Monday, May 25, 2020

Interview with HM Margareta, Custodian of the Crown

@HM Margareta (all photos)

Thank to HM Margareta, Custodian of the Crown, for agreeing to an interview and in providing the photographs..  As many of my readers know, in January I was in Bucharest for four days to attend the celebrations honoring Her Majesty's first visit to Romania and the establishment of her foundation

Where are you staying while staying in Săvârsin during the quarantine?

Săvârsin House is our home during the mid-summer months and winter celebrations – Christmas and New Year mainly. But now, exceptionally, we have spent over 12 weeks here, sheltering during the pandemic.  As it is for everyone, we have passed through a difficult and worrying time, but our village is quiet and fairly remote, and we were very lucky to be able to be here during the Spring months of March, April and May and work every day in our park, improving it, planting, cultivating vegetables and flowers, and see it all flourish and blossom, something we were rarely able to do before.
photos at Savrasin were taken in March & April

Săvârsin is an estate established first in 1650, it underwent several transformations and renovations over the centuries, then became a royal home in 1942; my father and grandmother Queen Helen spent time here in those difficult War years.

What have you been doing during the quarantine? Are you able to keep in touch with your charities and other organizations? Is there a particular charity that you would like to talk about that you are involved in Romania? 

Yes, I am doing this daily. Communications by Zoom and the Internet have been a blessing these days.  Together, Prince Radu and I are royal patrons of about 50 associations, organizations, and institutions. We try to encourage, inspire, and help all of them.  Of course, the Red Cross ( and the Margareta of Romania Royal Foundation ( are in touch with me every day.  We have a very strong, precise, and focused activity during the COVID-19 crisis.

The Margareta of Romania Royal Foundation (MRRF) is the authority on the elderly in Romania through three decades of investment in programs for seniors.  This experience means that the Foundation is well placed to mobilize nationwide support for the elderly in this time of crisis. We are focusing on these issues with a two-pronged approach; emotional and practical support for the elderly AND mobilization of funds and volunteers:

Our Elderly Helpline, launched in 2015, has provided information and help to thousands of elderly people – to date we have received and responded to 43882 calls - on a wide range of topics.  In the light of the crisis, two new services have been added, namely psychological counselling and emotional support, and the possibility to place orders for home delivery.  The counselling service is provided by 5 dedicated volunteers so far, but we will need to recruit more.

Secondly, mobilization of funds through a nationwide campaign. Thus the FRMR Special Fund for the Elderly is a dynamic vehicle for fundraising from both individuals and companies – the funds raised will be used to support elderly through necessary products or food for those facing poverty, material and financial support for those now homebound, social services provided by small NGO’s or offered by citizen initiatives acting now within their communities for serving elderly people.

As President of the Romanian Red Cross, can you tell me about how the organization is coping with the current situation?

Our Red Cross is an organization with branches in every county, every town, and in many rural areas of the country. It numbers over 6 000 volunteers and covers basically the whole territory of Romania. We have a large number of actions every day, focused especially on disaster relief, people in need, children in rural areas, elderly people, and those who need assistance. For the coronavirus crisis we have been particularly active and have undertaken far-reaching activities.  In the context of the spread of COVID-19 on the Romanian territory, the Romanian Red Cross was designated at the governmental level as the main collection point, both for financial donations and in kind.

Through our national fundraising campaign "Romania Saves Romania", we have collected so far (May 20, 2020), over 6,700,000 euros in cash, and 1,300,000 euros worth of products. We purchased equipment and materials for hundreds of hospitals and are helping everywhere it is possible. We obtained and distributed over a million masks, gloves, food, medicine, first aid, medical equipment, ventilators, ICU monitors, a mobile intensive care unit ATI, test kits.

There are not many articles in English, I have included a few here to give an idea of the scale of our actions.

How are you passing and Prince Radu passing the time?  It does look like you are having good weather.

We spend a lot of “office-time” with our staff at Elisabeta Palace, at the Red Cross and my foundation and trying to keep updated with the developments both in Romania and the Republic of Moldova. I am in touch with the political authorities and my Household keeps a very close touch with different ministries of our Government since some of our projects are common.

