Alexandru Al. Ioan Cuza

Alexandru Al. Ioan Cuza
Born 1862 or 1863
Died 1889
Madrid, Spain
Title(s) aspiring Domnitor
Royal House Cuza
Father Alexandru Ioan Cuza
Mother Maria Catargi-Obrenović (officially, Elena Rosetti-Cuza)
Spouse Maria Moruzi

Alexandru Al. Ioan Cuza (also known as Alexandru A. Cuza or Sașa Cuza; 1862 or 1864 – 1889) was a Romanian aristocrat and politician. He was the eldest son of Domnitor Alexandru Ioan Cuza, by his mistress Maria Catargi-Obrenović, and adopted by Cuza's wife Elena Rosetti-Cuza. His father's rule was the earliest political union between the two Danubian Principalities (Wallachia and Moldavia), which was to form the Kingdom of Romania in 1881. When Alexandru Ioan was ousted and replaced with Carol of Hohenzollern (1866), Alexandru Al. Ioan followed him into exile. He settled back in Romania after his father's death, attempting to create a current of opinion against Carol. He later helped journalists Alexandru Beldiman and Grigore Ventura in founding the anti-Carlist newspaper Adevărul.

Through their biological mother, Alexandru and his brother Dimitrie were half-brothers of Milan I Obrenović, the King of Serbia, and of General Radu Catargi. Beginning 1888, when Dimitrie Cuza died, Alexandru was the last surviving direct male heir of the Cuza family. After his death, the Cuza estate, including the manor of Ruginoasa, passed through his widow onto the Moruzis and the Brătianus.


Adoption scandal

Sașa Cuza and his younger brother Dimitrie were born from a liaison between the Domnitor and his mistress Maria, the Moldavian-born aristocrat, previously married into the House of Obrenović. Their maternal grandfather was Costin Catargi(u), a great landowner and Moldavian separatist, who had opposed Cuza's arrival to the throne in 1859.[1] They were also half-brothers of Milan, the future Serbian King, who was Maria's eldest son.[1][2] On the Catargiu side, their uncle Alexandru and cousin Alexis were noted career diplomats.[3]

Domnitor Cuza's legal marriage, to Elena "Doamna", produced no heirs. The ruler and his legitimate wife were virtually separated by 1866, and, sources attest, were at best friendly to each other.[4][5] The boys were successively adopted by the reigning couple: Alexandru on May 23 [O.S. May 11] 1865 (that is, shortly after the Domnitor had effected a coup, deposing his critics in Parliament), Dimitrie on November 17/5, 1865.[6] Both boys were baptized Romanian Orthodox, having as their godfathers the Domnitor's associates, Cezar Librecht (the Postmaster General) and Iordache Lambrino.[7]

Their acceptance into the family came just as Cuza's authoritarian reign descended into administrative chaos, and as the monarch himself was calming his nervous states with alcohol and womanizing.[8] The adoption act was especially alarming for the growing camp of anti-Cuzists, many of whom were dedicated supporters of rule by a foreign prince. As noted by scholar Frederick Kellogg: "On some Romanian palates, Cuza's amorous affair smacked of a scheme to establish a native dynasty with bastards as heirs to the crown."[9] Among those who suggest that Cuza intended to make Sașa his successor is researcher Alexandru Lapedatu, who also concluded that, at the time, Cuza was overreaching, isolated, "surrounded and adored by his favorites".[10] According to historian Barbara Jelavich, while some in Cuza's party did look to Maria Obrenović's sons as the natural successors to the throne, "there was so much opposition to the idea of a native prince, as well as to Cuza himself, that this alternative had little chance of success."[11] She continues: "By 1865 Cuza had won a formidable array of opponents on both the right and left."[11]

