This autumn, the heart of a Queen and British-born princess will be laid to rest in Romania. Born in Kent as Princess Marie of Edinburgh, the second child and eldest daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, daughter of Tsar Alexander II, she received the names Marie Alexandra Victoria but was always known as “Missy” in the intimacy of the family.
She was betrothed to Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania in 1892, and was Crown Princess of Romania from 1893-1914, being crowned as Queen at Alba Iulia on October 15th 1922, wearing a costume that was made especially for the occasion, drawing heavily on Romanian imagery and traditions for both the jewellery and the crown itself, the latter being made entirely of Transylvanian gold. After the death of her husband King Ferdinand I in 1926, her grandson Michael automatically succeeded as King. Queen Marie however refused to be part of the Regency council and following the usurpation of her eldest son Carol of the Romanian throne, thus becoming King Carol II and thereby overthrowing his own son Michael, Queen Marie retreated from Bucharest, preferring to stay at Bran Castle in southern Transylvania or at her palace at Balchik in north-east Bulgaria.
Falling ill with cirrhosis in 1937, Queen Marie undertook several visits to various sanatoriums and although her condition worsened, she did manage to return to Romania – to Pelisor Castle in Sinaia. Queen Marie died there on July 18th 1938, at 5.38pm. Two days after her death, the Queen’s body was brought to Bucharest, where it lay in state in the Cotroceni Palace’s white drawing room. Thousands of Romanians filed past to see the body of their beloved Queen. Her body was taken and buried at the Curtea de Arges monastery, but her heart was enshrined in a small golden casket, emblazoned with the emblems of Romania’s provinces and laid to rest in the Stella Maris Chapel in her palace of Balchik, as she had wished.
Queen Marie’s heart had been covered with the Romanian flag on one side and the British flag on the other, symbolic for the two countries that the Queen had loved. However, when South Dobrudja was returned to Bulgaria in 194o during World War II, the Queen’s heart was transferred to Bran Castle. Her youngest daughter Princess Ileana built a chapel there especially to house the heart, kept inside two silver boxes and then placed within a marble sarcophagus, in its own special niche. In 1995 a plaque was erected to commemorate the fact that the Queen’s heart had formerly been deposited here to rest. But the Communist Regime later seized Bran, removed the Queen’s heart and had it – together with the silver boxes – put in the National Museum of Romanian History in 1971, where it has remained for the last forty years, that is until, now.
Now the heart of the Queen is to be laid to rest at Pelisor Castle this autumn, in keeping with the wishes of King Michael of Romania, Queen Marie’s grandson. It is poignant to ponder the Queen’s heart returning to a Castle that she loved, with whose design she was so deeply involved and within whose walls she died. Whilst her body remains in the Curtea de Arges monastery, the Queen’s heart will find its final resting place here.
And you can read more about Marie in our series ‘The Stories of Queen Victoria’s Granddaughters’ which is running over the summer. Queen Marie will feature on August 14th.