The Queen of Romania’s Tutor
An investigation into the link between the BELBINS and QUEEN VICTORIA’S Grand-daughter, Queen Marie of Romania
When her mother Priscilla Griffiths née Nuell (1830-1882) married Thomas BELBIN (1830-1893) in Monmouth in Wales on 18th December 1859, Elizabeth Griffiths and her two sisters Maud and Annie were adopted by Thomas and took the name GRIFITHS-BELBIN. There is the possibility that Elizabeth and Maud could in fact be the same person because as at this stage the Griffiths family has not been researched. It is known that Elizabeth was born in approximately 1857 and so was only about 2 years old when acquiring the BELBIN name. The known family tree is shown in the Family Trees section of this website at UK Tree 4.
It is apparent that Elizabeth became a Professor of English at the University of Bucharest in Romania. The German War Reparations illustrated confirms her status in Romania since 1904. A full scale illustration will be found in the Photo Gallery. How or why she ended up there is not yet clear. In due time an enquiry will be made in case the University has records of its Alumini.
Lycee “Regina Maria”
3 – 4 – 21
Charlie dear I have been so long answering your Christmas letter. I think, I wrote to you some six weeks ago, but am not quite sure. I know I sent off several letters to the family – and I thought you were amongst them! Tell me in a letter to be written as soon as possible after you get this how you all are. I often think of you, and remembering that neither you nor Kate [KATE ELIZA DUFTY 1873-1924] are of the strongest I get anxious. You never answer my questions about Harry? [Presumably HARRY LAWRENCE BELBIN 1894-1942] I should so much to like to know how he is getting on. Does he earn a good salary – is he fairly satisfied with his life and his work? The time flies so fast that I have to remind myself that it is 7 years since 1914. Babs [WINIFRED MAY BELBIN 1911-1986] is getting on, she must be 10 isn’t she? And Eric [ERIC DUFTY BELBIN 1899-1968] more than 20. It is wonderful how our life slips away. I am old woman of 64, but still active and well. I do my 8 or 9 hours teaching a day and then read or write as I am doing now into the wee small hours. I am never asleep before 2 in the morning and generally get out of bed soon after 7 – but my five hours sleep appear enough for me as I am well and lively. I should so much like to get to England again soon, but there does not seem much chance of it unless the Claims office call me over to receive my money! But the more we go, the less chance I see of Germany ever paying and so I with thousands of others must go without. I bet all the people who cleverly muddle us and ruin us, have all their claims paid fast enough! Today I hear from a certain source that Carol has marched into B. Pesth at the head of 30,000 men. Oh the awful Entente, if they had left Rumania alone to do her own work, this would never had happened. We shall have to mobilise and join with our neighbours in the small “Entente” and send the others about their business for they have jolly well muddled ours. Our position here is very dangerous, for the Hungarians would cut all our throats while we were sleeping if once they had the smallest victory. They would not be such fools as the Rumanians were to listen to “advice” from the Entente! However I hope we shall escape assassination! If I can get this letter off by the bag I shall enclose a letter for you to post for me. Letters to England cost 2fr unregistered and 4 registered. If they are not registered they are lost! – So there you are. I can’t afford to write often you see! I had a letter from Kathleen a few weeks ago – I must answer her soon. Now dear goodbye and don’t be surprised if you hear that the Hungarian Huns have burnt down Cluj and massacred the population.
Yours with love
After the reversion of Translylvania to Romania after the 1914-1918 War she was at the University of Cluj, Translylvania’s capital. It is understood that Elizabeth was tutor to Queen Marie’s children but also she was apparently a close friend of the Queen and many of the most influential families of Romania where she lived for most of her adult life after finishing in Paris.
A letter written by Elizabeth Maud was recently discovered behind the fireplace of the old BELBIN family house in Totley Rise in Sheffield, Yorkshire. The transcription shown below was provided by Angela BELBIN-WOOD, and was written by Elizabeth from the School of Queen Marie of Romania and addressed to Angela’s Great-Grandfather, Charles Albert BELBIN who was Elizabeth’s step-brother. The letter sheds some interesting light on the Romanian political situation in 1921 as well as the actual situation Elizabeth found herself in. As you will note, she signs herself “Auntie Maud” fuelling speculation that Elizabeth and Maud were indeed the same person.
Armed with this information Angela BELBIN-WOOD made detailed searches into the history of Romania including a speed-read of the three volume autobiography of Queen Marie but sadly no mention of Elizabeth Maud in any way, shape or form. She also came up with a neat idea as to how the GRIFFITHS-BELBINS managed to get there (hope you will share that with us soon, Angela!), only to become mystified by their lack of appearance on the 1881 census. Family lore intervened suggesting that in 1881 they were out of the country – working for the Greek Royal family with whom they stayed for a time when in Greece! They are very elusive on the census returns generally as it seemed the family moved every ten years or so, just at the wrong time! Maud’s sister, Annie apparently worked for the Bey of Tunis but where this piece of information comes from is not clear. Whichever way you look at it, the GRIFFITHS-BELBIN family would seem to have been very well connected and is well worth further research.
A word about Queen Marie of Romania
The Romanian Queen was Lady Marie born on October 29, 1875 in Kent, England to Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and the former Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia, the Grand- daughter of Queen Victoria and The Tsar Alexander II of Russia. In 1893 she married the son of Prince Leopold of Hhenzollern-Sigmaringen who later became King Ferdinand I of Romania (1914-1927) and thus became Queen of the Romanians in 1914. She had six children: Carol, Elisabeth [Lisabeta], Marie [Mignon], Nicolas, Ileana, and Mircea who died at a very young age. Carol was a playboy so the crown later went to Michael, a nephew. The Duke of Edinburgh mentioned was Prince Alfred, born 1843, the fourth child of Queen Victoria who was also the Duke of Saxe-Colburg-Gotha. The previous Duke of Saxe-Colburg-Gotha was Uncle to Queen Victoria and the father of Albert who Queen Victoria married! During World War I, Queen Marie volunteered as a Red Cross nurse serving sick and wounded Romanian soldiers, many of whom were victims of cholera and typhus epidemics. After the war, she attended the Versailles Conference to help fight for Romanian territorial demands. She died in 1938.
The impression seems to be that Elizabeth Maud was indeed a close friend of the Queen rather than the more reasonable assumption that she was simply in Romania as a teacher to the Royal children. Angela BELBIN-WOOD considers that the Irish birth father Griffiths (first-name unknown) could possibly be the person with the connections but at the present time this trail hasn’t been taken up.
Postcard from Romania
Another member of this family, Jacqueline Porter (née BELBIN) and her husband John have unearthed a collection of photos including the 1925 portrait of Elizabeth shown on this page which was sent to Jacqueline’s sister, Elizabeth Maud Rose BELBIN. In addition they have found some postcards written by Elizabeth posted from Romania between 1914 and 1929 to various members of the BELBIN family including Clarence (Charles Thomas Clarence BELBIN 1892-1915) who was on the Western front in World War I. One such postcard shown here was written just a few days before Clarence was killed in action on 30 July 1915 and presumably therefore, he never saw Elizabeth’s worried words.
It seems that Google Books has identified one of Elizabeth Maud’s books, namely Griffiths-Belbin, Maud. English book for children in Rumania. Bucuresti: “Cartea românească” but clearly labelling the author’s name as Maud Griffiths-Belbin rather than Elizabeth, which again fuels speculation that Maud and Elizabeth were one and the same person.
The investigation into this story is ongoing and if anything new comes to light it will find its way onto this page in due time.