According to most fairy tales, after facing a few trials and tribulations, princesses have a habit of living happily ever after. Princess Elisabeth of Romania certainly faced her share of obstacles—but her happily ever after came far too late.
1. She Had An Unfit Mother
Elisabeth of Romania was born on October 12, 1894, and her parents were both very important people. Her father was the German-born Crown Prince Ferdinand and her mother was Crown Princess Marie—who was British-born. Morals in Romania at the time were laxer than in the UK, and Princess Marie took advantage of this fact, which meant she had a lot of lovers.
This was great for her, but some people thought it made her a bad mother.
2. She Needed A Role Model
The King of Romania at the time was Elisabeth’s grand-uncle King Carol I, and he wasn’t so fond of Elisabeth’s mother’s behavior. He took one look at Princess Marie’s long list of lovers and decided that he needed someone with a strong moral fiber to raise Elisabeth and her older brother.
He looked around for someone who could be a good example to the children—and made an astonishing choice.
3. They Carted Her Off
Although the king searched high and low for appropriate guardians for Elisabeth, he couldn’t find one that would fill the bill. Soon after she was born, Elisabeth and her older brother found themselves removed from their parents and deposited at another address: that of the king and his wife.
The king decided there was no one better to raise the kids than his wife and himself. And so, Elisabeth and her brother Prince Carol spent their formative years with them—but it ended up being a disaster, especially for Elisabeth.
4. There Were Constant Battles
Even though King Carol raised the children, their mother still managed to get her two cents in about how to be a parent. This created a hostile environment for Elisabeth and her brother.
There were numerous arguments between the man raising Elisabeth and her biological mother. King Carol was very old-fashioned, and he feared that Princess Marie’s modern liberal values would corrupt the children. To make matters worse, the king had a favorite.
5. She Came Second
King Carol had never managed to have a son of his own, so he took a special liking to Elisabeth’s brother. This meant that not only was Elisabeth deprived of her mother’s love and attention, but she was also seen as not as important as her brother.
The King doted on Carol and spent less time with Elisabeth. Considering this unsupportive household, you had to wonder: What kind of woman would Elisabeth grow up to be?
6. She Was Unappealing
Because of her upbringing, Elisabeth grew into a rather unappealing character. Elisabeth was at times incredibly cold and at other times showed a rather fiery temper. Even her own mother called her vulgar. None of these traits would be ideal when it would be time to attract a mate.
However, when it came to being royal, marriage proposals seemed to appear out of the blue and from surprising sources.
7. They Kept It In The Family
Romania had gotten cozy with Greece during the Balkan conflicts, so it wasn’t surprising when a proposal of marriage came from Prince George of Greece. While it sounded like Elisabeth would be married to someone from a very different culture, there was a surprise.
George was Elisabeth’s first cousin. As it goes with all things royal, you never know where you’ll find a familiar face—or even a relative you forgot you had. Elisabeth received the proposal and then replied in a very rude way.
8. She Didn’t Hold Back
Elisabeth had met her cousin, Prince George, a few years before he proposed. Elisabeth had made a lovely impression—people said she was a classic beauty after all. It seemed, however, that Prince George had failed to do the same. Elisabeth turned down his proposal because she thought he was too small and his manners were too English. But that wasn’t all.
9. She Burned A Bridge
After rejecting him, Elisabeth wasn’t through with her insults to George. She wanted to make sure that this so-called Prince knew that he wasn’t the man for her. Her famous quote about her would-be suitor was this: “God began the prince but forgot to finish him”. Ouch. Elisabeth had definitely burned this bridge. But hang on tight: This romance was far from over.
10. She Dispensed Kindness
Elisabeth had avoided marriage and was happily single. She spent WWI helping members of the army, who were in the hospital because of injuries. Elisabeth devoted her time to this endeavor and consoled the injured men with two things: kind words and packs of smokes. I hope there was also some actual treatment for these poor guys.
By the time WWI ended, Elisabeth and her mother realized something tragic.
