A Royal Wedding: Marie & Ferdinand, 10 January 1893

Marie & Ferdinand

Marie & Ferdinand - Diana Mandache collection

The Marriage of Princess Marie of Edinburgh to Ferdinand, the Crown Prince of Romania - By Diana Mandache / From “Royalty Digest” (UK), No.119, May 2001, pp.333-338, revised article.

Initially, Queen Victoria did not approve the marriage of her granddaughter Marie, Princess of Edinburgh to the Romanian Crown Prince. That brought back memories when the venerable British queen also raised objections to her son and Marie’s father, Alfred Duke of Edinburgh, marriage to the Russian grand duchess Marie Alexandrovna[1]. Queen Victoria raised religious objections, and also there was the British royal tradition for court weddings to take place in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. The queen did not want to break that tradition with Marie’s wedding. This desire applied to almost all her nephews.

Another wedding that did not follow the traditions of the British Royal Court was that of her niece Alix who married the future tsar of Russia, Nicholas II. With regard to this marriage, Queen Victoria had doubts about the country, Russia, and not about Nicholas. “I do not want any of you to marry in this country and I do not think that your mother would have wanted to hear about such marriages”, Queen Victoria wrote to her niece Victoria, in 1882[2].

The grandmother-Queen Victoria now again expressed the same doubts, ten years later, at the occasion of her niece Marie of Edinburgh’s engagement. This time, doubts were expressed in less categorical terms, her reticence being mainly focused on the early age of the princess.

Religions discrimination was overridden when Ella, Elisabeth of Hesse, converted to Christian Orthodoxy (she was married to Serge Romanov). She wrote to her sister Alix about the similitude, from her point of view, between Anglicanism and Christian Orthodoxy[3]. Another marriage between a Protestant and an Orthodox was the one of Sophia, granddaughter of Queen Victoria, daughter of the Empress Frederick (Victoria) and Emperor Frederick III of Germany, with the future King of Greece, Constantine. In October 1889, when the wedding was celebrated, six months after her father’s death, some query came from her family, namely her brother the Emperor of Germany, Wilhelm II and his wife, Augusta (Dona), who threatened to forbade her return to Germany if she gave up Protestantism. At the other end of the religious spectrum, Queen Olga of Greece was also against a marriage of her son to a princess who was not Orthodox. In the end these problems were settled by a compromise: the organisation of two religious ceremonies, a Christian Orthodox and a Protestant one.

A proposal of marriage between a Protestant and a Roman Catholic was made in 1890, between Albert Christian Edward (Eddy), Duke of Clarence, son of Prince of Wales, and Princess Helene, daughter of the pretender to the Crown of France - Louis, Count of Paris. The British royal family could not ignore the religious conundrum occurring from the prospect of this marriage. Helene was Catholic, and the Duke of Clarence, according to the Act of Settlement (1701), did not have the right to marry a person of that religion, unless he gave up the crown or his future wife changed her religion. Negotiations were unfruitful and the marriage plan was abandoned.

Unlike other weddings or suggestions of marriages, Marie of Edinburgh married a Roman Catholic. This fact led, as one might expect, to some difficulties in performing the ceremony of this marriage. The engagement surprised her grandmother, Queen Victoria, and also Marie’s father, the Duke of Edinburgh, who would have wanted to see her betrothed to her cousin Prince George. However, Duchess Marie of Edinburgh and Charlotte (Charly), princess of Saxe-Meiningen planned in advance this marriage. Kaiser Wilhelm II and King Carol I had encouraged Charly in these plans, but Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, Marie’s mother, had more personal reasons. First, she did not want her daughter to marry an English pretender. Secondly, she rejected the prospect of a marriage between first cousins, a fact forbidden by the Russian Orthodox Church (in fact, this prohibition was not observed in the case of the marriage of her other daughter Victoria Melita to Ernst of Hesse, her first cousin on the paternal side, who also had her second marriage with a first cousin of her Russian Orthodox mother’s line). Another possible reason to proceed with the marriage was a political one, namely to have settled through this sort of state alliance the territorial dispute between Russia, where her brother Alexander III was Emperor, and Romania over the province of Bessarabia[4].

