Written by Taylor.
Queen Marie of Romania was born as Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria of Edinburgh on 29 October 1875 in England. Her father, Prince Alfred, was the second son of Queen Victoria. Her mother, Duchess Marie of Edinburgh (born Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia), was the only living daughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Marie was known as Missy to her friends and family.
Marie’s early childhood was spent in England. It was here that she got to know her paternal grandmother. Her memories of Queen Victoria were of a doting grandmother who still had the power to provoke fear in people. When Marie was a preadolescent, her family moved to Malta due to Prince Alfred taking command of the Royal Navy stationed there. This was where Marie and her sister Victoria “Ducky” discovered their passion for horse riding. Unfortunately for the girls, the English high-society dames were complaining about the Edinburgh princesses’ lack of feminine manners.
A few years later, in the early 1890s, Marie’s family moved again to Coburg in Germany where Marie’s parents took their posts as the new Duke and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. As Marie was turning into a young woman, she found herself attracting many admirers of the opposite sex. One of these admirers was Prince George of Wales (later King George V). He wanted to marry her, but both of their mothers were not having it. Marie’s mother had a better suitor for her eldest daughter in mind.
Being the ambitious mother, Duchess Marie got into correspondence with King Carol I of Romania. Like Duchess Marie, Carol was in search of a politically suitable match for his nephew and heir Crown Prince Ferdinand (known as Nando in intimate circles). While Marie’s mother was for the match, Alfred had some misgivings. According to Marie, before she left Coburg to be betrothed to Ferdinand, her normally stoic father summoned her to his study and broke down in tears (which made Marie flabbergasted) and told her never to forget that she was a sailor’s daughter. He was not the only one to have these views. His mother, Queen Victoria, was not too keen on the match either.
Despite her father’s and paternal grandmother’s apprehensions, Marie married Ferdinand on 10 January 1893, at Sigmaringen Castle in what is now Germany. The bride was seventeen. The groom was a decade older than the bride.
Marie’s and Ferdinand’s marriage was not a very doting one, especially in the early years (but the marriage would become more companionship-like in later years). They had different personalities. Marie was extroverted, artistic, and a bit of a free spirit. Ferdinand, on the other hand, was shy, scientific, and more on the intellectual side. Not surprisingly, both parties had affairs.
Despite the many differences between them, Marie and Ferdinand performed their duty by having six children together: Carol (the future Carol II) in 1893, Elisabeth in 1894, Marie “Mignon” in 1900, Nicholas in 1903, Ileana in 1909, and Mircea in 1913 (who died young). Due to Marie having countless affairs, there have been countless speculations and rumours about the paternity of the children (especially the last two).
The new Crown Princess of Romania found it difficult to adjust to Romanian court life for the first couple of years. She found the city of Bucharest boring and her new court life rigid. Her new in-laws, King Carol and Queen Elisabeth, didn’t make her new life any easier. They, especially the King, watched their every move and even took their two eldest children from their care for being “too young”. This would have catastrophic consequences in the years to come.
Marie was very much involved in nursing in times of war. During the Second Balkan War in 1912, Marie took over the cholera camp’s administration at Zimnicea, despite having an aversion to illness. It was this experience at Zimnicea that sparked Marie’s interest in wider issues. During World War I, Marie reorganised hospitals, visited the trenches, and even volunteered as a nurse at one point. Her daughters Mignon and Ileana also helped their mother in these duties.
Ferdinand and Marie became the new King and Queen of Romania when King Carol died in 1914. Because of the war, the coronation ceremony didn’t take place until 15 October 1922. To his parents’ relief, Carol divorced his first wife and married Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark. Carol and Helen’s marriage proved to be a huge failure (and ended in divorce).
It was also during the Great War when Marie started to have issues with her eldest son Carol. While Carol was clever, an avid stamp collector, and in support of education (especially with his heir Michael), he was also obsessed with partying, drinking, and women. He nearly put the Romanian monarchy in jeopardy when he left his military post to marry the first of his three wives. Marie’s eldest daughter Elisabeth was no better. She grew up to be very self-entitled, cared very little about others (including her own parents and siblings), and took many lovers.
Marie did a lot of travelling after the war. She visited her birth country England, the city of Paris, and even America.
Marie’s last years were indeed hectic and often in turmoil. In 1929 (King Ferdinand died two years earlier in 1927), she was offered a vacant seat in the regency by the Romanian prime minister, but Marie said no. She wanted to take it easy as much she can and focus more on decorating, gardening, and her latest interest, writing. Around this time she was writing her memoirs and children’s fiction.
When Carol came back to Romania from exile and overthrew his son (by Princess Helen) Michael in 1930, Marie’s life suddenly changed for the worse. Her household was dramatically diminished, her monetary situation deteriorated, and Carol placed spies in her residence. Carol even tried to separate Princess Ileana from Marie, but Ileana saw through her brother’s treachery and protested (However, she did marry an archduke a few years later and was not allowed to return to Romania). Despite all this, Marie didn’t lift a finger (in part of not wishing to alienate her eldest son any further).
It was during this very turbulent time that Marie turned to the Baha’i religion. She first came across this religion in 1926 during one of her many personal crises. While Marie still considered herself an Anglican officially, there were many aspects of the Baha’i faith that attracted her (Emphasis on unity was a big one for Marie). Focusing on the Baha’i faith would come in handy when Marie had to deal with yet another personal betrayal when her son Prince Nicholas married a divorced Romanian woman (whom Marie did not like at all) and was banished from Romania. By now, Marie’s health was starting to fail.
In early 1937, she fainted, and Carol sought out specialists (in thanks to Marie’s sister Beatrice’s urging). After some disagreement, Marie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately, Marie was not told the correct diagnosis. She was told she was suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, (There still is some disagreement and confusion about Marie’s final diagnosis to this day), but Marie didn’t believe it because she said she never drank alcohol in her life.
Marie died on 18 July 1938 at the age of 62. Her eldest son Carol, eldest daughter Elisabeth, and grandson Michael were at her side when she left the earthly plane. Prince Nicholas and Princess Ileana were only notified when they knew they weren’t going to make it in time. She was buried in Curtea de Arges Monastery in Romania.1