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The Women of Brătianu Family


              The women of Brătianu family marked the end of the nineteenth century and especially the twentieth century through the examples they set, the education they received, the love for their country inspired by Ion Brătianu, and especially through their strong personalities.

            When we talk about the women of Bratianu family we refer to Pia, the wife of Ion Brătianu (1821- 1891) and their daughters Elena (known as Sabina), Maria, Tatiana and Pia. They significantly marked the era in which they lived.

          Caliopia or Pia, as Ion C. Brătianu used to call her, the daughter of Luca Pleşoianu from Râmnicu Vâlcea, was born in 1841 and was an orphan from an early age. Ion C. Brătianu’s sister-Mother Maximila, the abbess of Ostrov Monastery, who was a good friend of Luca Pleşoianu, while visiting her brother in Bucharest told him about the orphan’s condition. Ion C. Brătianu had heard about Luca Pleşoianu as one of the first voters in Vâlcea.

            From the questions he addressed his sister, Ion C. Brătianu found out that Luca Pleşoianu had been married but his wife died of puerperal fever, when their second daughter was born. Pia’s mother, Evghenia, forced by her parents to marry Luca Pleşoianu when she was 16, was one of the most beautiful, most educated and of good family from Râmnicu Vâlcea, daughter of Ghiţă Capeleanu.

       When she was one, her father sent her and her sister to their grandmother, who brought them up with great affection.

        On a visit in Râmnic to deal with the elections and to make electoral propaganda for the Ad hoc Committee, Ion C. Brătianu will stay in a hotel in the locality. He paid a visit to Costica Lahovary, he was invited for lunch and in the evening he went to a party to which Pia was also invited.

         During his stay in Râmnic, Ion C. Brătianu expressed his interest in Pia and talked to her protectors about a possible marriage. At the beginning, Vlădescu, Pia’s uncle, was against this idea considering Brătianu a revolutionary who had wasted his fortune on revolutions.

         But Pia told her family members that she did not consider Brătianu a vagabond for the fact that he had spent his fortune for the country and that, if she were proposed, she would not refuse him. The wedding ceremony will be two months later at Ostrov, on 6 July 1858, after they had engaged without changing the rings. They were married by Ion Brătianu’s brother, Teodor, and Pia’s grandmother.

         After the wedding, Brătianu couple will remain in Ostrov for two weeks, and then they will go to Piteşti at Anica Furduescu, the other sister of Ion Brătianu, who offered them one of the bedrooms. At that time, Brătianu had commissioned workers to have the house at Florica rebuilt, the place where he wanted to make a family.

            Pia Brătianu will take contact with her husband’s life, with his friends; among these, Maria Rosetti had a great influence on her. Through her culture, virtues, her immense love for her husband, she set an example for the young woman, who had good and healthy principles, but she had benefited from a superficial training at the boarding school from Craiova. Pia was impressed in such a manner by the world she was now living in and her inferiority was an offense for her, that she asked her husband to be provided with teachers so that she could complete her studies. Thus, Pia studied French, history, literature and grammar. She studied history with her husband about whom she used to say he was a teacher without pedagogic patience.

            “Mrs. Rosetti taught her occidental housekeeping, she knew the Romanian one from her grandmother, my midwife, how she used to call her and she always kept her house in perfect order, she always served an excellent meal because my father, although he was very simple when it came to his tastes, was very exigent with the quality and preparation of the food”, said Sabina Cantacuzino. From this quotation we can draw the conclusion that she was a good housewife and a very organized woman.

         At the same time, Pia Brătianu was a courageous woman. She used to go to Florica on her own, in the winter and she spent several days in the house without guards and lived by women only. Not only for her but for her children as well, she insisted on not having fear of insignificant things. She used to send the children to the dark rooms on their own; in the evening she did not allow any light after she tucked the children in and she protected them from superstitions, proving them how absurd they were.

         The contemporaries talked about Pia Brătianu as about a very modest and noble simple person, feature emphasized by the mentality specific to the period and cultivated through education. She led a discreet existence, free from ostentation, false requests; understanding, she showed great affection for her children, friends and relatives. Proud and endowed with intelligent irony, she had the same wise serenity in front of the joys and sorrows of life.

          The couple Ion and Pia Brătianu settled at Florica; Pia gave birth to 8 children in 10 years; she looked after each of them, she did not leave them alone until they grew older.

