QUEEN IN A CRISIS
The Ladies' Home Journal for December 1918

 

A Queen in a Crisis
“It is no Sinecure to be the Queen of a Country”
By Marie, Queen of Rumania

 

WE SOMETIMES think of a Queen as an exalted being remote from the feelings, the passions and the griefs which sway others. As proof to the contrary, the Editors of The Ladies’ Home Journal are glad to give to its readers this simple and direct picture of her wartime life as written from the heart of a Queen. It is the cry of a woman that will find its echo in the heart of every other woman in this Christmas season.

NOTE-Normal channels of communication with Rumania being closed, this article, sent to an American friend of Her Majesty, Marie, Queen of Rumania, was brought out of the country by the head of the American Red Cross Mission, Colonel Henry W. Anderson. It is known that the Queen refused to give her consent to the "peace" imposed by the Germans and advised by the Allies.
 



I WAS hardly seventeen when I came among my people. I had left a home I loved and all the faces that had been familiar to the days of my childhood. At first it was not easy. I had to steal my way into hearts that were foreign to me, to get accustomed to strange faces, to strange habits, to a foreign tongue. It was years before I felt at home.
     Yet from the very beginning I loved the land and its people. I understood the country's varied beauties. I was in sympathy with its silent peasants, its vast fields, its deep forests and its rocky mountains. At first I was much too young to comprehend its soul and, with it, its needs and its longings.
     Like all beginners of life I cared more for joy than for speculation. I sought action rather than thought. I was inclined to skim lightly over the surface of truth rather than to sound its depths, and it was only by degrees that I felt the real desire to work.
     Unlike my predecessor, Carmen Sylva, I had been brought up to joy and sunshine, not to sorrow and sacrifice, and I imagined that I could carry all the buoyant vitality I had as a girl into my new life. I thought I had come to Rumania for easy victories and for a happy time!
     Very soon, and somewhat harshly, I had to learn the difference between reality and dreams, but the splendid health with which nature had blessed me gave me sufficient spirit and energy to overcome trials and disappointments, bestowing on me the power to turn each hard experience into gold for days to come, Thus little by little, year by year, did I learn the lesson of abnegation and sacrifice. I learned very early the meaning of the words "noblesse oblige," and in having learned them, my life became useful to those to whom I had come from so very far.
     We came to the throne at an hour when three-quarters of Europe was already in flames, so that from the first we had to stand up courageously, face a horizon black with storm clouds that were moving gradually our way. We were quite new to our task. To rule a people is always difficult but doubly so when such heavy responsibilities met us on the very threshold.
     I soon found out that it was all work and no play! The days of light-hearted happiness were left far behind in the past. But I was not afraid. I felt strong and confident, because I was full of love.

EVEN before Rumania entered the war, during our strenuous two years of neutrality, I moved much among my people, going from town to town, dividing money among the poor, so there were few corners of the country where my face had not been seen. I became reality to my people, not merely a queen by name.
     Then war was declared and, although I had always felt myself as belonging to those who win, from the first I did not believe in an easy victory for my country. Having shudderingly realized the horrible earnestness of modern war I was astonished with what illusions my people gaily entered the strife. But our hour had struck; and bravely we had to go down into the arena, for better or for worse!
     And until now it has been for worse! But just because of that; my work was marked out for me from the very first day. Little does one realize how much one human being can do till one tries. It. is no sinecure to be the queen of a country, especially when that country is new. She must fearlessly put herself at the head of each useful undertaking, ready to uphold, advise, encourage; ready, also, to chide when necessary!
     I immediately found myself the natural leader of all the different charitable movements in Rumania, and it was necessary to be everywhere at once, so that each separate worker should have the feeling of being personally upheld and cared for.

NO TRAIN starting for the front could leave without my going with flower-filled hands to see it off. No hospital felt sanctioned unless I inaugurated it. I visited the wounded, interesting myself in every detail of each hospital, talking to the doctors and nurses, consoling the suffering. And as there were hospitals without number, I kept going every day.
     After a short period of success our misfortunes began. Those who· had dreamed of rapid victories lost their heads in the first horror of reality. An atmosphere of dread and anxiousness lay over everything. Then came the hour when I had to prove of what stuff a queen was made; that she was a woman and one who could endure.
     Or capital was a favorite object for Zeppelins and air raids. As we had no adequate defense it was easy work, involving no risk for the attackers. Therefore they came often, mercilessly slaughtering women and children in the streets. The first days, before the population quite realized that death could thus be hurled from the skies, the losses were terrific and the terror great.

