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Michaela Mudure

Queen Elizabeth of Romania (ps. Carmen Sylva): her role and influence

Queen Elizabeth of Romania (1843-1916), also known as Elizabeth of Neuwied, was the first Queen of Romania and the wife of Charles I Hollenzolern-Sigmaringen. As a writer and art patron she took the pseudonym Carmen Sylva, the Romanians also called her “the wounded people’s mother” as she was involved in many charities.

The Queen was a very interesting personality with many diverse interests. She admired Romanian traditional crafts and organized a centre for traditional craftsmen at the royal castle of Sinaia. She herself liked to wear traditional Romanian costume and encouraged her ladies-in-waiting to do the same. Carmen Sylva was aware that young talented gifted people must be supported and therefore she initiated a system of private scholarships with which she supported George Enescu, Elena V?c?rescu, Fany Seculici, and many others. She was a maecenas for painter Nicolae Grigorescu or poet Vasile Alecsandri.

Carmen Sylva used her position as an excellent public relations manager in favour of Romania, a country that had just got its independence from the Ottoman Empire. From 1889 till 1905 she lived abroad most of the time. Italy, France, the Netherlands were her favourite countries. Her works were translated into many European languages and she contributed a lot to creating a network of female personalities (especially from the aristocratic circles) favourable to Romania. A writer and a public figure of considerable importance for her time, Carmen Sylva is examplary for the elite woman who tried to forge her own cultural and social niche in the patriarchal society of the time subverting traditional models of female passivism and using her privilege for good social causes.

AsK, September 2012

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