          Pia Brătianu was a hospitable woman, a fact which could be noticed on the occasion of the numerous visits of friends, acquaintances, politicians. A very good example is the period in which the Rosetti family lived at Florica (winter of 1864-1865), encountering great lacks in Bucharest. It was a very beautiful period for everybody and they remembered it with a lot of affection. Teases were very common but Pia Bratianu did not like teases or surprises and, strangely, she never got used to them, not even to those of Ion Brătianu.

            The happy family life will be shaken up in 1865 when the first daughter of the couple Brătianu, Florica, was to die at only three. “Parents’ pain was huge and never wiped away”, recalled Sabina Cantacuzino in her memories.

            Pia Brătianu had great fear of water, as her daughter Sabina wrote in her book: “My father and mother were very often in the carriage to Florica, Sâmbureşti, Mihăeşti, Pleşoi, on damaged roads and few bridges; they often had to cross through water. My mum was afraid when she saw the carriage in the middle of whirlpool and my father used to cover her head with a blanket”.

            When Ion Brătianu was arrested, in the summer of 1870, Pia Brătianu, although she did not use to separate from her children, that time accompanied her husband, as one can find out from Sabina’s narrations ”Mother must have been very worried about the danger threatening my father that she decided to leave us, although she never moved from next to us...”.

           Piei Brătianu’s entire life developed in close connection with the political activity of her husband, because she stood there for him in the happiest and hardest moments no matter the sacrifices she had to make. She looked after for the family throughout her life, even when they grew up. She undertook the responsibility of educating the children up to the moment she considered she had nothing to teach them and teachers had to be brought in order for the young ones to continue with their studies. And then, the family moved to Bucharest when Ion Brătianu considered as appropriate for the children to deepen their studies. Two years later, Ionel and Vintila will be studying in Paris, and then they returned to the country to work.

          The death of Ion Brătianu in 1891 was extremely painful for her. She outlived him until 1919, experiencing the First World War and the rigors of the time. For the so-called safety of the occupation troupes, the German political police, beginning with December 1916, started the arrests, camp internments or setting home arrests for many political personalities, intellectuals, clerks who remained in Bucharest, suspected for their pro Antanta feelings or the connections with Brătianu family. Of course, the matter of remaining in Bucharest was long debated in the family, especially because, among those who were to remain, was the old Pia Brătianu, wife of Ion C. Brătianu. ”A decision had to be taken - wrote Sabina Cantacuzino- Who should go to Iaşi, who should stay, because the whole family could not leave Bucharest which could not move away. One cannot talk about the mobilized... As or my mother, the opinions were different. Ionel would have liked to take her, I was pleading against travelling at her age towards the unknown during winter; she expressed her opinion and with the clairvoyance which she had for all the circumstances, she told Ionel: I shall stay here. It’s not that I want to separate from you, I would follow you everywhere, but I feel that where you are going I wouldn’t be of help but rather a concern and I might make things difficult for you. On the other hand, the fact that you are leaving me here is going to encourage more the ones who remain behind. Pia stays with me. Ionel and all of us could hardly master our emotions and we agreed with her”.

        Thus, in Bucharest, from Brătianu family remained Pia Brătianu, mother, Sabina Cantacuzino, sister, her husband, Doctor Constantin Cantacuzino, (arrested and withheld for a while at the Imperial Hotel, which had been transformed into a detention place by the German authorities), Pia Alimănişteanu, sister, Lia Brătianu, Vintilă I.C. Brătianu’ wife, together with their 3-year-old son, Vintilă, Maria Pillat, sister, together with two nephews and her husband Ion Pillat (arrested and sent to Săveni and then in Bulgaria). Florica was burgled entire chests of letters being taken and destroyed.

          The old lady lived the joy of seeing the Great Romania created with the help of her sons as she witnessed the creation of the Little Romania with the help of her husband.

       Maria Brătianu was born in October 1868 in Bucharest, in Cişmeaua Roşie Street and she was baptized by the old lady Catrina Odobescu, a good friend of Brătianu family, sister of Grigore Caracaş, one of Ion C. Brătianu’s closest friends.

       Maria’s godmother was the wife of the general Ion Odobescu (1793-1857) and mother of the well-known writer Alexandru Odobescu. Maria Brătianu, especially known by her diminutive Măriuţa, spent her childhood in the parental houses from Florica and Bucharest. Sabina Cantacuzino described her younger sister, when she was 5, “Măriuţa wasn’t just very beautiful but very kind and graceful”.

         In the autumn of 1877 Brătianu family moved to Bucharest, and Maria, together with her sisters and brothers became familiar with the rigors of an instruction and education system based on discipline, work and severity. During childhood, Maria did not enjoy a perfect health state, due to tiredness and anemia she had to suspend the 7th grade exams and give up taking the baccalaureate exam.

