AS CAN be imagined, the return to duty and abnegation was not easy. This was lendemain de fête with a vengeance. Everything seemed small, dull, shabby, cramped, uninteresting; life flat, prospects colorless. The only real joy was to see my babies again; but after a long parting, even one's children seem little strangers; besides, Aunt Elizabeth, profiting by my absence, had been busily making propaganda on her own behalf. There was also Cousin Charley.
For many years in succession, Charley came to Sinaia in the autumn season. Having been the chief instigator of our marriage, she felt that she had a right to profit by the results. Certain members of the family declared that Charley always had to have a king "up her sleeve." It used to be the old King of Saxony, later it was the King of Sweden, but for the time being, to my detriment, it was King Carol, and Rumania became her hunting ground. I had not yet a firm footing in my new country; aunty, after her exile, had to win back her popularity, and Charley knew how to use cleverly the existing circumstances to her own advantage. Now that she could no more patronize me, it did not suit her that I should make headway too rapidly, nor too easily.
Friendship With a Forked Tongue
INDIGNATION meetings against me were held in the palace. Charley headed these and found a strong ally in a certain old lady, who played the part of chief inquisitor. My faults and failings were discussed and deplored; she drew uncle and aunty's affection away from me to herself, and I was seldom in favor, whilst she was throned in Castel Peleş. Outwardly she was sweet, affectionate, remembering old jokes from home, speaking to me about mama, about my sisters, but behind my back she was pulling me to pieces with that sweet voice once so dear to me. Her husband, Bernhard, Erbprinz of Saxe-Meiningen, came with her; he was devoted to her and he imagined she was the most perfect of wives, which shows how clever she was. Both passionate soldiers, uncle and he would discuss military questions by the hour, but the king preferred still more talking politics with irresistible Charley, who had for him unlimited prestige, although uncle, in general, had none too good an opinion of feminine intelligence. Charley's clever way of seeming to know everything better than anyone else, of being initiated into the most hidden secrets of the state, her soft, insinuating, gentle manner, had quite taken him in; he accepted all she said as Bible truth, and it was greatly owing to Charley's intrigues that King Carol's animosity against the Emperor William was kept alive. In praise and in calumny, Charley's voice was equally low pitched and sweet. Wise as he was, uncle could just be caught by his belief in the overimportance of politics. Each thing was to him an affair of state, and Charley knew cleverly how to pander to this peculiarity of his, so that he became her dupe. Nando and I hated to see him being thus deceived; we knew Charley better than uncle did, but we were not in a position to open his eyes.
I do not feel that aunty ever really cared for Charley; she was not exactly jealous, but, accustomed to being the oracle, the one who talked and was generally religiously listened to, she did not particularly relish taking a back seat whilst Charley perorated.
Not well up in politics, Carmen Sylva resented being left out in the cold whilst her wise husband discussed deep world problems with their much younger and undeniably attractive guest. But when it was a question of criticizing me and my young ménage, then they understood each other all too well.
I was exceedingly lonely in those days. It was still considered dangerous that I should have friends, and I could not really get accustomed to this atmosphere, so overruled by political considerations, and Charley, established as a favorite, cleverly understood how to show me up in the most unfavorable light.
I never seemed to be able to gain the approval of "the old palace," as we called the royal court; I was considered too English, too free and easy, too frivolous. I was too fond of dress, of riding, of outdoor life. I was too outspoken; I had not enough respect for conventions or etiquette.
Though passionately maternal, I was considered too young and too foolish to have the right of directing my children's education. I was sometimes very unhappy, and Nando's plea for patience on my side, and ever again patience, was not particularly comforting; there was a great feeling of emptiness and nothing to hold on to; no one to turn to for help.
In my house there was, however, a motherly soul who, though humble, was a real comfort, and that was old Nana, the children's nurse. Miss Green was a figure worthy of Dickens. Broad of girth, loud-voiced and jovial, she did not mince her words; possessor of a perfectly clean conscience, she feared no man, and the fact that she had already served several royal families, both in England and Russia, gave her a certain prestige. She knew all my relations on both sides, and this in itself was a link.
