New York Times
March 3, 1916
CARMEN SYLVA DEAD AT THE AGE OF 72
Dowager Queen of Rumania
Was Famous as a Poet
A PRINCESS OF WIED
Was a Patron of Higher Education
for Women and Devoted to
AMSTERDAM, Friday, March 3, (via London.)—The Dowager Queen Elizabeth of Rumania (Carmen Sylva,) died it 7:30 o'clock Thursday morning, according: to a Bucharest dispatch. The funeral will take place on Sunday.
She was under the treatment of three doctors, and about three weeks ago returned to Bucharest from Curtea de Arges, in Wallachia, where King: Charles is buried. A week ago she fell ill, and inflammation of the lungs quickly developed. Early yesterday morning there seemed to be a slight improvement, but soon the Queen became unconscious and died within a few hours.
King Ferdinand and Queen Marie spent much time at her bedside. Yesterday all the Ministers called at the Palace.
Queen Elizabeth of Rumania (Pauline Elizabeth Ottilie Louise) was the consort of King Charles I., and was born In Neuwied, Germany. She was the daughter of the late Prince Hermann of Wied and the Princess Maria of Nassau, and died in her seventy-third year. She was also aunt of the Prince of Wied who for a few months was Mpret of Albania. In early life she evinced a talent for literature, and adopted the pen name of "Carmen Sylva" by which she was best known during the last decades of her life. She first met the future King of Rumania at the Court in Berlin in 1861, and was married to him eight years later. Their only child, a daughter, was born in 1870 and died when 4 years old.
They had been married seven months when the Franco-Prussian war broke out. Her husband, on account of his birth and early training, was strongly pro-Prussian—a sentiment he preserved until his death—while she placed herself on record with the Rumanian Parliament favoring France by addressing a letter of sympathy and encouragement to the Empress Eugénie. To the day of her death her sympathies were strongly pro-French if not pro-Ally.
During the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-76, while Prince Charles was winning military laurels at Plevna, she devoted herself to the care of the wounded, and founded the Order of Elizabeth, a gold cross on a blue ribbon, to reward distinguished service in such work.
Rumania was declared a kingdom in 1881, and in May of that year she was crowned Queen. Carmen Sylva then gave up most of her time to charity and fostering: the higher education of women in her new country, and founded societies for social betterment work and the relief of women.
She was early distinguished for her excellence as a pianist, organist, and singer, and she also showed ability for painting and illuminating; but her lively imagination led her to the path of literature, and more especially to poetry, folklore, and ballads. In addition to numerous original works, she put into literary form many of the legends current among the Rumanian peasantry. Her earliest publications were "Sappho" and "Hammerstein" two poems, which were published at Leipzig in 1880. In 1888 she received the Prix Botta, a prize awarded triennially by the French Academy, for her volume of prose aphorisms "Les Pensées d'uné Reine," published in Paris in 1882, the German version of which is entitled "Vom Amboss," and was published in Bonn in 1890.
Several of Carmen Sylva's works were written in collaboration with Mite Kremnitz, one of her maids of honor, these were published between 1881 and 1888, in some cases under the pseudonyms " Ditto et Idem," and these included the novels "Aus zwei Weiten" and "In der Irre," "Anna Boleyn," a tragedy, and a collection of short stories. In 1894 appeared "Edleen Vaughan, or Paths of Peril," and ten years later "Sweet Hours," poems, both of which were published in London and written in English. In addition, Carmen Sylva translated Pierre Loti's "Pecheur d'lslande " and Paul de St. Victor's "Les Deux Masques" into German. One of the latest and best known of her works was "The Bard of the Dimbovitza," in which she was assisted by Alma Strettell, and which was a collection of Rumanian folk songs and legends. This was published in 1891 and was soon reissued and expanded. Translations from her original works have appeared in all the principal languages of Europe and in Rumanian.
Probably the best known of all her voluminous writings was "A Real Queen's Fairy Book," which was published in 1901
Pierre Loti, in his book published in 1912, gave several pictures of Carmen Sylva at work. In writing of his visit to Sinaia, he said:
"In an open space some distance from the castle stands a strange-looking hunting lodge of ancient Gothic architecture, filled with bear skins, aurochs' horns and boars' and stags' heads. Here the Queen has a very quiet, mysterious room for work and study. It was here that I heard the Queen read one of those stories she signs 'Carmen Sylva.' It was a heartrending little tale, written with rare dramatic power, and I still remember how I thrilled with emotion as I sat listening."
Later he wrote of how he found her in Venice, still giving her thoughts to literature. "The work table," he says. "was spread with writing pads and a number of precious writing utensils stamped with her initials and crown. As soon as each sheet was finished it was torn off. Poems and spontaneous thoughts, novels and dramas were conceived and feverishly transferred to paper in the exhausting effort to lay hold as rapidly as possible upon all those unexpressed ideas to which her fertile imagination gave birth. This work was of unequal merit; some was of sublime grandeur; some again incomplete, thrust aside, as it were, by the budding germ of the work following. She did not take sufficient pains with her writings, it being the Queen's opinion that in the matter of literature everything ought to be spontaneous."
It is said that the last years of Carmen Sylva's life were far from happy. She suffered from cataract of both eyes. A correspondent, writing from Bucharest in 1913, said that the Rumanians shunned their Court as much as possible owing to its dullness. The old friends of the Queen rarely asked for an audience, and complained that the three old ladies who surrounded her had alienated her from all her intellectual friends. These old ladies liked to sit and do needlework all day, and did not understand how people could talk about books and art. Only when these three went to Wiesbaden for their annual cures was the Queen able to see her old friends. In Bucharest she never saw them, and generally did not know that they had asked for an audience, which the three maids of honor were wont to refuse by saying that the Queen was very tired.
For several months before the war began she was a contributor to the Austrian Review. One of her articles, published in the January number of 1914, dealt with her nephew, the Prince of Wied, about whom everybody was talking on account of his having been appointed by the powers to reign in Albania, but about whom nobody knew very much. The article closed with this suggestive passage:
"The Prince knows that the Albanians are an uncultured people, but he is trusting to the chivalrous side of their national character. When an Albanian gives his word that he will be faithful to his master he will keep his word, even in the face of death. There are no traitors among the Albanians. And, of course, the uncle of the young King, King Charles of Rumania, will be always ready to assist his nephew with his great experience and practical advice."