Gender historian Nicoleta Roman uses the Cuza family as a study case of illegitimacy and adultery in the two principalities. She notes that the adoption was probably accepted by Elena after her husband's pressures.[7] This is also reported by military historian Constantin Chiper, according to whom Elena Cuza was at first "revolted" by the monarch's requests, and remained "profoundly depressed" by his affair.[12] The truth concerning Sașa's birth was a matter of public record, and a subject of great irritation for Elena's clan, the Rosettis.[5] According to Roman: "Contemporaries knew about [the liaison] and did not refrain from condemning the great prince's immoral behavior, nor from turning the subject into a scandal where the mother was the main culprit."[7] Nevertheless, both Alexandru and Dimitrie were officially introduced as orphans. In one such version of events, they were presented as Bucharest children, rescued from the 1864 flood.[13] According to Cuza's own account, the boys had "no known parents"—this definition is preserved in Cuza's testament of January 1873, whereby Elena and the two male heirs are each granted a third of the Cuza family estate.[14] The document nominated Metropolitan-Primate Calinic Miclescu and Efrem Ghermani as, respectively, caretaker of the estate and tutor of the Cuza boys.[15]

With Elena's acquiescence, Maria had been by Alexandru Ioan's side during much of his career, and was found with him when, in February 1866, a "monstrous coalition" conspiracy deposed and exiled Cuza.[16][17] During Cuza's arrest, the conspirators separated Cuza and Maria from Elena, who was left with the two boys.[5][16][18]

In the end, Cuza was pressured into exile. Elena decided to join him, even as the Rosettis (some of whom had participated in the coup), asked her to sue for a divorce.[5][18] The Cuzas moved periodically, from Austria-Hungary to the Kingdom of Italy, then to the German Empire, at Heidelberg.[19] Although Cuza was no longer welcome in Romania, his wife and the two boys made occasional returns to their domain at Ruginoasa.[20] Maria Obrenović followed the Cuzas into exile, accompanied by her nephew Efrem Ghermani.[21] In Vienna, she gave birth to another son, Radu. Purportedly fathered by a Russian officer (Konstantinovich), he was given the family name Catargi, and grew up to become a Romanian Land Forces general.[1]

Entrepreneur and political adventurer

The deposed ruler died in May 1873 at Heidelberg, leaving his last will to be contested by a collateral Cuza line. Elena, Alexandru and Dimitrie moved to France, sharing their house with the Domnitor's former secretary, Frenchman Arthur Baligot de Beyne.[22] In 1875, a Bondrea Cuza and a Mrs. Figa opened a legal case against the adoption at the Suceava County court, and implied that they were going to expose Sașa and Dimitrie's true parentage; in the end, the plaintiffs failed to attend the procedures, and the case was annulled.[15] A year later, Maria Obrenović, having been told that she had cancer, committed suicide aged 41.[16] Her belongings were left to Milan, Maria's legitimate son, who renounced all claims to them in 1879.[23]

Elena Cuza continued to care for her husband's progeny, creating a family home for them at Ruginoasa, where they were often joined by her relatives, the Lambrino family.[24] In the mid-1870s, the Cuza children again left Ruginoasa to pursue their studies abroad. Alexandru Al. Ioan himself graduated from the University of Paris Faculty of Law, and took some additional lectures in History.[22] The Ruginoasa manor was again left unattended until 1879, when, as the new co-owner of the place, Alexandru took over the administrative chores. An inveterate card player, he gambled away much of its revenue.[24] During those years, his Obrenović half-brother (married to the Romanian Natalia Keșco) had taken power in the Principality of Serbia, replacing his assassinated uncle Mihailo III; Milan himself ultimately abdicated in 1889.[1]

Alexandru Al. Ioan Cuza, obeying his adoptive mother's wish,[25] also entered politics. His interest was in generating opposition against Cuza's foreign-born replacement, Carol of Hohenzollern (King of Romania after 1881). During the election of 1888, he ran in Mehedinți County, and got himself elected to the Romanian Assembly of Deputies.[22] He soon after relinquished his seat. This decision is attributed by Chiper to political adversity: "the name he carried was a danger for his father's enemies who [...] launched on a furious campaign against his person".[22]

In 1888, a widespread anti-Carlist riot shook the Romanian countryside, and myths about Sașa's direct involvement began to spread. A peasant rebel, who escaped into the Principality of Bulgaria, spoke about a shady connection between the Cuzas, as proponents of land reform, and Russian interests in Romania. He claimed that: "Cuza's son has visited the Tsar of Russia and the latter ordered him to write to all villages so that they should kill their boyars and demand their rights [...]. Russia's emperor [...] gave money to Cuza's son, who went and bought two storage rooms full of wheat in Călărași, that the inhabitants were supposed to divide among them, but the boyars hid [that wheat]."[26] According to anti-Carlist journalist Alexandru Beldiman, who was soon to be Cuza's political associate, the rebellion was entirely instigated by the Russians.[26]

