Shortly after her arrival in Romania, Elisabeth came down with the measles, but luckily she recovered quite quickly. Early in 1870, Elisabeth learned that she was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter named Marie on 8 September 1870, and the birth was celebrated with a 21-gun salute. Elisabeth became devoted to her little daughter and her new country. She studied the Romanian language and became fluent in it.
But more tragedy was soon to come. On Palm Sunday, 5 April 1874, little Marie came down with scarlet fever and diphtheria. She became restless and refused to go to sleep, saying, “Oh! no, no! If I lie down, I shall go to sleep and never wake again.”1 The little girl continued to worsen over the next week. On 9 April, as little Marie gasped for air in the lap of her English nurse and her mother held her little hands, she passed away from the illnesses that had wracked her body. Elisabeth closed her daughter’s eyes and thanked the doctors for their care. She said, “God loved my child more than ever I did, and so He has taken it to Himself!”2
During the following funeral, Karl helped to carry his daughter’s coffin down the stairs. The funeral service took place in the Church of Cotroceni where little Marie had been baptised just four years previously. At her mother’s request, her tombstone read the verse Luke 8:52 “Weep not; she is not dead, but sleepeth.” After her mother’s death, little Marie would be exhumed and reburied with her mother at the Cathedral of Curtea de Argeș. Elisabeth wrote to her mother after Marie’s death, “God has drawn my child to Himself in His love! May He eternally be praised for the great happiness which was mine! I would rather become a weeping rock like Niobe than never have been a mother! Yes, it is too much joy for one little human heart! My child is so happy, my love is stronger than the grave, and I can rejoice in its joy! There is so much to say about the little one, because she already had such marked characteristics, and was so independent, original, and charming. Still, she is mine for all eternity! I have not lost the high dignity of a mother because my child is separated from me. The great happiness which I enjoy is not too dearly bought with this great sorrow! The pain is a thousand times outweighed by the joy, for it was joy without a pang, and now it is joyful pain!”3 The people mourned with Elisabeth and Karl, often leaving flowers and wreaths on the little grave.
In deep grief, Elisabeth’s health suffered as a result and Karl was advised to take her to Franzensbad for a water cure. There she met a poet who began sending her his poems and she translated them into Romanian, giving her something to do. She found that the work kept her mind off her sorrows. Soon after leaving Franzensbad, Elisabeth went to see her mother in Cologne before travelling with her to England.
Upon her return to Romania, she and Karl soon fell back into a routine of audiences and business. However, war was looming, and during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, Elisabeth devoted herself to nursing. The war was also known as the Romanian War of Independence, and the declaration of the independence of Romania was announced to the people on 22 May 1877, followed by a Russian alliance. After the war, Elisabeth wrote, “I forgot my anxiety in the amount of work I had to get through. Let us thank God that Charles’ has returned, for now, I can creep back slowly into my nutshell, and return to my flowers, my birds, my books, and my papers. I think it is an anomaly and a misfortune when a woman is induced by circumstances to take part in public life. But there were many bright spots in this difficult time. God will surely help us, and a lasting peace will take away the anxiety which is gnawing at our hearts, and this important time will belong to the future, in which sorrow and suffering is modified, and the great results that are won thereby will be brought out into strong relief.”4
On 24 March 1881, Romania was declared a kingdom by Act of Parliament and, as Elisabeth and Karl had no further children, Karl’s nephew Ferdinand was named prince of Romania and heir-presumptive to the throne. Elisabeth and Karl were now King and Queen of Romania. After their coronation day, she wrote, “We spoke with eight hundred people on that day, from eleven o’clock till half-past four, and at half-past eight we were again ‘sous les armes !’ Then came a procession of torches, and a drive round the town to see the illuminations. At last, I could not bow any more, but only wave with my handkerchief. Fortunately, they had stopped the cheering, as I could stand it no longer. This enormous and now silent crowd, which greeted us and nodded and waved in the most demonstrative manner, and the stamping of those feet and hoofs which one did not see, made a most weird and charming impression. Yes, from morning to night, the 22nd of May was a beautiful day!”5
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.174
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.175
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.177
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.218-219
- The life of Carmen Sylva, Queen of Roumania by Natalie Stackelberg p.228-229