Obviously, this matrimonial relationship could provide the basis of a good understanding between Russia and Romania. Nevertheless, it was certain that Duchess of Edinburgh Maria Alexandrovna disliked England, her adoptive country, trying to separate her children from any British education, choosing an Anglophobic German nanny. On the other hand the engagement disappointed the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince and Princess of Wales and other members of the British royal family. Despite all this, the British royal house still hoped to get at least the ceremony organised in Britain, in Balmoral, Osborne or Windsor. To no avail, in the end because of the religious disputes Germany was picked for the ceremonies, first at Potsdam for a Protestant one, and then Sigmaringen for the Catholic rites. The betrothal took place on 2nd June 1892 at the New Palace in Potsdam “in front of the approving eyes of Kaiser Wilhelm and the somehow artificial smile of Augusta Victoria”[5]. On the engagement evening, the Kaiser organised a party on the Peacock Isles, located on one of the lakes around Potsdam. The speech of the Kaiser announcing the wedding was made with great royal and military pump. “From that moment - Marie recalls - I felt the bad taste of taking apart, of breaking off some very beloved relations; a door to a completely unknown future was opening, to my country, secret and undiscovered”[6]. To put the things into the perspective about the unusual circumstances of this marriage: Marie never met in her life before a single of her future Romanian subjects. In that evening in Potsdam she finally encountered the first one, namely Colonel Coanda, ADC of Prince Ferdinand. “He stated that the Romanians were very happy that their young Crown Prince is marrying in accordance to the country’s wish. It seems that a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, a Princess having uncles and cousins ruling many countries, embodied exactly what all the Romanian people desired; this marriage was what used to be called “un beau manage“.

The Duke of Edinburgh did not participate at the ceremonies, perhaps because he has not been consulted about this marriage. Documents of that period (those preserved in the Royal Archives at Windsor Castle) confirm the discontent caused by that to the British Royal House. Marie admitted that the engagement displeased her father Alfred: “I presumed, almost I knew my pa had had other dreams. And then, there was my grandmother-queen who should have been taken under account; she also had to register her approval. We had to go to Windsor, to pass an inspection, the fearful trying moment; but more terrible than everything was to meet ‘Uncle Karl’, King of Romania”[7].

Sigmarigen Castle
Sigmaringen Castle ©VM

In Sigmaringen, King Carol I was about to consent to the choice of his nephew. At that time, the Prince of Hohenzollern, Leopold, and his wife Antonia of Braganza, gathered, together with their son Ferdinand, Crown Prince of Romania, King Carol I and Queen Elizabeth, Princess Josephina of Baden, grandmother of Ferdinand, beside the family of the Kaiser. Her mother Duchess Marie of Edinburgh, as representative of Marie, had brought with her all of her children at the event. The young Princess of Edinburgh recalled that moment: “thus, I was moving into a world of imagination, where older persons around us solved intricate problems and prepared our future with the wisdom of those who do not any more have eyes covered by dreams”[8].

After Sigmaringen, the procedure for approving the engagement shifted to Great Britain, to Windsor Castle in the presence of Queen Victoria. That visit raised contradictory feelings in Marie: “I have always had the sad feeling that my father would be deceived and maybe others too. My fiancé was completely foreign and … so far away from the life that used to be mine once, distant to the beloved atmosphere in Malta, to everything that represented my origin. I felt somehow a traitor and that is why the fervent love of Nando and all the smiles and encouragement of my mother did not succeed in making me feel completely happy… I hid my inner desolation, mobilising myself for each new meeting: with my father, grandmother, all my uncles, aunts and cousins and George … my very beloved friend during the beautiful days in Malta”[9].

Fortunately the presentation visit of Prince Ferdinand to Windsor took place on good terms, Queen Victoria herself making all possible for a relaxed atmosphere. She talked to him in German and showed a portrait of his mother Princess Antonia, who was a Coburg by birth. Another portrait of her was also in one the foyers of Windsor Castle. On that occasion, King Carol I of Romania was awarded the Order of the Garter (29th June 1892 at Windsor Castle), an event dealt with at length in Princess Marie’s memoirs.

