"Bran meant working on a new front, calling to life a new vision of beauty. With help from an old trustworthy architect, as highly-spirited as myself, I set about to resurrect those lifeless walls, to enliven the old stronghold that had never actually known true life. I woke it up from its age-long drowsing; I turned a blind thing into a many-eyed home watching over its world. Asleep, afar and abased though it may have been, it did not let itself any less be changed into a peaceful and pleasant abode." Queen Maria of Romania
Of all the royal residences in Romania, the Bran Castle is by far the oldest building. An aura of mystery surrounds it even to this day, that has been amplified by the legend saying that Dracula had dwelt here in medieval times. It is the only age-old castle that certain members of the Romanian royal family chose as a summer residence. It was the favourite castle of Queen Maria and of her beloved daughter, Princess Ileana, who inherited it from her mother in 1938.
In order to curb the myth of Dracula's presence at the Bran Castle, recurring almost obsessively in everything that has been written on Bran history, and to restore the historical facts, we offer the readers the true story of the Bran royal residence, enlivened as it was by the noble figures of Queen Maria and Princess Ileana. After all, if the Bran Castle had not become Queen Maria's property on December 1st, 1920, and had not undergone a thorough restoration and redecoration led by architect Karel Liman, we may not have been able to admire the former medieval fortress in all its glory nowadays. Queen Maria deserves our full gratitude for her priceless contribution to saving this essential Romanian monument she grew so fond of.
Drawing on first-hand documents from the Central Historical National Archives, the present book ventures to recompose the history of the Bran Castle as a residence of Queen Maria and, later on, of Princess Ileana, by introducing both the architectural transformations applied to the building, and—particularly—the royal family's complex way of life at this rather peculiar residence. While it belonged to Queen Maria, the Bran Castle was not only "resurrected", as the sovereign herself would write, it was also "enlivened" by the "calling to life of a new vision of beauty". With this preserving gesture, Queen Maria simply added a further good deed to the ones that had already turned her into a living symbol and a myth.
The book also means to pay a generous, though posthumous tribute to that great sovereign, Queen Maria, and to her daughter, Princess Ileana, who matched her mother's commitment and passion when her own turn came to take good care of the Bran estate and add new components to it.
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The photos illustrating this book come mostly from the Special Collections of the Romanian National Library (through the kindness of Mrs. Ana Plesia, to whom I hereby extend my utmost gratitude), from the Prints & Drawings Collection of the Romanian Academy Library (many thanks to Mrs. Catalina Macovei and Mr. Emanuel Badescu), from the Bran Museum Archives (the glass-clichés and the collection postcards featuring the Castle at the turn of the twentieth century), from Mrs. Ana-Maria Bauman's collection (the pictures showing Princess Ileana as a nurse or in the company of her family, the one showing the "Queen's Heart" Hospital, and the one of the Queen in the Castle park) and from this author's collection (the pictures showing the Balcic palace, the inner yard of the Bran Castle and some traditional interiors of the Castle).
Narcis Dorin Ion