Queen Mary of Romania in the Communist Historiography: between Criticism and Eulogy
Unlike Queen Elizabeth who is absent from the Communist historians’ writings, Queen Mary appeared more frequently in the history books, especially after 1948. This happened because of the visibility Mary enjoyed as Queen of Romania during her husband’s reign and also, because she took an interest in the state affairs.
Communist historiography first denounced Mary as an “agent of English capitalism”.Her British origin made the anti-monarchist historians write of her as the one who implemented the British Government’s directions with docility. Similarly, Carol I was considered the pawn of the Kaiser. Thus, according to this interpretation, once Mary and Ferdinand became the Queen and King of Romania, Bucharest’s dependence on German interests and capitalism was replaced with the submission to the UK. According to the historians of the era, this can be thoroughly observed in the debate about Romania’s entrance in the First World War. Here, Queen Mary became the most ardent supporter of the Entente.
Other historians would concentrate on Queen Mary’s private life by pointing out her flaws to the reader. In his book, The Real History of a Monarchy, Alexandru Gârneață vehemently accuses the Queen of all kinds of wrongdoings. He accentuates the so-called decadent behaviour she resorted to ever since she arrived in Romania. He describes the “orgies organized by the sweet princess”at the Cotroceni Palace as well as in the Allied armies’ barracks or at the Balcic Castle. Moreover, he claims that Queen Mary enjoyed alcohol and spoke about how she was seen in the company of other drunkards on a yacht. Gârneață is the only one who wrote about the Queens supposed alcoholism. Other historians would claim the exact opposite of her character. Mircea Mușat and Ion Ardeleanu wrote about the doctors’ verdict of cirrhosis at the Queen’s death that “it was highly unlikely for a woman who barely touched alcohol to die of cirrhosis”.
Not surprisingly, historians who aimed at denigrating the members of the Royal Family would dwell on the subject of Mary’s extramarital affairs. Thus, they would accentuate her immoral character by mentioning Mary’s relationships with Barbu Știrbey and Colonel Cocea. There was also the distinct possibility that maybe not all of Mary’s children were fathered by King Ferdinand. However, the anti-monarchist historians were not the only ones who wrote about Queen Mary’s private life. Ioan Scurtu was also interested in this subject, yet he only mentioned the existence of such events in her life and refrained from labelling them as immoral. He would write positively about the Queen as “beautiful and stylish, enjoying the society life … a unique presence at the Court.”
Similar to the image of Carol I and Ferdinand, Mary’s perception in the historiography was positively transformed in the last period of the Communist era. Shortly before 1989, they would acknowledge her merits in the evolution of Contemporary History of Romania.
Mircea Mușat and Ion Ardeleanu would write in the same book where they claimed that Mary felt no connection to the Romanian people that, in 1914, she declared her loyalty to the country, because of the strong connection that united her and the destiny of Romania. They used a quote I was unable to find in any other history book can only gain every reader’s admiration, should they even be anti-monarchist:“I did not come to Romania so as to relinquish the Romanian Crown after 20 years (…) I will not part from this country. I understand its aspirations and I agree with them (…) I do not belong to any other country than Romania.”
This is not the only moment when the two historians seemed to be very favourable to Queen Mary. In their volume about interwar Romania, Romania after the Great Union, Mușat and Ardeleanu acknowledged Mary’s input in the accomplishment of the national ideal. The two historians observe that in 1936, when the Arch of Triumph was inaugurated, Carol II did not mention his mother in the eulogy for all those who played a part during the Great War. Mușat and Ardeleanu mention that “his mother alongside King Ferdinand played a very important role during the Great War as well as during the Paris Peace Conference”.
Also, Mușat and Ardeleanu commented on Carol II’s ambition to change the Modern History of Romania by presenting himself in a better light as the great reformer and saviour of the country. Therefore, they acknowledged the merits of other monarchs and cite Petre Ghiață who also spoke positively of Mary’s political efforts:
“Nothing of what the people of the last generation created through the power of their minds and acts – the Glorious War and the Romanian Unity-was good enough to be appreciated, maintained and continued (..) Without any other reason but personal resentment, a complete anathema was cast on a certain past, on certain people’s souls. King Ferdinand, Queen Mary, Ionel Brătianu and others from their generation created this past with political genius, sacrifices and limited means”.
Besides all these observations concerning her important role on the political scene, the best way to understand the evolution of Mary’s image is to read the historians’ comments about her death. Mușat and Ardeleanu offer the best quote – they come up with different quotes of the time which clearly demonstrate how much the Romanians loved their Queen. In this sense, Henri Prost’s observations are interesting:
“Her end had a painful echo throughout the country. She was the most loved member of the Royal Family by far. Her public appearances were greeted with endless ovations and emotional sincerity (…) For all, she had been the object of a profound veneration. When they found out about her death, many Romanians felt that a great part of the spiritual force of their country was gone.”
This kind of quote could have never been present in the historical volumes of the preceding years. Historians were supposed to either follow the line of the party or their own conviction that the Romanian Kings were always hated by the population and thus, there was no emotional connection between the working people and the ones who exploited them.
In the light of this last citation, the evolution of Mary’s image is quite evident. It represented the most radical change in how the Kings were presented and thus, Mary enjoys the best image at the end of 1980s.