Elisabeth of Wied

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Elisabeth of Wied
Elisabeth c. 1870
Queen consort of Romania
Tenure15 March 1881 – 27 September 1914
Coronation10 May 1881
Princess consort of Romania
Tenure15 November 1869 – 15 March 1881
Born29 December 1843
Schloss Monrepos, Neuwied, Duchy of Nassau
Died2 March 1916 (aged 72)
Golescu Mansion, Bucharest, Kingdom of Romania
(m. 1869; died 1914)
IssuePrincess Maria of Romania
Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise
FatherHermann, Prince of Wied
MotherPrincess Marie of Nassau
SignatureElisabeth of Wied's signature

Elisabeth of Wied (Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise; 29 December 1843 – 2 March 1916) was the first queen of Romania as the wife of King Carol I from 15 March 1881 to 27 September 1914. She had been the princess consort of Romania since her marriage to then-Prince Carol on 15 November 1869.

Elisabeth was born into a German noble family. She was briefly considered as a potential bride for the future British king Edward VII, but Edward rejected her. Elisabeth married Prince Carol of Romania in 1869. Their only child, Princess Maria, died aged four in 1874, and Elisabeth never fully recovered from the loss of her daughter. When Romania became a kingdom in 1881, Elisabeth became queen, and she was crowned together with Carol that same year.

Elisabeth was a prolific writer under the name Carmen Sylva.

Family and early life[edit]

Born at Castle Monrepos in Neuwied, she was the daughter of Hermann, Prince of Wied, and his wife Princess Marie of Nassau.

Elisabeth had artistic leanings; her childhood featured seances and visits to the local asylum for the mentally ill.[1]


Princess Elisabeth of Wied in her youth, circa 1867-72

When she was about 16, Elisabeth was considered as a possible bride for Albert Edward, Prince of Wales ("Bertie"), the eldest son and heir apparent of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. The Queen strongly favored Elisabeth as a prospective daughter-in-law and urged her daughter Victoria, Princess Royal, to look further into her.[1] Elisabeth was spending the social season at the Berlin court, where her family hoped she would be tamed into a docile, marriageable princess. Princess Victoria told the Queen, "I do not think her at all distinguée looking—certainly the opposite to Bertie's usual taste", whereas the tall and slender Alexandra of Denmark was "just the style Bertie admires".[1] The Prince of Wales was also shown photographs of Elisabeth, but professed himself unmoved and declined to give them a second glance.[2] In the end, Alexandra was selected for Albert Edward.[citation needed]

Elisabeth first met Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen in Berlin in 1861. In 1869, Karl, who was now Prince Carol of Romania, traveled to Germany in search of a suitable consort. He was reunited with Elisabeth, and the two were married on 15 November 1869 in Neuwied. Their only child, a daughter, Maria, died in 1874 at age four — an event from which Elisabeth never recovered. She was crowned Queen of Romania in 1881 after Romania was proclaimed a kingdom.

In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, also known as the Romanian War of Independence, she devoted herself to the care of the wounded, and founded the Decoration of the Cross of Queen Elisabeth to reward distinguished service in such work. She fostered the higher education of women in Romania, and established societies for various charitable objects.[3] She was the 835th Dame of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa. She died at the Golescu Mansion in Bucharest.

She founded the National Society for the Blind and was the first royal patron of the Romanian Red Cross.

Early distinguished by her excellence as a pianist, organist and singer, she also showed considerable ability in painting and illuminating; but a lively poetic imagination led her to the path of literature, and more especially to poetry, folk-lore and ballads. In addition to numerous original works she put into literary form many of the legends current among the Romanian peasantry.[3]

Literary activity[edit]

Monument to Elisabeth of Wied at Peleș Castle, Sinaia (by Oscar Späthe [ro])
Carmen Sylva by Ion Jalea at Constanța

As "Carmen Sylva", she wrote with facility in German, Romanian, French and English. A few of her voluminous writings, which include poems, plays, novels, short stories, essays, collections of aphorisms, etc., may be singled out for special mention:[3]

  • Her earliest publications were "Sappho" and "Hammerstein", two poems which appeared at Leipzig in 1880.
  • In 1888 she received the Prix Botta [fr], a prize awarded triennially by the Académie française, for her volume of prose aphorisms Les Pensees d'une reine (Paris, 1882), a German version of which is entitled Vom Amboss (Bonn, 1890).
  • Cuvinte Sufletesci, religious meditations in Romanian (Bucharest, 1888), was also translated into German (Bonn, 1890), under the name of Seelen-Gespräche.

Several of the works of "Carmen Sylva" were written in collaboration with Mite Kremnitz, one of her maids of honor; these were published between 1881 and 1888, in some cases under the pseudonyms Dito et Idem. These include:[3]

  • Aus zwei Welten (Leipzig, 1884), a novel
  • Anna Boleyn (Bonn, 1886), a tragedy
  • In der Irre (Bonn, 1888), a collection of short stories
  • Edleen Vaughan, or Paths of Peril (London, 1894), a novel
  • Sweet Hours (London, 1904), poems, written in English.

Among the translations made by "Carmen Sylva" include:[3]

  • German versions of Pierre Loti's romance Pecheur d'Islande
  • German versions of Paul de St Victor's dramatic criticisms Les Deux Masques (Paris, 1881–1884)
  • and especially The Bard of the Dimbovitza, an English translation of Elena Văcărescu's collection of Romanian folk-songs, etc., entitled Lieder aus dem Dimbovitzathal (Bonn, 1889), translated by "Carmen Sylva" and Alma Strettell.