When Red Blood and Blue Blood Clash
I HAVE seen old Green stand up bravely before stern King Carol, arms akimbo, and give him, in atrocious French, a piece of her mind when she considered that "the palace" had been unfair to her beloved princess. Never had woman stauncher defender than I had in old Nana. Her belief in me was absolute, and many a time when feeling too completely forsaken and misunderstood, I have laid my head upon her ample bosom to sob out all my grief.
I am ashamed to say that there were times during these early years when I absolutely wallowed in my misery. Though generally gay and optimistic, I have known Weltschmerz of the most poignant kind.
Old Green was an antidote; she would begin by weeping with me; then, with a loud sniff, she would put tears aside and take repossession of her broad good humor. Patting me on the back, she would urge me to cheer up, and would launch forth upon one of her endless yarns about one or the other of the royal children who had been her charges. Her stories were enhanced by pantomimic play; she was most expressive, and if not orthodox, her language was certainly picturesque. At times even I was thoroughly admonished, as though I, too, were but a child. Nando also came in for his share of scolding, and if the truth were said, both he and uncle stood slightly in awe of old Green. Aunty frankly detested her; Nana was like a fortress amidst changing tides. Poetical language and honeyed words made no impression upon her. For her a spade was a spade, right was right and wrong, wrong; she believed in her Bible and prayer book, had a good number of healthy texts and proverbs at her disposal, but was not maudlin about her religious beliefs. Everything about Green was square, strong, healthy, uncompromising; she was certainly not refined, her h's were in the wrong places, but she was true blue; neither flattery, smiles nor threats could buy old Green. Aunty, wanting to have the upper hand in my nursery, found herself up against someone who knew how to resist. This was a most unwelcome obstacle, so deep and numerous plots were laid to try to oust old Green.
Truth obliges me to say that whatever intrigues there were did not start in our house. Our only desire was to live in peace with everyone, and to have a reasonable amount of freedom within our own four walls. Nando was too loyal to existing authority to contemplate rebellion, and I too great a believer in all men to dream that there could be some who willingly stirred up strife. This was, however, the case, alas, and caused endless trouble.
I was ready to be a loving niece, I longed to find a motherly friend in aunty, I wanted to keep alive my admiration for her, but those who incited her to come between me and my children were ill-advised. I was not prepared for the endless machinations of those whose very raison d'être was intrigue. With open eyes and colors flying, I walked into their very trap.
It was an ugly game on their side, and quite unjustified, as I was full of good feeling toward them, never doubting that here, as everywhere else, I would be loved and accepted for what I was: A whole-hearted, joy-loving young woman, believing that the world was meant for happiness, and human beings born to be friends. I had no idea that, representing the future, I was a danger, someone who must not become conscious of her power.
Though by nature unsuspicious and not particularly observant, I did finally perceive that often when, unannounced, I broke in upon aunty's circle, my cheeks rosy from healthy exercise, the breath of the woods in every fold of my dress, a hush much resembling embarrassment would fall upon the company assembled around aunty's chair. Probably I had been the object of a conversation they would hardly have liked me to overhear, and aunty's beautifully simulated delight at seeing me had not the ring of entire sincerity. These people were not my friends; even my inexperience understood this. I was an outsider—"die Fremde." I was undereducated, unintellectual, with distressingly English tastes and habits; there were dogs at my heels, flowers in my hands, sometimes even there was actually mud on my shoes, but—and this only very gradually dawned upon me—there were children in my house.
Carmen Sylva's Bohemian Court
IN LATER years I understood aunty better, and her hungry longing for what had been denied her—that aching longing which turned to envy when I, little realizing what I represented, invaded her darkened sanctuary with my insolent youth.
Yes, I was an invincible reality. I did not know this; I never realized that when I came into their closed circle, I was the future, striding victoriously into the room.
Aunty would throw out her arms: "Ach, lieb Kindchen, Du bist der wahre Frühling," and she would picturesquely press me to her heart. " Sit down here at my feet and listen, darling," and I would sit down, and all the old ladies I had disturbed would sit down again, and also the ecstatic young girls who kept their eyes glued upon the poet queen's face. There were generally, also, a few men in the room, mostly longhaired and pale-faced—writers, musicians, a stray architect, a sleepy general and a few nondescript youths who would discreetly lean about in shadowy corners, whether amused or bored it is difficult to say. The air was always vibrant with tense excitement over some topic, some new hobby, some bit of music, of embroidery, some painting or the marvelous discovery of some new book. Nothing was ever taken calmly; every thing had to be rapturous, tragic, excessive or extravagantly comic.
