Augste-Felix-Charles de Beaupoil, Count of Saint-Aulaire, became ambassador to Romania in the troubled summer of 1916.
Auguste-Felix-Charles de Beaupoil, Count of Saint-Aulaire, was born
in 1866 and died in 1954. He arrived as ambassador to Romania in the troubled
summer of 1916, when Romania joined the fray in WWI. He wrote his recollections
of that time in a book called "Notes of an Ambassador of Yore. In Romania,
1916-1920". The book is one of the most important and poignant sources
documenting political games and tragedies that occurred towards the end of the
war. He loved Romania, was an anti-communist and advocated Romania's joining
the war. He had a sharp analytical spirit, and was a visionary when it came to
the course of history.
Historian Alina Pavelescu recommends that we read Saint-Aulaire's
"The first fragment I read
tells about his visit to the office of Aristide Briand, before going to
Romania, and he says about the latter that 'the man's desk was as bereft of
papers as his own head was of ideas'. Right away I started liking him a lot,
and I thought that he deserved the gratitude of everyone who puts off forever
putting order in the papers on their desk. I recommend that you read this book
twice. The first reading is very easy for us Romanians, because it is favorable
to us. It is more favorable to us in many situations than the memoirs of many
Romanians of the time, because this Saint-Aulaire loved Queen Marie of Romania.
He says extraordinarily beautiful things about the Romanians' capacity for
sacrifice, and their generosity in sacrifice. He speaks about the Romanian
political class in terms that we are not used to. It is flattering to read
Saint-Aulaire when he says these things about Romanians, considering how
critical he was the of the French political class."
The Count of Saint-Aulaire showed remarkable understanding of the
world in which he arrived. Alina Pavelescu believes that the second reading
helps us see better into the writer's observations:
"I recommend a second reading,
because the Count of Saint-Aulaire is only in appearance an easy source to
identify within that landscape. Why? Because he is an aristocrat representing a
republic, he is a conservative who is a diplomat on behalf of a left wing
government, he is a civilian who feels boxed in, alongside many others, in an
environment dominated by the army, by soldiers and their logic. We know how the
story ends, but when we read his memoirs, we don't know how it all ends. It is
true that he writes in 1953, he is saddened by the fate of Greater Romania, he
has confirmations regarding the harsh judgment he issued after WWI. He doesn't
know, however, how the world ended up after the success of the USSR in WWII.
Every time, the reader is taken through several stages in which we don't know
how the story ends. Being French, he came from a society which, at some point,
was much more favorable towards the Russians than towards Romanians. The French
loved the Russians, maybe they still love them, much more than we Romanians
ever loved them. Saint-Aulaire does not have the sin of Russophilia, I would
say rather the opposite, he had no illusions about Tsarist Russia either when
he dealt in Bucharest with Russia's representatives negotiating Romania's entry
into the war."
Literary historian Dan C. Mihailescu told us about the way in which
others saw Saint-Aulaire:
"I. G. Duca knows very well
how to carry himself around diplomats, he is very clever in reading their
gestures and their words, and compares Russia's Poplevski, who was discredited
by his fellow Bolsheviks, to Britain's Lord Barclay, who was under the
influence of Jean Chrissoveloni. And he writes about Saint-Aulaire: 'My God,
was that man honest!'. Like all Frenchmen, he didn't know how to adapt. To
adapt to the transactional nature of Romanians, to their two faced nature, was
very hard for him. Poor Saint-Aulaire, he didn't know how to maneuver among
Marghiloman's and Carp's conservatives,
who were Germanophile, and the Francophiles Bratianu, Duca, Queen Marie and
Barbu Stirbey. Little by little, Duca showed him how to adapt to expectations,
and the Frenchman became an expert in the mercantile psychology of Romanians.
As we can see in these memoirs, the Count of Saint-Aulaire was a
visionary, he had the ability to anticipate the failure of communism, as Dan
Mihailescu told us. Saint-Aulaire's book is a book written by a man who
understood the world he lived in, and who saw into the future.