The Intimate Life of a Twentieth Century Queen

Terence Elsberry
St. Martin's Press, New York, 1972

Terence Elsberry

Her royal relatives were shocked when Princess Marie refused marriage to the future King George V of England to marry Prince Ferdinand of Romania, but it made possible her transformation from a sheltered little princess into the Sun Queen of Europe. At the time of her marriage, the accepted model of queenship was Marie's grandmother, Victoria, who sat sedately upon the British throne for more than sixty years. It didn't take Marie long to change this queenly image and singlehandedly thrust it into the twentieth century. Riding over the Transylvanian countryside on a half-broken stallion, her hair trailing behind; trading repartee with Consuelo Vanderbilt or Nancy Astor; writing her own versions of Romanian fairy tales in flowing script, Marie was a new kind of queen.

World War I made the change in tradition even more apparent, as Marie slogged through ankle-deep mud to soothe soldiers in the grip of cholera or typhus. Her appeals for aid to struggling Romania gave her heroic stature throughout the world, and her presence at the Versailles Conference only strengthened the words sent out of Bucharest by a French correspondent in 1917: "There is only one man in Romania, and that is the queen."

More adventures followed in the twenties and thirties. There were countless romantic involvements, syndicated newspaper columns, a whirlwind tour of America (among her souvenirs: a tickertape parade on Fifth Avenue and a commemorative plaque at Cartier's). There were sorrows as well, betrayals, desertions, deaths, but there was never defeat. Marie of Romania was not only the first modern queen; she was the last in a line of great royal personalities whose faith in themselves and their roles in life could never be vanquished.

Terence Elsberry has been fascinated by the story of Marie of Romania since he first read her autobiography while in high school. An editor with Apartment Ideas Magazine, Terence Elsberry lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife, Janet, and their two daughters. This is his first book.

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by Mother Alexandra (formerly Princess Ileana),
daughter of Queen Marie of Romania

Although the pattern of my life has been so different from that of my mother, I find myself more and more thinking back upon her advice and precepts to guide my way through life.

Born into Victorian England, severely educated by her Russian mother, a daughter of the Tsar, she came as a young, naive and strangely unprepared young woman to a land unknown and often incomprehensible to her Anglo-Saxon upbringing. Confronted by endless difficulties and trying situations, she fought her way through them by the force of her own completely honest personality.

Mama succeeded in breaking through the restricting shell of her upbringing and royal taboos without loss of dignity, and thus became the first truly modern queen, bridging the old and new order of things by her outgoing spirit and love of humanity.

In spite of all the sorrows of much of her life, and the sadness of her last years, she saw herself as a winner. As she herself said, "One must face life, for life loves the brave." And indeed she faced up to life and went down with colors flying, a beloved mother, a true and generous friend, a great and heroic Queen!