         The artistic, esthetic education Ion C. Brătianu’s daughter benefited from, in fact as all his children, was expressed through numerous ways: participation in performances at the National Theatre where great actors like Matei Millo and Grigore Manolescu used to act, attending different symphonies at the Athenaeum in Cişmigiu, visiting of the art exhibitions and taking music lessons with private teachers in the family residence.

           Măriuţa is the only of the four sisters who became lady-in-waiting of Queen Maria. The years spent in Paris transformed her into a person with excellent good taste. She was the only in the family who appreciated impressionist paintings. “Măriuţa shows admiration towards the Impressionist painters, they made me ill”, wrote Tatiana to Sabina.

            The artistic education cultivated in the childhood and teenage years had beneficial consequences later, contributing to the formation of her personality at a superior spiritual plan. “Măriuţa took art lessons with her children in Paris, she attended art courses at Louvre and Sorbona, she did not miss any interesting exhibition”, wrote Sabina Cantacuzino in her memories. In the spring of 1890 Maria Bratianu married Ion Pillat from Moldavia, enrolled in the National Liberal Party and one of the most devoted supporters of Ion C. Brătianu from this region of Romania. 

            After their wedding, the ceremony took place at Florica on 20 May 1890, the young couple left on a journey to Germany. The gap left by Maria when she left from the parental house was “immense”, as Sabina Cantacuzino recalled, characterizing her sister by special words, full of affection: “She was the most loving and devoted person in the family, she undertook all the chores and conducted them with willingness and joy which masked any sacrifice and gave the appearance of pleasure for her, she helped our mother, she spoiled everyone, not just the family members but friends as well”.

            The couple Maria and Ion Pillat became the happy parents of their first son, Ion, in 1891, the future great poet of symbolist nature at the beginning, and later the author of traditional and neoclassic poems.

            Ion Pillat, together with his brother Nicolae and sister, Pia, enjoyed a climate of spiritual peace and satisfaction in the atmosphere packed with poetry of the generous nature from Florica. One can find in many of his traditional poems images, memories, melancholies related to Florica, dear images of his mother, grandparents, uncles and aunts living in these places surrounded by legends, traditions and history of a worthy and dignified nation.

            An important chapter in the life of Maria Pillat and her closest relatives was the period 1916-1918, when Romania joined Antanta in the war against the Central Powers and their allies. The example of Brătianu family who remained in the Romanian Capital occupied by the German army became a symbol because the presence of Pia Brătianu, Sabina Cantacuzino, Maria Pillat and other close relatives meant encouragement to resist against the aggressive and intolerant enemy, a symbol of national dignity. In the Capital occupied and administered by the Germans and Romanians sympathizing with them, Maria Pillat, her sisters Sabina and Pia and other courageous women, the ladies taking part in the “Regina Elisabeta” Society, conducted a remarkable activity characterized by an energetic involvement in setting up a hospital for injured people within the Asylum for the Elderly from Bucharest.

            In such a difficult and unfortunate period for the country, Maria Pillat undertook the difficult responsibility of looking after two young nephews, aged three, towards whom she showed devotion and affection similar to those of a real mother. The assistance provided for the two children both in Bucharest, and at Pasărea Monastery, where she had the obligatory domicile set by the German authorities, coincided with a series of food health and freedom deprivation. Under the pressure of being evicted from the house in which she lived, Maria Pillat did not give up to pressures, abuses and despotism of the German authorities and the subordinated Romanian administration.

            This is the way Sabina Cantacuzino described one of the tension moments to which the Romanian families remaining in Bucharest were made to endure: “The insolence of the Germans grew every day, now they came at our place and at Măriuţa as well on a regular basis. She was determined to withstand them, and they did not manage to take the piano and many other pieces of furniture that they would have liked. The valuable things: carpets, bronze objects, porcelain, clothes were embedded in the attic; they were so well hidden that they could not find them”.

            Some inquisitions were real thefts. On the occasion of an inquisition at Maria Pillat’s home in Romana, Street, they took pieces of furniture, bed sheets, towels and even the mattresses, being told cynically that she may sleep on bedsteads. When they wanted to take the piano as well, Maria Pillat created such a big scandal which obliged the Germans to give up, especially because they did not have a receipt of requisition. Maria Pillat did not let herself overwhelmed with the misfortunes seriously affecting her family life, bearing the separation from her husband who was arrested by the Germans and sent to forced domicile in a village, Săveni, from Ialomiţa County. The hardship of life during so difficult periods did not discourage her. The memories of her sister, Sabina, about Maria Pillat proved an optimistic attitude: “Măriuţa was very strong, although her husband was in Săveni, she had two children to look after, was always harassed by the Germans, she did not discourage and she only saw the final Victory, but, for her own sake, much closer than the reality!...” The other sister, Pia, was writing in a book entitled “During German Occupation, 1916-1918”, published in Bucharest in 1929: ”The most optimistic of us is Măriuţa...”

