VII.

ROUMANIA AN INDEPENDENT KINGDOM.

PRINCE CHARLES was proclaimed ruler of Rouf mania An his twenty-seventh birthday. His father was head of the non-reigning branch of the great Hohenzollern family, and had acted for a short time as Prussian Premier; his grandmother had been connected with the house of Bonaparte. He was thus on the best of terms with the two great Powers which dominated the West of Europe in 1866. His training had been that of an officer in a crack Prussian regimerit, and stood him in good stead at a critical period t of his career. But he was much more than a mere soldier. He was liberal in his ideas for a Hohenzollern, and filled with that deep sense of duty which has always been a marked characteristic of that powerful race. He at once made it his business to study the requirements of the nation which had summoned him to preside over its destinies. He soon acquired great personal knowledge of the Iand and its inhabitants, and found ample scope for his favourite hobby of forestry in the woods of the Carpathians. By his marriage with Princess Pauline Elizabeth of 109 110 ROUMANIA AN INDEPENDENT KINGDOM. Wied, he gained a consort who gracefully seconded his efforts to identify the foreign dynasty with the interests of its adopted country. The Queen of Roumania is known all over Europe, under the pseudonym of "Carmen Sylva," as a royal authoress, who, even if she had not had the advantages of rank, would still have made a name .in literature. Her poems and stories, the collection of Roumanian folk-lore which she has published, and the encouragement which she has given to the national idea by her preference for the Roumanian dress and her patronage of the old Roumanian customs, have won her general esteem. "Carmen Sylva" has bidden a poetic farewell "for ever" to her father's castle on the Rhine, and has made her home on the slopes of the Carpathians and on the banks of the Danube. Her own writings and her husband's soldierly qualities have made the name of Roumania familiar to the world. The difficulties which beset the new Government at the outset have gradually disappeared, and the sovereign, who at one time thought of resigning in consequence of the bitterness of party spirit and the opposition of the politicians to his methods, has just celebrated, amidst universal rejoicings, the thirtieth anniversary of his reign. The intrigues of the,revolutionary party, which professed to desire a Republic, the extreme licence of the press, and the perpetual changes of ministry, which characterised his three first years in Roumania, have given place to a general recognition of his services to a country, which, after centuries of misgovernment, has at last found repose.

The first act of the new Prince was to sign the 111 THE CONSTITUTION. Constitution, which had been drawn up by a Constituent Assembly directly after his accession. The Constitution of 1866 gave the Roumanians a free press and free compulsory education, and guaranteed freedom of conscience and public meeting. But the religious toleration thus enjoined has not prevented bitter attacks upon the Jews, whose commercial supremacy aroused the jealousy of the less enterprising natives. Roumania has had her Judenhetse no less than Russia and Germany, and the free press has stimulated the agitation, which has been at last suppressed by force. Besides the Prince, a Senate and an indirectly-elected Chamber of Deputies composed the Government. This constitution, with modifications introduced in 1879 and 1884, has existed ever since, and has, on the whole, worked well. The Roumanians, like other branches of the Latin race, import a large amount of vehement speaking into political life, and are apt to be easily excited. But their country has been fortunate in the possession of statesmen such as M. Constantine Rosetti and M. John Bratiano, who would have made their mark in any assembly, and the experiment of parliamentary government has succeeded there better than in either Servia or Bulgaria.

The military training of Prince Charles had convinced him of the necessity of a strong and disciplined army for a country situated like Roumania, between the twin fires of Russia and Turkey. At his accession to the throne he found in existence a small military force, full of enthusiasm, but sadly deficient in organisation and arms. Couza had, under French 112 ROUMANIA AN INDEPENDENT KINGDOM. auspices, increased it from 8,400 to 25,000; his successor obtained permission from his suzerain, blissfully unconscious of the use to which the troops would soon be put, to raise the number to 30,000. He then bought a large supply of the Prussian breechloaders, which had just done such signal service against the Austrians, and borrowed Prussian instructors to train his raw levies on the most approved model. The Roumanian army soon became an important factor in the politics of the Balkan Peninsula; and, before its creator had been many years on the throne, it had proved, beneath the walls of Plevna, that it was capable, under proper guidance, of great military achievements. The assistance of Roumania has become an object of considerable value in any war in the East; and, in addition to her very efficient army, she now, alone of the Balkan States, possesses the nucleus of a navy. Even the great military Powers of the Triple Alliance would not disdain the aid of a nation at once so well armed and so opportunely placed.

