by A. B. Henn
The Strand Magazine
Edited by George Newnes
Vol. XVI, August to January, London, 1898

[This article is published by the gracious permission of Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth of Roumania. The photographs here reproduced were specially taken under Her Majesty's supervision, and sent to us for reproduction.]

Carmen Sylva in Her Studio from a photo by F. Mandy, Bucharest

ELISABETH, Queen of Roumania, known to lovers of literature as Carmen Sylva, reveals on close acquaintance a personality of great strength and power of will.

The following personal details (kindly supplied to us by a lady of Her Majesty’s most intimate entourage) will give our readers a glimpse of Her Majesty as a woman and a Queen. Queen Elisabeth rises at three o’clock in the morning, and begins her day’s work with music—Bach is her favourite—and she spends many an hour in the study of the great master’s works. From three till 8.30 Her Majesty wanders from piano to writing-desk, and back again according to the inspiration of the moment.

At 8.30 the Queen proceeds to her toilet, and breakfasts with the King. His Majesty receives his Ministers from ten till one, whilst the Queen works with her secretary. There are innumerable letters to be answered, and it is pleasing to remark that every communication, however humble, is noticed and replied to by the Queen herself. This is only possible, of course, owing to Her Majesty’s tremendous energy; she always manages to get through the maximum of work in the minimum of time.

Her Majesty comes into personal contact with a great number of her subjects, and for that reason, whatever scheme she may undertake, mostly in the cause of charity, brings her the help of all who are in a position to assist her. Of this we have a striking example.

When Her Majesty heard from her venerable mother, the Dowager Princess of Wied, that the latter was organizing a Fancy Fair at Neuwied, in aid of an orphanage for deaf and dumb children, and requested her daughter to send her a few dolls dressed in the Roumanian national costumes, as a contribution to the Fair, the Queen took up the matter with extraordinary enthusiasm. Her Majesty made it known throughout Roumania that she would be glad to receive contributions of dolls for the Fair. From that day forward, dolls of every description have been pouring in upon the Royal Household by van loads, and among them are to be found veritable works of art. For instance, we present on this page an illustration of an exquisite model of the Queen’s coronation carriage. Every detail in the decoration of the equipage, of the magnificent trappings of the horses, and so forth, has been obtained from documents describing the actual ceremony, and also from the memory of those who were present at the time. Queen Elisabeth may be seen sitting on the right, with the Grand Mistress of Ceremonies on her left and two Maids of Honour facing her. The massive silver-mounted harness is also true to detail.

The Queen of Roumania's Coronation Carriage

No less elaborate is the next scene, which is a rural one and extremely picturesque. It is a wedding procession passing through a prettily situated hamlet. Far in the background we see the Butchege Mountains, a magnificent range of snow-capped peaks; in the distance also stands Castle Pelesh, the summer residence of their Majesties. Several cartloads of villagers are to be seen pacing the main road. On the right we have a wealthy peasant’s house, and on the left the local inn, with its landlady eagerly awaiting the merrymakers in the doorway. Near the village inn we can also distinguish a somewhat primitive Ferris wheel, full of children. There are also two examples of the peculiar but very useful see-saw wells so common in Roumanian villages. Vegetation typical of the country has not been forgotten, and the pine forests which surround Castle Pelesh in the distance are a perfect counterpart of their originals.

Roumanian Village with Wedding-Carts

Next comes a more detailed view of the wedding party. The picture is nothing more or less than the actual wedding-cart, probably the gift of the bridegroom’s parents. In Roumania, perhaps more than in any other country, marriage is the peasant’s great event in life; it is looked forward to with eagerness and worked for with a will. The peasant women and girls work as hard as the men, if not harder. However humble her position may be, a peasant girl must have a dowry of some kind, and so every penny is saved up, every available asset is collected and converted into coin, either gold, silver, or bronze, according to the wealth of the intending bride. And very pretty they look, for on every possible occasion, be it a christening, a wedding, or a funeral, the village girls turn out in their finest, and not only are they exceedingly prettily dressed in their national costume, but around the neck and in her hair every damsel wears her dowry.

There were, of course, many wedding processions sent to the Queen, but no two of them were alike. They came from every province, the figures in each dressed in the particular style peculiar to each district. In this wedding-cart, which is one from the district of Ilfov, we see the bride and bridegroom in the centre. Directly behind them rises a kind of May-pole arrangement, so that all may distinguish from afar the most important party in the procession. The beautiful milk-white oxen, a colour almost universal in Roumanian cattle—excepting, of course, the buffaloes, which are black as coal—are modelled from nature, and are evidences of perfect workmanship.

Wedding Party from the District of Ilfov from a photo by Mandy, Bucharest

Our next illustration shows the relations of the wedding party with the more bulky part of the wedding procession. A huge oak chest, probably brass-bound, is filled with blankets, sheets, wearing apparel, all of which are the work of the bride, her parents and relations. Securely fixed on the top we discern what forms a very important item in a marriage feast—a cask of Tzuica, the native whisky, made from the juice of plums, which are abundantly grown in the mountainous districts round the town of Ploesci, perhaps the most important centre of Tzuica manufacture.