DURING these raids, which generally took place when the sky was most gloriously blue, it was necessary to make show of iron nerves, to uphold with smiling face those around one, especially in the hospitals, so that panic should not spread. One of my principal duties during all of this time of stress has been never to show the slightest outward sigh of giving way no matter how great the danger nor how hard the repeated blows.
     All eyes were turned my way. I was constantly watched for every expression, every one tried to guess my emotions. A thousand sorrows and fears hovered daily around me. I had to receive unflinchingly every new tidings of disaster with head high and without any show of dread
     It was a hard task for there were many days when my heart died within me. But the smile on my lips had always to be there!  Strange and fearful indeed are the ways of God! At that hour of crisis, when all my courage was needed to uphold others, at that very hour did God choose to strike me with the greatest of all human griefs by taking from me my youngest child!
     At a moment when our frontiers were crumbling, when our heroic defense was proving vain, when the enemy was invading the country from all sides at once—that hour did God choose, the unhappy hour when we were helpless—when it was apparent that no one could or would come to our rescue—at that hour of hours did God let my child pass away.
     Like all mothers who have to live through such agony, I wrestled with death. With all the strength of my faith I fought the great shadow. I tried to beat him, but he it was who won. I had to lay my little one, my baby, my last-born, under the ground. And, then, hardly had the grave closed over my baby boy when I had to leave my capital, my house, my home!
     A darkness so great lies over those days that, looking back on them, I wonder how I ever struggled through it back to light!
     I think it was the extraordinary need of my suffering people that gave me courage at that hour not to break down. Almost immediately afterward I took up my burden again. I worked and worked.
     I allowed myself three days—three short days—to live for my own grief alone. Then I turned to the grief of others.

WITH the loss of our capital and three-quarters of our land, most of the hard work accomplished had to be done all over again, and this time with reduced means. Our army retreated in the middle of winter, and most of our material was left in the enemy’s hands. Yet the sick and the wounded had to be tended, the hungry to be fed, the naked to be clothed.
     And, all this, while the cannon were ringing in our ears and with further invasion as a constant dread.
     Superhuman courage was needed to stand up against every disaster at once—never to give way, never to complain, never to show signs of either fear or dread; always to be ready for every eventuality, unceasingly to be watchful, helpful, sympathetic, to look forward, never turning back to lament.
     It was than that I came nearest to the heart of my people; it was then that just those qualities of courage and faith could be best put to use.
     Little by little my people began to realize that the woman who in former days had been a gay and brilliant queen through the sunshine of success could turn into a companion in the days of distress.

GRADUALLY I became the center of all effort, of all work. Sheer need made me discover a thousand ways. Into the darkest corners of despair I was called, into each far-off village where contagion raged highest, to the most forlorn hospitals, to the most forsaken deathbeds, to the most hopeless and disheartening places of confusion and neglect.
     I got accustomed to face every horror, to front every epidemic, to hear each cry of distress, to look into the face of Death without shuddering, and bravely to contemplate the most ghastly sights.
     So gradually did this come about that I hardly realized how by degrees everyone turned to me, leaning upon my strength, counting upon my courage and efficiency. So great was the faith shown me that it helped me, if not to remove mountains, to share at least many burdens that without that help might have been too heavy to bear.
     Now I stand in the very midst of my work, which grows in importance from day to day. Twenty-four hours are too short for al I have to do. I have no time to ask myself if I am weary, or if to-morrow will still be mine. I merely go forward, putting my hand each day to the task within my reach.

THE glad looks of recognition with which I am everywhere received, the sweet name of "Mother," given to me by the wounded soldiers, the unshakable confidence which so many have placed in me, the impatience with which my coming is awaited—all this is ample recompense for my labor of love.
     I know not if Fate has decreed that I shall win through for my people; if I am to be the one who shall share their days of peace as I have shared their days of distress. Time alone will show.
     Whatever the future may have in store for me, success or failure, this one thing has been mine: the love and trust of my people! Of that I can never be deprived!