Magda Lupescu

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Magda Lupescu
Princess of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
Magda Lupescu, Rumunii Karola II.jpg
Magda Lupescu and Carol II of Romania
Born(1899-09-16)16 September 1899
Iaşi (Jassy), Kingdom of Romania
Died29 June 1977(1977-06-29) (aged 77)
Estoril, Portuguese Riviera
SpouseIon Tâmpeanu
(m. 1919; div. c. 1923)
(m. 1947; died 1953)
(by marriage)
FatherNicolae Lupescu
MotherElise Falk
ReligionRoman Catholic

Magda Lupescu (born Elena Lupescu; 3 September 1899[1] – 29 June 1977)[2] later officially known as Princess Elena of Romania, was the mistress and later wife of King Carol II of Romania.

Early life and family[edit]

Many of the facts relating to her early life are difficult to ascertain due partly to the circumstances of the time and place, partly to unintentional mistakes and typographical errors, and partly to outright fabrications and obfuscations by her friends and enemies, and by herself.

Elena Lupescu was the daughter of Elise (or Eliza)[3] and Nicolae Lupescu, an apothecary. Her mother, née Falk, was an Austrian-born Jew who converted to the Roman Catholic Church prior to her marriage. Most sources agree that Nicolae Lupescu was born Jewish and adopted his name upon conversion to Orthodox Christianity, the established religion in Romania. There are three different versions as to his surname prior to conversion—it may have been Grünberg (variant spellings “Grunsberg”, “Grümberg”, etc.); or it may have been Wolff (variant spelling “Wolf”); or it may have been originally Grünberg and it was later changed to Wolff. The latter version is the most common, but the first is the most probable.[4] The origin of her nickname “Magda”, by which she was later known, is obscure. According to Elena Lupescu herself, it was originally a mistake of an Italian journalist;[5] but according to an alternative version, “Magda” was, at the time, Bucharest slang for “reformed prostitute”.[6]

She had a younger brother, Constantin Schloim Lupescu.[7]

Lupescu was raised from birth as a Catholic. She was educated at the “Diaconesele”, a Bucharest boarding school run by Bavarian nuns of the Institute of Mary from Nymphenburg,[8] and one of the best schools for girls in the country.

According to Arthur Quinlan, at some point during Lupescu's childhood, her family moved to Sulina, a port on the Danube, where Nicolae Lupescu opened an apothecary. In 1912 they moved back to Iași, where her father started a novelty shop. Not much is known of her life during Romania's participation in World War I (1916–1918).

On 17 February 1919, in Iaşi, Lupescu married Ion Tâmpeanu, an officer[9] of the Romanian Royal Army. According to Quinlan, Elena did not adapt well to garrison life and had several affairs. The marriage ended in divorce, but it is not clear when; Quinlan places it in 1920. According to Easterman, she was still married to Tâmpeanu in 1923, when she first encountered Carol. After the divorce, Elena resumed her maiden name, Lupescu.

Speculations about origins[edit]

Some (e.g., Easterman, p. 81–85), suggest something mysterious about Lupescu's origins and early life, that she may have been of royal blood, an illegitimate daughter of King Carol I, and thus a cousin of Carol II. There are three main arguments: that Romanian law at the time barred Jews from owning apothecaries, and hence there was something unusual about Elena's father owning one; that it was unusual for a girl of Lupescu's parentage to be accepted at one of the best schools in Bucharest; and that it was highly unusual for a Romanian army officer to be allowed to marry someone of Jewish background.

There is little merit to any of these arguments. As far as Romanian law of the time went, Nicolae Lupescu ceased being a Jew upon his conversion—there was nothing preventing him from owning an apothecary. But even before his conversion, the law could have been easily circumvented in a country as rife with corruption as Romania, especially in Iași, where Jews were close to half of the city's population.

As to Lupescu's education, she was a German-speaking Catholic daughter of a Catholic mother, that is, the very student who would have been most readily admitted at a school run by German nuns. But even her being Jewish would not have necessarily constituted a major obstacle. For instance, between 1890 and 1916, Jews constituted, on average, 7% of the student body of the Lycée “Gheorghe Lazăr” of Bucharest, a boys’ school described as “the school of the Romanian élite”.[10]

Finally, her marriage to an army officer would not have been problematic, because neither she nor her parents were legally Jewish, and most Romanians would not have regarded her as such. That came later, during the Great Depression, when the character of Romanian anti-Semitism gradually changed and her parents’ Jewish origins were stressed for political reasons.

