Tuesday, September 19, 2023

The birth of a princess who would become a queen


Prince Rene and Princess Margrethe of Bourbon-Parma with their children, Jacques, Anne, Michel & Andre

 In the sixteenth arrondissement in Paris, Princess Margrethe of Bourbon-Parma gave birth to a daughter, on September 18, 1923. This was the second child for Margrethe, born Princess Margrethe of Denmark, and her husband, Prince Rene of Bourbon-Parma, who married in Copenhagen on June 9, 1921.  A son, Prince Jacques, was born on his parents' first anniversary.   

The infant princess was the granddaughter of Prince Valdemar of Denmark and Princess Marie of Orléans and Roberto I, Duke of Parma and Infanta Maria Antonia of Portugal.   She was named Anne Antoinette Francoise Charlotte Zita Marguerite although it was not until 1999 that Anne learned she had six, rather than five names.  She obtained a copy of her birth certificate for her eldest daughter, Princess Margarita of Romania.  Much to surprise, Anne learned that she also had the name Marguerite, the French version of her mother's name.   Margarita was named for her maternal grandmother.

One of Anne's childhood playmates was her cousin, Prince Philip of Greece, and Denmark.

Prince Philip second from left 

Within the family, Anne was always called Nane, a nickname coined by her older brother, Prince Jacques.   The family lived in Paris until the Second World War.  They were staying in the then-unoccupied south of France as there were fears that Prince Rene would be arrested and sent to a concentration camp.  Rene's brother Prince Xavier was arrested and sent to a concentration camp.   Prince and Princess Rene with their three sons, Jacques, Michel (1926), and Andre (1928) were the first to leave for Britanny.  Anne stayed with her cousin, Princess Isabelle, daughter of Prince Sixte of Bourbon-Parma, with Isabelle's grandfather, the Duke of Doudeauville, near Les Mans.   Princess Anne did not stay long, as her uncle Prince Gaetan of Bourbon-Parma, arrived to take her to Spain.

Anne's parents and brothers were also traveling by a separate route.   Although Anne had no news of her parents for some weeks, she was comforted by her father's words: "We will all meet down there."

Anne and her uncle arrived in San Sebastian, where the young princess soon spotted her aunt Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg, and her children.  Luxembourg was under German occupation and Charlotte, who was married to Prince Rene's brother, Prince Felix, and her family, were also refugees.  They were en route to Portugal.

Marlene A Eilers Koenig Collection


After more than a month, Anne received a telephone call from her father, who said that he and her younger brothers, Michel, and Andre, were unable to cross the border to San Sebastian.   Anne crossed the border to see her family, then returned briefly to San Sebastian to pack her belongings and rejoin her father and younger brothers in France.   Margrethe and Jacques were already in Portugal.

While in Cannes, Prince Rene was able to obtain the necessary papers to travel through Spain to Portugal and join Margrethe and Jacques.   By the autumn of 1940, Anne and her family arrived in the United States.  Michel and Andre were sent to a Catholic school in Montreal.  Princess Margrethe "found work with a Danish hatter called Erik" and Prince Rene was employed by a gas company.

Anne attended the Parson School of Art, completing the three-year program in two years.   She also found work as a shopgirl in Bloomingdale's. She returned to Europe in September 1943 to train as a nurse and a mechanic.  The princess acknowledged that while in New York City, she learned to "take a car apart and how to put it back together."

After the war was over, Anne and her family spent time in Denmark, as her parents were settling into a new home, having sold their Paris house.  Anne and her brothers were all now adults, finding their own way in the world.  Anne returned to Paris where she spent time with her Luxembourg cousins.  She was studying sculpture at the Ecole du Louvre.  In November 1947, Prince Rene and Princess Margrethe were invited to the wedding of Margrethe's first cousin, Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark to Princess Elizabeth, heiress presumptive to the British throne.

Although Anne was not invited to the wedding, her parents asked her to join them in London.   At the time, Anne had no idea why her parents wanted her to come to London.  She wrote in her memoir. Anne of Romania A War, An Exile. A Life: "One of the main reasons why my parents were so keen for me to go with them to London was precisely so that I might meet the young King of Romania. But I suspected nothing at that point, absolutely nothing!"

She had tried to oppose her parents' invitation, "on the pretext that I was too busy with my art classes."

The first meeting between Princess Anne and King Michael of Romania occurred at Claridge's.  Anne went up to her mother's room only to find a "room full of people," including Queen Helen of Romania, and her only child, "a tall handsome young man in Romanian Air Force uniform.  It was him!"

They would meet again at the Luxembourg embassy dinner, a soirée, which took place "a day or two" before Elizabeth's wedding.  Anne had not expected Michael to have attended "a relatively informal event, organized for people of our age."

Princess Anne and King Michael spent the week together, taking long walks in the "streets and parks," or going to the theatre or movies.  

  Embed from Getty Images 

 There were also family dinners at Claridge's, where both families could have a "private, intimate atmosphere."

 Anne finally realized that her meeting with Michael had been "meticulously arranged in advance" by both families.    An engagement soon followed, but there would be further hurdles to overcome, which were complicated by Michael's forced abdication on December 30, 1947, and the Pope's refusal to recognize the marriage because Michael would not agree to raise their children Roman Catholic.  In March 1948, the Pope denied a dispensation for the marriage.


Anne and Michael married in Athens on June 10, 1948. 

Embed from Getty Images    


Anne of Romania A War, An Exile, A Life was published in 2002 by the Romanian Cultural Foundation Publishing House.  A second edition was published by Editura Humanitas in 2006.  Both editions were published in English and Romanian

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