July 25, 2015

Royalty: Romania and Russia and Portugal.

There is a small link between the Russian Imperial Family and the Romanian Royal Family.  They are related, as with many of the royal houses, to each other.

There is more to the history of Romania than many people would imagine, and one of them is the links between the Royal Families.  Most people know of Queen Marie of Romania's links to the British Royal Family, but many might not know of the other two countries with royal links.  Here is a rough guide to the links of Russia, Romania and Portugal.

Queen Marie of Romania is the major link,  with her grandfather being Tsar Alexander II of Russia, and her mother a Grand Duchess in her own right.  Looking back for more links, there is another.

King Carol I of Romania, who was the first King of Romania, was related to the royal houses of Sweden, Baden, Bavaria and Russia through his maternal grandfather.  Empress Louise of Russia, whose husband was Tsar Alexander I, would have no surviving children. Carol I's mother was  Princess Josephine of Baden, and through her eldest son, there is a link to the remaining members of the Romania Royal family but not through Carol I.

This King would have no surviving children, as his only child, Marie would die at the age of three.

Because of this, the direct links to the Romanian Royal Family, as it is today, comes from Queen Marie of Romania.  Her husband, King Ferdinand also had links to Russia, and these are much loser than the other two.

However, this is where the more direct links to the Portuguese Royal Family comes in.  

His mother was Infanta Antonia of Portugal.  Her parents were King Ferdinand II of Portugal, born a prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha (who is related in kinship to many of the other royal families of Europe) and Queen Marie II of Portugal.  

King Ferdinand's paternal grandmother Josephine of Baden's daughter would also marry in the Portuguese royal family, becoming Queen Stephanie of Portugal, but she died without children.

Antonia would have four children. Carol I was the second eldest, and his older brother Leopold second son would become Ferdinand I of Romania.  Because King Ferdinand of Romania was of the Roman Catholic faith, Queen Marie of Romania lost her place in the British line of succession.  It is very interesting to note that the Romania Kings before Carol II of Romania were both Roman Catholics.

The links between Romania, Russia and Portugal are fasinating.

July 14, 2015

Rough Guide to Romania And Its History

Romania faces a large problem, no matter which way you try to figure out its land, there is something repetitive about its history.

The idea that there is a land which doesn't have the problems its neighbour to the south, Greece, or that it is about the same age as its neighbour.  It also has a repeat of similar problems which are faced with disposed royalty of the different lands.

palace of the parliament
Palace of the Parliament
Even now, when it comes to talking about Transylvania, and Romania, many of the Western European nations still fall back on the same themes.  The Independent, in a 2009 article would write about Transylvania as if many people hadn't a rough idea of either Romania, or Transylvania.  In a sense they are correct.

Here are a few rough guide to Romania facts:

1) Romania is similar in government style to France, which is a semi-presidential republic.  Its President is Klaus Iohannis, a German-Romanian from Sibiu won the office in the elections of 2014.  The Prime Minister is Victor Ponta, who has held this position since 2012.

2) There are several points of interest in Romania: Bran Castle, Peles Castle, the palace of parliament,  and Corvin Castle to name a few.  Of note, Bran Castle and Corvin Castle are both tourist attractions in Transylvania.  The palace of parliament, is noted as the world's largest civilian building, and was one of the many projects of the Ceausescu regime, before the fall of the communist government in 1989.  

3) There are many cultures or ethnic groups, represented in Romania:  The largest is Romanian at nearly 90% of the total population, the next is Hungarians, then Roma, then Ukrainians, followed by Germans.  These numbers have changed over the course of the last century.  Before the Second World War, there were more minorities in the area, which made up nearly 30% of the population.  By 1948, this number was down to 15%.

Territory of Romania
Romania, Territory in the 20th Century
4) Tourism in Romania makes up for 5% of the total GNP.  In some of the areas, this percentage is higher.  Cultural centres such as Sibiu and Alba Iulia, and Bucharest are the top main attractions to go to in Romania.

5) Romania, as many people know it now, was not how it was.  Before 1918, it was a formation of the union of two principalities, that of Wallachia and Moldavia. After 1918, Transylvania, Bukovina and Bessarabia.  Romania would lose some of its territory with the independence of Moldova (the eastern part of Moldavia) and the territory ceded to the Soviet Union, meant the loss of much of it territory.

6) The best known castle in Romania is Bran Castle.  This is a privately owned castle of the desendents of Queen Marie of Romania and her third daughter.  Made famous because of Bram Stoker, it was a Royal residence after 1919.  Queen Marie's heart is buried in this castle, her body lies alongside of her husband, King Ferdinand.

