspected coronary thrombosis, which had caused double pneumonia and oedema in the lungs and brain. The end came on 28 August, at 4.22 PM. He was 49 years old. Six-year-old Simeon was now the new Tsar, under a Regency Council headed by Boris’s brother Prince Kiril. Giovanna, Marie Louise and Simeon continued to live at Vrana Palace until 1946, when the monarchy was abolished.

The family was given just 48 hours to leave the country, and they left for Egypt. In Egypt, they joined their grandparents King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Queen Elena, who also lived in exile. In Alexandria, Marie Louise attended a Roman Catholic school. Then, in 1951, they were given asylum by Francisco Franco. Marie Louise enrolled at the Medical Nurse College of the Spanish Royal Cross Society and graduated with honours.

On 20 February 1957, Marie Louise married Prince Karl of Leiningen at the Russian Orthodox Church in Nice. They moved to Toronto, where Karl had a business. They went on to have two sons, Boris and Herman, before divorcing on 4 December 1968. After the divorce, she and her sons moved to the United States. She remarried the following year to Bronislaw Chrobok and had two children with him, Alexandra and Pawel-Alistair.8

Following the death of Prince Johannes Heinrich of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Kohary, her brother ceded the Kohary title to Marie Louise and the children from her second marriage. Marie Louise was able to return to Bulgaria in 1991, and she continues to spend part of the year in Bulgaria. She recently celebrated her 90th birthday.

  1. The New York Times
  2. The New York Times
  3. The New York Times
  4. Crown of Thorns by Stéphane Groueff p.239
  5. Crown of Thorns by Stéphane Groueff p.323
  6. Crown of Thorns by Stéphane Groueff p.359
  7. Crown of Thorns by Stéphane Groueff p.366
  8. King Simeon

About Moniek Bloks 2749 Articles
My name is Moniek and I am from the Netherlands. I began this website in 2013 because I wanted to share these women's amazing stories.

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