Carmen Sylva was a marvelous conversationalist, but what was difficult to stand was that she never chose her public. It must be admitted that she continually cast her pearls before swine. Already in my youth this peculiarity of hers made me acutely uncomfortable. Once launched upon a subject, she would be carried away by her own eloquence and, quite ignoring the quality of her audience, would speak of her soul, of her most sacred and intimate beliefs, of her childhood, of the real and imaginary slights received at home.
Always sensitively conscious of atmosphere, it was keen suffering to me when I felt that others, seemingly interested, were in reality laughing up their sleeves. I often longed to implore aunty to stop discoursing on certain subjects.
I must admit that my special enemy—the one I have called the chief inquisitor, who was also somewhat aunty's jailer—did her best to bring back soaring conversations to normal spheres.
She was an ambitious, unkind old woman, worldly and hard-hearted, but in the midst of a company of exaggerated sycophants, she kept the sense of values.
Carmen Sylva often gathered really remarkable people about her—musicians, poets, writers, philosophers, scientists, doctors. She knew how to appreciate them, how to draw out their sympathy, their enthusiasm. She would fire their imagination with flattering words; she would listen to them breathlessly and shower intelligent appreciation down on their heads. They generally went away completely under her spell. Somewhat of a muse herself, she really was a genuine protector of every art. Carmen Sylva had a vast correspondence with interesting people and wrote beautiful letters. All this was admirable and enriched our lives, but our trials began when real talents were lacking and she would try to fill the vacancy with anything upon which she could lay hands.
Aunty could not exist without the excitement of continually discovering rare beings and of promoting their talents or peculiarities. The poor quality of these substitutes was more than made up for by her own enthusiasm and that rare, though somewhat disconcerting, capacity of seeing everything according to her own ecstatic measure.
Protégés With Clay Feet
This would have been most satisfactory had it sufficed her discreetly to glorify these protégés for her own private gratification. But aunty wanted to share all things with all men, even her faked geniuses, and we were continually called upon to adore, admire and go into raptures over these very ordinary and sometimes even absurd personages. This was sometimes amusing, but more often a great ordeal, as, alas, we did not possess her rose-colored spectacles.
I remember how she was once patronizing an elderly Frenchman in whom, although he was professionally a painter, she imagined to have discovered a rare musical genius, declaring that not only did he know every opera by heart but that he could, unlike any other ordinary mortal, sing in turn the parts of tenor, barytone and bass. Although really musical and herself an artist, aunty would actually invite us all to sit around and listen to the self-complacent fellow, who warbled impossibly in every key. Carried away by genuine enthusiasm, really believing him to be as wonderful as she declared he was, with clasped hands she would go into ecstasies, whilst we, on the contrary, had, from time to time, to escape from the room for fear of giving way to too-unseemly fits of laughter. Into the bargain, the man would assume the attitudes of a second-rate actor. Whilst impersonating a tenor, he would, hand on heart, send melting looks to the younger ladies, or, changing suddenly into a barytone, he would pose as the virile and energetic conqueror. When it was the turn of the bass, he would take up the attitudes of a high priest singing in a temple or a "heavy father" in distress As a comic performance this would have been unique, but having to be taken seriously, it was a strain our laughing muscles could hardly endure.
Poor aunty was eternally getting into trouble because of her uncontrolled flights of imagination. It was pathetic to watch the rise and fall of her successive favorites, and the dust raised when they crashed. I also often got into trouble, but not in the same way.
Aunty was always elaborating some tremendous scheme, some fantastic plan for the welfare of her people, for the good of humanity. She never saw anything small; everything had to have dangerously huge proportions.
A Heart That Ruled a Head
A more altruistic woman never lived; she was ready to part with her last penny, to take the dress off her own back to relieve a suffering or satisfy a supplicant, but because of this unstinted charity toward all men, she fell an easy prey to impostors. Most women have to pay for their sentimental indiscretions; such an event, I believe, never upset aunty's life, though in her youth she must have been exceedingly attractive, with her fine figure, dark, curly hair, sparkling blue eyes and magnificent teeth, but she was too high flown, too much the eternally singing muse, to fall into the usual sort of sentimental dangers; she scattered herself too much. Her pitfalls were of another kind.