After the traditional custom of presenting the fiancés to their families, Marie Princess of Edinburgh spent her summer and autumn at Clarence House, Coburg, Rosenau and Sigmaringen, where the Crown Prince of Romania often visited her. There was also another visit to Queen Elisabeth of Romania, who was in Germany at Neuwied Castle during that period, 15th August 1892.

Another visit, obedient to tradition, was made beginning on the 10th December 1892 in England, where the Crown Prince of Romania went to present his greetings to Queen Victoria, an even before the wedding, in the presence of the British Royal House, and the Duke of and Duchess of Edinburgh. The ceremony took place at Windsor Castle, and on this occasion Queen Victoria granted the Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath to the young Prince. Both fiancés received presents from the old Queen. Prior to the marriage there was a repeat visit to Queen Elisabeth of Romania, on 2nd January 1893 at Neuwied. The Queen gave the princess a books calligraphed and illuminated by her own hand.

During these traditional ceremonies, the religious question imposed that some compromises were necessary from the British Royal Court and also from the Romanian party together with the of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family. The religious matter was also delicate for the Vatican, the Catholic church being against the Orthodox christening for future children of the royal couple. In the event, marriage between a Roman Catholic and a Protestant produced strained relations between Prince Ferdinand and Rome. Despite the arrangement made, the Vatican later reacted adversely to the Orthodox christening of the second child, Princess Elisabeth[10]. As a result Ferdinand was excommunicated. Only during his last days of life, after difficult negotiations, permission was given to cancel this punishment and allow the last Eucharist to be administered.

The treaty of the marriage between His Highness Prince Ferdinand of Romania to Her Highness Princess Marie of Great Britain, Duchess of Saxony was concluded and signed in Bucharest on 15 December 1892. The agreement had been concluded between Carol I King of Romania and Queen Victoria of Great Britain, through their envoys: Romanian party, Al. Lahovary Ministry Secretary of State in the Foreign Affairs Department; British party, the Honourable Charles Hardinge, charged with the affairs of Her Majesty in Bucharest. This treaty stipulated the agreement about this marriage:

“HM King of Romania, on the one hand, and HM the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India, on the other hand, being already connected by ties of friendship, have judged it proper that an alliance should be contracted between their respective Royal Houses by a Marriage agreed to on both sides. The Sovereign parties contracting this marriage, and also HRH Prince Leopold of Hohenzollern and his wife HRH Princess Antonia having declared their consent to this marriage”.

Sovereigns of Romania and United Kingdom agreed about four items, as follows:

  • Marriage of HRH Ferdinand Victor Albert Meinrad Royal Prince of Romania, second son of HRH Leopold Prince of Hohenzollern, Burgarf of Nuremberg, Earl of Sigmaringen and Weringen (etc), and of HRH Antonia of Portugal, Duchess of Saxony, to HRH Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria, the eldest daughter of HRH Prince Alfred Ernest Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Kent and Ulster, Duke of Saxony, Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (etc) and HIH Maria Alexandrovna , Grand Duchess of Russia, shall be solemnised in person, at Sigmaringen once the circumstances allow. Immediately after the celebration of the marriage a formally authenticated act of the same shall be delivered by the competent authority in good and due form.
  • Matrimonial conventions to be concluded about the aforementioned marriage between HRH Prince Ferdinand Victor Albert Meinrad and HRH Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria will be agreed upon and expressed in a separate Marriage Contract.
  • The High Contracting Parties take note of the fact that by Her Marriage with HRH Prince Ferdinand Victor Albert Meinrad, who professes to the Roman Catholic Faith, HRH the Princess Marie Alexandra Victoria, according to the due tenor of the law of England, forfeits forever all hereditary rights of Succession to the Crown and Government of Great Britain and Ireland and the Dominions thereunto belonging or any part of the same.
  • The present Treaty should be ratified and the Ratifications shall be exchanged at Bucharest as soon as possible.