How has the Romanian government responded to the COVID-19? What are the rules for the lockdown?  What is open, what is closed. Are you able to get food deliveries, go shopping, go for walks outside the property? I am loving the photos of the flowers on the twitter account.

Romania responded to the crisis pretty much identically to the other European Union countries. Much of our legislation is in accord with EU regulations. Moreover, Romania has handled the crisis quite well, from the very beginning and so the results are good, but we are still cautious and worried.

Up to now Romania has taken a 2-step approach to COVID-19. For the first step (“state of emergency”), a significant lockdown was implemented.  Between mid-March and mid-May, leaving the house was forbidden except with a written declaration for the reasons for doing so, which needed to be justified from a shortlist (shopping, caring for the sick, volunteering, blood donor, professional reasons). All public-facing businesses were closed, except essential ones such as grocery stores, pet food, pharmacies, and banks. Most institutions adopted a no-public-schedule approach, with communications done only via electronic or postal means. Courts were suspended in most cases.

Food delivery is possible and has been functioning as a lifeline (both for consumers and as a provider of mini-jobs). Walks were permitted, around one’s home only.

One significant outcome was that the state was pushed towards e-government, something which is being kept after 15 May as well.

Since May 15th, under the new “state of alert”, all personal activities within a city are allowed without any written declaration. A statement of purpose is needed for inter-city travel. Many businesses have re-opened, except for the higher-risk ones such as theaters, sports with public, gyms, restaurants, and bars (except for take-out). Significant measures include the obligation to wear a mask in enclosed public spaces as well as many means of social distancing. People’s temperature is measured at the entrance of most public buildings.

As for us, we do not go shopping, we sometimes have food deliveries. Not very often though. We are quite self-sufficient here; we have a kitchen garden and have some supplies from the village itself.

 How were you able to celebrate the Orthodox Holy Week and Easter celebrations and services?

We could not attend the Easter Mass since churches were closed. We had a very unusual celebration, in solitude and I must say that it was a very spiritual, uplifting, and quiet experience. The priest of the village came to bring us the Holy Light in the evening and then, at midnight, according to the Orthodox tradition, we eat Easter eggs painted in red and some cozonac (an Easter cake, a sort of Romanian “Panettone”). And "Pascua”, another traditional cake for Easter, with white cheese and raisins.

What is the first thing you and Prince Radu want to do, once the self-isolation is lifted? When do you think you will be able to return to Elisabeta Palace?

Our work with the Household will continue, but, we hope, from Elisabeta Palace, where we hope to be able to return in mid-June. We have cancelled our external agenda for the rest of the year, except for 2 visits (one to The Netherlands, another one to the Middle East), which are scheduled in November and December 2020. We will have to see what happens before a final decision can be made of course. Inside the country we cannot travel much yet, public meetings are not allowed for the moment, but we might start our working meetings at Elisabeta Palace, observing all the precautions.

Unfortunately, we had to postpone a marvelous celebration at Pelesh Castle, with USA citizens living in Romania, that I wanted very much to host in June, when we celebrate 140 years of diplomatic relations between your country and Romania, established in 1880, during the time of King Carol I and President Rutherford B. Hayes. We will hopefully schedule the event for the end of this year.

 What is your reaction to the government’s decision to have a 49-year lease on the estate for the Royal Family’s estate? Was this a surprise or a decision that was under discussion since after the death of the King. I realize that the original agreement ended with the King’s death.

Background: Before 1947 Elisabeta Palace itself belonged to the aunt of King Michael, Princess Elisabeta of Romania, Queen of the Hellenes, not to my father.  After, it was nationalized during communism. After 1989, the King did not ask for it to be restituted, as it never belonged to him personally, so it remained public state property. In 2001, it was assigned to King Michael as his residence, as a former head of state under a Romanian law (which covers former presidents as well). Following the passing of my father, there have been various discussions with the authorities as to how the Elisabeta Palace could continue to serve the nation by remaining an official residence of the Royal Family.