11. She Was Desperate
Elisabeth was 24 years old and still unmarried. Elisabeth’s mother—now Queen Marie of Romania—had three daughters and they all needed husbands. She carted them off to the Peace Conference in Paris, aiming to find each of them a mate.
By this time, Elisabeth was 25 years old and, in her own mother’s words, overweight and not the brightest light. With so much competition for men, how would Elisabeth find a husband?
12. It Was Awkward
The Paris Peace Conference was a bust—at least regarding Elisabeth finding a husband. The queen packed up her daughters and headed home. It was a long trip, and the four women decided to make a pit stop in Switzerland. As it turned out there was another royal family hanging out in Switzerland—the Greek one.
Of course that included Elisabeth’s cousin—and insulted suitor—Prince George. Can you say awkward?
13. He Held No Grudges
As it turned out, Prince George didn’t hold any grudges against Elisabeth at all. In fact, for some reason, he still wanted to marry her. Elisabeth, with her advanced age, suddenly felt that her options were now very limited. She decided to give Prince George a chance and said yes to his proposal. But she had no clue what she was signing herself up for.
14. He Wasn’t The Best Catch
While it was clear that Elisabeth and her family were just passing through Switzerland, what were George and his family doing there? As it turned out, they were in exile.
Following WW I, the king found himself no longer wanted and exiled himself. George should have been the next monarch, but his pro-German views made him an unpopular choice. George’s brother Alexander was all they had left, so he became king. So what had Elisabeth agreed to marry?
A prince who would likely never be king. Even worse? He had no money. Sounds like Elisabeth had no choice but to scrape at the bottom of the barrel.
15. Her Fiancé Brought Bad News
Even though Elisabeth hadn’t found the ideal mate, her mother was more than happy to have her oldest daughter engaged. Queen Marie was so happy that she insisted that George come to Romania so she could announce the happy news publicly and with great fanfare. George did go to Romania, but something followed him there: terrible news.
16. He Got A Terrible Bite
As soon as Elisabeth and George arrived in Romania, George found out that back in Greece, his brother was in a terrible state. It seems that he had gotten between a monkey and a dog that were in the middle of a vicious fight. The monkey took a bite out of Alexander and the wound got infected. This was terrible news for George, and it wasn’t about to get any better.
17. It Went From Bad To Worse
Back in Greece, George’s brother’s condition was going from bad to worse. It became saddeningly clear that the leg needed to be amputated. The problem was that no one had the guts to take responsibility for making the decision to do it.
When no one stepped up, Alexander needlessly passed. Remember, Alexander was currently the king while the rest of his family lived in exile. So, not only was this sad news, but it also meant that Greece was without a king.
18. She Moved Up In The World
The senseless loss of the Greek king caused the nation’s people to want their entire royal family back. George’s father left exile and stepped back into his original—and the rest of the family came back with him. And what did this mean for Elisabeth? She was now engaged to the man destined to one day take the throne for himself.
19. She Cried At Her Wedding
February 27, 1921, was the day of Elisabeth and George’s wedding. The ceremony took place in Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The public was wild for the spectacle and lined the streets to cheer on Elisabeth, who was traveling in a beautiful carriage with the king. Elisabeth had a tear in her eye when she saw her friends and family.
But these weren’t necessarily tears of joy.
20. They Stole Their Thunder
Elisabeth wept openly, likely grieving the farewell to her family and staring into the depths of the unknown. But no matter the feelings of the bride, a royal wedding was a cause for celebration. And what’s more exciting than a royal wedding?
Well, it’s two royal weddings, of course. A few weeks after Elisabeth and George tied the knot, another important wedding came to pass—between their siblings. Yes, Prince Carol, Elisabeth’s older brother, married Princess Helena, George’s sister. Sadly, both marriages were doomed.
21. She Got Off To A Bad Start
Of course, Elisabeth had to leave her family and take up residence with her new husband. Elisabeth’s cold temperament didn’t help make this a smooth transition. Not surprisingly, she didn’t get on well with most of her in-laws, and she felt slighted when they spoke Greek around her—mostly because they knew she couldn’t understand it.
Her new living arrangements were a huge disappointment for Elisabeth, but what about her new husband? Well, he was even worse.
