Homely Royal Couple - Bulgaria's First Prince - "A Queen of Peace"
It was the late King Edward who once referred to Queen Eleonore, the second wife of the Tsar of the Bulgarians, as one of the "most noble and high-minded women in Europe " ; and the description is in no sense exaggerated.
Queen Eleonore is a woman who has sacrificed comfort and luxury in order to alleviate the distress of the less fortunate. She is a veritable queen of charity, and it was she who earned the title of the ' Russian Florence Nightingale," by going out to Manchuria during the Russo-japan War, and restoring order in an ambulance service which had become greatly disorganised on account of the terrible Russian losses.
A Queenly Mission
To people in this country Queen Eleonore is a very unfamiliar figure, for this reason : that she is a woman who shuns publicity. Some time ago she remarked to an intimate friend: "I have made up my mind that my mission in life is to utilise my rank and wealth for the benefit of the less fortunate; and if I succeed in that mission I shall be satisfied." And although in the world of litterateurs and scientists Queen Eleonore is recognised as one of the cleverest and most accomplished women in Europe, the average person knew little about her until she married King Ferdinand of Bulgaria in 1908.
It was a trying position which she was called upon to fill. As Queen-consort of the monarch who ruled a country which has been called the "hornet's nest of the Western hemisphere," she had many difficulties to face. It is somewhat early yet to speak of her success as Queen Consort, but there is no doubt that her influence is making a marked impression on the turbulent character of her husband's subjects.
Furthermore, the manner in which she has acted as stepmother towards the four children of her husband by his first wife has evoked the greatest admiration. The deepest bond of affection exists between her Majesty and the two boys and two girls. She watches over their studies and amusements with constant interest and care.
She is almost the same to them as their own mother could have been - as much, at least, as any stepmother could be.
Recently the royal family were spending a happy time at the beautiful summer palace which the King, years ago, had erected at Varna, on the Black Sea. Varna is some two hundred miles from Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria; and after the children had gone back to Sofia to continue their studies, her Majesty also prepared to depart for the capital.
"Will you not be sorry, madam, to leave the beautiful palace here, and go back to Sofia ? " someone asked her.
"Not at all," she answered. "My children are there." And then added quietly: "and so are my poor people." "The children " and "my poor people " ! They make up the life of the Tsaritsa of Bulgaria.
Specially attached to their stepmother are the two daughters of the King, Eudoxia, who was born in 1898, and Nadejda, who was born a year later; and it is a charming sight to see her Majesty seated at a table giving her husband's little girls a lesson in needlework. Like her neighbour, the Queen of Roumania, Queen Eleonore finds chief recreation in needlework and embroidery. Indeed, during the evening the Queen occupies herself with needlework, the result of her labours being devoted to charity. It is a sort of moral obligation which her Majesty imposes upon herself and carries out religiously.
Reference has already been made to the Queen's nursing work in Manchuria, and it might be mentioned that at Sofia she takes personal charge of the Clementine Hospital, founded by the late Princess Clementine Bourbon of Orleans, daughter of King Louis Philippe, and mother of King Ferdinand, and refuses to allow its direction to be placed in anybody else's hands. And it is no nominal post. She visits all the patients, ministers to their comfort, and attends operations and consultations, where her knowledge and insight are highly welcome. Like the Queen of Roumania, too, she is particularly interested in the blind, deaf and dumb. She has founded a technical
F school for the blind very similar to Carmen Sylva's, where people who otherwise would be helpless are taught to earn their own living. King Ferdinand, too, takes the keenest interest in his wife's philanthropic schemes.
It has been asserted that his Majesty is a somewhat selfish autocrat, with no thought beyond his own ambitions. It is not a fair description, however, for no monarch has done more for his subjects than the Tsar of the Bulgarians.
Moreover, he is essentially a family man.
Indeed, there is a legend that the sight of the King playing with his children so moved an Anarchist about to strike him down that he refrained from his foul design and turned his dagger on himself.
Whenever possible, his
State troubles behind him, journeys to
Varna, and there spends happy days with his wife and children at his beautiful palace, which overlooks the sea and one of the most delightfu1 stretches of country in the
Balkans. Ferdinand is very proud of his palace at Varna, which he used to describe to British visitors as "my Osborne," but which he now styles "my Sandringham " ; for it might be mentioned that his Majesty has a great fondness for English life, manners, customs, and scenery. He was on special terms of friendship with the late King Edward; and it may be remembered that he was one of the nine monarchs who attended King Edward's funeral in 1910.
It is at the palace at Varna that the" king keeps his principal collections, zoological and botanical, which have cost him so much study and are the chief joys of his private life. The palace, too, has a model farm, surrounded by a private garden where grow the most rare and beautiful plants. Much of this garden has been laid out at the suggestion of Queen Eleonore, who, like her husband, is passionately fond of flowers.