On 3rd November 2015, 26 years after the fall of communism, Queen Marie’s heart will be transferred from the storage rooms of Romania’s National History Museum in Bucharest, to Pelishor Castle in Sinaia. The heart enclosed into a silver casket will lie on a plinth placed behind the couch where she passed away 77 years ago on 18 July 1938. She was on her way back from treatment in Dresden to her official residence at Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest, but had to make an emergency stop in Sinaia as her health became critical, and the death intervened.
According to HM King Michael of Romania, the most appropriate place for Queen Marie’s heart to rest for an undetermined period, is the Golden Room in Pelishor Castle, were she died. The chapel ‘Stella Maris’ of Balchik Palace, the initial place chosen by Marie, is not longer Romanian territory, being part of Bulgaria, in the aftermath of the Treaty of Craiova between the two countries, signed on 7 September 1940.
This year, on 29 October, we celebrate 140 years since Queen Marie was born at Eastwell Park, in Kent, and also 77 years since her heart left Cotroceni Palace church to Stella Maris chapel in Balchik.
The images of this article show the historical silver casket in which the royal heart was kept since 1938 until 1971. Originally the small silver box containing the heart was placed in a larger gilded silver chest encrusted with diamonds, rubies and other precious jewels that was given as a present to Marie when she first arrived in Romania, by an organisation representing Romanian ladies.
In 1971 the communists decided to sent the heart from Bran Castle grounds where it rested after it was evacuated from Bulgaria, to the newly opened national museum in Bucharest, stored this time in a transparent plastic box, as a museum artefact. The heart, once back in Sinaia, will be placed again in its silver casket. According to the museum, the silver casket is valuated today in post-communist Romania at the amount of c. 24500 Euro (!).
Marie had premonitions about the complicated fate of her heart after she dies, in a world in upheavals such as was the 20th century Balkans. That was expressed in one of her letters:
A year later Queen Marie wrote to her American pen-friend Ray Harris Baker:
In olden days the hearts of Kings and Queens were often taken from their bodies and brought either back to their former homes, or to some special sanctuary, and though in life I hated all thought of a knife mutilating my exceedingly healthy body – I do wish to have my heart buried in the wee church I built myself. All through life so many people came to my heart for love or understanding that I would like them to come also when I am gone – walk up along the lily path, up where my heart lies beneath the screened-in little altar of the little Orthodox church built by a Protestant…
But… there is always a large ‘but’. Balcic is very near to the Bulgarian frontier. If there were new convulsions the place of my heart might easily again fall into their hands, and then, oh dear, my poor heart!
Sources: Diana Mandache, Americans and Queen Marie of Romania, p.95; Idem, Balcicul Reginei Maria, p.170; RNA.
Text (c) D.M. Photo credit Diana Mandache @ MNIR; RNA.
Please return on this blog to see photos from the heart return procession in Bucharest on 3rd November 2015
I would like to wish HM King Michael of Romania a very happy 94th birthday!
HM King Michael of Romania: “I have served the Romanian nation throughout a life that has been long and full of events, some of them happy, many of them unhappy. (…) After freedom and democracy, the most important things to be gained are identity and dignity“. (discourse in the Parliament of Romania with the occasion of the 90th birthday celebration, 25 Oct. 2011)
Queen Marie’s heart will finally find a proper and fitting resting place and peace that it deserves, the Romanian Royal Family intending to place it inside her former residence at the Pelishor Castle in Sinaia (in the Golden Room) on 3 November 2015.
According to Queen Marie’s last wish, her heart was to be buried separately, as in the medieval customs of which she was very found as a personality formed during Victorian times. The heart was first interred in the chapel ‘Stella Maris’ of her Black Sea palace in Balcic in 1938. After that area has been ceded to Bulgaria, the heart was re-interred by her daughter Princess Ileana in 1940 in ‘the chapel in the rock’, near Bran Castle, another property of Marie much loved by her, located in the Transylvanian Alps. The communist regime once again removed the heart from Bran and put it in storage at the National History Museum in Bucharest. Since 1940 the Queen’s heart was forced to ‘travel’ by the geopolitics of the region, reflecting the tormented history of the Balkans.
For more details about Queen Marie’s heart: see my book ‘Marie of Romania. Images of a Queen’ (RRB, 2007) or “Balcicul Reginei Maria” (Curtea Veche, 2014).
Diana Mandache, “The Cotroceni Royal Palace” (Cotroceniul regal), 216 pp, 213 ill. (Sepia & colour), Curtea Veche Publishing, 2015, hardback, dust jacket, 1st edition, Romanian language.
The text is structured over five chapters:
- “Importance” – Cotroceni beyond history; the Cantacuzène legend told to the inter-war visitors
- “Carol and Elisabeta at the ancient princely residence” (Gatherings, The Royal Family. Princess Maria. The war for independence. Guests at the Coronation in 1881)
- “A New Palace for Ferdinand and Maria” – Buildings. An Imperial Visit. The first costume balls. Ferdinand’s illness. The Last visit in Romania of Alfred Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Marriage troubles. An artistic refuge. Solemnities at the palace. Wilhelm the Crown Prince of Germany at Cotroceni. King Ferdinand and the new pro-Entente policy. The Crown Council of August 1916. The death of Prince Mircea. The dynasty in danger (WWI). Treaty with the Central Powers. Coming back. A Royal Press Conference. Coronation ceremonies, guests at the palace. Changing interior designs during the interwar period. Cotroceni Palace in Ferdinand’s will.
- “Souvenirs of Cotroceni” – Alice Martineau, the Queen’s gardener. George Huntington. Philip de Laszlo. Hector Bolitho. Cotroceni notebooks: A Royal betrothal. Dinning at the Palace. Princess Ileana’s birthdays. Funerals of King Ferdinand. News from England: the death of King George V, King Edward VIII’s abdication. The Romanian Constitution of 1938
- “At the Crossroads” – King Carol II. The Last years of Queen Marie. The Crown Council of September 1939. The Palace during the reign of King Michael. Decisions of the communist regime. Postscriptum
Sources of documents and photographs. Notes
The book is based on newly unearthed sources that bring to light the history of one of the most important royal palaces in Romania and eastern Europe. A modern palace was first built for the princely couple 120 years ago in Bucharest on the place of a medieval residence that belonged to the Princes of Walachia, later Romania. King Carol I lived initially in this princely residence of Bucharest just during the summers or temporarily. Between 1893-1895 a new palace was built by the French architect Paul Gottereau, and in 1913-1915 a new wing was built in the Neo-Romanian style by the architect Grigore Cherchez. The grand rooms of the palace were modified starting with 1900 and also during the 1920s. Cotroceni became famous once King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania made it their official residence. Two catastrophic earthquakes affected the palace, in 1940 and 1977. The palace was restored in the last decade of communism at the orders of dictator Ceausescu. The former royal palace was envisaged by him to becoming a place to host high level foreign guests. Today its royal quarters function as a museum. The text is accompanied by previously unpublished photographs from archives and private collections.