Romania's Crown Princess turned 60
Crown Princess Margarita of Romania celebrated her 60th birthday on 26th March. Her father, King Michael I (in Romanian: Regele Mihai , *25...
In November 1947 the King attended the wedding of his cousins, Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in London. There he met Princess Anna of Bourbon-Parma. On his return to Bukarest, the Romanian Communists who controlled the country objected the King founding a family and threatened to shoot 1,500 young people whom they had arrested, should he not abdicate. King Michael left Romania on the 3rd January 1948 feeling, as he once said, as if his heart had died. He had signed, under duress, an abdication that he never recognized.
He and Princess Anna were married on the 10th of June 1948 in Athens, at the invitation of King Paul I and Queen Frederica of the Hellenes. The ceremony took place at the Royal Palace of Athens.
Exile in Switzerland
From 1949 until 1950 the royal couple lived in Lausanne, where Princess Margarita, their first child, was born. Princesses Helena and Irina were also born in Switzerland, in 1951 and 1953 respectively. Princess Sophie was born in Athens in 1957 and Princess Marie in Copenhagen in 1964. In 1950 the Romanian Royal Family established itself in England, in Bramshill House in Hampshire and then in Ayot St-Lawrence, in Hertfordshire. There, the King and Queen ran a chicken farm and built a carpentry workshop. In 1955 the Romanian Royal Family settled in Switzerland in 1955.
Crown Princess Margarita spent her teenage years in Switzerland. For her higher education however, rather than heading straight for Paris and the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, her preferred destination, she was persuaded to spend a year with her grandmother, Queen Helena of Romania, a cousin of Prince Philip, in Florence.
"She taught me everything I know. Everything I am is thanks to her. She introduced me to people - diplomats, artists, people from the UN who were working in Ethiopia, Sudan, South Africa." As a result she spent some months working in refugee camps in Ethiopia.
Her years in Scotland
Dreams of art school were, to Queen Helena's relief, quickly replaced by a determination to go to university. A supporter of the Romanian cause offered to pay for her fees and the British consul was summoned.
"We looked through the UCCA handbook and I thought, 'Well, I won't get into Oxford so easily.' I didn't want to go to London because some of my parents' friends were there and I didn't want to get tied down. Scotland seemed so romantic and lovely."
In the early 70s she enrolled at the Edinburgh University. She became a member of the Student Representatives' Council, where she would meet the man who was to share her life for the next five years. Gordon Brown, “a socialist student firebrand” (The Daily telegraph in a long article on that romance) meets the beautiful young Princess. They fall in love. Political principles force them apart. He turns, not into a frog, but into Her Majesty’s Prime Minister. The five-year love affair between Gordon Brown and his Romanian Princess was such that all who knew them in their student days were convinced they would marry.
"She was the one great love of his life," a close friend of Brown's once said. "He has never got over it." The Princess remains friends with Brown and his family.
Crown Princess Margarita, as a great-great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was 81st in line to the British throne at that time and a goddaughter of Prince Philip - something she did not broadcast widely.
Working with the United Nations
After Edinburgh, Crown Princess Margarita specialised in medical sociology. In 1983 she joined the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation, transferring, three years later, to the International Fund for Agricultural Development. Six years later her life took a new course. In Romania, the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu had been executed. She decided to accompany her father on his return home.
"Getting on the plane was quite emotional. We didn't know what was going to happen to us," she recalls. "It was so strange to look out of the plane window and see the fields; they were huge." This was the first intimation of Ceausescu's collectivist policies that had destroyed rural communities.
"We stayed for a few days and found that villages had been knocked down and 150,000 children were living in orphanages. Ceausescu had wanted to boost the population. Family planning was forbidden, abortion was forbidden, women were compelled to have four children but they had nowhere to bring them up and had to give them to the state. A lot of children had Aids. It was a shock to the eyes and to the soul."
