Elisabeth of Wied

Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise of Wied (29 December 1843  2 March 1916) was the Queen of Romania as the wife of King Carol I, widely known by her literary name of Carmen Sylva.

Elisabeth of Wied
Queen consort of Romania
Tenure15 March 1881  10 October 1914
Coronation10 May 1881
Princess consort of Romania
Tenure15 November 1869  15 March 1881
Born29 December 1843
Schloss Monrepos (Neuwied)
Died2 March 1916 (aged 72)
Curtea de Argeş or Bucharest
SpouseCarol I of Romania
IssuePrincess Maria of Romania
Full name
Pauline Elisabeth Ottilie Luise
FatherHermann, Prince of Wied
MotherPrincess Marie of Nassau

Family and early life

Born at "Schloss Monrepos" in Neuwied, she was the daughter of Hermann, Prince of Wied, and his wife Princess Marie of Nassau.

Elisabeth had artistic leanings; her childhood featured seances and visits to the local asylum for the mentally ill.[1]


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.[1] 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".[1] Bertie was also shown photographs of Elisabeth, but professed himself unmoved and declined to give them a second glance.[2] 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.

In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, also known as the Romanian War of Independence, she devoted herself to the care of the wounded, and founded the Decoration of the Cross of Queen Elisabeth to reward distinguished service in such work. She fostered the higher education of women in Romania, and established societies for various charitable objects.[3] She was the 835th Dame of the Order of Queen Maria Luisa. She died at Curtea de Argeş or Bucharest.

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.[3]

Literary activity

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:[3]

  • Her earliest publications were "Sappho" and "Hammerstein", two poems which appeared at Leipzig in 1880.
  • In 1888 she received the Prix Botta, 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:[3]

  • 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:[3]

  • 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 Văcărescu'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.[3]

Văcărescu Affair

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 Văcărescu. 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.[4]

Titles, styles and honours

Styles of
Queen Elisabeth of Romania
Reference styleHer Majesty
Spoken styleYour Majesty


  • 29 December 1843  15 November 1869: Her Serene Highness Princess Elisabeth of Wied
  • 15 November 1869  15 March 1881: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Romania
  • 15 March 1881  10 October 1914: Her Majesty The Queen of Romania
  • 10 October 1914  2 March 1916: Her Majesty Queen Elisabeth of Romania


National honours

Foreign honours




  1. Pakula, p. 144.
  2. Hibbert, pp. 40-41.
  3.  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Elizabeth of Rumania". Encyclopædia Britannica. 9 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 286.
  4. 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).
  5. Queen Elisabeth wearing the Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown and The Decoration of the Cross of Queen Elisabeth
  6. "Ordinul Carol I". Familia Regala.
  7. "Romanian Personalities - Carmen Sylva". www.romanianculture.org.
  8. "Image". 4.bp.blogspot.com. Retrieved 2015-09-04.
  9. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/b9/d2/81/b9d281dc62b582636503720fdb425b74.jpg
  10. Guía Oficial de España. Guía Oficial de España. 1887. p. 169. Retrieved 21 March 2019.
  11. Joseph Whitaker (1897). An Almanack for the Year of Our Lord ... J. Whitaker. p. 110.
  12. Hof- und Staats-Handbuch des Königreich Württemberg (1907), "Königliche Orden" p. 136
  13. "Villa Carmen Sylva - VVV Zeeland". VVV Zeeland.
  14. "C'è un cartiglio in Villa Sylva Svelerà il mistero della regina?".


  • Eugen Wolbe, "Carmen Sylva", Leipzig, 1933
  • Gabriel Badea-Päun, Carmen Sylva - Uimitoarea Regină Elisabeta a României, 1843–1916, Bucharest, Humanitas, 2003, second edition in 2007, third edition in 2008; ISBN 978-973-50-1101-7
  • Gabriel Badea-Päun, Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouÿ (1842–1923) à la cour royale de Roumanie, dans Bulletin de la Société de l'Historie de l'Art Français, Année 2005, Paris, 2006, pp. 257–81.
  • Hibbert, Christopher (2007). Edward VII: The Last Victorian King. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Pakula, Hannah (1995). An Uncommon Woman: The Empress Frederick, Daughter of Queen Victoria, Wife of the Crown Prince of Prussia, Mother of Kaiser Wilhelm. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84216-5.
  • Zimmermann, Silvia Irina: Der Zauber des fernen Königreichs. Carmen Sylvas „Pelesch-Märchen“, (Magisterarbeit Universität Marburg 1996), ibidem-Verlag, Stuttgart, 2011, 180 pages; ISBN 978-3-8382-0195-5.
  • 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; ISBN 978-3-8382-0185-6.
Elisabeth of Wied
House of Wied
Cadet branch of the House of Wied
Born: 29 December 1843 Died: 2 March 1916
Romanian royalty
Preceded by
Elena Rosetti
Princess consort of Romania
Title abandoned
New title Queen consort of Romania
Succeeded by
Marie of Edinburgh
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