Among the outstanding monarchs of the twentieth century, Queen Marie of Romania enjoyed the love of her adopted country. Born on October 29, 1875, Marie was the granddaughter of both Queen Victoria of England and Tsar Alexander II of Russia, as well as a cousin of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.
On December 29, 1892, Marie married Prince Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who King Carol I had designated as Crown Prince of Romania in 1889. The people of Romania quickly fell in love with their new princess and Marie proved her devotion to her adopted land. When Ferdinand assumed the throne on October 11, 1914, after the death of King Carol, Romania faced the difficult decision of whether to enter the European conflict that had erupted that summer. Marie encouraged her husband go against his German heritage and to side with the Entente in World War I.
When Romania finally entered the War in the summer of 1916, Marie worked on the front lines as a nurse and strove to improve sanitary conditions for the population. She described the conditions faced by the population in her diary: “Food was scarce, hardly any wood for heating, illnesses in every form broke out amongst the soldiers and many died before we could give sufficient aid.”
One of those she worked with closely in this was the American physician, Dr. Joseph Breckinridge Bayne who had come to Romania as part of the Red Cross mission after Romania’s entry into the conflict. Marie later awarded Bayne, who remained behind enemy lines to care for the wounded and to aid the civilian population after the evacuation of the capital city, with the Order of the Cross for his meritorious service.
After the war, she worked for the realization of greater Romania, the 100th anniversary of which will be celebrated on December 1. Marie undertook diplomatic missions to London and Paris in 1919 to work for recognition of the historic unification of the Romanian lands, which for the first time since Michael the Brave in 1600 now stood united under one ruler in the person of King Ferdinand. On October 15, 1922, Ferdinand and Marie were crowned as King and Queen of Greater Romania.
After the death of her husband, King Ferdinand I, on July 20, 1927, Marie gradually withdrew from public life. She began writing her memoirs, The Story of My Life, published in 1935. She died at Sinaia on July 18, 1938. According to her wishes, Marie’s heart was taken and buried at her chapel, Stella Maris, in Balcik, on the Black Sea Coast. In 1940, when Romania was forced to cede southern Dobrudja to Bulgaria, her heart was transferred to Bran Castle. Marie remains among the most popular rulers in the history of Romania.
For an account of Romania on the eve of its entry into World War I, see John Reed, Romania during World War I: Observations of an American Journalist available on Amazon and at HistriaBooks.com
For an account of Romania during the war and after, see Joseph Breckinridge Bayne, Bugs and Bullets: The Ture Story of an American Doctor on the Eastern Front during World War I, edited by Ernest H. Latham, Jr. available from HistriaBooks.com and from major booksellers.
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