I'm a royal watcher and author. Royal life can be a dream that turns into a nightmare as Romanian Zizi Lambrino discovered in the 1920s.
Zizi: Joanna Marie Valentino Lambrino
Joanna Marie Valentino Lambrino was known as Zizi throughout her life. She was born on 3rd October 1898, the daughter of Colonel Constantin and Euphrosine Lambrino.
After attending a convent school in France, Zizi returned to her homeland in 1910. She was musical and artistic and thrived in Bucharest's aristocratic circles. It was expected that she'd make a good marriage.
Prince Carol of Romania (1893-1953) and Zizi first met in the city of Jassy, Romania, during the summer of 1918. He had already earned himself a reputation as a playboy prince, but this didn't matter to her. Carol pursued Zizi despite objections from his parents, King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie (she too had a reputation caused by her romantic liaisons), who viewed Zizi as unsuitable because she was not of royal birth.
Ferdinand I of Romania Outwitted by His Son
Carol was determined to make Zizi his wife, and she happily conspired to ensure that she was often at the palace as a member of the queen's sewing and knitting circle for the war effort. The couple walked in the palace gardens, played bridge or went for drives in Carol's Rolls-Royce each evening.
King Ferdinand was equally committed to separating Carol and Zizi, so he had Carol placed in command of a regiment over 175km away in the Carpathian Mountains. To the king's frustration, Zizi moved from Jassy to be with her prince.
Carol took unscheduled time off from fighting the war to elope. He rented a car and drove himself and Zizi across the Romanian border into Ukraine, then under German occupation. He was recognised, but the Germans didn't thwart their plans or inform Carol's father of their whereabouts.
The couple found a willing priest and were married in Odesa on the 18th August 1918. The bride wore a homemade crepe-de-chine gown for the occasion.
Royal Rage and an Agonising Annulment
King Ferdinand was incensed by Carol's blatant disregard for his dynastic and military duties. He ordered his son to be confined in the Bistrita monastery for seventy-five days. Zizi was sent to Jassy, and Carol was instructed to have no further contact with her. Carol responded that he would renounce his rights to the Romanian throne to remain with Zizi. Ferdinand refused to accept his son's resignation from royal life.
Queen Marie visited Carol several times during his incarceration. As Carol pleaded with her to be sympathetic, she implored him to give up Zizi, even if that was just until the war ended, and then a compromise might be reached.
In November 1918, Carol returned to Jassy with his regiment. He saw Zizi in the crowd that greeted the soldiers, but he was denied access to her. He was informed that if he agreed to sign an agreement for a permanent annulment of his marriage, then he'd be permitted to see her to say goodbye. He acquiesced. She was devastated. The Romanian supreme court ruled that the marriage had been illegal and unconstitutional. It was annulled.
A 2nd Chance for Happy Ever After
Either by accident or design, Carol found himself a wholly unsuitable mistress, and his parents were sufficiently horrified that they allowed Zizi to return to Carol. They even turned the proverbial blind eye to the couple living together.
When Zizi fell pregnant, King Ferdinand rather coldly plotted for Carol to be stationed with his regiment in the Far East. Carol's drastic response was to shoot himself in the leg so that he was unfit for duty. The couple left Bucharest and lived in an "unprincely" house near the River Danube in sweltering heat that made an already suffering Zizi more unwell.
In July 1919, Carol tried to persuade his parents to allow him to remarry Zizi, and he offered to return to his army duties. He travelled to Hungary to serve with his regiment, but unsurprisingly Ferdinand I didn't give his permission for remarriage.
On the 8th January 1920, Zizi gave birth to a son that they named Mircea Grigore Carol. He was known as Carol Lambrino because he was considered illegitimate by the Romanian establishment, so instead of being acknowledged as a son of the Hohenzollern-Zigmaringen dynasty, his birth was registered using Zizi's surname.
Prince Carol Abandons Zizi and Baby Carol
Prince Carol told his wife that they'd be the "happiest and most united family." Just days later, he changed his mind and declared that their love story had one outcome "la misere noire" (black misery). Carol abandoned Zizi and baby Carol and safeguarded his place in the line of succession to the Romanian throne.
Queen Marie sent Carol on a long cruise, and Zizi and baby Carol were dispatched to Paris. The Romanian government awarded her an allowance of 110000 francs per annum and a home was purchased for her and Carol just outside Paris in Neuilly-sur-Seine. Prince Carol never visited his son.
The prince became King Carol II of Romania in 1930. In 1940 he was deposed after he allied himself with Nazi Germany, and his son by his second wife Helen of Greece and Denmark sat on the throne as King Michael I until a communist regime took root in the country in 1947. Carol Lambrino was not permitted entry to Romania from 1940.
Ex-king Carol and his third wife, Elena "Magda" Lupescu, remained in exile for the rest of his days. Kings Michael I and Carol II were estranged.
In March 1953, Zizi passed away, impoverished. Carol Lambrino wrote to his father, "Mother died, have no money for a funeral." Carol did not respond. He died from a heart attack the following month.
Carol Lambrino Finally Becomes Carol Hohenzollern
In 1955 a Portuguese court acknowledged that Carol Lambrino was the legitimate son of the late King Carol II of Romania and that he was entitled to use the Hohenzollern surname. Another case in France two years later allowed Carol to pursue claims for the French properties his father had owned. Ex-King Michael I counterclaimed but was defeated.
In 1995 Carol was declared legitimate in a Romanian court. Again Michael fought against the ruling, but he was unsuccessful.
Carol passed away in 2006, and he was buried in the Cozia Monastery in southern Romania. Michael I died in 2017. Carol (Lambrino) Hohenzollern's son Paul-Phillipe Hohenzollern claims to be the head of the dynasty, but Michael's daughter Margareta of Romania, is regarded as the matriarch of the royal house in exile.
Click here to find out more about the unsavoury story of Paul-Phillipe:
- Mircea Grigore Carol “Carol Lambrino” Hohenzollern (1920-2006) | Find a Grave Memorial
- Zizi Lambrino – 'La misere noire' (Part one) | History of Royal Women
- Zizi Lambrino, First Wife of King Carol II of Romania | Unofficial Royalty
© 2022 Joanne Hayle