Current: The solution that was found was that the “Royal Household Association” (which is an NGO that is part of the “Royal ecosystem” of legal entities, along with the Margareta of Romania Royal Foundation,  the Royal Collection Foundation etc.), which has a long existence and significant activities (being the institutional partner for all public activities of the Royal Family) was recently recognized as being “of public utility” (meaning its purposes serve the nation).

Under Romanian law, such NGOs may receive, for free, public buildings to undertake their activities. The Elisabeta Palace was therefore allocated to it for free, for the term of 49 years (maximum allowed by law). In exchange, the Royal Household Association will have certain transparency and reporting obligations annually on its activities, which will appear in the Official Gazette. This decision will allow the Royal Family to continue its public activities in Bucharest as before.

 Romania is now seen by many as a functioning monarchy within a republic. How do you see your role in continuing the growth of the Royal Family’s role within the country? The celebrations of January seem so long ago now but were just four months ago. The three-day event was well reported in the Romanian media.

I have been blessed to be able to serve my country for 30 years so far, without any interruption. I suppose that this is one of the reasons the Royal House is so highly regarded by the Nation, especially by the young generations. My father’s service to the country was constant, long-lasting, and exemplary.  Many of my countrymen considered him to be the most beloved Romanian of our times.  And last but not least, The Romanian Crown is a „young” institution. Created 154 years ago, it encompassed the modern part of our history. Therefore, people consider the Royal House as an instrument of democracy and development, more than a medieval, old fashioned way of leadership.

And, I am sure that people understand better and better how important it is to represent the State institutions with political neutrality and to unite through balance and impartiality.

Indeed, some call Romania a “functional monarchy” meaning that the Head of the Royal House has all the public functions of a monarch, although not the constitutional ones (such as the head of the military).

The model for this work, from Royal Patronages (including state institutions), Royal events, scholarships, charitable activities, international relations work, and more importantly, maintaining the symbolism and meaning of the Crown, comes from the period before 1947. Gradually, the Royal Family has re-established its presence and work in Romania, covering most of the areas that the Crown touched before 1947.

Today, this is done in partnership with the Romanian State, which recognizes the positive impact of the Royal Family’s activities.

What would be your five (or more) favorite places to recommend visitors to see when traveling to Romania.

The orthodox monasteries in Northern Moldova and Bucovina, the Danube Delta, the Saxon villages in Transylvania, Pelesh Castle, and the very historical and culturally rich cities of Cluj, Ia i, Timisoara, Sibiu, Brasov.  There are also other fascinating places to go (the Carpathians, Maramure region, the Black Sea).  There is a really wonderful series called “Wild Carpathia” which you should definitely see! Fabulous.  Both the Prince of Wales and I took part in it.


Unknown said...

Thank you for this lovely interview! For many of us, Her Majesty Margareta is our QUEEN, the legitimate Sovereign of the country because, as we all know, in Romania the monarchy was NEVER legally abolishned and the republic was established in an illegally way and this thing keeps going today, after 72 years. For us, our Queen Margareta represents the legitimacy of the country and she is our hope for a better tommorow. That is why you could hear people saying "Long live the Queen" in Athenee Palace in January 18th and in all occasions since King Michael died. God bless our Queen Margareta!

Unknown said...

we all know that "here majesty" doesn't go with "custodian of the crown", which you should know as historian, as it is an inventited title. It is either HM The Queen or HRH The Crown Princess/The Princess. Please advise! Kind regards,Tudor

Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

Her Majesty will not use Queen as the monarchy has not been restored. The usage has been recognized by the government

- said...

The Government accepted the Crown Princess' claim to the style, which does not mean it is odd...

Unknown said...

Am vizionat deunazi interviul Majestatilor Sale de Craciun.Au fost elogiate realizarile facute de Rumania de la"revolutie".Multe. Eu insa am vazut la stiri sate fara scoli,drumuri bune,multe emigrari,oameni batuti la proteste etc.Un Presedinte"papalapte"care aproba o analfabeta ca Prim Ministru si un sef de Partid la inchisoare.MSale se referau poate la cele facute de Casa Regala si nu de Rumania.Solutia este doar MS Margareta pe Tronul Rumaniei si un PrimMinistru adevarat educat cu Ministrii de breasla in jur.