Royal mistress[edit]

According to Paul-Philippe Hohenzollern, who cites Carol's diaries, she first met Crown Prince Carol (later King Carol II of the Romanians) in March 1923,[11] when she was still married to Tâmpeanu.Two years later, in February 1925,[12] Carol and Lupescu began a serious relationship, which endured until his death in 1953.

Lupescu was described as a witty and outspoken woman, a tall redhead with milky-white skin and green eyes.[13] Other sources are less flattering, describing her features as coarse and her conversation as vulgar.[14] All sources agree that she walked with a peculiar swing of the hips, which, depending on one's point of view, was either sexy or crude, and that she was, in almost every respect, the opposite of Crown Princess Helen, Carol's spouse at the time.

Carol made no effort to hide the relationship, which was, rather than his marital infidelity or Elena Lupescu's character or background, the cause of the ensuing scandal. The scandal was aggravated by Carol's earlier behavior (during the war he had contracted a morganatic marriage to Ioana “Zizi” Lambrino, although Romania's Constitution forbade Crown Princes to marry Romanian citizens), as well as by the enmity between Carol and the very powerful Brătianu clan. It was supporters of the latter who fostered the first anti-Semitic attacks against Elena Lupescu.[15]

In December 1925, Carol, having represented the Romanian royal family at the funeral of Queen Alexandra, eventually ended up in Milan in company of Elena Lupescu, making the front page of almost every Italian newspaper.

As marriage between the monarch and Lupescu was unconstitutional and questionable on social grounds, Carol renounced his rights to the Romanian throne, as well as his membership in the royal family, adopting the name of “Carol Caraiman”. The renunciation was ratified by Parliament on 4 January 1926, and four-year-old Michael, Carol's son with Crown Princess Helen, became heir apparent; Carol was banned from returning to Romania. Helen, by that time Queen Mother, divorced Carol in 1928.

King Ferdinand, Carol's father, died in 1927; Michael succeeded to the throne and a regency headed by Prince Nicholas, Carol's younger brother, came into being. The regency proved unstable, and the political instability increased when Ion I. C. Brătianu, head of the Brătianu clan and leader of the National-Liberal party, died unexpectedly. His younger brothers lacked both his strength of character and his political acumen, and their hold on power weakened. In late 1928 the Liberal government was replaced by a coalition headed by Iuliu Maniu; Carol's return seemed now to be only a matter of time. Negotiations were carried out through various intermediaries, while Carol's supporters, including Prince Nicholas and a number of Army officers, tried to pressure the government into speeding his return. Although no written evidence exists, it is likely that eventually Carol made two promises to Maniu: that he would join the regency, rather than lay claim to the throne, and that he would give up Elena Lupescu.[16] He intended to keep neither.

Carol returned unopposed to Romania on 7 June 1930, and immediately mounted what was essentially a constitutional coup. His renunciation was declared invalid by Parliament with an overwhelming majority, and he was proclaimed king in short order on 8 June. When he brought Lupescu back is not clear; it may have been as early as the end of June, or it may have been August, but she was definitely in Bucharest by October.[17] From then on, she was, in all but name, Carol's wife and his partner in his political enterprises.

During the reign of King Carol II (1930–1940), corruption and political intrigue in Romania rose to unprecedented heights. Carol and Magda weathered economic crisis, labour unrest, the rise of Fascism, assassination attempts and military plots, to become the master manipulators of Romanian politics.[18] Those Carol could not bribe, he forced into retirement (Maniu) or imprisoned (Ion Antonescu); those he could not bend to his will, he suppressed ruthlessly (the Legion of the Archangel Michael); and, in the process, the couple accumulated an impressive fortune.

Lupescu is sometimes described as the power behind the throne, especially by those close to the extreme right.[19] Lupescu undoubtedly enjoyed a great deal of influence of the king, but Carol's actions were entirely consistent with his behaviour prior to meeting Elena Lupescu. Moreover, the speed with which, upon his return, when she was still abroad, he outmanoeuvred any opposition to his plans is ample demonstration of his political abilities. Their relationship is perhaps best viewed as a partnership, with Elena the junior, but very influential, partner.