Some sort of row or blow-up was sure to follow every one of Carmen Sylva's elaborate schemes; she made promises she could not keep, spent money she did not possess, appointed people to nonexistent posts; she wrote letters, gave recommendations, received odd people and believed perfectly sincerely that she was saving souls. I have seen her most ignobly betrayed and taken in; I have seen those she showered her kindness upon turn against and calumniate her, and constantly did the king have to retrieve her out of the hands of impostors, save her from the hopeless muddles and difficulties she had got into.
This quite naturally strained their relations with each other. Aunty stuck desperately to those she had believed in, would seldom admit that she had been cheated; convinced, on the contrary, that she and they were being persecuted and misunderstood.
I pitied both king and queen in turns. They were such strong and splendid personalities, but his sober and implacable logic and her high-flown fantasy did not spell peace. Uncle suffered from a complete lack of imagination, was stern and serious to an almost exaggerated degree; everything, to him, was an important problem. This often made life heavy, the court atmosphere unbreathable for those who wanted freedom, but his iron will and unshakable belief in himself and his own point of view made him absolute master; his decrees were seldom disobeyed, but occasionally revolt boiled in the heart of his family. I was not in sympathy with all of aunty's exaggerations. I was not at home in her circle of intimates, felt ill at ease when she kept soaring upon the high wings of her fantasy whilst a company of adorers flattered her to her own detriment, but I do think that she had a hard time of it. Uncle was a rigorous master.
Yes, aunty led a strange, unreal life, in a hothouse atmosphere where queer growths sprang up around her, to fade completely away when she was no more there to project her imagination upon them.
Besides, her enthusiasms were not always long-lived; they flamed too high to be durable She was eternally discovering new prodigies; so I have seen many, glorified during a season, wither away into oblivion as though they had never been.
In my youthful conceit I was inclined to class all those who swarmed round Carmen Sylva as false prophets; I felt hostile toward their often-evident insincerity. Occasionally I would try to take my place amongst them, but was ever again discouraged by the want of healthy fresh air in her surroundings, so more than once I missed perceiving those of real value who were sunning themselves in her presence.
Thus it was with Georges Eneseu, our greatest Rumanian violinist and composer. Having early discovered his remarkable talent, aunty helped and encouraged him in every way from the time he was a boy. His inborn and surprising modesty saved him from having his head turned. He was of too real value. But wearied by having to admire so many nonentities in close succession, I never realized till much later that here was real gold.
Aunty was most lovable when one could have her to oneself. She could be a wonderful companion and had a unique faculty for enjoyment. She was never blasée. Besides, she was so many-sided, so interesting, a real well of knowledge; one could learn so much from her—barring, of course, things practical. She also had a rare gift for making you feel welcome, but her charming naturalness vanished when there was a public to appraise her. She then played to the gallery, which made me excruciatingly shy and almost boorishly resentful.
What I Learned From Carmen Sylva
In one's youth one makes no concessions; one is too hasty with one's criticism and condemnations. It is simply because one does not understand. All Anglo-Saxons have an instinctive horror of showing off, and when aunty showed off I became more tongue-tied and awkward than I really was, mostly out of opposition.
But in spite of the critical attitude of my youth, today I realize that I learned much from the poet queen. She was a splendid model of amiability, perfect manners and unselfishness. Aunty was always thinking of others, working for others, and if at times her kindness became stereotyped and her exclamations of pleasure or gratitude rather conventional, I learned in turn, when official duties came to be my share, that the length of many years' throne service and the eternal repetition of certain duties finally become almost mechanical, and one cannot, every day of one's life, find the same enthusiasm for the eternal old round.
In contrast to the big palace with the wise king and the intellectual queen, our household was simple and rather uninteresting. My husband was not a man of showy qualities; he was exceedingly modest and seldom spoke his mind; he was the most loyal of crown princes, allowing himself no judgment of his own, grouping round him no party, no grumblers. He often suffered from the many restrictions laid upon us, but he never revolted, and if he criticized or complained, it was only to me. He was a good and earnest soldier, with the real German tradition of discipline; he was fond of his military duties and was happy amongst his soldiers and officers, who loved and respected him.