22. She Felt Disappointed
Elisabeth was clearly unimpressed with life in Greece—especially since she was living with her difficult in-laws. Well, at least she had a husband to canoodle with at night when she felt low. But this wasn’t going to work either.
Apparently, the newlyweds were already suffering in the bedroom. Elisabeth wanted passion, and George wasn’t supplying it. But, surely these were minor complaints. She was a princess, after all, and lived a life surrounded by luxury. Or so you’d think.
23. She Wanted to Express Herself
Okay, so life with her in-laws and husband wasn’t what she expected. In response, Elisabeth threw herself into interior design. She only had the apartment she shared with her husband to let her creativity show, but she would make her mark on her new surroundings by redecorating it. There was a problem, however.
As the Prince of Greece, her husband actually received quite a small revenue. This certainly wouldn’t do, so Elisabeth turned to her family to get more.
24. She Hit Rock Bottom
Elisabeth wrote to her family about her money problems and got a reply she didn’t want to hear. She found out that her family still owed her in-laws the dowry they had promised—which may explain why the in-laws weren’t super friendly toward her. But there was more bad news.
It turned out that her family had taken Elisabeth’s own savings and lost them in bad investments. Elisabeth was stuck in a passionless marriage, surrounded by people that didn’t really like her, and on top of it all, she was broke. Could things be any worse? Well, actually yes.
25. She Lost Hope
Just when Elisabeth thought she couldn’t sink any deeper—she did. On the bright side, she filled her days with gardening, making pieces of art, and trying to master the Greek language. On the dark side, there was an ongoing battle with Turkey—which made things at home rather stressful.
During all this, Elisabeth found out she was pregnant—always a good thing when it came to young royals. Sadly, during an official visit to Smyrna, tragedy struck: Elisabeth had a miscarriage. It was this tragic incident that caused Elisabeth to completely lose hope.
26. She Needed A Break
After her miscarriage, Elisabeth’s health—both mental and physical—began to deteriorate. She contracted typhoid, which was followed by pleurisy—a nasty lung infection. On top of all that, she struggled terribly with depression.
Life with her royal in-laws was even more strained as they wanted an heir to the throne. Elisabeth was at her wit’s end, so she set off for Romania to be with her family and take a little “me time”.
27. They Wanted Blood
Elisabeth had been yearning for the comforts of her family, but sadly, they weren’t enough. She was still in a depressed state and nothing seemed to be helping. Meanwhile, back in Greece, things were heating up.
They’d lost the Greco-Turkish conflict, and the citizens wanted blood. The state began a trial against members of the government who had allegedly committed treason during the conflict. To make matters worse for Elisabeth and her husband, all the men on trial were royal family supporters. And worse still? Among the accused was the King’s uncle, Prince Andrew.
The punishment for this infraction was brutal: immediate execution.
28. She Had To Step In
A few hours after the end of the trial, the court executed six members of the government. They spared the king’s uncle, who instead received a ban from living in Greece…ever again. Elisabeth’s father-in-law had no choice but to abdicate the throne and, once again, Greece was without a king.
Even though most citizens were through with having a royal family at all, for some reason, they asked Elisabeth and her husband to step in as monarchs. Elisabeth, depressed and unwell, had no choice but to represent the monarchy in a country that was openly hostile to royalty. The situation couldn’t have been worse.
29. She Tried
Elisabeth tried to make the best of a horrible situation. Refugees from Anatolia were pouring over the border, and they needed help. Elisabeth made it her mission to provide accommodation for them.
With wood and other materials sent from her mother back in Romania, Elisabeth oversaw the construction of shacks as a means of temporary shelter for the refugees. She was trying to make her life in Greece meaningful, but at the core of it, there was one very important thing missing—love for her husband.
30. She Wanted Out
During all this, Elisabeth continued corresponding with her mother. In these letters, Elisabeth wrote about her depression, her indifference to her husband, and something even more disastrous for a Queen—having no desire to have children.
To make matters worse, Elisabeth resided in a country where many of its citizens were in favor of bringing down the royal family. They basically wanted her gone. There was, however, a group that wanted to keep Elisabeth and her husband as monarchs—and they were about to make a bold and dangerous move.