The Eastern Question, which became acute in 1876, naturally affected the interests of Roumania in the most vital manner. Under the rule of Prince Charles, she had accustomed herself to consider the suzerainty of the Sultan as a mere form; and accordingly when Midhat's abortive constitution proclaimed the unity and indivisibility of the Turkish Empire, including the privileged provinces, and gave the name of Ottomans to the Sultan's subjects and vassals of every race and creed, the indignation at Bucharest knew no bounds. Roumania, which had taken no 113 THE RUSSO-TURKISH WAR. part whatever in the war between Turkey and Servia and Montenegro, was aghast at the idea of being treated as a Turkish province, and resolved to put an end for ever to the semblance of authority which the Sultan still possessed over her. On April 16, 1877, a secret convention was signed with Russia, which placed a free passage through Roumania at the disposal of the Czar's troops, without, however, promising the active co-operation of the Roumanian army. The Porte denounced this convention as a violation of the Treaty of Paris, but in vain. The Sultan then took the matter into his own hands. He issued an Irade, deposing Prince Charles, and ordered the Turkish monitors on the Danube to bombard Kalafat. The reply was the declaration of war by Roumania and the proclamation of her independence on May 21st. Nearly five hundred years had passed away since Mirtschea the Old had first acknowledged the overlordship of the Sultan. At last the long period of dependence was over. Roumania was free.

For the first three months after the declaration of war the Roumanian troops took comparatively little part in the active hostilities between the Russian and Turkish armies. The railways, hospitals, and every other advantage which the principality possessed were placed at the disposal of the Imperial forces, and the Prince devoted himself to improving the defences of his country along the Danube. So long as the Russians were successful, Roumania pursued the policy of protecting her own frontier. But when the armies of the Czar were checked at Plevna and at Erzeroum, when the balance of victory was on the 9 114 ROUMANIA AN INDEPENDENT KINGTOM. side of the Turks, then Prince Charles hesitated no longer. Crossing the Danube at the head of twenty-eight thousand, infantry and four thousand cavalry, he soon made himself so invaluable to his allies, that he was appointed Commander-in-chief of the Russian and Roumanian forces before Plevna. The Roumanians had already shown, during the bombardment of Kalafat, that, if they lacked experience, they were not wanting in courage; and the Russian veterans soon recognised that the soldiers of Prince Charles were not the unskilled amateurs whom they had at first imagined them to be.

The post of danger in front of the famous Grivica redoubt, the strongest of all the fortifications which defended Plevna, was entrusted to the Roumanian army. Onlookers of the operations believed the task of taking this redoubt absolutely impossible, even if the besiegers "bombarded it for a week and sacrificed a brigade of infantry in the attempt." The fact that the position was allotted to the Roumanians, who were numerically much weaker than their Muscovite allies, was regarded as a proof that nothing more than a "demonstration" was intended. But the Roumanian gunners soon showed that they meant business, and picked off the Turkish artillerymen with unerring aim. On September 11th a grand attack was made on the "indomitable redoubt" by the allies. But the Russians arrived, by an accident, half an hour too late, and at first the battalions of Prince Charles were repulsed. Three hours later a second assault proved more successful. The redoubt was captured, and the Turks driven back. But a fog 115 THE GRIVICA REDOUBT. came on, and the Roumanian reserves, who had been ordered up to occupy the position so lately won, lost their way, and thus allowed the enemy to recapture the works. But it was not for long. A third attack, later in the evening, utterly routed the brave defenders of the redoubt. No further attempt was made to recover it; and when the sun rose next morning, it revealed to the astonished hosts the spectacle of the Roumanian colours proudly floating from the summit of the terrible outworks of Grivica. But the thrice-fought struggle for the redoubt had been dearly bought. An eye-witness, who visited the place a few hours after the last assault, found the whole of the interior choked with heaps of dead and wounded, Turks and Roumanians, lying in inextricable confusion, uncared for and unheeded. No doctor was at hand to ease the sufferings of the injured, no comrade was there to soothe the last moments of the dying. Amid the horrors of the siege, there was no time to think of the victims which it claimed.