This treaty was issued in duplicate at Bucharest on 3/15 of December 1892. The ratifications of the treaty were made on 14/26 of December 1892, being published at the same date in the “Official Gazette”. Through the thicket of the many official state documents, occasioned by her marriage, Marie, a perfect romanticist, recalled: “Born anEnglish princess, I would have enjoyed marrying in the country where I was born, under the wing of the old dear Queen Victoria; I would have stepped even more happily into my new life”[11].

royal-wedding-at-sigmaringen

When she turned seventeen (29th of October 1892), the date of the marriage was settled for 10th of January 1893 at Sigmaringen. At 15.30 hours, His Excellency of Wied, Minister of the Prussian Royal House, discharged the role of registrar of princely family of Hohenzollern. The document of the civil wedding was also signed by King Carol I of Romania, by Their Royal Highnesses Prince and Princesses Leopold Hohenzollern and by His Royal Highness the Duchess of Edinburgh. At 16.30 hours the Dean Lauchert celebrated the religious wedding in the Roman Catholic rite in the Church of the Court. At this ceremony, beside the couple, participated the Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany, King Carol I of Romania, the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh, Princess Josephine of Hohenzollern, Prince and Princess Leopold of Hohenzollern, the Duke and Duchess of Connaught as representatives of Queen Victoria, the Great Duke Alexei of Russia, Princesses Victoria and Alexandra of Great Britain and Ireland, Prince Alfred of Great Britain, the Earl of Flanders and Prince Albert of Belgium and his son, the Crown Prince of Saxe-Meiningen with the Princess, Prince and Princess Wilhelm of Hohenzollern, Prince and Princess Frederick of Hohenzollern, Prince Carol of Hohenzollern, Earl Schuwalov the Russian Ambassador in Berlin, Sir Malet the English Ambassador in Berlin, Sir John Cowell, Major-General and Marshal of Queen Victoria’s Court, Major-General Arthur Ellis Marshal of the Prince of Wales’s Court, General Major Schrabisch messenger of the Duke of Coburg, Wedel Minister of Prussian Royal House, Chamberlain Edgar of Wedel, and on the part of Romania - the Prime Minister Lascar Catargiu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Al. Lahovary, the president of law assemblies G.Gr.Cantacuzino and General G. Manu, former ministers Dimitrie A. Sturdza and General I.Em.Florescu and I.Kalinderu. After the service, the Anglican vicar Mr. Lloyd, sent by Queen Victoria, celebrated the religious wedding in the Anglican rite in the Red Hall of the Sigmaringen Castle.[12]

This marriage had strong political overtones, mainly supported by the King of Romania Carol I of Hohenzollern, as is proved by his words uttered on the occasion of the engagement and wedding: On the 7th of June 1892, the King replied to the congratulations of the Diplomatic Corp for the Prince of Romania’s engagement: “This happy event, which is also welcome in Europe with vivid sympathy, will strongly contribute to the consolidation of the Romanian state and will ensure its future, answering to a highly known interest”.

In November 1892, King Carol I said at the opening of the debates of the Legislative Corps:

“The wedding to be of My beloved Nephew, Crown Prince …. Is a happy event, from which the country expects to ensure its future. The bond, which this engagement builds, between My House and the brilliant House of Great Britain and Ireland, will strengthen and develop the friendly relations, useful for everybody, which have existed for a long time between both nations, England and Romania, and which no conflict of interest has ever disturbed. The young Princess, who will come among us soon, feels love and devotion for her new country, linked to the beautiful mission waiting for her on the land of Romania. Our relationship with the foreign Powers is most friendly. Romania, through its correctness, its unshakable wish to keep the invaluable blessings of peace in Europe, in the limits of its strengths, has become a respected member in the European ensemble. The brilliant and kindly welcome which I got in this year’s travel to the Courts in London and Vienna is a living proof of the value of our friendship and of good position is a living proof of the value of our friendship and of the good position of the Romanian State”.

