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'There is only one man in Romania and that is the Queen.' At least, that is how the French minister in Bucharest described Queen Marie of Romania who, upon his advice, went on an SOS mission to the diplomatic coup contributed to her legendary status.

Queen Marie (1875-1938) was the granddaughter of Britain's Queen Victoria and the oldest daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Edinburgh. She married Ferdinand I (1865-1927), heir of the Romanian throne, in 1892. Despite widespread horror in Britain at the young princess being ill-matched to a prince of a 'semi-barbaric' country, Mari subsequently developed a string kinship with Romania, prompting her final declaration 'My love for my country [Romania] is my religion'.

Seventeen-year-old Marie spent the fist two years of married life pining for glittering courts of Western Europe and producing heirs. Following an alleged love affair with the American aristocrat, Waldolf Astor, she knuckled down to twisting her tongue around the Romanian language, acquainting herself with Romanian politics, and meeting as many of her future subjects as possible

In 1913 during the second Balkan war the princess ran a cholera hospital for Romanian soldiers on the Bulgarian side of the Danube. The following year, after the death of carol I, Ferdinand I was crowned king and Marie became queen.

Despite proving herself to be a 'viable politic fore', handsomely equipped with all the 'necessary tools of statesmanship', Queen Marie remained the 'people' princess' throughout her reign. At he outbreak of WWI she wrote her first book, My country, to raise funds for the British Red Cross in Romania.

Prior to her evacuation of lasi in 1916, she worked in hospitals in Bucharest, distributing food and cigarettes to wounded soldiers during daily rounds of the wards. In lasi she set about reorganizing the appallingly makeshift hospitals, demanding fuel and sanitation equipment to be brought in. Dressed in white, she kept a ready supply of crosses and icons in her apron pocket to give to dying soldiers and became famed for her courageous refusal to wear rubber gloves in the typhus wards.

After she represented Romania at the peace conference in Paris, the French press dubbed her the 'business queen'. A mother of six, she wrote over 100 diaries from 1914 until her death in 1938. During her lifetimes 15 of her books - fairytales, romances and travelogues - were published. Her autobiography, The Story of my Life, appeared in two volumes in 1934-5.

Queen Marie is buried in Curtea de Arges. Her heart, originally encased in a gold casket and buried in Balcic, southern Dobruja, is safeguarded in the treasury of Bucharest's national history museum.

Source: Romania & Moldova, 1998