Tuesday, 16 August 2016

And I Am The Queen Of Romania...

My knowledge of Romania is, sadly, quite pitiful. After the fall of Communism and Ceaucescu, the world became aware of the awful plight of the thousands of children in orphanages [a result of cruel government policy surrounding childbirth] and even now, there are many babies and children in poverty. I am glad that friends at UCF continue to knit, and to send clothes to these children.
My mental picture of Romania before WW2 is totally without basis in fact. I have a picture in my head of something like Rudolph Rassendyl's Ruritania, with peasant girls in dirndl skirts trimmed with fine embroidery, glamorous princesses, and soldiers with uniforms dripping with gold frogging. 
However I did know that the woman who became Queen of Romania in 1914 was Princess Marie, grand-daughter of Queen Victoria - who married the heir to the throne after turning down a proposal from King George V.
She was a stylish, and somewhat outspoken woman, given to making pronouncements about love and life. Born in Kent in 1875, she died in Romania in 1938. Here she is, photographed as a teenage girl, and an older Queen. Dorothy Parker wrote a poem about her. 
Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
A medley of extemporanea;
And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
And I am Marie of Romania.
When she died, she wanted to be buried in her summer palace by the Black Sea - but WW2 and all that followed, prevented the interment. It was only last year - nearly 80 years after her death - that a special gold casket was given its final resting place.
I was clearly right about the uniforms - look at those fancy hats! That lady in the grey coat at the top of the steps is her grand-daughter, Princess Margareta. Margareta is a fascinating lady - who grew up in Hertfordshire and Switzerland, and went to Uni in Scotland - where, for 5 years, she was Gordon Brown's girlfriend. One wonders what would have happened if that relationship had lasted...

But why I am thinking about Romania today is because last week was the funeral of Margareta's mother, Queen Anne.
This woman had an amazing life - look at this biography...
Born Princess Anne Antoinette Françoise Charlotte Bourbon-Parma in Paris in 1923, a descendant of both French and Danish Kings.After the German invasion of France, however, her family fled to New York and were forced to earn a living. Her father found employment with a domestic gas company while her mother made hats. Anne worked for a time as a shop assistant. Later she enlisted as an ambulance driver in the Free French army and saw service in North Africa and Italy before landing at St Maxime in the south of France and following the Allied advance. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre. She met her future husband, King Michael of Romania,  in London in November 1947, at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip. 
But then the Communists forced him to abdicate, and leave the country - eventually the couple married, and settled in Hertfordshire, where he became a market gardener and chicken farmer, and Anne wrote about growing gentians. Then they moved to Switzerland, and the former king became a test pilot for Lear Jets.
Her dislike of protocol and unhappy experiences in the public eye as a young bride made public appearances hard for her. Yet when the revolution came in 1989 and her husband was allowed to return to his country once more, she had to adapt to the renewed attention that this brought. In 1992 Anne and Michael visited Romania for three days; it was her first visit to the country. She did not speak the language - and so conversed in French. 
Yet despite that, the Romanian people adored her, their uncrowned Queen. In June 2008, the couple celebrated their diamond wedding with three days of events in Romania attended by members of European royal houses, representatives of the Romanian government and members of the diplomatic corps.
Here she is at that anniversary with Michael and Margareta. Margaretha has founded a charity to help the orphans, and worked for 25 years to improve the welfare of children in Romania.
She died on August 1st – and her funeral was held in Romania on Saturday 13th. Queen Anne’s husband and five daughters survive her [sadly Michael is very ill himself and was unable to attend]
Queen Anne was born just three years before our own Queen, with very similar family connections - yet look how differently her life turned out. Her princely father became a gas man, her kingly husband worked as a chicken farmer - yet she retained the elegance of a princess, and brought her children up with a sense of duty to their country, even though they could not live there.
It is said that her daughter Margareta has a strong social conscience - may she continue to serve the people of Romania as they continue to move on from the days of communist oppression, even though she herself will never be formally crowned their Queen.


  1. If you want to know more about Romania before the war, I recommend reading 'Fortunes of War'by Olivia Manning.

    1. Thank you Athene - I shall check this out.

  2. Thank you so much for this Ang. I found it absolutely fascinating and rather touching.

  3. I enjoyed this post and found it so fascinating. Thank you for sharing it.


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