The young man in charge of the team is fully aware of his responsibilities, and he looks it. He is slightly startled, however. Perhaps it is a case of love at first sight!

Relations of the Wedding Party with remainder of Dowry

We now come to another wedding procession, preceded by two gorgeously attired outriders. The wedding is an example from one of the most wealthy districts in Roumania, namely Vlashca. It will readily be perceived that all the arrangements, dresses, and so on, are on a much larger and more expensive scale than in the case of the previous one. The beautiful embroidery on the overcoat of the gallant rider on the right is a little work of art. The bride is very gorgeous, and in this case the coins on her head-gear are numerous and easily distinguishable. The oxen, two of which are black, the other two spotlessly white, are also decorated about the head with strings of beads and artificial flowers. The very fact of having two teams to the wedding-cart proclaims it to be an event of some importance. The decorated pine-tree at the back of the cart is also noticeable, whilst the footman behind is a decided luxury.

Wedding from the District of Vlashca

An imposing group comes next. We have here an accurate representation of one of Napoleon’s Old Guard. The old-time uniform, the well-known busby and the musket, are copied from old prints, and every detail gathered from reliable sources. Looking away rather ungraciously from the gallant warrior stands a lady dressed in the style of forty years ago. There is also an umbrella or sunshade, but in what manner it is kept in position remains a mystery.

Above all the others, as usual holding a high position, stands one of our gallant Highlanders, and it may be interesting to explain how this figure found a place in the exhibition. Ever since the marriage of the Crown Prince of Roumania to Princess Marie of Edinburgh, Roumanian society has taken an extraordinary interest in all things English. Her Royal Highness has already succeeded in making a place for herself in the hearts of the Roumanian people; hence it is not astonishing to note that, no doubt as a compliment to Her Royal Highness, many figures in costumes more or less relating to her mother country have been contributed to the collection, notably this Highlander, whose uniform is wonderfully accurate.

Another amiable compliment, paid no doubt to the Dowager Princess of Wied, is a remarkable scene taken from "Uncle Tom’s Cabin," her favourite book. Uncle Tom’s log cabin, with its palm-leaf roof and its quaint surroundings, forms a fitting background for the old man sitting on a bale of cotton. Little Eva is gracefully posed in the act of placing a wreath of wild roses around the head of the grand old nigger, whilst most of the other well-known characters are also grouped around the venerable figure, notably Miss Ophelia, and Topsy.

The Last of the "Old Guard," a Highlander, and Others

The famous Boyards and Voivides, who fill the pages of Roumanian history with many a gallant deed, also take a prominent place among the contributions sent to Her Majesty. It seems only natural that the Roumanians of to-day should show their well-known patriotism in so marked a manner. Hence we see in this picture one of these grand fellows, clad in an elaborate white cloak trimmed with expensive furs. His huge caciula, or fur cap, made of the same expensive material, is a sine qua non—for every gentleman farmer wears this typical head-gear during the winter months, and occasionally throughout the year. The peasants wear scarcely anything else in the way of headgear, though on occasions of high ceremonial they appear in hats of peculiar pattern, examples of which may be noticed in the wedding procession figures. Their bards "by appointment"—for many a Boyard in past times had a Court of his own—are seen in the foreground; the popular and peculiar reed instruments so common among the lautaris, or street musicians, are noticeable in two cases, whilst the guitar is prominent in the possession of the musician on the left of the picture. Looking on with a marked sense of his own importance stands no less a personage than the Shah of Persia. His love of personal adornment is well exemplified in the gorgeous uniform and the jewelled weapon hanging at his side; the fez, covering part of his ample locks, bears the familiar aigrette and diadem of the Shahs.

Roumanian Boyards and Their Bards—The Sha of Persia

One of the most elaborate groups in point of dress, however, is a fancy-dress ball scene. The personages in their various travesties are numerous and prettily arranged. The dresses are expensive, and all made by the leading dressmaker in Bucharest. The indignation of the pianist is a revelation of doll-land. The shy little lady on his left is patiently waiting for a partner, who, let us hope, will soon make an appearance. The curtain in the rear, embroidered with the arms of Roumania, makes a pretty and effective background.

A Fancy-Dress Ball

We now come to what is perhaps the finest individual creation in the whole collection. The imposing figure under notice is no less a person than the Primate or Archbishop of all Roumania—head of the Greek Orthodox religion in that country. His gorgeous robes are covered with exquisite designs, symbols of his high position, and are accurate to the minutest details. From the magnificent mitre to the gold-mounted crook which he holds in his right hand, he is the most perfect specimen of religious dignity and gorgeousness ever made on so small a scale.

The Primate of Roumania

Altogether the Queen of Roumania’s doll-show at the Neuwied Fancy Fair has proved a signal success, and Her Majesty is to be heartily congratulated on the splendid help which she, together with her many indefatigable co-workers, has been the principal means of providing for little deaf and dumb children now under the loving care of the Dowager Princess of Wied.