The Bard of the Dimbovitza was first published in 1891, and was soon reissued and expanded. Translations from the original works of "Carmen Sylva" have appeared in all the principal languages of Europe and in Armenian.[3]

A book of reminiscences From Memory's Shrine was published in 1911.

Queen Elisabeth of Romania with her daughter Maria

Văcărescu Affair[edit]

In 1881, due to the lack of heirs to the Romanian throne, King Carol I adopted his nephew, Ferdinand. Ferdinand, a complete stranger in his new home, started to get close to one of Elisabeth's ladies in waiting, Elena Văcărescu. Elisabeth, very close to Elena herself, encouraged the romance, although she was perfectly aware of the fact that a marriage between the two was forbidden by the Romanian constitution.

The result of this was the exile of both Elisabeth (in Neuwied) and Elena (in Paris), as well as a trip by Ferdinand through Europe in search of a suitable bride, whom he eventually found in Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Marie of Edinburgh. The affair helped reinforce Elisabeth's image as a dreamer and eccentric.

Quite unusually for a queen, Elisabeth of Wied was personally of the opinion that a republican form of government was preferable to monarchy—an opinion which she expressed forthrightly in her diary, though she did not make it public at the time:

I must sympathize with the Social Democrats, especially in view of the inaction and corruption of the nobles. These "little people", after all, want only what nature confers: equality. The Republican form of government is the only rational one. I can never understand the foolish people, the fact that they continue to tolerate us.[4]





The Bucharest-born colonizer of Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego, Julius Popper, was a fan of her work and named some features after her.



  1. ^ a b c Pakula, p. 144.
  2. ^ Hibbert, pp. 40-41.
  3. ^ a b c d e f  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Elizabeth of Rumania". Encyclopædia Britannica. Vol. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 286.
  4. ^ Eugen Wolbe, Carmen Sylva, Leipzig, 1933, p. 137, here quoted from Brigitte Hamann, Elisabeth: Kaiserin wider Willen, Munich, 1982, translated to English as The Reluctant Empress, New York, 1986 (a biography of Empress Elisabeth of Austria, who was Elisabeth of Wied's friend).
  5. ^ a b Queen Elisabeth wearing the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown and The Decoration of the Cross of Queen Elisabeth
  6. ^ "Ordinul Carol I". Familia Regala.
  7. ^ "Romanian Personalities - Carmen Sylva". www.romanianculture.org.
  8. ^ a b "Ritter-Orden", Hof- und Staatshandbuch der Österreichisch-Ungarischen Monarchie, 1916, pp. 32, 255
  9. ^ "Image". 4.bp.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
  10. ^ https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/b9/d2/81/b9d281dc62b582636503720fdb425b74.jpg[bare URL image file]
  11. ^ "Guía Oficial de España". Guía Oficial de España: 169. 1887. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  12. ^ Joseph Whitaker (1897). An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord ... J. Whitaker. p. 110.
  13. ^ Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Württemberg (1907), "Königliche Orden" p. 136
  14. ^ "Villa Carmen Sylva - VVV Zeeland". VVV Zeeland.
  15. ^ "C'è un cartiglio in Villa Sylva Svelerà il mistero della regina?". 28 April 2013.


  • Eugen Wolbe, "Carmen Sylva", Leipzig, 1933
  • Gabriel Badea-Päun, Carmen Sylva - Uimitoarea Regină Elisabeta a României, 1843–1916, Bucharest, Humanitas, 2003, second edition in 2007, third edition in 2008; ISBN 978-973-50-1101-7
  • Gabriel Badea-Päun, Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ (1842–1923) à la cour royale de Roumanie, dans Bulletin de la Société de l'Historie de l'Art Français, Année 2005, Paris, 2006, pp. 257–81.
  • Hibbert, Christopher (2007). Edward VII: The Last Victorian King. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Pakula, Hannah (1995). An Uncommon Woman: The Empress Frederick, Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84216-5.
  • Zimmermann, Silvia Irina: The Child of the Sun: Royal Fairy Tales and Essays by the Queens of Romania, Elisabeth (Carmen Sylva, 1843-1916) and Marie (1875-1938). Selected and edited, with an introduction and bibliography by Silvia Irina Zimmermann. Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag (Ibidem Press), 2020, 315 pages, 54 illustrations (7 colored), ISBN 978-3-8382-1393-4.
  • Zimmermann, Silvia Irina: Der Zauber des fernen Königreichs. Carmen Sylvas „Pelesch-Märchen“, (Magisterarbeit Universität Marburg 1996), ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart, 2011, 180 pages; ISBN 978-3-8382-0195-5.
  • Zimmermann, Silvia Irina: Die dichtende Königin. Elisabeth, Prinzessin zu Wied, Königin von Rumänien, Carmen Sylva (1843–1916). Selbstmythisierung und prodynastische Öffentlichkeitsarbeit durch Literatur, (Doctoral thesis University of Marburg 2001/2003), ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart, 2010, 482 pages; ISBN 978-3-8382-0185-6.

External links[edit]

Elisabeth of Wied
Cadet branch of the House of Wied
Born: 29 December 1843 Died: 2 March 1916
Romanian royalty
Preceded by Princess consort of Romania
Title abandoned
New title Queen consort of Romania
Succeeded by