Over 20,000 Romanians accompanied King Michael on his last journey

People queued outside of the Royal Palace, in the cold, often for up to 8 hours, only to say goodbye to the former king of Romania. What drew them to the long-forgotten monarch?

Delia Budurca
Delia Budurca NewsMavens, Romania
Over 20,000 Romanians accompanied King Michael on his last journey - NewsMavens
King Michael I in historical city of Alba Iulia, Romania in 2007.

Why this story matters:

During the three days of mourning at the former Royal Palace in Bucharest (now the National Museum of Art), thousands of Romanians came to pay their respects to King Michael. The authorities were forced to open additional space in the Royal Throne Hall, where the coffin was deposed, because the line, made of thousands of people, started to encircle the Palace.

People queued outside, in the cold, for up to 8 hours, to say goodbye to the former king of Romania.

Saturday's funeral was attended by King Carl XIV Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Great Duke of Luxembourg, King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sophia of Spain (who is King Michael’s cousin), Prince Charles of Wales as well as representatives of the royal families of Belgium, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Bahrein, Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, Albania, France, Prussia, Italy and Portugal.

All of Romania’s key officials were present at the funeral service, including President Klaus Iohannis, the head of the Senate, Călin Popescu Tăriceanu, the Prime Minister, Mihai Tudose, and the president of the Deputy Chamber and PSD, the leading parliamentary party in Romania, Liviu Dragnea.

Patriarch Daniel, the head of Romanian Orthodox Church, conducted the service.

Gathered along the path of the cortege, people kept silent while throwing white flowers, the king’s favorites. Thousands came to meet the royal train, which carried the remains of King Michael from Bucharest to Curtea de Arges, 150 km west.

His death drew Romanian's attention to their history which was falsified during communism, and hardly reevaluated after the revolution in 1989.

Many historians were invited to speak on national TV to clarify the contribution of the monarchy to Romania’s history and, mainly, king Michael’s role on the 23 august 1944, when Romania switched sides in WWII in favor of the Allies.

After his death, the eldest of King Michael’s five daughters, Margareta, will become the custodian of the crown.

Details from the story:

  • King Michael died on December 5, aged 96, in Switzerland, where he had lived for over four decades in exile.
  • After the Romanian Revolution in 1989, he tried to return to Romania 10 times. He succeeded in 1992 and regained his citizenship five years later. 
  • He ruled Romania twice -- first at the age of 6 and then in his early twenties, from 1940 to 1947, in the tumultuous period of World War II and immediately after. The communists forced him to abdicate on December 30, 1947, which was later celebrated as the Republic’s Day.
  • The king’s coffin was accompanied by a replica of the crown of Romanian monarchs, guarded at the National Museum of History. It is made from steel cast from the pipe of an Ottoman cannon captured during the War of Independence in 1877. King Carol I chose steel and not gold to symbolize the bravery of the Romanian soldiers.
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