A Biography of Queen Marie of Roumania

by Hannah Pakula
Simon and Schuster, New York, 1984
ISBN 0-671-46364-0

Marie of Roumania was one of the most fascinating women of her period—a queen descended from the highest royalty of Europe; a woman of striking beauty whose opinions were in advance of her time and whose life was the gossip of three continents; a devoted mother and wife; a determined politician; and a figure of world dimension whose indomitable courage during World War I made her the beloved symbol of her country. The Last Romantic is the story of her colorful life, which drew together the royal lineage of England, Russia, and Germany and epitomized the proud and dazzling world of the European aristocracy at its highest moment before it was swept from the modem stage.

Marie was born in England, a granddaughter of both Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II of Russia. The English Royal Family planned for her to marry her first cousin Prince George, who later became George V of England. Instead, her mother shipped her off at the age of seventeen to marry Crown Prince Ferdinand, the heir-apparent to the Roumanian throne.

Drawing upon private diaries and letters in Roumania that had lain undisclosed since the Queen's death, The Last Romantic chronicles the young Marie's struggle to gain an independent footing in the male-dominated Court of Roumania, her early years as one of the most daring horsewomen and admired beauties of Europe, and her decisive struggle after the birth of her children to achieve self-definition and control of her life. Here is the fascinating story of her relationship with her husband, whom she cherished and led; with his uncle King Carol I of Roumania, whom she feared and respected; with Prince Barbo Stirbey, the aristocratic Roumanian politician who was her lifelong lover, companion, and friend; and with her son, King Carol II, who tried to destroy her. Here also is the story of her growing command over her political and social milieu until she emerged during the dark days of World War I as the embattled champion of the Allied cause, and later as the spokesperson for her country at the Versailles conference.

Mrs. Pakula narrates the story of this beautiful queen with the sweep and authority of a great epic. In a book that moves with the excitement of the best fiction, she weaves together the strands of this complex and varied life to offer a portrait of one of the most strong-willed, beautiful, accomplished, and fascinating women of our century. The Last Romantic plunges us into a world as different from ours as a fairy tale, yet presents a woman as modern as today's headlines. It is historical biography at its best.

"Her style is clear, crisp, and often witty. And her subject is one of those transitional figures who crossed the void between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, or, rather, the pre- and post-World War I worlds, whom I find fascinating.... Ms. Pakula does a fine job of recreating her world and making clear what an interesting figure she was."
—Robert Massie, author of Peter the Great

 "The Last Romantic is the story of royalty adrift on the cruel seas of the twentieth century. Hannah Pakula combines scholarship with narrative elegance in this absorbing rendition of a life filled with illusion, drama, and pathos."
—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.

Hannah Pakula began research on the life of Queen Marie of Roumania in 1975 when she was living in Los Angeles. Since that time her investigation has taken her to archives in Roumania, castles in Germany, and the homes of surviving members of the Queen's family in Europe and America to collect private papers and reminiscences. Mrs. Pakula attended Wellesley College, the Sorbonne, and Southern Methodist University; she has written book reviews for the Los Angeles Times and the Dallas Morning News. Married to film director Alan J. Pakula, she has three grown children and lives in New York.