I was the more disturbing element. My spirits were uncrushable, my health exceptional; I liked fine clothes, gay surroundings, fun, outdoor exercise. Always up and doing, I was continually inventing, desiring, hoping something. Considered very pretty, my face in itself attracted interest. There lay dormant in me those many possibilities and also dangers peculiar to women who are admired for their good looks. This gives glitter and excitement to existence; you are never overlooked; somehow the world reckons with you and a certain zest goes with you always, a latent sense of power. Fairly or unfairly, you are to be counted with. Instinctively you feel this power, even in youth, when it is quite unreasoned; but, nevertheless, it is always there, part of you, your surest and most invincible ally. We were kept well under, allowed no ideas of our own importance, but in spite of suppression, youth was ours; there were children in our nursery and we were the future, that could not be ignored.
Rumania From the Saddle
Riding played an enormous part ir my life; to some, this may appeal trivial, but I had an instinctive sense of self-preservation. To me, riding meant health, vigor, enjoyment; above all, il meant freedom outside the palace walk and contact with nature. On a horse 1 was liberated from chains and restrictions. I felt one with the ground I trod, one with the trees, the sky, the fields and those that till them. Riding taught me to love the Rumanian soil, allowed me to get into touch with the throb of the country's heart. Untrammeled, 1 could reach out for its beauties, its different aspects; I could learn to understand it, first with my eyes, latei with my soul. Absolutely indifferent to weather, I have thus taken possession of my adopted country by sun and moonshine, through wind and rain and stifling dust, over snow and slush, on the wide plains and rugged mountains. My Rumania came to me on horseback; alone I discovered it; little by little we got into touch, and finally we understood each other in spite of iron etiquette and court restriction, in spite of the ill will of those who cared not for my young vitality, for my brave hopes and my dangerous conceptions of liberty.
In the saddle I was invincible; riding was my greatest accomplishment. It was a sport at which few could beat me, and I confess that in this I was really ambitious. It was my pride to be able to ride horses that others could not master. I was more indefatigable and could stand more than the most trained cavalry officer. I soon got the reputation of being a hard rider, but it was quite unfairly said that I rode my horses to death. I loved them too much, and my art in the saddle was too real to overtax the resistance of my mounts.
I admit that there was a touch of wildness about my riding. I had an adventurous spirit, also a romantic imagination. When on a horse, I felt the world mine, and the intense joy it gave me may have made me look more dashing than I really was.
One never can see oneself from the outside, but looking back today, I understand that the way I liked to head a troop of officers, rushing them over any sort of ground, always leading, filling my followers with the ardor I myself felt, firing them with that keen joy of life which was my characteristic, must have sometimes attracted criticism. There was no harm in it, I was not "fast" in the real sense of the word, but my youth needed an outlet; also I hated to be beaten and took a sort of childish pride in being the first in every race. Nando condoned this, for, although he often had to reprimand me for my indifference to appearances, for him, too, I was as a glass of champagne at a dull dinner. A less keen rider than myself, he, nevertheless, was generally of the party and enjoyed the fun, but not always without protest. He had a heavy hand and little patience with a restive horse, so I quite naturally became possessor of the mounts that were difficult to handle. This was my pride, and if ever there were times when I showed off, it was certainly when in the saddle.
In our youth we were not able to buy wonderful horses, we were kept very short, but those at the "old palace" occasionally condescended to give us their surplus, and it was thus that I became possessor of a chestnut mare called Sulina, of which I was very fond and rode for years. Nando had been given a tall and fiery brown-black Trachener, Zimber by name, but this animal soon fell to my share; for being difficult to handle, he exasperated his master. Zimber had to be ridden with an easy rein—when you pulled at his mouth he became a fiend—but he was just the sort of horse I needed when heading a troop of riders. Zimber could never bear another horse in front of him, but felt the same glorious exultation that I did at being first.
An Equestrian Rebel
Of course, my wild cavalcades were not looked on with approval by the "old palace," but strangely enough, in this I had my way. Riding was as necessary to me as eating and sleeping, and with a tenacity that, in looking back, I marvel at, I overcame all prejudice and objections, and rode as much as I liked, and what was most astonishing, I actually rode alone, without being followed even by a groom.
I suppose that already in those days of dependence I had a will of my own, and when relentlessly and pertinaciously pitted against authority, I occasionally wore it down through sheer tenacity.