A second redoubt, scarcely less formidable than the first, was next attacked. For a week the Roumanians tried in vain to capture it, and then, finding their efforts unsuccessful, set to work to dig trenches, so as to approach the hostile lines. Impartial critics could not help contrasting their perseverance with the apathy of the Russians, who remained quietly waiting for reinforcements, while their allies were slowly but surely advancing. Outside the lines of Plevna, at Rahova, on the Bulgarian bank of the Danube, they gained fresh laurels by the occupation 116 ROUMANIA AN INDEPENDENT KINGDOM. of that town; and when, on December 10th, Plevna at last fell, and Osman Pasha, its brave defender, surrendered, every one admitted that no small share of the credit for its capture was due to the soldiers of Prince Charles. The independence of Roumania had been won on the Grivica redoubt.

But a long and bitter experience of former Russ-Turkish wars had taught the Roumanians that there is little gratitude in politics. From the first there had been considerable opposition to the alliance with Russia among those who remembered her past conduct towards their country. The fall of Plevna for the moment, however, had united all parties in general rejoicings, and when the "Czar liberator" arrived at Bucharest on his way back from the seat of war, he was greeted with enthusiasm. But the Treaty of San Stefano, signed on March 3, 1878, justified the suspicions of the Roumanian people. While, on the one hand, the Porte formally recognised the independence of Roumania; Russia, on the other, acquired from Turkey the district between the Danube and the Black Sea, known as the Dobrudza, with the express object of exchanging it for the southern part of Bessarabia, which had been taken from the Czar and given to Roumania after the Crimean war. The subsequent Treaty of Berlin, which in so many ways amended the arrangements made at San Stefano, confirmed this exchange, with the slight modification that a rather larger strip of territory was given to Roumania. But Russia had by far the best of the bargain. The extra piece of land awarded to Roumania was taken not from her, but from Bulgaria. 117 THE TREATY OF BERLIN. The Czar's dominions were once more bounded by the Pruth, and once more the Roumanians had cause to hate the name of the "accursed stream," which, after an interval of twenty-two years, again separated them from their kinsfolk in Bessarabia. At the end of 1878 the exchange was effected, to the great grief of the Roumanians, who felt that their heroic sacrifices at Plevna should not have been thus rewarded. Bessarabia had been part of the old Moldavian principality; its name enshrined the memory of a once famous Roumanian family; its loss in 1812 had been bitterly lamented and only partially compensated for by the surrender of a portion of it in 1856. Now it was all gone again. On the other hand, the Dobrudza was of less value, and inhabited by a mixed population, which comprised many Bulgarians and Turks. as well as Roumanians. But the greatest point of all had been gained—the formal recognition of Roumania as a sovereign state. As the Prince expressed it, there was an end to those "ill-defined ties, which were known at Constantinople as suzerainty, at Bucharest as vassalage." But for a ruler who controlled the destinies of so proud and ancient a race, and whose dominions covered nearly fifty thousand square miles, the title seemed inadequate. On March 26, 1881, Roumania proclaimed herself a kingdom, and the Prince styled himself King Carol I. As an appropriate sign that Roumania, like Germany, had won her position among the nations "not by the decrees of majorities, but by blood and iron," the crown of her first king was made from the Turkish cannon which he had captured at Plevna.

118 ROUMANIA AN INDEPENDENT KINGDOM.

From that time onwards Roumania has belonged to that fortunate class of countries which have no history. She has gone on increasing in prosperity and strength; the succession to the throne has been made doubly sure by the marriage of her Crown Prince with a granddaughter of Queen Victoria; the capacity of her people for self-government has been tried. If some ardent patriots still cherish the dream of a big Roumania, which shall embrace the Roumanians of Transylvania and Bessarabia, no less than those of the kingdom, all moderate men are content with what has been won, and none regret the bygone days of Turkish suzerainty.