31. She Finally Escaped
In October 1923, a pro-royal faction started a coup backed by the army. While it seemed to be successful at the beginning, it soon was clear that it would be a failure. It was now undeniable: The people of Greece no longer wanted George and Elisabeth as their king and queen.
Elisabeth saw this as an escape from her miserable existence, so she and George put themselves in exile in Romania. She was finally out of Greece and back at home. Would this troubled couple finally be happy? Well, one of them would be.
32. They Switched Places
While Elisabeth was happy to be home and reunited with her family, George felt lost in Romania. It was a complete reversal of what had happened in Greece. Now it was George’s turn to feel homesick and without purpose. He also felt the court in Romania to be boring, and he let everyone know how he felt. Elisabeth, on the other hand, tapped into her creative side and flourished.
33. She Indulged
The relationship between Elisabeth and George was at an all-time low. It didn’t help that they were struggling financially, and they had no children to divert them from their lack of feelings for each other. Elisabeth replaced her amorous feelings by indulging in gourmet food and even gambling—but this ended up being only a temporary replacement.
Elisabeth wanted a man in her bed and if her husband wasn’t up for the job, she decided to look elsewhere.
34. She Didn’t Stop At One
When Elisabeth started looking for a secret replacement for her husband in her bed, she could have stopped when she found one. As it turned out, Elisabeth had several affairs with several different married men. She was so amorous that she even flirted with her sister’s husband—the King of Yugoslavia.
However, when she did finally settle on one guy, it was a slap in her husband’s face.
35. She Settled Down
When Elisabeth met her match, it turned out to be her husband’s banker. Not only was this a little too close to her husband, but her lack of discretion scandalized the court.
To avoid a scandal, the banker—Alexandru Scanavi—received a new job title: chamberlain. This left him in charge of the affairs of the royal household, but it also gave him an excuse to walk around in public with the Queen. But what about George? How would he cope with his wife’s ongoing infidelity?
36. She Was Finally Happy
With Elisabeth busy with her banker, her husband had his own scandalous adventures to attend to. He relocated to the United Kingdom and started an extra-marital romance of his own. Elisabeth was finally happy. She had her man, she had her husband at arm’s length, and she was free from her miserable existence in Greece. What could possibly go wrong now?
In May 1935, Elisabeth heard a rumor that made her blood run cold.
37. It Fell Apart
The rumor that Elisabeth heard was that the anti-royal republic that was currently ruling Greece was falling apart. This meant the worst thing for Elisabeth, that her husband was likely going to be returning to the throne and Elisabeth would be going with him. This was the last thing Elisabeth wanted.
When she lived in Greece before, she’d fallen into a huge depression. Elisabeth had to do anything she could to keep herself in Romania.
38. She Ended It
No matter what, Elisabeth didn’t want to return to Greece, so she came up with a plan.
Without consulting her husband—who was still living in the UK—she started divorce proceedings. Back then, a woman needed a reason for a divorce, so she used “desertion of the family home” as hers. On July 6, 1935, a court in Romania ended her marriage. George wasn’t even invited to participate and, worse still, he only found out about his divorce in the newspaper.
39. She Invested
Fed up with her husband (and all things Greek), Elisabeth wanted to be fully Romanian again. When she’d gone to live in Greece, she had given up her citizenship. She was sure that there was no other place on earth she’d rather be, so she got it back.
At this time, the Romanian economy was on an upswing, and Elisabeth had become a shrewd investor. She bought an area called Banloc which was in Western Romania. There were several villages there and a castle—and this is where she decided to live. But she wasn’t just a princess living in a castle.
40. She Cared
During this time, Elisabeth gave a lot of her time and money to charitable actions. She worked with organizations that helped children and people with illnesses. She also, with her own money, set up both a hospital and a home for children. And speaking of being charitable, she also gave up the Elisabeta Palace to her nephew, Michael.
Her controversial brother Carol was about to become king, and he would also need her charity.
