Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Queen's 2021 Christmas Speech

The Queen's Christmas Message

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The Lion and The Tiger. Magnificent Queen Marie at the Peace Conference of 1919


Unidentified photographer http://www.tkinter.org/QueenMarie/Gallery/Marie83.htm

Stunned by Queen Marie of Romania’s golden-haired beauty, graciousness and charming manner, the French author Colette wrote that she ‘carried light within her’, after meeting her on the train when the Queen arrived in Paris. Queen Marie had travelled to Paris to meet the leaders of the 1919 Peace Conference in Paris, hoping to persuade them to honour the Treaty of 1916, and Romania’s territorial claims. Colette murmured after interviewing Queen Marie: ‘Happy the city of Paris, Majesty, who can welcome such a beautiful Queen,’ as she left Queen Marie’s train carriage.[i]

It has been a long hard road even for Queen Marie to arrive at this point. Romania suffered great privation because of the devastation of the Great War. Even the well-off struggled to survive, and famine afflicted the country. ‘We are now burning dried corncobs, and files of old newspapers in order to keep warm,’ the naval commander’s wife said. ‘We are reduced to living principally on beans, and musty cornmeal porridge’.[ii]

Prime Minister Bratianu ordered Romanian troops to occupy Transylvania, Bessarabia, Bukovina and the Dobruja, because he feared that the Allies would not honour the Treaty of 1916, which gave Romania all these territories. He wanted quick relief from the Allies. Unfortunately, the acquisition of these lands only meant that Romania obtained several more millions to feed, and made the country more susceptible to Communism, and revolution.

Warm-hearted, kindly Queen Marie, upset by the poverty stalking the country, visited destitute villages after the Armistice with food, and clothing. Sometimes her young relation Grand Duchess Marie joined her. She wrote that the pair often ‘came home long after dark, cold and wet’.[iii]

Romania’s problem with wanting the secret Treaty of 1916 with the Allies honoured was that it had been forced to arrange a separate peace with Germany. The PM also irritated the leaders of the conference by ‘playing them off each other’.[iv]Bratianu’s demands fell on deaf ears, and the Supreme Council rejected them. Also, Romania was only allowed two delegates to the Council, when some other smaller countries had three. The British PM, David Lloyd George asked: ‘Where the hell is that place (Transylvania) and why is Romania so anxious to get it?’

Seeing the bleak prospects for Romania, the French diplomat Saint Aulaire suggested that the Queen go to the conference, and the King agreed that her warm personality might impress the leaders there. Queen Marie was extremely anxious about her mission, but enthusiastic, and motivated to do her best. The Queen didn’t know what she was in for!

Staying at the luxurious Paris Ritz, Queen Marie impressed the French press who flocked to see her by offering to shake all their hands! Her next ordeal was a meeting with French PM Clemenceau, ‘the Tiger’. He immediately asked her about Romania’s agreement with Germany, and Queen Marie explained that the Allies even ‘encircled Romania, and that the country was‘treated like game’by both the Allies and the Entente. The fierce leader said that he liked her ‘speaking up’. When she told him that Romania wanted the whole Banat as part of its claims, he said that ‘it’s the lion’s share!’ Queen Marie said that that was why she came to ‘see his first cousin, the Tiger’, and laughed.[v] Bratianu admitted that the Queen had done more in a few days than he had in a month, or six weeks.

Queen Marie also visited England to make her case, hoping to receive support from her old beau, King George V, who had once been very keen on her. She managed to charm the press there as well, and Lord Curzon, acting Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs held an official dinner for her, so that she could plead her cause. Her old friend Winston Churchill was very sympathetic.

Back in France, she wanted to see President Wilson. Unfortunately, she didn’t ‘hit it off’ with him on her first visit, shocking him by talking about free love in Russia, but Mrs Wilson was impressed with her charm, and invited her to lunch. The President berated the Queen about pogroms in Romania, and she annoyed him by mentioning the ‘Negro’ and Japanese question in the U.S. These two were never going to become good friends!

Romania doubled in size, becoming the fifth largest country in Europe, largely due to the charming Queen’s efforts.



[i] Pakula, Hannah. The Last Romantic, Simon & Schuster, 2017.

[ii] Ibid., pl 297

[iii] Ibid., pl 299

[iv] Pakula, Hannah. The Last Romantic, Simon & Schuster, 2017, p. 303



[v] Ibid., p.312

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