            After 1 December 1918, the Royal Family together with the French General Henri Mathias Berthelot entered Bucharest in triumph through Victoriei Plaza. In those days following the memorable 1 December there were numerous manifestations and representations saluting and paying homage to the great victory of the allies in war and the creation of Great Romania. At the initiative of Maria Pillat and on behalf of the Society of the Romanian Ladies, at her place, the Count de Saint-Aulaire, minister of France in Bucharest and General Berthelot were offered two beautiful albums in the memory of the French action in Romania during the war.

            During the interwar period, Maria Pillat capitalized on her music knowledge and talent in her capacity as President of Cântarea României Music Society.

            She passed away in 1945 aged 77. Her son, the poet Ion Pillat, left this world in the same year and seven years later, her husband, Ion Pillat, died as well.

            Sabina Brătianu is the second child of the couple Ion and Pia Brătianu; their first child was Florica (1862-1865). Born in 1863, at Florica, Sabina Brătianu, married to doctor Constantin Cantacuzino, was an agile, lively, active and dynamic woman, who talked a lot and fast. Her nephews used to call her aunt Bi, probably because of their young age they could only utter the middle part of her name.

        Sabina Cantacuzino received a thorough education, along with her brothers and sisters, at the beginning at home and then deepened through high school studies. Besides deepening classic literature and knowledge of  modern languages (German, French, English), she acquired a harmonious culture through intelligence, hard work, desire to know and love for the art. The music lessons were completed with participation in concerts; Brătianu family was one of the first who subscribed for the concerts at the Athenaeum near Cişmigiu and they did not miss any of the famous artists performing in Bucharest.

        Sabina, nicknamed by her father “Little Oltenian” (Mica olteancă) worked at Regina Maria Establishment, where she looked after elderly and poor people, making personal sacrifices, and in the first years of the First World War she administered a hospital for injured people in the Capital, showing devotion and responsibility.

            She had a constructive, organizational, sometimes despotic character. But her despotism did not bother anyone, because in a discussion she had the final word. She was open-minded, and she was not embarrassed to tell the truth, she often doubted the others knowledge.

            She had great artistic, literary and music knowledge, she had travelled a lot, she was intelligent and interesting. Authoritative and severe, she knew how to draw children’s attention by stirring their curiosity. Very lively, she was the one who organized society games at the country, in the evening: charades, portrait game and sometimes short comedies. Sabina Cantacuzino always knew to respect the children’s will (sometimes even indulging their whims), on condition they weren’t because of a bad feeling or lack of education, but of a childish desire without any regrettable consequences.

             During the First World War she was withheld by the Germans at Pasărea Monastery, near Bucharest, together with Lia, her sister-in-law, and her two-year-old son, Vintilă. There, Sabina Cantacuzino maintained her daily routine, going for walks on a daily basis, even if she was accompanied by a soldier of the occupation army. “The orders demanded that she was accompanied by a soldier of the occupation army, to prevent her from escaping. All the soldiers in garrison from Pasărea were in convalescence, and one of them, unable to keep up with Sabina, wrote a report to his superior, asking him for a bike. And he got it... When she saw that the soldier appointed to follow her got the bike, she changed the walking route and, avoiding roads and alleys, she used to walk through the woods, through briars and branches. The German soldier, gasping, had to give up the bike” wrote her nephew, Nicolae I. Pillat, in the volume “Silhouettes of Brătianu Family”.

           Later, she administered “Universitatea Liberă”, where she organized a cycle of conferences on a regular basis. She did not miss any concerts, lunches, dinners or receptions.

            She passed away right on 23 August 1944, which made professor George Oprescu to write the following in an evocative article:” I do not know whether, before closing her eyes, she could realize that, indeed, the nightmare of the last years was ending and we were re-finding the place which the history and our nature had predestined”.

              Tatiana Brătianu was born in Bucharest on 9 March 1870, being the penultimate child of the couple Ion and Pia Brătianu. She was a beautiful child, loved by everybody, educated in the same spirit as her brothers and sisters.

