Marie of Romania and Her Dusty, Disinterred Heart: A Love Story

Dorothy Parker’s “Comment” is only poem I have ever committed to memory:
Oh life is a glorious cycle of song
A medley of extemporanea
And love is a thing that can never go wrong
And I am Marie of Romania.

Regina Maria a României / Queen Marie of RomaniaI’ve been reciting it to myself on Valentine’s Day for years but I never knew who Marie of Romania was—it wasn’t Parker, obviously, and that seemed like all you needed to get the joke. I figured she was somebody happy, maybe a fictional character or something. Turns out, she was real and not particularly happy, especially in love. But she was beautiful:

Marie was born into the British Royal Family in 1875. Her first cousin, Prince George, fell in love with her, but Marie’s mom (a Russian duchess) discouraged the marriage because she hated the English court and wanted to see her children marry abroad (not surprising, since the duchess was haughty and homely and not very well liked by anyone in England). So Marie married her distant cousin Ferdinand, the crown prince of Romania, when she was 18.

She didn’t like him much and wrote to her good friend, Loie Fuller (American, modern dancer, friend of Rodin and Marie Curie) about “the distaste, which grew to revulsion” for her husband. But she had several children, most of whom are thought to be by the Romanian prime minister Barbu Stirbey and Grand Duke Boris Vladimirovich, a notorious Russian playboy, whose obituary read: “a man of generous tendencies, who tipped shopgirls with twenty dollar bills.”

Marie hid her heart from her husband in life and did the same in death. She was buried next to Ferdinand, but asked that her heart be cut out of her body and left in a quiet corner of Balchik Palace, her summer residence. In 1940, Romania ceased the Balchik region to Bulgaria. Marie’s heart was unceremoniously disinterred and sent to Bran Castle in Romania - rumored to be the castle where Vlad the Impaler (aka Dracula) spent some time and was the model for Bram Stoker’s vision of Dracula’s castle - which is where it sits, mouldering, to this day.

Brendan Kiley / thestranger.com

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