- Baha’is abstain from food and drink between sunrise and sunset for 19 days. While this abstention from food and drink is a test of one’s will and discipline, the Fast is not just about abstaining from food. The Fast is, primarily, a spiritual practice.
O Queen in London!… We have been informed that thou hast forbidden the trading in slaves, both men and women. This, verily, is what God hath enjoined in this wondrous Revelation. God hath, truly, destined a reward for thee, because of this. 1
This passage is part of a Tablet that Baha’u’llah addressed around 1867 to the “renowned” Queen Victoria, “whose sovereignty” Shoghi Effendi characterized as “[extending] over the greatest political combination the world has witnessed.” 2 Baha’u’llah likewise praises Queen Victoria for having “entrusted the reins of counsel into the hands of the representatives of the people,” 3 and even includes in His Tablet advice on how the members of her Parliament should represent the people, should be trustworthy and just. What distinguishes this Tablet and another, written about the same time to “the omnipotent Czar of the vast Russian Empire,” 2 Alexander II, from others Baha’u’llah addressed to the political and ecclesiastical rulers of His time, including Napoleon III, Pope Pius IX, William I, Francis Joseph, Abdu’l-‘Aziz, and Nasiri’d-Din Shah, is His commendation of acts the British and Russian monarchs had each performed during their reigns, directly or indirectly, that He indicated were well-pleasing to God.
Something else these same two rulers would come to share on 29 October 1875 was a granddaughter, Marie Alexandra Victoria – daughter of Queen Victoria’s son Alfred and of Czar Alexander’s daughter Maria Alexandrovna – who became Queen of Romania when she and her husband Ferdinand were crowned King and Queen on 11 October 1914. I believe that the reward that Baha’u’llah promised Queen Victoria is related to this granddaughter Marie, who herself learned about the Message of the Promised One of all Ages, Baha’u’llah, in early 1926.
Martha L. Root, an elderly American journalist, inspired almost immediately upon becoming a Baha’i by the call raised by Abdu’l-Baha to teach this Faith, who traveled the world for 20 years, between 1919 and her passing in 1939, to share the Baha’i Faith with all with whom she came in contact, felt compelled to reach out even to the rulers and prominent citizens of the countries she visited. The list is impressive, and Shoghi Effendi pays tribute to her in his book entitled God Passes By. As Martha anticipated a trip to Bucharest in December 1925, she felt particularly drawn to Queen Marie, whom she had heard and read a lot about. Martha sent her a copy of Baha’u’llah and the New Era, and received an invitation to visit the Queen the following day at Cotroceni Palace.
Their first of nine meetings was delightful for both women. Queen Marie told Martha that she had stayed up most of the previous night reading the book about the Baha’i Faith. In fact, John E. Esslemont’s introductory book had impressed the Queen so profoundly that she spontaneously decided to write about and recommend the book she received from Martha in one of the regular articles she was commissioned to submit to the North American Newspaper Syndicate. Below is a portion from the appreciation, published in the Toronto Daily Star on 4 May 1926:
A woman brought me the other day a Book. I spell it with a capital letter because it is a glorious Book of love and goodness, strength and beauty…. There is only one great verity in it: Love, the mainspring of every energy, tolerance toward each other, desire of understanding each other, knowing each other, helping each other, forgiving each other… I commend it to you all. If ever the name of Baha’u’llah or Abdu’l-Baha comes to your attention, do not put their writings from you. Search out their Books, and let their glorious, peace-bringing, love-creating words and lessons sink into your hearts as they have into mine. 4
The Queen of Romania wholeheartedly embraced the Message of Baha’u’llah, immediately understanding the important concept of progressive revelation, namely that God periodically sends a Manifestation who brings us His Message to help us all live a productive and service-oriented life. In another article submitted to the same Newspaper Syndicate Queen Marie writes:
But mostly we ignore or misunderstand this [God’s] voice. Therefore did He choose his Elect to come down amongst us upon earth to make clear His word, His real meaning. Therefore the Prophets; therefore Christ, Muhammad, Baha’u’llah, for man needs from time to time a voice upon earth to bring God to him, to sharpen the realization of the existence of the true God. Those voices sent to us had to become flesh, so that with our earthly ears we should be able to hear and understand. 5
In 1930 Queen Marie took a trip with her daughter Ileana to the Middle East, and was planning to pay her respects at the Baha’i Holy Shrines. Shoghi Effendi had extended an invitation to them to be his and Bahiyyih Khanum’s guests. This visit was prevented by the British and Romanian governments, and the Queen wrote to several people about her “huge disappointment.” 6 In a letter to Martha Root Queen Marie wrote: “Both Ileana and I were cruely disapointed [sic] at having been prevented going to the Holy Shrines and of meeting Shoghi Effendi.” 7 For this occasion, Shoghi Effendi had specially asked the Iranian Baha’is to prepare a beautifully calligraphed and illumined copy of the Tablet by Baha’u’llah to her grandmother, Queen Victoria. This parchment was presented to Queen Marie four years later by a British Baha’i, Lady Blomfield, during one of the Queen’s visits to London.
Because the Baha’i Faith teaches me to believe in a life after death, a continuation of our soul in another realm of existence, I often think of those souls who have been reunited after their departure from this world. Queen Victoria must be very proud of her granddaughter’s service in this world, and of the fact that she unhesitatingly “recognized the Dayspring of His Revelation and the Fountain of His laws,” Baha’u’llah. 8
Queen Marie’s words continue to inspire many people around the world. Her last message about the Baha’i Faith was guidance that is perhaps more relevant today than when she wrote it in 1936:
More than ever today when the world is facing such a crisis of bewilderment and unrest, must we stand firm in Faith seeking that which binds together instead of tearing asunder. To those searching for light, the Baha’i Teachings offer a star which will lead them to deeper understanding, to assurance, peace and good will with all men. 9
To read more on this Queen’s spiritual journey, I recommend my biography about that chapter of her life entitled Her Eternal Crown: Queen Marie of Romania and the Baha’i Faith.
Footnotes & Citations
- Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts: Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 88-89
- Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 32
- Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts: Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 90
- Della L. Marcus, Her Eternal Crown: Queen Marie of Romania and the Baha’i Faith, p. 57
- Ibid, p. 75
- Ibid, p. 169
- Ibid, p. 179
- Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 17
- Della L. Marcus, Her Eternal Crown: Queen Marie of Romania and the Baha’i Faith, p. 253
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