Lupescu did not enjoy official status and until 1938 did not accompany the king on state functions. However, she entertained at her Aleea Vulpache[20] villa in downtown Bucharest the cream of Romanian high society: politicians, industrialists (Max Auschnitt, Nicolae Malaxa), press magnates (Pamfil Șeicaru), and blue-blooded aristocrats (Marthe Bibesco). It was even rumoured at some point (but never proved) that the leader of the violently anti-Semitic Iron Guard, Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, might have been hiding there from the police.[21]

In 1938, Carol put an end to parliamentary democracy[22] and proclaimed himself a dictator. But international developments were beyond his control. By the summer of 1940, France had fallen and the Versailles system had collapsed, leaving Romania friendless and almost completely surrounded by enemies. In quick succession, without firing a shot in her own defence, Romania was forced to make painful territorial concessions to the USSR, to Hungary, and to Bulgaria. Whether any government could have survived such a catastrophe is doubtful; but to survive both it and Hitler's personal enmity was impossible.

By early September, Carol was out of options. He was forced to abdicate in favour of his son Michael (6 September); General Antonescu assumed dictatorial powers with the support of the Army and most political parties. A few days later, Carol, Magda, their faithful aide, Ernest Urdăreanu, and as many belongings as they could pack in a hurry, left Romania aboard a special train. They crossed the border in a hail of bullets: the Legionnaires were trying to revenge their leader, assassinated on Carol's orders.

In exile[edit]

They travelled to Spain, then to Portugal, and eventually they settled in Mexico City. When Romania joined the war on Hitler's side, Carol explored the possibility of setting up a Romanian government in exile; but his proposals were rebuffed by both the British and the Americans.[23] In 1944 he contacted the Soviets with a similar purpose,[24] but Stalin never answered and developments in Romania made Carol's proposal moot.

Lupescu did not tolerate well Mexico City's high altitude, so in 1944 they moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. But her health did not improve; by early 1947 her condition was diagnosed as pernicious anaemia. After 22 years together, Carol and Elena Lupescu were finally married in a hotel room in Rio de Janeiro, either on 3 June 1947[25] or on 5 July 1947;[26] it was Carol's third marriage, and Elena's second. Henceforward, she would be known as Princess Elena of Romania.[27]

Lupescu's health improved,[28] but they were advised to move to a more temperate climate. Carol and Elena finally settled in Estoril, on the Portuguese Riviera. There Carol died suddenly of a heart attack in 1953. His coffin, draped with the Romanian royal standard, was placed inside the royal pantheon of the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon. Elena survived him by 24 years, and her coffin was eventually placed next to his.[29]

In 2003, the coffins of King Carol II and Princess Elena of Romania were brought back to the country of their birth at the request and expense of the government of Romania. They were interred in the Curtea de Argeș Monastery complex, the traditional burial ground of Romanian royalty; but, not being of royal blood, Elena was buried in the monastery's cemetery, rather than in the Royal Chapel.[30]


