Queen Marie of Romania – First World War nurse and diplomat

The future Queen was born on the 19th of October 1875 her family estate at Eastwell Park in Kent as the daughter of Alfred Ernest Albert de Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Duke of Edinburgh and Queen Victoria’s second son. Her mother, Maria Alexandrovna Romanova, Grand Duchess of Russia, was the only surviving daughter of Tsar Alexander II and Maria Alexandrovna of Hesse. On the 15th of December 1875, in the presence of her royal grandmother, Marie was baptised in the Anglican Church at Windsor Castle.

 

King Ferdinand and Queen Marie inspecting the troops.

King Ferdinand and Queen Marie inspecting the troops.

In 1889, after three years spent in Malta, Marie’s father became the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and moved with his entire family to Coburg. A projected marriage between Marie and her cousin, George of York, the future George V, encouraged by Queen Victoria and supported by their fathers, the Duke of Edinburgh and the Prince of Wales, failed because of the opposition of the young heirs’ mothers, the Duchess of Edinburgh and the Duchess of Wales.

Instead, on the 10th of January 1893 at Sigmaringen, after a brief engagement, Marie married Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, the heir to the Romanian throne. In 1914, after the death of King Carol I, Ferdinand and Marie became Romania’s monarchs.

In the summer of 1916, Romania entered the First World War as part of the Entente. From the first day of the war, Queen Marie undertook an active role that would soon transform her into a role model. Beautiful, full of wit and intelligent, cultivated and possessing a strong personality, the queen caught the imagination of her contemporaries, Romanian and foreign alike.

Queen Marie in her nurse uniform.

Queen Marie as a nurse.

The Queen devoted all her indefatigable energy to the war effort. She tirelessly visited the camp hospitals, set up relief schemes, managed the medical support, attended military and civilian ceremonies, raised money for the wounded, the war prisoners and the widows, and kept the British and French allies closer. She later became a central character at the Paris Peace Conference, which recognized the unification of all Romanian provinces in one, democratic state, where the Queen used her brilliant diplomatic skills and her vast array of connections to secure a favourable outcome. “From My Heart to Theirs”, an article published during the war, summoned an entire way of life, dominated by the unconditional love for her adoptive country. And her Romanian subjects reciprocated with equal passion.

After her son, King Carol II, succeeded to the throne of Romania in 1930, Queen Marie’s role in the public realm slowly faded although her popularity at home and abroad remained very high. Endowed with a great artistic flair, she devoted her time to writing, architecture design as well as various social and cultural causes, which made her one of the most admired royalties of her time. She died at the 18th of July 1938 at Pelișor, Sinaia, her beloved mountain retreat, built under her guidance.

With special thanks

With thanks Raluca Cimpoiasu, Romanian Cultural Institute and to Dr Alin Ciupală for the text and images of this article.