While she was visiting one orphanage, a child in a filthy cot died in front of her. It spurred her on to establish the Princess Margarita of Romania Foundation. "I just didn't want this ever to happen again," she says.
In practical terms, life was "quite difficult; we had nowhere to stay. We didn't have much money. I said to my father, 'I think I had better quit my career and come home.' He said, 'What for?'" Nevertheless, she abandoned her job with the UN and, as the eldest of five daughters, found a role as the family representative in Romania where she began work on her foundation.
Education was one of her first priorities. Romanian doctors, who had not been allowed contact with the West, thought that Aids was spread through the air. Conditions in health centres were, she says, "disgusting. We began to provide training not just for the medical team but for the children in the village about sex education and how to protect yourself from getting Aids."
One of the bodies with which the foundation worked was the Actors' Union, with resting actors providing art therapy for the children. One, who ended up directing an orphanage project, was Radu Duda. His association with Princess Margarita was to prove more than professional and in 1996 the couple married in Lausanne. Created Prince Radu of Hohenzollern-Veringen, he now has an official role with the Romanian government as a trade ambassador.
To make a donation to the Crown Princess Margarita of Romania Foundation, visit http://www.fpmr.ro/
The Crown Princess in her own words
HRH The Crown Princess Margarita of Romania's article for "Leaders" Magazine
Jan. Feb. March 2002, No 1 Vol 25
My country was one with which I was myself unacquainted, though I had grown up in its shadow. As a child I had grown to know it and yearn for it through the eyes and voice of my father, King Michael who was brutally forced by the communists to leave Romania in 1948. But I had never been warmed by its sunshine, never heard the wind in the trees, or felt its earth beneath my feet. My father would tell us stories about this distant land which he called home, and described with such love, longing - and constant pain. I read books about the painted monasteries of Moldavia and Bukovina, about the Danube Delta, we listened to Romanian music, we pored over old photograph albums. Later I read history books and raged at the injustice which had condemned 23 million people to a ruthless dictatorship, to hardship, darkness and hunger, locked behind the impenetrable and seemingly eternal Iron Curtain. The Romanians suffered and I searched for my roots, my history and my identity.
I do not believe that monarchy is the only solution to a country's political ills. But in Romania it remains a fact that the monarchy was removed by a Soviet diktat. And it is equally undeniable that the post-dictatorship transformation in many European states was assisted by historic personalities who either knew how to stabilise critical moments of crises, or project their sheer personality on the events. Does anyone deny that Spain's transformation in the 1970s would have taken a different, and altogether less favourable course if King Juan Carlos, my Father's good cousin, was not there?
My father encouraged me to set up a humanitarian foundation and immediately after that first trip to Romania I launched the work of the Princess Margarita of Romania Foundation with the aim of helping to rebuild Romania - a lifelong task to be accomplished through projects across the country, drawing on people's imagination, aiming to recreate social relations, dignity and hope.
The Foundation is established in Romania, the United Kingdom, the United States, Switzerland, France and Belgium. In the UK it is known as Princess Margarita of Romania Trust. This is a whole network which does fundraising activities for projects in Romania, as well as showing to a large number of people abroad the many faces and images of Romania.
We undertake projects in the areas of health, education, civil society development and culture. We encourage initiatives which develop people's potential to shape their own lives, and which can stimulate the revival of local communities, churches, health and educational establishments, and so help to restore a sense of civic responsibility.
Beneficiaries of the projects have included the elderly poor, hundreds of children in orphanages, children with HIV/AIDS, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers and high school students, but just as the Foundation's programs provide help to disadvantaged categories we have also encouraged and supported that which is positive, dynamic and creative in Romania: non-governmental organisations working in the field of child protection, talented young artists, and playwrights. For instance we have a program aiming to provide Scholarships to Young Gifted Children in the Arts. Because of the very difficult economic situation in Romania, there is an enormous amount of poverty, and art has become a luxury. Faced with financial hardship, artistically talented children often become disheartened and find it impossible to go on studying, so they abandon what could be a promising career in the arts and do something else for which they do not care. So we are starting a programme of scholarships for high school students so that they can continue their studies in music, visual arts or dance. We are hoping to raise enough money this year to help 30 students, and we aim to increase that amount every year. Maybe some of you might get involved so that people your own age but less fortunate can be helped.