I do not think I was ever downright unpleasant. I was certainly willful and what I desired I sued for impulsively, stormily, as though my very life depended upon it, but when I had got it, I liked others to be glad with me, to rejoice over my victory and take part in my pleasure. Thus, by degrees, the objection against my riding subsided, to be gradually replaced by a certain good will toward this mania of mine, which was finally understood to be harmless. And it came to pass that even those who had been the chief objectors began to like to see me on a horse, as I was so joyfully invincible when I looked down upon them from my heightened seat. The intense rapture I felt seemed to communicate itself to others, and they hazily realized that, after all, I was doing no one any harm, whilst the healthy exercise I took certainly seemed to agree with their future queen.
At first my people had harbored the queer notion that riding would prevent my having children, and, above all else, this was to be my chief function. Rumania desired a copious royal family, but they soon had to convince themselves that my passion for the horse did not prevent me from performing my family duties; I gave the country six children; not all born in close succession, but, for all that, there were six.
Even der Onkel got accustomed to seeing me on a horse and would greet me with a kindly smile when I came riding toward him through the woods. In his steely make-up there was some corner which was in sympathy with this Anglo-Saxon girl whose will he could not break. He did not approve of me, I was a constant anxiety, but he liked me in spite of himself.
Uncle's tenderest passion was Sinaia and its magnificent forests. He was a good though slow walker, and had himself staked out nearly every path in the wood. Nando and I sometimes helped him in this; it was quite exciting work. Hut I was too fond of being on horseback to care for walking, it was too slow a form of locomotion; but I shared uncle's love of the forest, and he liked my appreciation of his walks, which I knew by heart. When we suddenly met each other, he on foot, a walking stick under his arm, depressingly followed by two secret police, I proudly seated on my horse, we had a feeling of good fellowship and his smile was one of real affection, in which there lurked even a touch of amused pride.
The legend, dear to the hearts of our people, would have it that the king could never refuse anything to his dashing and unregenerate niece. This also was fiction, but at times, carried away by my indomitable high spirits, he relented from his overseverity and seemed, in spite of himself, to enjoy my buoyant youth.
Free Rein at Sinaia
At Sinaia I took to riding astride; it was safer in the mountains. One of my Russian admirers had sent me an authentic Cossack uniform—a dark-blue caftan braided with silver, over a scarlet underdress. I wore it with the silver cartouchières barring my chest, and round my then exceedingly slim waist the belt and silver-inlaid dagger which belonged to it. This was in the days before women showed themselves in knickerbockers, and this Circassian dress, though somewhat startlingly unexpected, was perfectly suitable for a lady, and it never struck me that thus attired I might be considered an over-picturesque apparition.
In this array 1 would ramble over uncle's roads, mounted on a wild Cossack horse Cousin Boris had sent me after his first visit to our mountain home—a horse that could climb like a goat. His appearance was wild, with long-flowing mane and tail; his manners were uncivilized, but his sinews were of iron and many a year did he do me excellent service. But I did not only ride on beaten tracks but also on scarcely trodden paths, there where the forest was most lonely. Neither the hardest climb nor the most precipitous descent did Cerkess refuse; sometimes almost sliding down on his haunches, sometimes straining every sinew so as to keep his footing during our steep ascents. Thus did he dauntlessly carry me wherever I wished. Cerkess and I climbed up and down trails known only to wood cutters; I have known the forest in all its grandest, wildest solitude, and alone I have stood on the mountain tops gazing down upon the world beneath, which lay before me. The freedom my rides procured me kept alive my joie de vivre in spite of those who wanted to suppress my youth and curtail our happiness, in spite of severe German etiquette and the chief inquisitor's dark scheming.
It gave Nando pleasure to see me take an interest in his military occupations; he encouraged me to pay occasional visits to his barracks and he invited me to accompany him on many of his marches.
When we were first married he was serving in the Sinaia Chasseur Battalion, and it was in that dark-brown uniform that he was most familiar to me—the uniform he had worn for our wedding. Later, when he was promoted to colonel, he was given command of a cavalry regiment, the Fourth Roşiori, of which uncle, in an hour of weakness, had made me honorary chief. This was a supreme concession on the part of the austere king, but, as before mentioned, there were moments when his fondness for me took the upper hand.
