PRINCESS ILEANA OF ROMANIA: WOULD BE TSARINA OF RUSSIA?
Born on January 5, 1909 in Bucharest – Romania’s capital, Princess Ileana was the youngest daughter of King Ferdinand I and Princess Marie of Edinburgh, who was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria of England and first cousin to Empress Alexandra of Russia.
As a young child Princess Ileana met and befriended the children of the last Russian Tsar Nicholas II, who were her 2nd cousins. The little girl became especially fond of Tsarevich Alexei, Heir to the throne of Russia. In fact, both sets of parents did not exclude the possibility of marriage between their children some time in future; Alexei’s eldest sister – Grand Duchess Olga – was also thought to have been a good dynastic match for Ileana’s big brother Carol, heir to the Romanian throne. Of course the possibility of any Russian marriages ended with the brutal murder of the entire Romanov family in 1918.
As a teenager and young woman Ileana was the organizer and leader of the Romanian Young Women’s Red Cross Reserve, and later founded the first social work school in Romania. The princess was an avid sailor – she was able to navigate competently and had sailed the ship “Isprava” for many years.
On July 26, 1931, Ileana married Archduke Anton of Austria, Prince of Tuscany. King Carol II, Ileana’s brother, really wished for this marriage- he was jealous of Ileana’s excessive popularity in Romania, and wanted her to move abroad. Right after his sister’s wedding Carol announced that the Romanian people will never tolerate the Habsburgs on Romanian territory, and Ileana and Anton were pressured to leave Romania.
After the newlywed royal couple arrived in the bride’s new country, the Arch Duchess Ileana became president of the Austrian Young Women Guides.
During the Second World War, after her husband was drafted into the German Air Force, Ileana founded a hospital for the wounded Romanian soldiers at their castle, Sonneburg.
In 1944, Ileana and her children returned to Romania, where they lived in Bran Castle, near Brasov. Archduke Anton later joined them, but was placed under house arrest by the Red Army. Princess Ileana worked at another hospital in the village of Bran, which she named “The Queen of Hearts” as a tribute to her mother, Queen Marie.
Ileana and her husband were largely estranged when she had an affair with one of the local senior communist officials, who helped her keep her hospital open. But by late 1947, this was no longer possible and Ileana was told it was over, and she and her family were driven out of the new communist Romania. They eventually settled in Switzerland, then moved to Argentina, and in 1950 Ileana and her children moved to the United States, and settled in Newton, Massachusetts.
In 1954, Ileana and Anton officially divorced, and later that year she got married for the second time to Dr. Stephen Nicholas Issaresku.
In 1961, Princess Ileana decided to enter the Convent of the Intercession of the Mother of God in Bussy, France, where she was given the name Alexandra. Ileana’s second marriage ended in official divorce a few years later.
Sister Alexandra returned to the United States and founded the Orthodox Monastery of the Transfiguration in Ellwood City, Pennsylvania. She served there as an abbess until her retirement in 1981, remaining at the convent for the rest of her life.
Ileana had the chance to return to Romania in 1990 at the age of 81, along with her daughter. Early the following year she fell and broke her hip, consequently having suffered two heart attacks at the hospital.
Princess Ileana of Romania’s long interesting life ended on January 21, 1991.