Princess Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise of Wied, the first Queen of Romania, was born on December 29,1843, at Monrepos castle in Neuwied, Germany. Her parents were Hermann, Prince of Wied and Princess Marie of Nassau.
Since her childhood, Elisabeth studied classical languages, French and English literature, philosophy, history, grammar and proved an extraordinary talent for the foreign languages: Italian, French, English, Swedish and Russian. At the same time, she took piano lessons with Claire Schumann and Anton Rubinstein. Her education was accomplished by studying Philosophy at Budapest and Heidelberg Universities and painting at Berlin Beaux-Arts Academy.
In 1869, Elisabeth married Carol of Hohenzollern – Sigmaringen and one year later, their child, Princess Marioara, was born. The parents’ joy was short, Marioara died at the age of four years old of scarlet fever. After her daughter’s loss, Elisabeth’s life would be put in the service of her foster people. Her work during the War of Independence (1877-1878) is well-known: she was the patron of the Romanian Red Cross and was called by the soldiers ,,the Mother of Wounded”. At the same time, she founded schools, charitable organisations and hospitals and developed an extensive patronage of arts. Elisabeth discovered and financially sustained young talented people or well-known Romanian and foreign artists. The Romanian musicians George Enescu and Dumitru Dinicu, the painter Nicolae Grigorescu and the writers Elena Văcărescu, I.L.Caragiale and Vasile Alecsandri benefited by Elisabeth’s attention and benevolence.
At the Royal Palace, in Bucharest, and at the Peles castle, in Sinaia, she used to organize literary and musical soirées where artists such as Pierre Loti, Pablo de Sarasate, Gabrielle-Charlotte Reju, called Réjane, Eleonora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt were invited.
Queen Elisabeth was also a prolific author. Novels, essayes, burlesques, plays, fairy tales and translations from the Romanian folklore were written by herself, under the pen-name Carmen Sylva – The Song of the Forest. For The Thoughts of a Queen, the French Academy awarded her the famous literary award Botta, and she received the honorary title The Bard of Wales, in 1890.
Charitable Organizations founded by Queen Elisabeth
Elena Doamna Asylum: a project initiated by Elena Rosetti Cuza, the wife of former United Principalities ruler Al.I.Cuza, in 1862.The young Princess Elisabeth, generously offered her personal savings, 12 000 francs, to build, in the asylum’s precinct, a chapel whose construction started in 1870.
Six years later, she founded the National Romanian Red Cross Organization. At the beginning of the War of Independence, along with General Carol Davila, sanitarian of the Romanian service, she founded the ambulance service and in the vicinity of Cotroceni Palace, in Bucharest, with her own money, 36 000 francs, two barracks for wounded are built and Cotroceni train station was transformed into a hospital.
The Institute of the Sisters of Charity founded in 1879, from her personal revenue.
The Organization ,,Queen Elisabeth’’: founded in 1893, in order to medicate c. 17 000 poor people/year, to dispense free medicaments and to monitor the poor families situation.
The Polyclinic ,,Queen Elisabeth’’: founded in 1895 under the honorary patronage of the Queen, in order to give free consultations to poor people.
Queen Elisabeth understood the huge potential of the Romanian traditional culture. Amazed by the beauty of the national costume, she used to wear it and promote it at the Royal Court. She encouraged the local industry’s development and also contributed to the social emancipation of the Romanian women. Concordia Society was founded in order to encourage the Romanian textile industry’s development. The embroideries made within it were appreciated by the famous Fashion Houses from Paris and London. In 1905, at Marsan Pavilion an embroideries exhibition called ,,Carmen Sylva Embroideries” was open. The French press appreciatively wrote about it.
Munca Society founded in 1885 in order to help the poor women, invalid women, widows and housewives.
Queen Elisabeth also founded, on the Royal Peles Estate, the Arts and Crafts Workshops where most of the furniture to decorate the Peles castle (1875-1883) were made.
Due to the Queen, Romania participated at the Universal Exhibitions organized in Paris, in 1867, 1889 and 1900, where traditional products, embroideries, tapestries and national costumes were exhibited. In 1912, Queen Elisabeth organized at Berlin an exhibition entitled ,,The women involved in arts and crafts”, with large echoes in the international press.