Right in the middle of Bucharest, at Universitate Square lies Suțu Palace. Not as grand as other Bucharestian palaces and widely overlooked. Little do people know that in the 19th century this here was the heart of the social life of the rich and powerful.
The history of the Romanian noble families is one complicated matter with drama reaching Game of Thrones level since all of them competed for the ultimate glory: the crown. The scheming, the lying, the murders lasted for centuries and only ended when King Karel I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen took over the throne of the country in 1866. The Suțu family was no stranger to all of this so let's take a peak into their business and see what they were up to.
The Suțus were one of the Phanariot families that had ruled in Moldavia and Wallachia. Costache Suțu, the one who built the palace, never forgot his Phanariot origin nor his princely descendant. So when he moved to Bucharest from Moldavia he had his mind set on taking over the throne. He went so far as to take part in a plot to assassinate the ruling prince, Gheorghe Bibescu but did not succeed so he had to settle for other official duties.
Costache married Ruxandra Racoviță, of noble descent with whom he had five children: one boy and four girls. I believe he liked children a lot since he had five more with his mistress, again one boy and four girls but the boy died at early age.
His son and heir, Grigore Suțu, had a more gentle demeanor unlike his grumpy, grudge holding father which helped him sink some of the family's old feuds, most important the one with the crown.
Grigore married Irina Hagi-Mosco, the daughter of a banker and formed one of the most successful unions of the 19th century Romanian upper class. Having immense wealth at their disposal and a select education they turned their little palace into the scene of Bucharest's greatest parties.
An invitation at the Suțu ball mattered as much as a noble title and since among their guests we could find Prince Al.I. Cuza, G.G. ”The Nabab” Cantacuzino and even King Karel I, I can honestly see why everyone was desperate to receive an invitation. You were not somebody in Bucharest if you hadn't attended one of their parties.
Read about the beautiful castle of G.G. "The Nabab" Cantacuzino in this article: Cantacuzino Castle.
The etiquette was very strict, almost as strict as the one at the court. You couldn't arrive in anything else but a barouche, they never served alcohol and compliments were paid only in French.
Irina and Grigore were an odd couple: she was tall, he was small and together received the nickname the Turk & Camel. And since the apple doesn't fall far from the tree, Grigore inherited a lot more from his father than the family name and wealth.
He was a known Casanova, behavior that Irina put an end to by making sure that every girl and woman present at their balls had her own beau to socialize with. So Grigore tried his chance with his wife's chambermaids. But Irina had a solution for that too: she dismissed the attractive ones and only hired old, ugly maids. Tough luck, Grigore!
This might not look like the present day picture of a happy couple but back in the day they were considered an example of civility and harmony. Irina died in 1891, Grigore outlived her two years.
The palace was built between 1833 and 1835, a period when the Romanian lands start to gently pull off from the Ottoman influence and turn towards the West, mainly France. Built in Neo-Gothic style, the palace is one of the first buildings in Bucharest to display this trend with its majestic entry way and large windows.
The crest that we can see now on the front of the building was the source of dispute between Costache Suțu and ruler Al. I. Cuza. As I mentioned, Costache was proud of his princely descend so when he built his palace he put the family crest on the front. But the crest, with its Wallachian eagle and Moldavian bison resembled too much the country's coat of arms. This upset Al.I.Cuza who threatened Costache to send the firefighters to take it down if he wouldn't do it. Costache took it down and the family was allowed to put it back again only during the reign of King Karel I.
Today, Suțu Palace hosts the Museum of Bucharest, museum that has some interesting exhibits if you are curious about the history of this city. I only wish they would make it a little more entertaining and interactive. As it is, it's rather...boring linear.
However the entry hall is spectacular and incredibly well preserved. So to get a glimpse of the splendor that this palace must have been in the 19th century I do believe it's worth a visit.
Tickets: 6 lei
For 15 lei you can photograph or film for touristic purposes. If your camera is a compact one you will have no issues but if it's a DSLR then you might have some problems. This is just an FYI.
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