            Among her sisters, she was the one who confessed that she "took all the elegance and easiness". Music was her great passion. If Sabina limited herself to listening, Tatiana took canto lessons for almost all her life, being her favourite manner "pour passer le temp" (to pass the time). Together with the great ladies of the Romanian elite at the end of the nineteenth century, namely Irene Procopiu and Nadejde Ştirbey, she set up a "music club". Besides the Romanian traditional art collections, Tatiana purchased from the antiquarians in Paris, from Hess House, an entire Gothic room, especially Renaissance objects. From Spain, she also, purchased furniture and tapestry.

         She liked evening gowns, fur coats, hats, beautiful things. She was elegant, and her house resembled her elegance. “She wanted everything to be perfect and she used to tell her friends: “I will show you the respective room when it is fully furnished”. She was the slave of her housekeeping, and when she had a family lunch or dinner, she was in the kitchen early in the morning to inspect and supervise. She did not know what to cook so that everyone could find on the table their favourite dishes, excellently cooked.

         She was critical and had contradiction spirit. If sometimes, during a passionate discussion, she happened to say something unpleasant, she was the first to regret. She was a devoted and affectionate mother and, when she lost her only child she bore the pain with an admirable courage. She lived for her child and husband. She was shy, she did not like to go out and, besides her family, she met only a few friends among them the closest being Zoe Moscu.

           In 1900 she married  Ilie Niculescu- Dorobanţu (born in 1873), liberal politician, prefect of Ilfov, whom everyone called Nicol, because in Paris, over the study years, his French friends used to call him like this, considering that Niculescu was too long. Following their wedding, a child, Ion, was born in 1901. In Brătianu family he was called Budu. Unfortunately, Ion, died at an early age, and the couple Tatiana- Ilie Niculescu- Dorobanţu did not have any other children. In 1940, Tatiana passed away at the age of 70.

      Caliopia Brătianu (1872- 1962) is the last child of the couple Ion and Pia Brătianu; she was called the little Pia. Her nephews used to call her Leliţa, meaning young aunt. Every day, in Bucharest, at Pia Brătianu, whom they never left alone, her nephews took lessons and did homework. It was the same at Florica.

          Because of her, her nephews passed the exams successfully. “The rewards were the cream cakes at the best confectioner’s in the town, then a carriage trip in Trivale, a beautiful park in Piteşti, where we could see tamed deer, looking at us passing by. She was like a second mother, teacher and friend for her nephews. She took part in their games; she used to go walking with them and accompanied them on trips.

         She devoted herself to her mother, brothers, sisters and nephews. She was always ready to help; she was already present if you needed her support or love. She never liked to go out in the society and she was happy only among her family and close friends.

         During the First World War, Pia remained in Bucharest together with her mother and sister, Sabina, sister-in-law, Lia, Vintilă’s wife and their three-old-year boy. Pia’s thoughts were with those on the front, Niculae and especially Ion Pillat, who was like a child to her; she did not sleep, she did not eat and these had consequences on her entire nature. After the death of Pia Bratianu (1919) she married Alexandru Alimănişteanu, a generous man, who surrounded his wife with a lot of love and delicacy. Having no occupation besides looking after her husband, and being an active person, she devoted most of her time to charity events, helping her husband with his work and writing her memories.

Elisa Brătianu was the first child of Barbu Ştirbei’s son - Alexandru B. Ştirbei (1837-1895) and of Maria Ştirbei, born Ghica (1851-1885).

           The name Ştirbei, borne by Elisa’s predecessors, first belonged to a family of noblemen from Wallachia, set up by the boyar Cernica Izvoranul, nicknamed Ştirbei, the founder of Cernica Monastery near Bucharest, founded in 1608.

            The most significant descendants of this family were Gheorghe Bibescu- ruler of Wallachia (1842-1848) and his brother, Barbu Ştirbei-ruler of Wallachia (1849-1853; 1854-1856), grandfather of Elisa Ştirbei, known as Elisa Brătianu after she married Ion (Ionel) I.C. Brătianu.

             Elisa was born on 2/14 May in Buftea, in the Palace built by her father, which has been well preserved up to present day. She had two brothers: Barbu A. Ştirbei (1872-1946), diplomat and politician, close to the Royal House during the reign of King Ferdinand I and close friend of Queen Maria, administrator of the Crown Domains (1913-1927), prime-minister of Romania (4-20 June 1927) and Gheorghe A. Ştirbei (1883-1917), who passed away very young, and five sisters: Elena, Zoe, Maria, Adina and Ioana.

