Carol II was the King of Romania between 1930 and 1940. To this day, he remains a controversial figure. In one move, King Carol II inaugurated the personal royal dictatorship in 1938, dissolving the political parties. In 1940, King Carol II had no choice other than to abdicate. We recall than back then, in the wake of a series of ultimatums, Greater Romania got dismantled, since Bessarabia was ceded to the then USSR and Transylvania went to Horthy's Hungary. In another move, he was a monarch who had a substantial contribution to the country's cultural and economic progress. Yet there is a part of his biography that at that time sparked gossip and controversies, activating quite a lot of clichés. It was King Carol's sentimental affair with Elena Lupescu. She was the victim of a series of besmirching campaigns carried, in the 1920s, by the liberal governments, or by the Iron Guard, who were openly anti-Semitic. Elena Lupescu had also been castigated by the communist regime, so all that makes it all the more difficult for somebody to find out what she was really like. No less difficult is to grasp the role Elena Lupescu played in the politics of that time or the true substance of her relationship with Carol II. What we do know for sure are certain data. In 1925, Prince heir Carol, the son of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie, renounced the throne as he intended to live together with his mistress, Elena Lupescu. She was the daughter of a Jewish pharmaceutist who had converted to Orthodoxy, and the former wife or an army captain named Ion Tempeanu. Once with his willing exile, King Carol renounced the throne of Romania, which officially went to his underage son, Michael, in 1927, after the death of King Ferdinand. Michael's mother was King Carol's legitimate wife, Princess Helen of Greece. Actually, Romania's Supreme Court officially dissolved the marriage, on account of mismatch and abandonment of matrimonial residence, in 1925. However, the situation changed five years later. Returning to Romania, Carol got his throne back, sent his former wife in exile and became King Carol II. Quite unlike his British relative Edward VIII, who renounced the throne in order to espouse a divorced American, Wallis Simpson, Carol II decided to rule having Elena Lupescu by his side, albeit unassumingly. It marked the beginning of a period of transformations for Romania, as on one hand, the country saw an unprecedented cultural and economic progress, while on the other hand Romania at that time saw the upsurge of right-wing extremism, but also the instatement of the royal dictatorship. An entourage of favorites had structured around the king, a group the media of that time labeled "camarilla", apparently dominated by Elena Lupescu. Deservedly or not, many times Elena Lupescu was the scapegoat of all resentfulness coming from all directions of the political spectrum, and not only that. But what is the truth behind the besmirching campaigns of the past and today's clichés that help us have a representation of Elena Lupescu, nicknamed "the madam", "duduia" in Romanian? An attempted answer is provided by a fairly recent volume authored by Tatiana Niculescu and brought out by the Humanitas Publishers. "The King and the Madam. Carol II and Elena Lupescu, beyond gossip and clichés " is the title of a double biography, of Elena and Carol, yet to a greater extent, the book is a biography of their affair which eventually appears to be a genuine and profound love story, to the readers. Rereading the letters the two exchanged between them, discovering hitherto unexplored period documents, such as Elena Lupescu's school record, or analyzing the way the couple was tightly monitored by the police and the intelligence services, who watched them wherever they went, the personality of the two lovers is freed from clichés and gets human. Especially the "madam' appears in the spotlight, with all her purely humane flaws and qualities, so very typical for our fellow human beings.
Alina Pavelescu is the deputy director of the National Archives in Bucharest. She formed an opinion on the less well-known aspects of Elena Lupescu's biography as they were presented in the book.
"I amused myself reading that, at the boarding school, Elena Lupescu excelled in a subject known as 'intuition', where she had the highest grades. I also amused myself because of the sometimes vulgar language of their love letters or of the triteness their exchanged. They used such appellatives as 'girl', 'Carolica', 'mother' or other such words which right now are amusing. Yet they sounded like they relished in parodying the style of Caragiale's characters. But after all, the fact that they chose to express their love in an unelaborated style, did that delegitimize the feelings they had for one another? No, not in the least. In the long run, what we can surely say about the two characters is that each of them was the right person for the other one's life. This love story between Carol II and Elena Lupescu should not be read in a political key. I doubt that Romania's destiny would have changed, had Elena Lupescu not existed in the life of Carol II, and I doubt he would have been a different king if Elena Lupescu had not existed in his life. "
Concurrently, the contradictions in the personality of King Carol II can also be found in many representatives of the young generation in the inter-war period, especially in the case of those born after 1900.
"Carol II is the representative of a generation of youngsters that compelled recognition after World War Two, the generation Mircea Eliade depicted in the press of that time, a generation that had its far-right aberrations, but which was the offspring of the Great War. This generation was the child of a historical trauma and badly wanted to do away with the patterns of the old world. Actually, that's what Carol II did, in a quite debatable manner. He did away with the patterns of the old world. He destroyed the stability of the image of royalty, oftentimes placing the Romanian royalty and the royal family in extremely vulnerable positions, and for that, he does not deserve much praise. Yet there is another side of his personality as well. Had he not been a king, he could have been a more likable person. If his name had not been linked to the loss of Greater Romania, a Romania his parents had successfully patronized, he would not have been such a deplorable king. But we cannot know that for sure."
Carol II abdicated in 1940. Elena Lupescu joined Carol in a long journey that took them to Brazil, Mexico and eventually Portugal. They got married in Brazil in 1947 but they settled in Estoril, Portugal, where Carol also died in 1953. His wife, Elena Lupescu, outlived him, until 1977.