A Passion for Beauty - Queen Marie of Romania, 1875 – 1938
Sorin Iliesiu, film director
A selection of texts from the Memoirs of Queen Marie of Romania, as edited for the sound track of the documentary "A Passion for Beauty - Queen Marie of Romania", directed by Sorin Iliesiu, and produced by the foundations VideoMedia (Romania) and Aspera (USA). The voice in the sound track belongs to Princess Marina Sturdza. Copyright for the text selection and editing: Sorin Iliesiu.
Queen Marie of Romania, 1875 – 1938, Queen of Romania: 1914-1927, Grand-daughter of Queen Victoria of England, Niece of Tsar Alexander IInd of Russia I’m getting old, which is a pity, for I have still such a lot to do; a pity also because each year must inevitably take from me something of my good looks. My people always considered me pretty, and were proud of me, notre belle Reine. In a way it was considered one of my royal duties to please their eye.
I was, even at the age of five, a real daughter of Eve in my love for beautiful dress; in fact, beauty in every form found in me an ardent, yea almost a pagan adorer.
What is beauty, and where exactly does it reside? In line, feature, expression, colouring? In all these no doubt. But often a woman as perfect as a statue has no charm whatsoever and no success.
I was always strangely moved by beauty. Any form of beauty, be it a lovely woman, flower, house or horse, be it a glorious landscape or picture; each time beauty came to me I felt as though it was a God-given pleasure, a gift He had especially allowed me to possess, with my eyes at least if not with my hands.
Glorious music, or a perfect communion with Nature could make me realize God most profoundly; a magnificent view, a deep forest silence, a flower-filled garden, a glowing sunset, the sight of a storm at sea, gave me a clearer conception of the eternal than any religious ceremony.
Oh! But the repose of beauty and nature! All grows so strongly here--- the mountains, the trees are so calm, so solid, so sure of themselves. Then my rooms too, seem to have opened their arms to me, happy to have me back. Once more, I’ve fallen under the charm of my domed golden room.
My love of colour and instinctive feeling for line was a great asset. Feeling that I would never have time to give myself up to more serious study, I developed my talent along certain lines with a tendency towards the decorative, acquiring a style of my own in which form and colour played the chief part.
All through my life I have had a real passion for building wee houses or huts. ...
It is only in these last years that I have been able to indulge more completely in this passion; my huts have grown larger, have even become goodly sized habitations.
With the years I had learned to understand and appreciate the art and architecture of the country, and had become the chief promoter of a movement tending towards resuscitating a national style, instead if imitating all that came from the West. It sometimes needs a foreigner’s eye really to appreciate the beauties of a country, especially when that country is struggling towards development. Those in the ferment of evolution are apt to overlook their own treasures whilst straining towards that which other countries offer.
The fun of life is observation. The comic, the sad, the beautiful, the strange, the pathetic, the absurd, it all serves to amuse the eye, to interest the mind, to move the heart.
But something of that child-faculty of seeing pictures within pictures, depths within depths, mystery and romance in the every day, has been mine all along my road. It is the blessed faculty of beautifying things, of rendering more interesting events and people, of drawing out light rather than shade. It is the optimist’s attitude, a bit trying to the pessimist, or so I have been told, but although I belong to those who see reality with eyes “peeled”, I nevertheless perceive in all things the possibility of beauty instead of the sordidness people to-day seem to delight in.
I have not as yet spoken about my writing. It began thus:
Even as a child I possessed a vivid imagination and I liked telling stories to my sisters. Later it was to my children that I told my stories.
I suppose the subconscious within me had continually absorbed: sights, feelings, emotions, pictures, human passions, human joys, human griefs, also a certain philosophy which comes with living. This was all stored up and stirred in me somewhere and came to life when I put pen to paper, and above all there was beauty, so much beauty everywhere, in every form; it was all mine if I could seize it.
At first I imagined that I could write nothing but fairytales.
But one day I discovered that I could describe, depict, a landscape, a village, a sunset, a dusty road; that I could with ease conjure up also visions of everyday places, of everyday people; everything picturesque attracted me. I felt the atmosphere, the pathos, that something which lies beneath what is merely seen by the eye, I felt it all, and whilst I wrote I understood that this had come to me little by little through my growing love for my adopted country. I realized how deeply I had absorbed the beauties, the characteristics, the quaintness peculiar to Roumania.
So I simply went on writing, humbly, without any pretensions, because, having begun I could not lay down my pen.
… How astonishing is the strength of memory!