Friday, February 13, 2015

Balcicul Reginei Maria by Diana Mandache

Romanian historian and biographer Diana Mandache needs a bigger audience because she offers her readers true insight into Romanian royal history.  She has one problem: most of her books are in Romanian.

On one hand, books in Romanian on the royal family is a very good thing because Romanians can read and learn the truth about their royal family's history.  But the Romanian-language books are also a limitation because many people interested in royal history in general, and the Romanian royal family in particular, cannot read the growing number of royal books being published in Romania.

I have a selection of Romanian-language books on the royal family (ones with lots of photos), and it is nice to see so many previously unseen photographs in these books.

Balcic was also a place that Princess Ileana and her husband, Archduke Anton of Austria, could bring their growing family to see their grandmother and revel in a bucket and spade holiday.

Diana Mandache's most recent book, Balcicul Reginei Maria (Curtea Veche) focuses on Queen Marie of Romania's summer palace at Balchik on the Black Sea.   The area caught the attention of Marie in 1921.   Her palace, always her favorite spot, was constructed between 1927-1936.  It was a comforting oasis, where Marie and her family and guests could rest and relax.

The selling point, at least for me, is the number of photographs, most of which were provided by the Romanian National Archives.  Amazing photographs of Marie, her sisters, Sandra and Victoria, and her daughter, Ileana and her husband and their young children.  One of the sweetest photos shows young King Peter, fresh out of the water, wrapped in a robe and towel, perhaps a little embarrassed to have his photo taken.

On another level, Balcic also offered a respite to young Peter and his mother.  In 1934, Peter's father, King Alexander I, was assassinated during a state visit to Marseilles.  Peter was only 11 years old when he succeeded to the Yugoslav throne.There are also superb photos of Marie's grandsons, the child kings, Michael and Peter.

There are also photos of Balcic's interiors and exteriors as well.  The text -- I can figure out bits and pieces -- is a history of Marie and her love for this palace.  She created a garden that honored the religions of the world. After her death in July 1938, Marie's heart was placed in a jar and buried at Balcic.   In 1940,  Balcic and the surrounding area was returned by treaty to Bulgaria, and arrangements were made to return Marie's heart to Romania.

One can understand Marie's fondness for Balcic, hundreds of miles from Bucharest, and the growing familial and political tensions.  After her eldest son, Carol, returned to Bucharest, as King,  Marie found peace and contentment in amid the gardens and temperate climate.

I cannot say enough good things about this book.  Diana Mandache is an excellent writer and historian.  She is fluent in English, and has written several English-language books, so there are no reasons that this book cannot be translated into an English-language book. (Yes, I am thinking of Ted Rosvall or Art Beeche, and I know both read this blog.)

You can order Balcicul Reginei Maria straight from the publisher, Curtea Veche.   The price is 50 Lei.  The postage was a further 53 Lei.  Total: 103.18 Lei.  So what did this cost me in dollars?  $26.00 for the book and airmail postage.   Definitely worth it.   The publisher's site is in Romanian but it is easy to navigate.  It is also safe to use credit cards.  

[update: the book has been reduced by 15% to 42.50 Leis ... a real bargain for a lovely book]

The publisher has available more than a dozen books on the Romanian royal family, and none are expensive, thanks to the exchange rate.

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