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Elisabeth had artistic leanings; her childhood featured seances and visits to the local asylum for the mentally ill.
Princess Elisabeth of Wied, the future Queen of Romania, in her youth, early 1860s
As a young girl, sixteen-year-old Elisabeth was considered as a possible bride for the heir apparent to the British throne, the future King Edward VII. His mother, Queen Victoria, strongly favored her as a prospective daughter-in-law, and urged her daughter Victoria to look further into her. Elisabeth was spending the social season at the Berlin court, where her family hoped she would be tamed into a docile, marriageable princess. Vicky responded, "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". Bertie was also shown photographs of Elisabeth, but professed himself unmoved and declined to give them a second glance. In the end, Alexandra was selected for Bertie.
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 three -- an event from which Elisabeth never recovered. She was crowned Queen of Romania in 1881 after Romania was proclaimed a kingdom.
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.
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:
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:
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:
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 V?c?rescu'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.
Queen Elisabeth of Romania with her daughter Maria
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 V?c?rescu. 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.
^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).
Zimmermann, Silvia Irina: Der Zauber des fernen Königreichs. Carmen Sylvas ,,Pelesch-Märchen", (Magisterarbeit Universität Marburg 1996), ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart, 2011, 180 pages; ISBN978-3-8382-0195-5.
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; ISBN978-3-8382-0185-6.