Sex, scandal and royal misdeeds, the story of Princess Elizabeth of Romania and her young French lover, Marc Favrat, has it all.
Favrat was a would-be artist in 1950s Cannes when he crossed paths with the princess.
The story of their unlikely union lives on in a painting to be auctioned this month as part of CBC Saint John’s Harbour Lights campaign for area food banks.
The painting, called L’Oiseau de chili, is a large oil on canvas depiction of a Central American bird, the resplendent quetzel.
The work was purchased two decades ago at the Lady Beaverbrook estate auction in Saint John. But the artist, Marc Favrat, “Prince de Roumanie,” was unknown at that time.
The name simply couldn’t be found in art catalogues and didn’t fit with anything then understood about the royal family of Romania.
But a great deal more is known today.
Marlene Koenig, who has written and commented extensively on British and European royalty, says the divorced and aging Elizabeth was living a life of excess in southern France after being pushed into exile by the Communist government of Romania.
She’d had a string of lovers and once told a royal cousin the only thing she hadn’t done in her life was kill someone.
Koenig described Favrat as a ‘ne’er do well,” who caught the eye of the much older princess.
She brought him into her villa as equerry, an assistant in the royal household.
But Koenig suspects his real job was “something more in the bedroom, if you know what I mean.”
“He was probably someone who flattered her.… A toy boy.”
Elizabeth later tried to marry Favrat but couldn’t get permission from her family. Undaunted she adopted him as her son, thereby conferring, in her mind, a royal title on her young lover.
“He would not have a right to that title,” said Koenig.
Elizabeth died in 1956. Favrat not only accepted the title, but he also signed his paintings with a crown.
‘I was as shocked as the next guy that I got this painting.’
L’Oiseau de Chili, dated 1959 and bearing Favrat’s signature crown, hung on a wall at Dayspring, the Saint Andrews summer home of Lady Beaverbrook.
“Probably this was a gift to her,” said Tim Isaac, the Saint John auctioneer who handled the estate. “There were so many other art items that were gifts.”
Isaac said Favrat may have been a friend of Lady…