The year was 1890. The queen was Queen Elizabeth of Romania and was on a private visit to Wales and Ireland, partly due to her strong interest in folklore, partly due to her desire to escape a scandal that was brewing at home. The queen had encouraged a lovematch between Crown Prince Ferdinand and a lady-in-waiting considered by King Carol I (and the constitution) to be unsuitable. Queen Elizabeth was banished from court for two years for her part in the plot and seemingly quite enjoyed herself while out in the cold.
A guest of the Earl of Meath in September 1890, the queen made a number of public appearances in Dublin and Bray (accompanied by the ‘unsuitable’ lady in waiting), including a Valley of Diamonds visit to the Cripples’ Home (that imposing building on the lower Dargle Road, facing the centre of the People’s Park). The story goes that the queen was so taken with one sleeping child that she waited by his bedside until the child awoke. This tale has a little more meaning when we realise that the queen’s only child had died aged 3 from Scarlet Fever.
It seems likely, given her strong support for folklore and traditional arts, that while in Bray the queen came across the work of Bray woodcarvers (later the Bray Art Furniture Industry under Sophia St. John Whitty). Art historians have wondered about the connection between carvings from Bray and the famous ‘Norwegian’ celtic-inspired chairs in the ‘Golden Boudoir’ of the royal Pelisor Palace in Romania. The Pelsoir Palace was decorated by Queen Elizabeth’s successor, Queen Marie (the British princess who became unhappily married to Crown Prince Ferdinand). www.diamondvalley/sophiastjohnwhitty.html
Unusually for a queen, Elisabeth was personally of the opinion that a Republican form of government was preferable to Monarchy – an opinion which she expressed forthrightly in her diary, though she did not make it public at the time:
I must sympathize with the Social Democrats, especially in view of the inaction and corruption of the nobles. These “little people”, after all, want only what nature confers: equality. The Republican form of government is the only rational one. I can never understand the foolish people, the fact that they continue to tolerate us.