         “When I was born, Elisa wrote in her and Ion I.C Brătianu’s book, entitled Involuntary Memories, the unification of the Principalities had been accomplished for 11 years. My mother was from Moldavia, my father was from Muntenia. My father, born in Paris, on the 1 August 1837, (...) spent his almost entire childhood and youth in France; he was student at Sain Cyr, then at Saumur, officer in the service of France until the outbreak of the war with Italy in 1859, when his father ordered him- to his great sadness- to leave the French army and return home. The former ruler Barbu Ştirbei (frequently named “The Prince” before and after his reign, whose words were letter of the law during his time) found important the presence of a Romanian in an action against Austria”.

        Elisa’s mother, born and brought up at Comăneşti in Moldavia, was a passionate patriot. “She was the one who prevented us from distinguishing between Moldavians and Wallachians. Neither Moldavians, nor Wallachians- she used to say- but Romanians. Tall, blonde, that bright blonde characteristic for Ghiculeşti- had an imposing posture, fine features and glowing complexion. (...) Her imposing attitude, beauty, charm, the glow springing from her appearance created – at least for us – a fairytale picture”.

             Both parents, Elisa wrote “were landowners of large domains, badly rented, badly cultivated (...). During my first childhood, my parents were quite moneyless, (...) they used to spend most of the time at the country, especially in Buftea(...). For this reason, the parental house in Buftea, with the secular oaks in the park, is closer to my heart than the one in Bucharest, on Mogoşoaia Bridge (today 107, Victoriei Street).

             (...) ”Bucharest of my childhood, wrote Elisa in the same work, didn’t have pavements, the streets were narrow and surrounded by gardens, some with very old trees.(...) The vehicles were of different kinds and strange. Many carriages were driven by black oxen, covered with cloth of colourful carpets, joked on the carriages loaded with red bricks and hardly moving through the snow. Sometimes, we could see braşovencele passing by with bells jingling - four-seated carriages covered with black leather without doors, resembling gondolas, carrying nuns and - sometimes- coffins covered in satin or pink cotton”. These realities reinforced the statement Elisa made in her book, according to which “Romania was almost feudal that time”.

            “Our lifestyle and the education received during the first childhood – Elisa carried on - resembled, judging after Tolstoi’s works, very much those from abroad and especially those from Russia at the beginning of the nineteenth century. One was learning everything in a hurry-scurry manner and if you paid attention (...) everything was all right.

             I think our education would have been more efficient and stronger if we had spent more time in the town, where we would have benefited from better lessons (...). Our teachers and schoolmasters, sisters Emma and Minna Heler, of German origin, had a great influence on my intellectual development, not mainly through the fact that they taught us, but more because of the atmosphere they were living in and trained us”.

               Elisa had private lessons at Ştirbei Palace in Buftea with her brother, Barbu and her sister, Elena. Thus, she did not go to high school. Nevertheless, as we shall see, she was a very educated woman.

              “Among my teachers, Elisa used to write, Ioan Slavici had the greatest influence on me. He introduced me the poems of Eminescu. It was a moment of the greatest importance for my spiritual development”.

              “Besides the influence exercised on us by our schoolmasters and teachers, my parents’ relatives and the people invited over for meals left deep marks on our souls. We were accepted at our parents’ meal from an early age. Because of this custom (...) I could acquire my few knowledge and a significant part of my experience in matters related to people and things. I think the elderly ladies had great influence as well”. To all these, Elisa added, an important impact on her intellectual development was represented by the prolonged reading of over three years, conducted at the urge of schoolmaster Emma.

              The Independence War of 1877-1878 “was followed by a period of welfare. My parents’ fortune increased, especially after my father had decided to administer the land by himself. Our settlement in Dărmăneşti (Bacău county) dates ever since, the place I loved the most in the entire world and where we were truly happy (...). My mother, a lover of the mountain, “used to take us through the groves and woods; our schoolmaster initiated us in the activity of picking mushrooms and recognizing plants and flowers and the  rangers used to tell us a lot of details about the habits of the bears and the deer (...).

              This happy childhood ended with the most horrible misfortune. Mother died in 1885, at 34 only, whilst giving birth to the eighth child, Ioana, and for a long time we knew only sorrow, illness and despair”. Ten years later, on 2 March 1895, Elisa’s father, Alexandru Ştirbei, died as well, leaving behind eight children. He was only 57.

               She had several aptitudes although sometimes she got bored very quickly and passed to another activity; piercing spirit, she used to narrate with talent and she wrote with easiness. Her memories speak for themselves. Moreover, she spoke French, English and German, and during the First World War she was trying hard to learn Russian as well.