My First Command
This was a great event in my young life, and it came to pass in the autumn of 1897, when my brother, Alfred, and Cousin Boris were on a visit to us This nomination was received with tremendous enthusiasm by officers and soldiers, and no end of joyful festivities took place; and the first time I reviewed my regiment was indeed a proud moment for me, and from that day onward a strong and lasting link was forged between me and the dear Patru Roşiori.
In those days our hussars wore red tunics with black braiding and golden buttons, white trousers for full uniform and black for every-day wear. I, of course, had a uniform made, and at all the parades I would proudly ride at the head of my regiment, and it would have been difficult to say who was more elated, my soldiers or I. In my case, of course, the white or black trousers were modestly replaced by a skirt, but one of uncle's fondest jokes was to ask me: "Bist du heute in weisse oder schwarze Hosen?" Uncle had few jokes, and he always repeated them.
Close behind our palace of Cotroceni was a large exercising ground; it was either muddy, dusty or stone hard, but I seldom missed a day when my regiment was out; no weather ever kept me at home. The field of Cotroceni, though anything but attractive, was my sporting ground for more than twenty years. My soldiers were always on the lookout for me, and each time I galloped past them I was greeted with lusty cheers.
I felt absolutely at home amongst our soldiers; I had the happy sensation that they accepted me unconditionally, without restraint. Nationality did not separate us, no reserves were made, I was not on approbation; I simply belonged to them, and when they saluted me, they did so with perfect conviction.
I should, perhaps, not be the one to say this, but I owe it to them and to that unshakable loyalty they have always shown me. They were a unity I could count upon, loyal, uncriticizing, devoted. They admired me for my iron nerve on horseback, for my tirelessness and physical courage, but they also felt instinctively that staunch, fearless fidelity peculiar to my nature. We we're happy in each other's company; amongst them I found a spontaneous allegiance not met with elsewhere.
I was their princess; my ways were not found fault with nor my privileges discussed, nor did it matter to them if the rights I appropriated to myself were absolutely orthodox or protocolaire. To me, the army seemed like a big and devoted family of which I was a specially welcome and honored member. Unaccustomed to the ways of newly established countries, I secretly suffered from that want of spontaneous acceptance of my royal person which I encountered in Rumania. That spirit of censorious and almost hostile criticism was new to me; it was chilling; I did not understand it. My education and convictions had been so royal, in such an indisputably royal milieu, that I had no idea a new country needed to be slowly won by sheer hard work and by many renunciations. I thought I would be an accepted fact, as I had been in England and Germany, where our rights had never been questioned; nor was I accustomed to the Latin spirit of irony and skepticism; my Anglo-Saxon naïveté was no arm against it; it cut into all my beliefs, shook my faith in the stability of things in general and often made me feel a poor, shivering, little outsider, incapable of coping with people of such vastly different ideas and education.
But in the army this spirit was not apparent; here each man saluted me as he saluted his flag; a warm feeling came over me. I was at home, and what more can one say than this?
A Pupil on Horseback
Whilst Nando commanded my Roşiors he had arranged that three times a week I should take part in the riding lessons he gave to his officers in their roomy riding school. Although I hardly needed riding lessons, the discipline was good for me, and I thoroughly enjoyed them. The music played, and I was a diligent pupil, although I was a better rider in the open than in the school; besides I often confused right and left, which was humiliating. What I liked best was the hurdle jumping at the end, which was performed to the sound of the same waltz the band played whilst passing our garden.
It is with a feeling of emotion not unmixed with pathos that I look back on all this; it sounds so small and unimportant in the relating, but I can still feel that particular thrill of happy elation when, after having ridden down the road between Cotroceni and the barracks, the manège doors were opened wide to let me enter, the officers all lined up in a row, saluting. My horse was generally in a state of frisky excitement, and there was a time when I was picturesquely followed by an enormous sand-colored Newfoundland, who waited for me outside and, the lesson over, would solemnly escort me home again.
I suppose I was young and foolish, and later I learned that many had considered me frivolous, but it was purely a case of high spirits, which are irresistibly contagious, and a glorious capacity for taking pleasure in small things. I can only pity those who saw it all with the jaundiced eye of disapprobation; the loss is theirs, not mine.
Editor's Note—This is the fourth of the second series of articles by Marie, Queen of Rumania. The next will appear in an early issue.