  1. ^ Estimates of her birth date range at least from 1895 to 1902:
    • "At Long Last", Time magazine, 14 July 1947. Online version accessed 21 March 2007: "In 1947, the ex-king was 53 years old. Magda never told anyone her age, but it was at least 50."
    • Magda Lupescu, Encyclopædia Britannica online, accessed arch 21, 2007. Only the first portion of the article can be accessed without subscription. Says "1896?"
    • Lupescu, Magda Archived 2007-04-15 at the Wayback Machine, Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, 2001-05. Accessed online 21 21 March 2007. Says "1896?"
    • Elena Lupescu,, states a birthdate of 15 September 1895, for which they cite Marlene A. Eilers, Queen Victoria's Descendants (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1987). Accessed online 21 March 2007.
    • "The “Lupescu Issue” Echoes in the Realm of King Carol", The New York Times, 6 May 1934, p. XX5: “Her age is between 35 and 40.”
    • "Magda Lupescu, Woman behind Rumania’s Throne, Is Dead at 81", The New York Times, 30 June 1977, p. 73
    • "Magda Lupescu Dies at 81; Mistress, Wife of Former King of Romania", The Washington Post, 1 July 1977, p. C10
    • "Attacks Are Renewed on Red-Haired Magda", The Washington Post, 25 December 1934, p. 3 refers to "his 36-year-old friend".
    • "Carol Marries Lupescu, Ill", The Washington Post, 6 July 1947, p. M1: “Magda, who is 50”
    • (in Romanian) Carol al II-lea, despartit dupa moarte de Duduie Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine, Jurnalul Naṭional, 16 February 2004, accessed online 21 March 2007, gives the date 2 September 1899.
    • "Slight Gain Shown by Magda Lupescu", The New York Times, 8 July 1947, p. 12: “On the [marriage] petition Mme. Lupescu gave her year of birth as 1902”
  2. ^ Profile of Elena Lupescu
  3. ^ Many sources give her name as “Elizei”. That is an misunderstanding, caused probably by an original author who did not speak Romanian. In Romanian, “Elizei” is the genitive case of “Eliza”; thus, the phrase “Eliza’s daughter” is in Romanian “fiica Elizei”
  4. ^ It is unclear why Elena Lupescu’s father should have changed his name from “Grünberg” to “Wolff”. It appears more likely that the name Wolff, which is the approximate German or Yiddish equivalent of Lupescu, was an invention of Elena Lupescu’s detractors.
  5. ^ Easterman, p. 75
  6. ^ St. John, p. 114
  7. ^ Quakes and Carol - TIME
  8. ^ See Congregatio Jesu România for a short history of the Institute of Mary (Institutul Sfânta Maria) in Romania, and Institute of Mary for an overview of this Catholic institution.
  9. ^ His rank is variously described as Lieutenant, Captain, or Major; the first is the most likely version.
  10. ^ Livezeanu, pp. 197–198
  11. ^ p. 86
  12. ^ Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania, p. 86
  13. ^ Quinlan
  14. ^ Pakula, p. 326; Cosma, p. 50
  15. ^ Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania, p. 88
  16. ^ Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania, p. 148
  17. ^ Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania, p. 153 Lupescu's return led to the resignation of the Prime Minister, Iuliu Maniu. It has been argued that her return was a mere pretext, the resignation being caused by Maniu's authoritarian ambitions. However, Maniu's reputation for personal probity and strict morality was unparalleled among Romanian politicians of the day.
  18. ^ Carol's task was facilitated by the fact that, constitutionally as well as by tradition, Romanian monarchs were more closely involved in political life than their Western counterparts.
  19. ^ Ernest Urdăreanu was supposed to have said, “I control the king, because I control Mrs. Lupescu”. The statement is likely apocryphal, and there is no evidence that Urdăreanu exercised anything other than the control every able and loyal secretary exercises over his employer.
  20. ^ Today Strada Ankara (Ankara Street).
  21. ^ It was also said that Lupescu had established her own intelligence service (e.g., Cosma, p. 161), but that is probably a wild exaggeration. The same was said about virtually every prominent Romanian politician. For instance, Iuliu Maniu's private spy service was supposedly run by none other than Eugen Cristescu, later (1940–1944) head of Serviciul Secret de Informații, Romania's Secret Intelligence Service (Cosma, p. 177).
  22. ^ Romania's system was closer to a “directed” or “guided” democracy than to Western European constitutional monarchies (Fischer-Galați).
  23. ^ Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania, p. 206–214
  24. ^ Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania, p. 217
  25. ^
  26. ^ Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania, p. 223
  27. ^ Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania, p. 223; Cosma, p. 302
  28. ^ It has been suggested that Lupescu's illness had been feigned to force Carol into marriage (Cosma, p. 302), but Paul of Hohenzollern-Romania finds this unlikely and attributes the improvement to a successful medical treatment (p. 223). Whatever the truth, it seems unlikely that Carol would have married her as long as he still entertained any hope of returning to the throne.
  29. ^ Cosma, p. 302
  30. ^ Carol al II-lea nu mai încape; Find-A-Grave


  • Cosma, Neagu. (1998) Culisele Palatului Regal. Ediție revăzută și adăugită. București: Editura Globus. ISBN 973-49-0099-4.
  • Easterman, A.L.. (1942) King Carol, Hitler, and Lupescu, London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., especially the chapter “Who is Magda Lupescu”, p. 69–85.
  • Fischer-Galați, Stephen Alexander. (1991) Twentieth Century Rumania. 2nd ed. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0-231-07463-8
  • Ionescu, Șerban N. (1994) Who Was Who in Twentieth-Century Romania East European Monographs, No. 395. Boulder, New York: East European Monographs. ISBN 0-88033-292-1.
  • Livezeanu, Irina. (1995) Cultural Politics in Greater Romania: Regionalism, Nation Building, and Ethnic Struggle, 1918–1930. Ithaca: Cornell University Press. ISBN 0-8014-8688-2.
  • Pakula, Hannah. (1984) The Last Romantic: A Biography of Queen Marie of Roumania. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-671-46364-0.
  • Paul, Prince of Hohenzollern-Roumania. (1988) King Carol II: A Life of My Grandfather. London: Methuen. ISBN 0-413-16570-1.
  • Quinlan, Paul D. (1995) The Playboy King: Carol II of Romania, Contributions to the Study of World History, No. 52. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-29519-0.
  • St. John, Robert. (1957) Foreign Correspondent. 1st ed. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday.

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