Why this story matters:
He ruled Romania twice – first at the age of 6, for three years, and then again at 19-year-old from 1940 to 1947, in the most tumultuous period of the last century. Communists forced him to abdicate on the 30th of December 1947, making way for more than four decades of communism in Romania.
“He wrote Romanian history with capitals. We’ll have days of mourning”, said president Klaus Iohannis, when he heard the news.
King Michael was the last king of Romania, a dynasty with German origins established in 1866 by Carol I de Hohenzollern, followed by Ferdinand I and Carol II, Michael’s father.
Born in 1921, King Michael ruled first from the age of 6, when his father, Carol II, gave up the Romanian throne for his mistress. After three years, Carol II came back, deposed his own son off the throne and sent Queen Elena, Michael’s mother, abroad. King Michael would see her only twice a year. In recent interviews King Michael recounted the blow struck by his fathers return.
In 1940, at the beginning of the World War II, Carol II abdicated again and Michael, 19, was crowned. In reality, however, the country was ruled by pro-Nazi Marshal Ion Antonescu.
1940 was a dark year for Romania. It lost large parts of its territories – northern Transylvania, Cadrilater, Basarabia – and entered the war as part of the Axis camp.
On the 23 of August 1944, Romania changed sides for the Allies. The contribution King Michael played in this was revealed to the Romanian people much later, after the 1989 Revolution. General Antonescu was executed. The contribution of Romania at the end the WWII was recognized by the Allies, and US President Truman and SU President Stalin decorated King Michael. They said that WWII was over 6 months sooner because of this actions.
After WWII, the Soviet Union imposed a communist government in Romania and on the 30 of December 1947 King Michael was forced to abdicate. He was told that 1000 students who were imprisoned for attending a pro-monarchy meeting will be killed if he did not abdicate. That day was celebrated in decades of communist history as the Republic Day.
He left Romania and moved to Switzerland, where he married Anne de Bourbon-Parma and had five daughters. He worked as a mechanic, broker, even had a chicken farm.
After the Romanian revolution in 1989, 43 years after his abdication, he tried several times to return to his country. First, a year after the 1989 Revolution, he had a one-day visa but was forced to leave by a ring of tanks. In 1992 president Ion Iliescu granted him permission for a visit, but his popularity provoked another 5 year ban. In 1996 president Emil Constantinescu gave Michael his Romanian citizenship back and he was finally allowed to settle in Romania.
After decades of being taught a version of history manipulated by the communists, Romanians have to recover the historical truth, and re-write their collective story. It is, however, very difficult to overwrite narratives in people's minds.
In communist history books, the Romanian monarchy is not mentioned. The Romanian kings simply didn’t exist. Our parents learned that Stalin was “the Father” of Romania. His crimes were discovered only decades later. About King Michael, it was said that he was allowed to leave Romania with all his fortune loaded on trains, and his fortune was the price of abdication. That he was weak and hesitant. In recent times Romanians discovered that these were manipulations or lies. Only recently have his motivation, his dignity, and the tragedy of his story come to light.
Details from the story:
- Queen Anne died in August 2016 and she was buried in Curtea de Arges.
- In spring 2016 Michael I, ill, withdraw from the public life. He left his oldest daughter, Margareta, as crown custodian. Margareta is married but doesn’t have children. The second daughter, Irina, has a boy, Nicholas Bedford-Mills, but he was excluded in August 2015 from the order of succession to the throne, following a questionable relationship that resulted in a child.
- The Royal family regained some properties, mainly Peles Castle from Sinaia and Savarsin Castle, in Transylvania, and they have been granted a residence in Bucharest.
- There will be three days of national mourning, on 14, 15 and 16 th of December. King Michael will be burried on 16 th of December in Curtea de Arges.