- 16th of December 1892 King Carol, answering a Romanian Senate address, stated that the wedding is going to strengthen the country’s alliances: “will be a better support through the relations built with the most powerful Ruling House of Europe”.

- 10th of January 1893 at the wedding at Sigmaringen King Carol I proposed a toast to the young Princely Couple: “With a heart full of joy I greet the union which has been committed and blessed as an assurance for the future of Romania. My country looks on proudly at this close link of her young Dynasty with powerful Ruling Houses and Great Empires…”

- 11th of January 1893, Sigmaringen, HRH Alfred of Edinburgh thanked Mr. P.Carp for the congratulations sending a telegram to the Ministerial Council:

We are deeply aware of the peculiar proof of affection showed by the Romanian Government occasioned by our daughter’s marriage. Deeply moved, we ask you to be the messenger of our most sincerely thanks to the Romanian people for its feelings for the young Princely Couple. We warmly wish Romania happiness and prosperity. Alfred“.

After the honeymoon spent at the Krauchenweis Castle, the princely couple came to Bucharest on 4th of February 1893. They were welcomed by King Carol I and high Romanian dignitaries. “The respects of the whole Bucharest society were not only for protocol; when the young people entered the elegant little tower built for this occasion in front of the station and in the flowers which were showered on them was also the expression of a great devotion which was not withdrawn”, said N.Iorga. The ceremony from the Metropolitan Romanian Orthodox Church “hallowed a blessed union … exceeding the related ceremony for the Royal couple”. After the Holy Mass, the President of the ministerial council read a memorial document for the marriage of Ferdinand and Marie that solemnly mentioned the event which took place in the 27th year of King Carol’s reign, crowning the work “for the reinforcement of the Dynasty and for the thriving of Romanian people”.

Next day, 5th of February 1893, the marriage of 31 couples of peasants was celebrated at different churches in Bucharest, with a 32nd peasant couple, as part of the festivities, sponsored by the Crown princely at St. Spiridon Church. “In chariots pulled by six white oxen after the ancient tradition the new couple crowned with laurels went for celebration to the Romanian Athenaeum, which represented culture”.

Congratulations from different authorities and corporations were received at the Palace. At the conclusion of those celebrations, Prince Ferdinand and Princess Marie addressed a letter[13] to the President of the Council:

“Our hearts are full of gratitude for the beautiful and warm welcome that the country made us. Wishing the poor people to share our and everybody’s joy, we ask you to be willing to receive new lei 15.000, to share out to the poorest families in the capital city, in Iasi and counties. Bringing you our vivid thanks for everything that you will do to carry out urgently these wishes, we kindly ask you, Mr.President of the Council, to accept the high esteem that we feel for you.”

Bucharest, 25th January/6th February 1893

Ferdinand, Prince of Romania / Marie, Princess of Romania

The same generosity was displayed before the marriage when Marie was given a present from the Prime Minister’s wife, Eufrosina L.Catargiu, for which she thanked in a letter

Clarence House, St. James, S.W. 8th November 1892

Madam,

The time of my coming in Romania is not far away. With great joy and vivid impatience I wait for the day when I will be in that beautiful country, from which I have already got so many proofs of sympathy, to which I will answer from all my power and from the bottom of my heart. I was informed of the kind intention to grant me a present; I could not be more pleased if it could be made useful to the country, whose needs would be the most beautiful souvenir that could be made for me.

Receive, Madam, expression of my most refined feeling.

Marie, Princess of Great Britain and Ireland

Later, a charity organisation was established, named “Society Princess Marie”, which would be to support and promote the folk art, resurrecting the ancient Romanian traditions.

However all of this glittering atmosphere and apparent show of good will was not all what is seemed and Marie, an intelligent person who had a propensity to cut her own way in life, years later recounted the days of her marriage in a very different tone. At the beginning of 1902 she had a difficult moment because of hard words connected to her private life. At that time she called the Prime Minister Dimitrie A. Sturdza and told him, regarding the marriage concluded ten years ago:

”I am alone against so many, foreign in a foreign country, without defences, in the hands of a country where I have come trustingly. But I fell in the trap; all that you wanted from me were to give royal children to the country; you do not care at all about feelings and grief; both about my mutiny or my loneliness and about my endless sorrow to be always misunderstood. You were proud to import a princess of a great family; you liked to have a beautiful crown princess; you wished me to be healthy and that my countless relatives ruled the most important countries in Europe”[14].

