The Telegraph - August 1, 2016
Queen Anne of Romania, born September 18 1923, died August 1 2016
Princess Anne of Romania, who has died aged 92, was queen of a country whose language she did not speak and on whose soil she did not step until she was nearly 70.
Related to most of the royal families of Europe, and wife of the exiled and troubled King Michael of Romania, she was content to live the life of a Swiss housewife. Her great simplicity and adaptability were invaluable attributes in her marriage to a serious-minded man who had been dispossessed of his country and the duties which gave his life purpose.
His career took her from a chicken farm in Hertfordshire to suburban life in Switzerland, and then threw the pair both back into the public eye after the overthrow of Ceausescu in Romania in 1989.
Princess Anne Antoinette Françoise Charlotte Bourbon-Parma was born in Paris on September 18 1923, the only daughter of Prince René of Bourbon-Parma and Princess Margarethe of Denmark. Anne could count both the last king of France, Charles X, and the first king of the French, Louis Philippe I, among her ancestors. On the maternal side, she was the great-granddaughter of King Christian IX of Denmark.
Her childhood holidays were spent at the Villa Pianore in Lucca with the Dowager Duchess of Parma, and at Castle Bernstorff, Copenhagen, with Prince Waldemar of Denmark. Here she would sometimes see her great-aunts, Queen Alexandra of Great Britain, the Csarina Maria Feodorovna of Russia, and the Duchess Thyra of Brunswick, grandmother of Queen Fredericka of Greece.
After the German invasion of France, however, her family fled to New York and were forced to earn a living. Her father found employment with a domestic gas company while her mother made hats. Anne worked for a time as a shop assistant. Later she enlisted as an ambulance driver in the Free French army and saw service in North Africa and Italy before landing at St Maxime in the south of France and following the Allied advance. She was awarded the Croix de Guerre.
She met her future husband in London in November 1947, at the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Philip of Greece. Their introduction was arranged. One of her brothers took Michael to the cinema and afterwards returned to the family suite at Claridge’s where the princess was waiting to receive him. Despite the formality of their meeting, King Michael claimed a coup de foudre. He was charmed, he said, by her frank regard, her bold smile and her simplicity.
The next day they visited St James’s Palace together to view the wedding presents before going sightseeing and shopping. A friend noticed that the young King looked remarkably relaxed in her company. He proposed to her within days. Unwilling to commit herself after such a short acquaintance, she at first declined, but accepted an invitation to accompany him and his mother, Queen Helen, to Switzerland.
There, after a series of long walks and drives, she agreed to marry him. Their wedding arrangements were to run less smoothly. King Michael, who could not marry without the consent of Romania’s parliament, returned to Bucharest in December 1947.
When the Communist leader, Petru Groza, sought an audience with Michael and his mother to discuss “an intimate family matter”, they presumed that he wished to discuss the marriage. In fact he had come to force the King to abdicate, and on December 30 1947 Michael fled to exile in Switzerland.
Anne was now put under great strain. The Romanian government was keen to imply that Michael had abdicated because the government had opposed his marriage, and it was thought better that she should not be seen with him until he had a chance to clarify the situation. It was not until a few weeks later that she was able to join him at a skiing party.
There was also the matter of religion. Anne’s family was mostly Catholic, while Michael’s was Orthodox. The Vatican insisted that any children must be brought up Catholic, while the Romanian constitution decreed that all royal children should be brought up in the Orthodox Church. Despite the efforts of Anne’s mother and her future mother-in-law, who went to Rome to try to come to an arrangement, the Pope remained inflexible.
The plight of the young couple captured the imagination of the press and Anne was besieged by reporters. She was particularly disturbed by speculative articles about her state of mind. The marriage had been fixed for June 1948 in Greece, but further Vatican pronouncements brought hesitations, postponement of the ceremony – and Anne to the edge of nervous breakdown.
After a series of family meetings, she was eventually married to King Michael on June 10 in the Royal Palace at Athens as guests of Prince Paul of Greece, Queen Helen’s brother. Anne’s family was represented only by her Protestant uncle, Prince Erik of Denmark, who gave her away. As Catholics her parents could not attend the ceremony. King Paul accorded the couple all the privileges due to their royal status and they were married in the presence of the Greek government and the Orthodox hierarchy.
They spent the first few days of their honeymoon at King Paul’s summer estate at Tatoi, north of Athens, after which they went to Locarno. But the curiosity of visitors to their hotel forced them to flee to Queen Helen’s villa in Italy.
Years later, during a visit to Monaco, where they stayed with Prince Rainier, Princess Grace told Anne about some friends from different religious backgrounds who had recently married. The Church had relaxed its stance, she told her. Twenty years after their first wedding, Anne was able to marry her husband in a simple private ceremony following Catholic rites.
After their first marriage they rented a house in Hertfordshire from a friend. They became market gardeners, then started a poultry farm. But the venture did not work out and they left Britain after four years.
In 1956 they moved to Versoix on Lake Geneva. Michael, who was obliged to earn his living, worked first as a test pilot for William Lear, of Lear Jets, then started an electronics company; he also became a stockbroker, and represented several European and American firms.
Anne brought up their five daughters, Margarita, Elena, Irina, Sophie and Marie, to speak English and French and essentially lived the life of a suburban housewife. She did the shopping and collected her children from school when they were young. Her household was a relaxed one, where guests often found themselves being entertained in the kitchen. She wrote a book with her husband on growing gentians and was for many years a keen supporter of the Moral Rearmament cause.
During the long years of communism, many Romanians felt disillusioned by Michael’s avoidance of any discussion about his position as King and, although he followed events in Romania closely, he did not really keep in touch with émigré politics or participate in émigré social life. Many felt that a wall had been built round the king and some thought that it was of his wife’s construction.
Her dislike of protocol and unhappy experiences in the public eye as a young bride made such an explanation plausible. Yet when the revolution came in 1989 and her husband was allowed to return to his country once more, she had to adapt to the renewed attention that this brought.
In 1992 Anne and Michael visited Romania for three days; it was her first visit to the country. From 1993 to 1997, however, after the election of a more hostile government, Michael was refused entry, so Anne visited the country on several occasions in his stead. Later such restrictions were removed; the government put at their disposal the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest, and they were able to recover some properties, including SÄvârÅin Castle and PeleÅ Castle.
In June 2008, the couple celebrated their diamond wedding with three days of events in Romania attended by members of European royal houses, representatives of the Romanian government and members of the diplomatic corps.
Queen Anne’s husband and daughters survive her.
Letter from His Eminence, Archbishop Nathaniel to King Michael