Marie of Romania was the daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh & Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria and also of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. Married aged seventeen to Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Romania, Marie suddenly found herself thrust into a country which had only recently gained independence. “I was to help build a new country and to found a new dynasty”, she wrote.
Marie was one of the most photogenic Queens, with a love of posing in theatrical costumes and settings, and also a good photographer herself. Not surprisingly, pictures of her remained an obsession of postcard publishers. In this first pictorial chronicle of Marie’s life, Romanian historian Diana Mandache has brought together images from her own collection, the Royal Archives in Windsor and the Romanian National Library. Unlike Queen Alexandra, Marie did not publish her own photographs but kept them in private albums. Some of them appear in this book.
The wonderful photographs are enlivened by quotations from various sources, including Queen Victoria’s Journal and Marie’s own letters in the Romanian National Archives. The captions read like a story, enabling us to sympathise with Marie in her troubles and share her triumphs. Headings such “fancy dress balls,” “artistic endeavours,” “jewellery” and “military uniforms” give a wider scope to the birth to grave pictures of her life. “Visitors from abroad” include Emperor Franz Joseph, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Gustav V of Sweden and, of course, the family of Tsar Nicholas II. With daughters married into the Greek and Yugoslav Royal families, Marie merited her title of “Mother-in-Law” of the Balkans, as is shown by the many photographs of her visiting relatives all over Europe. A rare picture shows Marie smoking a cigarette, another shows her skating with her husband King Ferdinand of Romania and there is a lovely image of Marie and her daughter Princess Ileana drinking Turkish coffee in an Istanbul shop. Others show her war work in the First World War, the Coronation in 1922 and her later travels when she acted as an unofficial ambassador for Romania. The saddest pictures are those at the end, which show just how ill the once-beautiful Queen was shortly before her death in 1938.
This is a worthy tribute to a charismatic Queen. The book is well laid out and presented and, I am happy to note, has been proof read, which has removed many of the problems encountered in previous titles by Rosvall Royal Books. This is a “must have” and is highly recommended.