In August 1888, Cuza Jr financed Adevărul, an anti-Hohenzollern sheet that had first seen print in 1871.[22][27] Published by Beldiman and Grigore Ventura, it stated as its main goal the "foreign dynasty"'s removal, demanding elective monarchy and the universal male suffrage.[27] Reputedly, Alexandru considered himself a likely candidate to the position of elective monarch.[5] His younger brother, who suffered a debilitating disease of the lungs, was living in Paris, and showed no interest in politics.[5][24]

Only a year later, Alexandru Al. Ioan withdrew from public life, and settled in Ruginoasa.[25] He had by become the only recognized male heir: also at Ruginoasa, Dimitrie had shot himself after an unhappy love affair.[5][16][28] As the one surviving son, Alexandru enjoyed ownership over most of Ruginoasa and the traditional Cuza demesne of Barboși.[24]

Against Elena Cuza's wish,[25] Alexandru married fellow aristocrat Maria Moruzi (born 1863). The beautiful daughter of Alecu Moruzi and Adela (a Sturdza noblewoman), she was described by her contemporaries as a prototype of 19th-century Moldavian aristocracy.[29] He bequeathed to her his entire share in the Cuza estate. The decision was controversial, not least of all because Maria's ancestor, an 18th-century Moldavian Prince by the name of Constantine Mourousis, had put to death Sașa's own relative, Ioniță Cuza.[30]

Already diagnosed with heart trouble,[5][25] Alexandru fell ill with tuberculosis. According to some, his disease was a quickly progressing form, contracted during his wedding voyage.[22][29] Others however note that both Alexandru and Dimitrie had suffered from "chest illness" for many years, and had taken little care of themselves.[24] In late 1889, six months into their marriage,[16][24][29] the couple was visiting Spain. The main Cuza line was abruptly ended when Alexandru Al. Ioan died in Madrid.[5][16][31] His body was transported back to Ruginoasa, and buried alongside the tombs of his father and brother.[24]


As noted in 1938 by publicist Theodor Rășcanu (a distant relative of the figures involved), Sașa Cuza made little or no effort to provide for Elena Cuza, and never "returned in kind her mother's love".[24] She was tolerated for a while on Ruginoasa premises, before Maria Moruzi-Cuza pressured her into leaving,[32] and then took her to court over the validity of Alexandru's last will.[33] The former consort of the Domnitor died in 1909, having spent her final years in Piatra Neamț town.[5][16][34] Although the Cuza line was entirely extinguished with all collateral relatives dying childless,[24] it was still invoked as a means to earn popularity within the anti-Carlist movement. During the 1890s, agitator Alexandru Bogdan-Pitești was passing himself off as Cuza's son, in what was probably a bid to earn the peasants' attention.[35] As of 2011, the last known Cuza descendant was Dimitrie Callimachi, who inherits the claim from his ancestor Maria Cuza, sister of the Domnitor, but states that "the monarchy is an antiquated institution in Romania."[36]

Another public scandal involving Maria Moruzi took place ca. 1897, when it became known that she was pursuing an affair with the young engineer Ion I. C. Brătianu (later a major political figure). This controversy had its own political connotations: Brătianu's father, Ion Brătianu, was a National Liberal representative in the 1866 conspiracy to topple Cuza.[30] Rumors leaked to the press and the affair, together with the running Cuza–Moruzi lawsuit, created a sensation: Adevărul itself began referring to the estate as Rușinoasa ("Place of Shame").[33]

The affair resulted in an unwanted pregnancy, and Maria was compelled to marry Brătianu. Their marriage broke local taboos: it lasted just one day, ending in as hasty a divorce.[5][29] The couple's son was Gheorghe I. Brătianu, later a historian and politician, who lived at Ruginoasa until 1938.[29] His mother shared ownership of the manor, and, in 1912, sold the corresponding property in Barboși to socialite Elena Volenti.[24] Maria Moruzi died in 1921, having by then served as president of the Romanian Red Cross.[29]