              When she was 20, in 1890, Elisa married, at her father’s urge, Alexandru Marghiloman (1854-1925), none other than the future leader of the Conservative Party, doctor of Law and Political Sciences in Paris, who occupied the position of minister and prime-minister on several occasions (5 March- 24 October 1918), who was 16 years older than her.

             In the late 1906 or in the early 1907, Elisa Brătianu married Ion (Ionel) I.C. Brătianu. More precisely, Ion I.C. Brătianu married Elisa Ştirbei, according to their Marriage Certificate No. 11, issued by the Town Hall of Bucoveni, Plasa Bucoveni, Ilfov county, on 3 March 1907. The next day, on 4 March, the priest Ilie Teodorescu, from Amzei Church officiated their religious marriage at Ştirbei Palace from Bucharest. Their Godparents were his brother, Constantin I.C. Brătianu and (Maria) Balş.

           The Memories written by Sabina Cantacuzino, Ionel Brătianu’ s sister, entitled From the Life of Ion C. Brătianu Family describe Elisa Brătianu’s relationships with Ionel’s family.

           “After my mother’s death (3 February 1920) when Ionel and Elisa settled there, Sabina Cantacuzino wrote in her book, although I was aware of her hostile feelings towards this place, I had little hope that the fact of becoming a mistress shall make her change her mind about the place where for 13 years she caused my mother so many misfortunes, although she did not know which concessions to make in order to please her. The illusion was brief. Ionel, who wanted to attract her and create a bond with the place he loved so much, he did not know how to accomplish all the wishes she had expressed. He assigned her in the charge of the gardens, birds and the whole domain of the activities carried out by my mother. The more willing she seemed to make improvements and the more my mother had criticized her, the less she had the mood to accomplish anything. She demanded that all the trees surrounding the house, planted by my father and which grew along with us, should be cut down. In this case Ionel was inexorable and Elisa, under the pretext she isn’t allowed to do what she wants, left the garden near the house in a total decay”.

            If so far, Sabina continued, “Florica had been the centre where my mother gathered us all around her (...) little, and big, now it became Elisa’s house. And judging by her character, I could foresee what was to happen”.

           First, instead of asking Brătianu family to come over, she asked the Ştirbei family at Florica. “Elisa did not know how to eliminate us from her husband’s privacy, her morbid jealousy was gnawing her and in order to replace us, she used to attract her brother with his daughters (...). Brătienu family members used to go to Bucharest and Florica on rare occasions. Instead the Ştirbei family went to Ionel’s house more and more”.

           In 1927, Sabina Cantacuzino wrote in her book, “when Ionel was taken away from us and we took him at Florica, next to our mother and father, until the nine-day requiem she made peace with all of us because she was afraid to stay alone in the house. I was sleeping upstairs in the large room, next to Elisa and Ionel’s room (...). One night, I heard her walking and, at my request, she told me that she had burnt all her correspondence with Ionel. “How could you do that, Elisa? Ionel’s life is of great interest to the whole country, if not now, the future generations will want to know all the sides of his soul, and the sentimental one is not less interesting. You have wiped yourself away from his history”. She remained almost mortified by this perspective but she claimed it was too late”.

           Those were the years when Elisa had tense relations even with her brother Barbu, with whom “she interrupted any kind of relationship”.

           Her relationship with Sabina changed from bad to worse. First, under the pretext she did not have a room to provide for her, she refused to take her in at Ionel’s one-year requiem, a day earlier as she had requested. As a consequence, after ”the painful religious service I went straight to the train station (...). Because she did not see me anywhere, she realized the consequences of her behaviour and she sent her sister, Marieta Balş, to the station to take me back. I thanked her and I told her I’d rather be alone”.

            In the summer of 1928 the relationship between the two sisters-in-law improved, after they reunited at Florica, they had a good time at Cumpăna as well.

            Unfortunately, in the autumn, the relationships between them got worse again; Elisa refused to go to Florica while Sabina was there, accusing her of lying. As a consequence “I have decided, Sabina wrote, not to have any kind of relationship with her”.

            Another unpleasant episode of the relationship between Elisa and Sabina was on the second day following Vintilă I.C. Brătianu’s funeral on 24 December 1930. “I noticed that, Sabina wrote, the flowers on the graves in crypt were totally damaged. (...) For that reason I asked Elisa the permission to cut a few branches of mahonia and cranberry to replace them (...). No, I won’t let you devastate my garden, was her answer to the great surprise of those present”. Of course, her conduct caused profound dissatisfaction to Sabina, and as a consequence she broke any relationships with her. Ever since, every time I pass Florica or at anniversaries, I go to church, I take flowers but I do not go in the house, I do not take part in any lunches on requiem days”.