41. She Supported Him
Elisabeth’s older brother Carol had taken after their mother—he was a man in constant pursual of romantic partners. For this reason, Carol wasn’t always a favorite of the people of Romania.
In 1930, he became king but the rest of the royal family kept their distance—except for Elisabeth. She was a big supporter of her brother and when the country turned its back on Carol because of a mistress, Elisabeth did the opposite and accepted her.
42. She Excelled
Elisabeth entered another period of happiness. She had a great life. She was close to the king, she had money from her father’s inheritance, and she had a banker boyfriend to keep her investments in good shape. But that wasn’t all.
Elisabeth started to amass property as well. She had an estate in Sinaia and an Italian-style villa în Șoseaua Kiseleff. Life was good. It wasn’t, however, time for this princess’s happy-ever-after moment.
43. She Stepped Away
In the late 1930s, everything changed for Elisabeth. Her mother passed in 1938 and her brother had to step down as king two years later. The replacement for Carol as king was his son Michael, and with him came a dictatorship.
Elisabeth took this as her cue to step away from politics. Her nephew and his dictator, Ion Antonescu, seemed a little dangerous to her, so keeping her mouth shut felt like the best option.
44. She Fought Back
Elisabeth had sat back and watched her nephew and the dictatorship, but by 1944, she could keep silent no longer. She started working with the Romanian Communist Party and there was no secrecy about her plans to stop her nephew, Michael. Elisabeth and her banker boyfriend funded a guerrilla effort to end the dictatorship in Romania.
45. She Was Red
Elisabeth began openly working with a communist organization against her nephew, the king. But she wasn’t the only one in the Romanian royal family to have a communist association. Her sister Ileana also had associations with communists. Once someone noticed that the two sisters had this in common, they received a chilling nickname: the “Red Aunts” of King Michael I.
But what effect would being “red” have on Elisabeth’s future as a royal?
46. They Kicked Her Out
Even though Elisabeth was an open communist, it didn’t help her when the communists rose to power in 1947. In spite of her support, the communists wanted the royal family out of the country. They were kind enough to give Elisabeth three days to pack her stuff onto a special train.
While she was packing to leave her beloved country—probably forever—Elisabeth had a thought. She wanted to destroy all her archives. She burned them before boarding the train to leave.
47. She Went Wild
Elisabeth left Romania with her “Red Aunt” sister Ileana and they eventually settled in Cannes in Southern France. While in Cannes, Elisabeth lived a fairly normal life.
She leased an apartment and gave piano lessons. However, she also went back to her lustful ways. Elisabeth took on several lovers and basically enjoyed a hedonistic lifestyle. She once told one of her cousins that the only sin she hadn’t committed was that of murder and added, “and I don’t want to die without doing that either”.
Elisabeth was up to her naughty ways until she met a beau who made her want to be a one-man woman once again.
48. He Stood Out
Among the rather large number of men she took to her bed, one stood out. This was an artist by the name of Marc Favrat. But here’s the thing: Elisabeth was 62 years old at the time and Favrat was almost 30 years younger.
First, Elisabeth brought Favrat into her house as an assistant—something called an equerry. But this arrangement didn’t satisfy Elisabeth. Despite the huge age difference, Elisabeth wanted to marry Favrat—but sadly she couldn’t, and the reason frustrated her to no end.
49. She Needed A Plan B
Elisabeth’s young boyfriend just didn’t have a title. Desperate to make him her husband, she approached her cousin Frederick, Prince of Hohenzollern, and requested that he bestow her lover with a title.
Frederick didn’t think it was a good idea for his cousin to be marrying an unknown—and much younger—artist, so he rejected her plea. Elisabeth accepted the rejection and set about Plan B—but it raised more than a few eyebrows.
50. She Had A Brief Happily Ever After
Elisabeth had only one way to make Favrat part of her family and it was outrageously devious: She adopted him as her son. While this was completely unorthodox, it did get the job done.
Favrat, who some thought was a bit of a scoundrel, took his new title seriously and even started signing his paintings with a little crown. Sadly, Elisabeth had only a few months to be with Favrat, her son and lover. She passed in her home on November 14, 1956.