Marthe Bibesco - Before World War I

Before World War I

Despite her wide circle of friends, and the birth of her daughter Valentine in 1903, Marthe was bored. In 1905, when George was sent by the Romanian king Carol I on a diplomatic mission to the Mozzafar-al-Din Shah of Iran, she eagerly embarked on the trip, recording her observations in a journal. Along the way, she stopped at Yalta, where she encountered the exiled Russian writer Maxim Gorki. It was in 1908, at the suggestion of Maurice Barrès, that Marthe completed and published her impressions of her Persian trip. The French critics and writers were enthusiastic and amazingly complimentary. The travel memoirs, Les Huit Paradis ("The Eight Paradises"), launched her on a lifelong career as a successful writer of both nonfiction and novels. She became the toast of Belle Epoque Paris, moving easily among the literary, aristocratic and political power elites. She was awarded the Prix de l'Academie Française and met Marcel Proust, who sent her a letter praising her book: You are not only a splendid writer, Princess, but a sculptor of words, a musician, a purveyor of scents, a poet.

Back in Bucharest, in 1908, Marthe was introduced to the German Kronprinz, Wilhelm. Wilhelm (who, despite Marthe's references to him as " the III", was never to succeed Wilhelm II) was married, but he nevertheless wrote warmly affectionate letters to Marthe for the following fifteen years. She and her husband were invited to Germany, in the autumn of the same year, as Wilhelm's personal guests, visiting Berlin, Potsdam, Weimar, and taking part in the Imperial regatta at Kiel. Marthe was awarded the supreme honor of accompanying Wilhelm in the imperial limousine, as it passed through the Brandenburg Gate, an entitlement otherwise reserved to members of the Imperial family. He would also try to involve Marthe in the international relations of pre-war Europe, secretly asking her to be the quiet mediator between France and Germany on the Alsace-Lorraine issue.

Among the European nobility, divorce was social death, but dalliance was definitely not. While Marthe and George continued in what was sometimes actually a mutually supportive partnership, they pursued their own interests. The French prince Charles-Louis de Beauvau-Craon fell in love with Marthe, an affair that lasted for a decade. In Paris, she also encountered the Roman Catholic Abbé Mugnier, who converted her from her Eastern Orthodox faith, and she began an extensive, frank correspondence with him that was to last 36 years.

Exhausted by so many sentimental disappointments, Marthe withdrew to Algeria, then part of the French colonial Empire, to stay with an aunt of her husband (Jeanne Bibesco), thinking about divorcing George and espousing the prince de Beauvau-Craon. Still, she felt she could not do it; George would prove to be surprisingly generous and understanding, giving her the Mogoşoaia Palace (Mogosoëa in certain French renderings) in 1912.

A couple of months before World War I, Marthe visited Spain, following the footsteps of Chateaubriand, her favorite French writer. In May, she was back in her country to greet Russian Emperor Nicholas II and his family, who were visiting the country after being invited by Princess Marie, wife of Prince Ferdinand.

Read more about this topic:  Marthe Bibesco

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