            “Everything she does-Sabina concluded- comes from pathological jealousy, an immeasurable envy. When my mother was alive, she tormented Ionel to separate him from her and to make his life at Florica miserable. After her death, she became angry with the entire family especially with me, because she could feel the close connections which united us from childhood. All the scenes after Ionel’s death had the same origin: we were still united even after death; I cared a lot about Florica, which was still surrounded by the memories of our life together. I assisted so many scenes, even when strangers were present, when she addressed him offending words, to which any other man would have replied in a drastic manner. But he kept silence, looked at her and changed the topic of conversation, approaching somebody else”.

             “After my husband’s death (dr. Constantin Cantacuzino) (1849-1920), Ionel used to come to see me every day; the warmer his love the stranger her indifference. One day he was sitting on Costache’s armchair, next to the desk, I was in front of him. We were talking sadly and we were both crying. Suddenly he said to me: seeing you so lonely and seeing myself so lonely, I feel so sorry for having got married because we cannot end our life together”.

             Obviously, the two sisters-in-law, Elisa and Sabina, very appreciated in their time, did not get on well.

              She confirmed her patriotism and civic spirit in 1913 during the campaign in Bulgaria. It is about the Second Balkan War, when, with the sums donated by Ştirbei family and other families, she organized an ambulance in a few barracks in order to care for the people infected with cholera; the activity was then continued in the great salon of Ştirbei Palace and in the house in Amzei Street.

             In the eve of the First World War, Elisa had organized a workshop and a shop – “Albina”- to encourage the Romanian traditional stitching. She drew several pictures with different patterns by herself, which she published in an album. She organized a traditional stitching school at Florica, where Romanian traditional blouses (ii), sheep skin coats and other articles specific to the Romanian traditional clothing were sewn. She also edited an album with the best works.

           In parallel with this activity, she dedicated the interwar years to setting up Ion I.C. Brătianu Establishment and Library.  

           A year later after Ionel Brătianu’s death, the widow, brothers, sisters, friends and former collaborators gathered to set up a cultural institution, which was to bear his name. The foundation of Ion I.C. Brătianu Library was laid, in accordance with The Establishment Act signed by 13 people, among whom we mention brothers Constantin and Vintilă I.C. Brătianu, Elisa Brătianu, Nicolae Iorga, I.G. Duca, George Fotino on 5 June 1929. In line with the legislation, the institution was given juridical personality; a few months later, (...) Elisa Brătianu donated her own fortune – the land of almost five thousand square metres with two huge buildings in 5-7, Biserica Amzei Street, where she lived with her husband; Vintilă and Constantin I.C. Brătianu offered the almost 6,000 volumes from Florica; the volumes were left by Ion I.C. Brătianu through testament written a year before he died, to his brothers.

           “Through this double donation (...) the solid monument which is Ion I.C. Brătianu Library was set up, an extension to the study where, for so many years, Ion I.C. Brătianu worked and supervised the welfare of the country which, according to the wish stipulated in the Lady’s Donation Act, has to remain the same as it was in the day her husband died. The new cultural place of permanent evocation was built following the plans of the architect Petre Antonescu (1873-1965) and in accordance with the requirements of the modern librarianship”.

           A few years later, Elisa invested a lot of attention in making Ion I.C. Brătianu’s granite statue- erected in front of the Cultural Establishment and unveiled on 28 November 1938.

           In parallel with these preoccupations, Elisa bought two properties- the house from Cumpăna and an old Turkish house at Balcic, where she used to go to the seaside, in the spring and autumn.

          After she was evicted from her house, in 1948, she moved in the house of her brother-in-law’s sister, Magdalena V. Beldiman, born Rosetti. Because she did not have an income, she started collecting old cloth which she used to make slippers which she then sold in order to make a living. Elisa’s occupation was not new to her because during the drought and hunger from Moldavia during 1945-1946 she started making slippers for the children brought in Bucharest from this side of the country, by the Romanian Government, in order to be protected.

         She died on 13 May 1957 at the age of 87, following a traumatic shock caused by a third fracture of the same knee.

      She was buried two days later in the tomb of Rosetti family, from Bellu cemetery, in Bucharest, where several descendants of Rosetti family sleep their eternal sleep.

      At the head of Elisa Brătianu there is a granite stone in the shape of a cross on which a Royal crown is graved, illustrating her lordly descent.  




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