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Princess Elizabeth Bibesco
(1897-1945) Writer

Elizabeth Bibesco
by Augustus John
Elizabeth Charlotte Lucy was the first child of Herbert Henry Asquith (British Prime Minister, 1908-1916) and his second wife, Margot (Tennant). It is said that Elizabeth and her brother Anthony would throw things from the third floor windows of 10 Downing Street at the suffragettes shackled to the railings below. Life as the Prime Minister's daughter thrust her into the public eye at an early age and she developed a quick wit and a social presence beyond her years.

Between 1921 and 1940 Elizabeth wrote three collections of short stories, four novels, two plays and a book of poetry. All of these works have a "continental" sensibility. They deal almost entirely with a kind of love in which the heroines ponder the least gesture of a man until it takes on the proportions of an emotional event with lasting implications, while the heroes spend their time in mute surrender at the feet of remote and disdainful women. "One young poet had described her soul as a fluttering, desperate bird, beating its wings on the bars of her marvellous loveliness," is a sample of her prose style (from the short story "Pilgrimage", 1921). Her novels and stories, which by 1940 were considered merely fashionable, flimsy stuff with no lasting significance, can now be seen as the illumination of a class of people who were made irrelevant by the First World War but who refused to accept their irrelevance. Elizabeth Bibesco was connected (especially in the mind of the media) with Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield, neither of whom treated her well in their letters and diaries, especially after a liaison between Elizabeth and Mansfield's husband, John Middleton Murry. Woolf wrote, "She is pasty and podgy, with the eyes of a currant bun."

She travelled with her husband in his capacity as Romanian ambassador, first to Washington (1920-1926) and then to Madrid (1927-1931). She was in Romania during World War II and died there of pneumonia in 1945 at the age of 48. She was buried in the Bibesco family vault on the grounds of Mogosoaia Palace outside Bucharest. Her epitaph reads, "My soul has gained the freedom of the night," - the last line of the last poem in her 1927 collection.

"Elizabeth Bibesco." Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 27 Nov 2008, 19:51 UTC. 6 Jan 2009 <>.

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