One hundred years ago, on June 28, 1919, the Treaty of Versailles was signed at the famous palace’s Hall of Mirrors, five years to the day that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, an event that triggered World War I. The Treaty of Versailles formally ended the war between the Allies and Germany.
A view of the famed Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, June 28, 1919
Among the numerous settlements associated with the Treaty of Versailles, was the re-shaping of the map of Europe. It was a complicated exercise involving the participation of the ‘Big Four’ – the nations of the United States, Great Britain, Italy, and France. Romania had signed a separate peace with Germany, an act which placed Romania at a great disadvantage in the eyes of the Big Four. In order to help Romania’s cause, the country’s political leaders chose to send their own Queen Marie (1875-1938) to influence and charm her way into gaining as much concessions as she could for her adopted country. A granddaughter of Queen Victoria, Queen Marie had played a pivotal role in helping Romania survive the troubled years of World War I. She had been a mainstay for Romania during the war. Her intelligence and resilience were now called upon to help her country during the peace talks.
Queen Marie of Romania in her coronation robes
Marovitis Guggenberger, Marie Coronation portrait, marked as public domain, more details on Wikimedia Commons
Queen Marie, accompanied by her daughters and an extensive wardrobe, enjoyed a tumultuous welcome upon her arrival in Paris in March 1919. When France’s Georges Clemenceau bluntly told Queen Marie that he disliked Romania’s prime minister, the Queen sagely retorted in honeyed tones, “Perhaps then you’ll find me more agreeable.” Clemenceau was won over. Queen Marie was able to make headway with the equally cantankerous David Lloyd George of Britain. It seemed that only Woodrow Wilson of the United States was immune from Queen Marie’s charms. Nevertheless, Queen Marie’s untiring lobbying for Romania proved successful in the end. By the time the Queen left Paris, she had secured major concessions from the Powers that doubled size of her country to nearly 300,000 square kilometers. Marie had arrived in Paris as queen of eight million subjects; when she left she was queen of eighteen million.