7) There were two official Queen Consorts of Romania, and four Kings with five separate reigns.  Queen Elizabeth of Romania, and her husband Carol I of the Romanians.  Next were King Ferdinand of the Romanians (nephew of Carol I) and Queen Marie of Romania, were both Kings and Queen consorts. (note that the Kings were Kings of the Romanians, the Queens of Romania.) Both women were married to their husbands during their reigns.  Next was Carol I and his wife, Queen Mother Helen.  Helen was never titled Queen of Romania by her husband.  King Michael would reign twice, once after the death of his grandfather, and then after the abdication of his father.  His wife, Queen Anne of Romania, is considered Queen Consort in pretence, as she was not married to the King before the forced abdication of Michael.  The Romanian royal family is not as respected, but King Michael is.

8) The three main principalities which make up Romania are: Transylvania, Wallachia, and Moldavia.   Of these, Moldavia split and the eastern part became the country of Moldova.

July 10, 2015

Casino Constanta, Romania

Overlooking the Black Sea, Casino Constanta sits empty awaiting the promise to return it to its former grandeur. Even its current state, a dilapidated sea side relic, tourists flock to the once grand casino.

Located on the Port of Constanta in Constanta, Romania, the Casino Constanta overlooks the busy shipping port that sees 55 million units of materials in total traffic per year. The Casino keeps watch over the incoming vessels with its dark, empty windows.

The project was commissioned by King Carol I who declared Romania a sovereign nation after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in 1866. During the time of King Carol I rule, the country was heavily influenced by the French, although he was German born royalty. King Carol I, himself, was related to the Bonaparte family. One of his grandmothers was the niece-in-law of Josephine Beauharnais, the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte. The French culture was influenced by Napoleon III of France, who enjoyed close political relations with King Carol I.

The Casino was built in the early 1900’s by Romanian architect Petre Antonescu.

Petre Antonescu, born in Romania in 1873, was a leading architect and personality in the country. Petre Antonescu was known for building the former administrative building to the Palace of Craiova, the City Hall Bucharest and an Investment Bank in Bucharest. Studying architecture in Paris, the Art Nouveau influence can been seen in every aspect of Casino Constanta’s interior and exterior.

Once complete in 1910, the Casino was a symbol for the city. But the golden age of the Casino was short lived. The building itself survived two world wars, however economically the Casino didn’t survive the hardships that the wars brought. The wealthy socialists that came to gamble and enjoy the music and dinning no longer frequent. By World War II the casino had closed.

Even in its skeletal, crumbling and faded condition the intricate columns, detailed frescos and the sea shell shaped windows still are impressive. The Casino was so extravagant that it attracted European royalty and celebrities and dubbed “The Monte Carlo” of Romania. The success and the praise for the building spurred a building in Monte Carlo, Monaco to be built in its image. 

To look at the monochromatic building from the outside you can see the lingering beauty. A faded sign on near the roof line the only remnants that it was once a gathering place to gamble. The building was also used as a temporary hospital during World War II, using its many ballrooms to house patients. Then when communism regime was in power the Casino Constanta was used as a restaurant. The doors were closed for use in 1990.

Many investors over the years have purchased the building to renovate and open, however the costs of the renovations kept mounting, forcing the owner to sell. The size and scope of the renovations for this building are large. With little done to repair the building over the years, coupled with the brutal weather from the sea, it will be a challenge to restore the Casino Constanta to its original lavishness.

The doors are currently closed to the public, this however is not enforced by the municipality. Hundreds of pictures of the delicate chandeliers, the falling plaster ceiling and the peeling paint are found all over the internet. The pictures show the detail of the trim on the walls that frame the hand painted details. There is a rotting wooden stage covered in fallen plaster, located in a ballroom that the walls have faded to a rusty red. The metal scroll work on the grand stair case that welcomes you when you enter and the dirty stain glass windows that are found throughout the building are still in amazing condition, considering their age.

As the fall of 2015 draws near, €10 million has been granted to the Constanta Municipality, the current owner of the property, to start restoring the landmark. The restoration will take years to complete. At this time there is no word on yet what the building will become once the renovations are complete. But speculation online that supporters of the site would like to see it turn into a museum.

The days for Casino Constanta to spin the roulette wheel have past, however turning this architectural treasure into a space that invites the public into this beautiful building and shares its history with its visitors is long overdue.