"Freedom and Hope in Romania"
American Women's Club in Geneva, 17th MAY 2001 By HRH Crown Princess Margarita of Romania
The work of the Foundation is based on one fundamental premise: that Romanian society, just as the societies of other East European states, must be recreated from the bottom up. And this can only be achieved through perseverance despite adversity; determination despite obstacles. Our work acts to coordinate and concentrate our operations away from areas now subject to world attention, by directing our efforts towards medium term grass roots pilot projects - in the areas of health, education, civil society development and culture. We encourage initiatives which develop people's potential to shape their own lives, and which can stimulate the revival of local communities, churches, health and educational establishments, and so help to restore a sense of civic responsibility and pride.
Education and capacity building in particular are built into all of our projects to help make a positive and meaningful change which will have an impact well beyond the life of any financial or technical support given by the Foundation and ensure that the programs achieve sustainability in the long-term.
To date beneficiaries of the projects have included many thousands of elderly poor: for instance last year we assisted over 32,000 senior citizens living well below any arbitrary poverty line, some, earn the equivalent of only $16 a month; other beneficiaries are about fifteen hundred institutionalized children and children with HIV/AIDS, healthcare workers and over 1000 high school students a year, but we also encourage and support that which is positive, dynamic and creative in Romania: non-governmental organizations working in the field of child protection, talented young artists, and playwrights.
There is an important issue that is facing Romania, and one that it has to solve, it is the problem of institutionalized children. It is paradoxical, but, in spite of all the changes that have taken place since 1989, there are still thousands of children living in institutions - over 80,000. In addition, there are about 6,000 children who are infected with the HIV/AIDS virus. In 1997-1998 the Romanian Government created an Agency for the Protection of Child Rights which has introduced a comprehensive reform policy for the de-institutionalization of children. The Foundation is one important partner NGO that is taking part in the formulation of the national strategy and has continuously provided feedback and shared the experience gathered in our programs.. The Foundation has several programs not only to help improve the quality of the lives of the kids in institutions but to support as a priority efforts to de-institutionalize them as well.
The aim is to close the orphanages.
Succession of King Michael
HM King Michael named, his eldest daughter, HRH Princess Margarita as his successor and Head of the Royal House of Romania and Custodian of the Romanian Crown after his death. The King mentioned: ‘If the Romanian Nation and Parliament were to decide to reinstate the Monarchy as the form of government’ the King will ask the Parliament ‘to cease to implement the Salic-law as the form of succession, which does not correspond either to the elementary rights in Europe today, or to the values of Romanian society’. A notable proportion of the Romanian population believes that a monarchy would bring the much-needed political stability to their country. Details on the reformed Romanian succession here.
The new Line of Succession to the Throne and to the Headship of the Royal House of Romania was decided by HM King Michael, in keeping with duty to History and to the heirs of the Family:
1. HRH Crown Princess Margarita of Romania, Custodian of the Crown of Romania
2. HRH Princess Helena of Romania
3. Nicholas de Roumanie Medforth Mills (who shall become HRH Prince Nicholas of Romania on 1st April 2010 – according to the Document of the Head of the Royal House, 5th January 2005)
4. Elisabeta Karina de Roumanie
5. HRH Princess Irina of Romania
6. Michael de Roumanie Kreuger
7. Angelica de Roumanie Kreuger
8. HRH Princess Sophie of Romania
9. Elisabeta Marie Biarneix
10. HRH Princess Marie of Romania
Nicholas de Roumanie Medforth Mills will assume the title, style and rank when upon his 25th anniversary or immediately the demise of the current Head of the Royal House and at that time he will enter in the order of succession to the Throne.