Queen Marie of Romania (1875–1938) was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and caused a scandal when, in 1893 aged 17, she married the heir to the Romanian throne, Ferdinand I, and went to live in Romania. Marie’s marriage to Ferdinand, which produced three daughters and three sons, was not a happy one.
Marie was something of a rebel, she dressed in peasant clothes and frequently left the Bucharest court to ride alone through the streets, throwing roses to the people during the carnival and appointing herself a colonel of the Red Hussars. She was an early ‘people’s princess’, learning Romanian and was immensely popular with the people, especially when she organised cholera camps in the Balkan war. During World War I, she wrote her first book, My Country, to raise funds for the British Red Cross in Romania. She even travelled to the 1919 Paris Peace Conference to fight for Romania’s rights and future territories. This led a French diplomat to remark, ‘There is only one man in Romania and that is the queen.’
Marie lived at Bran in the 1920s and called it ‘a pugnacious little fortress’. She used her artistic skills to decorate and furnish cold, empty castles, and her décor for Pelişor Castle at Sinaia is one of the best Art Nouveau projects of the period. At Bran, Marie wrote more than 100 diaries, an autobiography and 15 books for adults and children, including the enchanting fairy tale The Lost Princess. Marie died in a strange event, worthy of one of her tales. Her two sons, Carol and Nicholas, argued over Carol’s mistress, Magda Lupescu, and they settled the quarrel with a duel.
Marie was hurt in an attempt to intervene in the duel and she died from her injuries at Pelişor Castle. Marie’s body is buried at Curtea de Argeş on the Transfăgăraşan Highway. Her heart was entombed in a gold casket at Bran for many years, but it is now in the National History Museum in Bucharest. The box in which the casket was placed can still be seen at Bran.
(Photo: © Lucy Mallows)