The Life of Queen Eleonore of Bulgaria

Tsaritsa Eleonore with Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria

Queen Eleonore was born a princess of Reuss on August 22, 1860 in the Prussian Province of Brandenburg (present-day Poland). Her father was Prince Heinrich IV Reuss of Köstritz and her mother was Princess Luise Caroline Reuss of Greiz.

The little German state of Kostritz contributed royal wives for many of the European courts but Eleanore, described as "a plain but practical... capable and kind-hearted woman," gave every promise in early life of remaining a spinster in her native land. She spent much of her adult life in St. Petersburg, where she was an intimate of the Czar and Czarina. There it she met then-Prince Ferdinand of Bulgaria.

Ferdinand was a widower after his first wife, Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma, died. Ferdinand was, however, compelled to look for a new wife to bear the burdens that a queen consort carries. Having four children already and with homosexual tendencies, Ferdinand was no longer interested of siring further heirs, so he made it clear that only wanted bride who do not expect affection or attention.
Ferdinand had a lukewarm reception when he went to Petrograd, where he met Eleanore. Courtiers whispered that he would be lucky enough to win the Russian favor if he married Eleanore. Ferdinand pursued her and they eventually married in Coburg February 28, 1908. She was initially style a Princess of Bulgaria. On October 5, 1908, Bulgaria declared its independence from the Ottoman Empire and she assumed the title Tsaritsa ("Queen").

She was already 43 years old when she became Queen of Bulgaria. Despite Ferdinand’s cold treatment of her, she easily won over the affection of her stepchildren, the Court and the hearts of the people, especially for caring the wounded soldiers. An avid reader, she poured herself on American and English works. She earned from praise for her concern for the Bulgarians during the Balkans and First World Wars, working tirelessly to comfort the injured and the dying. It was even said that she had "a special gift for relieving suffering."

Tsaritsa Eleonore fell ill at the end of World War I. She passed away in Euxinograd on September 12, 1917. Her final wish was for her to buried in the cemetery of a 12th-century church at Boyana, near Sofia. Her grave was ransacked by the Socialists, looting her jewelry and the decorative stones, being bulldozing her remains back in the hole. With the restoration of democracy in 1989, the original stones were excavated and the site was restored back to its former glory. 

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