99 years ago, on 25th October 1921, the prince and the future King Michael I was born. I consider Romania has become even poorer, with the disappearance of our last king. It is bitter when you see various reportages, in which His Majesty really desired to return to Romania and in the same time he was told to go all the way back and prolong his exile.
Who was King Michael I?
King Michael I was the son of Crown Prince Carol II of Romania and Crown Princess Elena. He was born in 1921 at Foișor Castle on the Royal Complex of Peleș in Sinaia, Romania. Michael was the paternal grandson of the reigning King Ferdinand I of Romania. Because Carol II eloped with his mistress Elena Magda Lupescu and renounced his rights to the throne, Michael became heir apparent.
Formally, Michael succeeded to the throne of Romania upon Ferdinand’s death in July 1927, before his sixth birthday. It was indeed a special occurrence inside the royal family, a dynastic crisis. Michael had not yet turned 18, so he did not have legitimately full rights to reign. As a consequence, the Royal Regency took his place legitimately. This regency had three important members: Miron Cristea – the patriarch, his uncle – Prince Nicolae and Constantin Sărățeanu.
An Unsettled Reign
Firstly, in 1930 Carol II returned to the country at the invitation of politicians who were dissatisfied with the Regency. Generally, it was a political instability. The politicians sought a restoration in specific terms: resumption of marriage with the Crown Princess Elena and recognition of the Constitutional Parliamentary Regime. Therefore, Carol II was proclaimed king by the Parliament. Michael became Grand Voivode of Alba Iulia.
Secondly, in 1940 Romania began to lose territories. As a consequence, Carol II decided to abdicate. Prime Minister Marshal Ion Antonescu suspended the Constitution, dissolved the Parliament, and re-proclaimed the 18-year-old Michael as king. Although King Michael was formally the Supreme Head of the Army, in reality he was a figurehead. The actual power was in the hands of Ion Antonescu.
Turning Point: Against Nazi Germany
Another important fact, in August 1944, Romania turned its weapons against Nazi Germany as Michael joined the pro-Allies politicians. Furthermore, King Michael ordered the arrest of Ion Antonescu by the Royal Palace Guard. Finally, the King had fully decisional power.
Reign under Communist Influence
Furthermore, in 1945, the King encountered a royal strike because the communists were gaining more and more influence. There were any documents for him to sign. Michael believed that he could prevent the continuous expansion of communism in the country, but unfortunately he did not succeed. The communists already had pawns in government. In 1946 the government of Petru Groza was established. It was a communist government with only 2 non-communist ministers.
Finally, in December 1947, the only democratic element in Romania was the King. Therefore, he started to be an impediment for the communists. At the end of December, there was a meeting with Petru Groza – who threatened Michael to murder 1 000 students in prison and even him if he did not abdicate. Hence, he had no other choice, but to leave his country. He prepared his luggage under the strict surveillance of the communists and then he left Sinaia, where as an act of humiliation, the soldiers turned their backs on him.
Life in Exile
In the end, King Michael was exiled to Lousanne, in Switzerland. Here, he proposed to the Crown Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma. They married in 1948 in Athens. No country wanted to get involved in organizing the wedding because of the Pope’s refusal to give them the blessing.
From King to an Ordinary Individual
The transition from the status of king to that of an ordinary man was not a simple one for Michael I. According to Queen Anne, at first the king did not know how to stand in line at a cinema, how to pay at the store or in a taxi. To make a living, the King and Queen set up a chicken and goose farm and built a small carpentry workshop. They worked in the garden, fed the birds. They sold the products obtained in the household, eggs, meat and to earn a living.
A Pilot Experience
King Michael had a pilot’s license since he were in Romania. He started to work for the airline company Lear Jets and Co in Geneva. He was conducting test flights to check for piloting instruments.
King Michael and Queen had 5 daughters Margareta (1949), Elena (1951), Irina (1935), Sofia (1957) and Maria (1964) – who were educated for a modest life.
King Michael’s life was not an easy one, but a life lesson for all of us. He was an example of modesty and honesty. In 2011, His Majesty gave a speech before Parliament. This moment can be interpreted as if, for a few moments, we would think that the monarchy is the solution for Romania. The King’s reaction and desire to see the land from which he was expelled was a gesture that not many of us would make. If you want to find out more interesting information, check out these books: Michael I – the Last King of Romania by Tatiana Niculescu Bran or The Last Conversations with King Michael I by Bogdan-Șerban-Iancu.