The Ruginoasa buildings, part of which had been donated to Elena Cuza's Caritatea Hospital,[5][33] were heavily damaged during the World War II air raids on Romania.[25] In 1945, financial pressures led Gheorghe Brătianu to sell the Ruginoasa domain, which eventually became an administrative complex of the Romanian Railways Company (CFR).[29] Under communist rule, the state nationalized and retained it as cultural patrimony.[25] During 2003, CFR unsuccessfully sued the Romanian state for damages.[29]


  1. 1 2 3 4 (Romanian) Theodor Rășcanu, "Ex-regina Natalia a Serbiei n'a murit?", in Universul Literar, Nr. 21/1938, p.7 (digitized by the Babeș-Bolyai University Transsylvanica Online Library)
  2. Filitti (2005), p.5; Kellogg, p.31
  3. Filitti (2005), p.5-6
  4. Chiper, p.173-174
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 (Romanian) Roxana Roseti, "Elena Cuza, minunata și demna principesă", in Jurnalul Național, March 1, 2004
  6. Chiper, p.173, 175; Kellogg, p.31
  7. 1 2 3 Nicoleta Roman, "Copilul și familia în Valahia primei jumătăți a secolului al XIX-lea", in Luminița Dumănescu (ed.), 9 Ipostaze ale copilăriei românești: istorii cu și despre copiii de ieri și de azi, International Book Access, Cluj-Napoca, 2008, p.94. ISBN 978-973-88300-9-7
  8. Kellogg, p.12-13
  9. Kellogg, p.13
  10. (Romanian) Dan Mircea Mazălu, "Aspecte ale domniei lui Al. I. Cuza în opera istoricului Alexandru Lapedatu", in the December 1 University of Alba Iulia Annales. Series Historica, 13 (2009), p.149
  11. 1 2 Barbara Jelavich, Russia and the Formation of the Romanian National State, 1821-1878, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge etc., 2004, p.147. ISBN 0-521-52251-X
  12. Chiper, p.174
  13. Chiper, p.173-174; Filitti (2005), p.5
  14. Filitti (2006), p.7-8
  15. 1 2 Filitti (2006), p.8
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 (Romanian) Sorin Semeniuc, "Cuza a ieșit prin budoar din istorie", in Ieșeanul, January 4, 2005
  17. Filitti (2006), p.7; Kellogg, p.13
  18. 1 2 Chiper, p.175
  19. Chiper, p.175-176
  20. Grigoraș, p.14
  21. Filitti (2006), p.7
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Chiper, p.176
  23. Filitti (2005), p.5
  24. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Rășcanu, "Ruginoasa", p.6
  25. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Grigoraș, p.15
  26. 1 2 (Romanian) Cornel Coman, "Cum s-a ratat răscoala, în Călărași", in Express de Călărași, March 4, 2012
  27. 1 2 (Romanian) Florentina Tone, "Adevĕrul la București" Archived February 21, 2009, at the Wayback Machine., in Adevărul, December 17, 2008
  28. Grigoraș, p.15; Rășcanu, "Ruginoasa", p.6. A slightly conflicting account in Chiper, p.176
  29. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 (Romanian) Simina Stan, "Casa Vasile Pogor: o reședință boierească din Iașii secolului al XIX-lea", in Jurnalul Național, September 12, 2009
  30. 1 2 Grigoraș, p.15; Rășcanu, "Ruginoasa", p.7
  31. Chiper, p.176; Rășcanu, "Rugioasa", p.6
  32. Chiper, p.176; Grigoraș, p.15
  33. 1 2 3 Rășcanu, "Ruginoasa", p.7
  34. Chiper, p.177
  35. Paul Cernat, Avangarda românească și complexul periferiei: primul val, Cartea Românească, Bucharest, 2007, p.43. ISBN 978-973-23-1911-6; (Romanian) Constantin Coroiu, "Pluta de naufragiu (2)", in Evenimentul, December 30, 2002
  36. (Romanian) Alexandra Jeles, "Descendentul lui Cuza: Regalitatea este o instituție depășită", in România Liberă, May 10, 2011


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