Marie of Edinburgh-Saxe-Gotha was born on 29 October 1875, at Eastwell-Park, as daughter of Duke Alfred of Edinburgh, the second son of Queen Victoria of Great Britain and of Grand Duchess Marie, the daughter of Alexander II of Russia.
In 1893, Marie married Ferdinand of Hohenzollern–Sigmaringen, the heir of the Romanian throne. Their marriage was blessed with six children: Carol, Elisabeta, Mărioara, Nicolae, Ileana and Mircea, who died in 1913, at the age of three years old of typhoid fever.
Marie was later called ,,the mother in law of the Balkans’’ because three of her children became king and queens: Carol, king of Romania between 1930 and 1940, and Elisabeta and Marioara, queens of Greece and Yugoslavia.
Even though soon after her arrival in Romania she was called La Princese Lointaine, she succeeded to understand better than anyone Romania and the Romanian people in its very essence. Queen Marie’s life beared the mark of her conception about the meaning of royalty. The sovereign – a paragon of wisdom, patience and benevolence – personified the greatness, the power and the solemnity of the royal institution.
Marie was a gifted artist, she excelled in various domains, from art and literature to architecture and landscaping architecture. Her literary creation counts evocations, novels and memories and she patronized the Artistic Youth – an artistic movement founded at the beginning of the 20th century by young Romanian artists.
Her ,,Dream Houses’’- as herself named her residences – beared the print of her good taste. The Pelisor, Cotroceni, Copăceni, Bran, Balchik, Scroviștea castles were created by renowned architects such as Karel Liman, Paul Gottereau, Mario Stoppa and Grigore Cerchez who put into practice not only their architectural plans but also Marie’s artistic vision.
In 1918, Queen Marie was elected correspondent member of French Beaux-arts Academy and acclaimed as one of the world’s great personality.
Marie became Queen of Romania on September 1914. I was queen. Queen over a people which, in time, got to know me. A new frightful page opened in front of me….full of unknown menaces.
As queen, she discovered her passion for politics, for the political game and the desire of making decisions. She was in good relations with the Romanian politicians, close to the foreign diplomats in Bucharest and to Europe’s politicians. She was an adviser and a help to her husband, King Ferdinand.
During the neutrality of Romania (1914-1916), she was an important supporter of the pro-Entente side. She resisted to all the diplomatic approaches, sustaining her convictions that Great Britain will win the last battle and the Romanian people’s ideal will be accomplished. She embraced her foster people’s destiny.
Therefore, from the exile at Iasi – Moldavia (1917-1918), when her life was threatened, she declared: I have no country but Romania. I’ll never live this country. Her belief in the Entente’s victory was unalterable and her fearlessness and unexhausted energy proved in the hospitals full of wounded and typhus suffering soldiers impressed everyone. Later, in her memories, Queen Marie would write: …for many days I remained among my troops and God allowed me to give them some help; days of immense labour, days of darkness, when all I saw were things which I never forget.
In 1918, Queen Marie returned from the Moldavian exile and, in order to defend the interests of Romania , went to Paris, where the destiny of the post –war world was to be decided: I was sent to speak for my country, to put Romania’s problems in front of those who today reconfigure the Europe’s map and I was advertised that the country is in a very delicate situation. Romania needed my image… my mission was the mission of a man, my way to plead was the one of a woman.
At Paris, she met Clemenceau who after the meeting said: ,,Oh! Une Reine comme celle-la, il faut la reçevoir avec honneur militaire, le General Foch en téte.”
From Paris, Marie went to London to meet King George V, her cousin: My pleading was not in vain. I knew from the bottom of my heart that my people put its faith in me with a purpose. I knew how to speak for them and to put them on the map.
Her endeavour contributed to the accomplishment of the Romanian people’s secular dream, the union with Transylvania.
On 15th October 1922, at Alba –Iulia, the old Romanian princely seat, Ferdinand and Marie were crowned King of Great Romania.
Fascinated by Romanian and Western courtly medieval traditions, Queen Marie tried to revive and update them. Wearing the crown and a large mantle, Queen Marie seemed to be a Byzantine empress or a 16th century Romanian lady. Her crown, made of gold by Falize House from Paris, is decorated with fleuróns, precious stones and pendentives on each side. The resemblance with the crown of Despina, the wife of Neagoe Basarab, Prince of Wallachia between 1512 and 1521, is striking.
After Carol II’s return to Romania, in 1930, Marie would be excluded from both political and public life. She established at Balchik and began to travel.
In 1937, Marie felt ill and on July she passed the way. According to her own wish, Marie’s heart was placed in a casket draped with both Romanian and British flags and kept in Stella Maris chapel in Balchik, while the coffin was taken to Curtea de Argeș Monastery, where she was buried.
The bravery deeds, the moments of despair and those of triumph as well, form the profile of a great Lady who came from the misty England to Carpathians and Danube, who understood and loved the Romanian people and who wrote in 1933, in her Letter to my people : I bless you Romania, country of my joy and pain, beautiful country closed to my heart of which paths I knew them all.