During the first years Marie was impulsive, ignorant of many worldly aspects of life and the peculiarities of her adoptive country, as she said, but later became more patient and no doubt maturity brought her the wisdom of age. In a letter entitled “For my Country and My People”, the Queen changed completely the opinion about her role: ”I was 17 years old when I came to you, I was young and ignorant, but proud of my native Country; I am still proud to be born English, but as I adopted a new nationality I tried to become a good Romanian…” Marie reiterated the words written in the memoirs: “It was not easy in the beginning, I was foreign in a foreign country, alone among unknown people… I became one of yours through joy and pain”.

Then the Queen confessed that Romania was: “the country of my joy and grief, the beautiful Country that lived in my heart… the wonderful Country that I saw bowed, whose dream of centuries I have also dreamt, and I was allowed to see it carried out”[15]. During the first years spent in Romania, the Crown Princess Marie observed that her marriage had not created the opportunities for alliances. She noticed consciously:

“After the Government, the Diplomatic Corps played an important role in the uncle’s life. Berlin and Vienna were in the first row, the behaviour relating to France was courteous, and Russia, although it does not inspire trust, was treated by the most detailed consideration and politeness, but it was due more to worry than goodwill. Far away, England had no close bond with Romania; the two countries had few common interests”[16].

But later on, the matrimonial relations of Queen Marie were to be useful for Romania during the First World War. The Romanian politicians used those family alliances, but also Queen Marie’s charisma, so that in time the press called her “an irresistible ambassador” for her adoptive country.

For cited text and photos please credit Diana Mandache and provide a link to the blog http://royalromania.wordpress.com “Diana Mandache’s Weblog - Royal History”


[1] The wedding of Marie’s parents, Alfred Duke of Edinburgh and Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna, took place in St. Petersburg at the Winter Palace. The religious ceremony was performed according to the Christian Orthodox rite in the Imperial Chapel of the Palace followed by one in the Protestant rite in the Alexander Hall in the Palace by the Reverend Dr. Stanley, the Dean of Westminster.ILN 7 Feb 1874, p.138; see also Queen Victoria in Her Letters and Journals, ed. Christopher Hibbert, Sutton, 2000, pp.232-237.

[2] Greg King, Last Empress. Story of Decade and Czerevna Alexandra Feodorovna, ed. Vivaldi, Bucharest, 1999, p.109.

[3] Ibidem, p.115.

[4] Bessarabia was under the Tsarist rule from 1812; it was a Romanian county situated in Northern Romania between the Prut and Nistru rivers.

[5] Marie, Queen of Romania, The Story of My Life, ed. Moldova, Romanian 3rd edition, Iasi, 1990, p.217

[6] Ibidem, p.218.

[7] Ibidem, p.219

[8] Ibidem, p. 232.

[9] Ibidem

[10] see the Romanian Constitution (1866), Chapter II art.82, section 2

[11] Marie, Queen of Romania, op.cit., p. 235

[12] 30 de ani de domnie. Cuvantari si documente, vol.II, 1881-1896, Bucharest, 1897, pp.344-45.

[13] Ibidem

[14] D.V. Barnoschi, Review to the book written by Marie, Queen of Romania - The Story of My Life, Cultura Romaneasca S.A., 1936, p.51.

[15] RNA, QM V/5764/1933

[16] 30 de ani de domnie. Cuvantari si documente, vol.II, 1881-1896, Bucharest, 1897

The Marriage of Princess Marie of Edinburgh to Ferdinand, the Crown Prince of Romania By Diana Mandache , From “Royalty Digest” (UK), No.119, May 2001, pp.333-338, article revised. ©DM


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