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Michael (born 25 October 1921) reigned as King of the Romanians ( , literally "His Majesty Michael I King of the Romanians") from 20 July 1927 to 8 June 1930, and again from 6 September 1940, until forced to abdicate by the communists backed up by orders of Stalin to the Soviet armies of occupation on 30 December 1947. He is also a Prince of Hohenzollern .

A great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria by both of his parents and a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, he is one of the last surviving heads of state from World War II, the others being Simeon II of Bulgaria and former King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodiamarker.

Early life

Michael was born in the Foişor Castle or Peleş Castlemarker, Sinaiamarker, Romaniamarker, the son of Carol II of Romania (then-Crown Prince of Romania) and Princess Elena of Greece. He was born as the grandson of the then-reigning King Ferdinand of Romania. When Carol II eloped with his mistress Elena "Magda" Lupescu and renounced 'temporarily' his rights to the throne in December 1925, Michael was declared the heir apparent. He succeeded to the throne upon Ferdinand's death in July 1927. In August 1927 he appeared on the cover of Time magazine: he is the longest-surviving person to have appeared on the magazine's cover.

Rule

1930s and the Antonescu era

A Regency, which included his uncle, Prince Nicolae, Patriarch Miron Cristea, and the country's Chief Justice (Gheorghe Buzdugan, from October 1929 on Constantin Sărăţeanu) functioned on behalf of the 5-year-old Michael during the 1927–1930 period. In 1930, Carol II returned to the country at the invitation of politicians dissatisfied with the Regency, and was proclaimed king by the Parliament, designating Michael as Crown Prince with the title "Grand Voievod of Alba-Iulia". In November 1939, Michael joined the Romanian Senate, as the 1938 Constitution guaranteed him a seat there upon reaching the age of eighteen. In September 1940, the pro-German anti-Bolshevik régime of Prime Minister Marshal Ion Antonescu staged a coup d'état against Carol II, whom the Marshal claimed to be 'anti-German'. Antonescu suspended the Constitution, dissolved the Parliament, and re-installed the 18-year-old Michael as King by popular acclaim. (Although the Constitution was restored in 1944 and the Romanian Parliament in 1946, Michael did not either subsequently take a formal oath or have his reign approved retroactively by Parliament.) Michael was crowned with the Steel Crown and anointed King of Romania by the Orthodox Patriarch of Romania, Nicodim Munteanu, in the Patriarchal Cathedralmarker of Bucharestmarker, on the day of his accession, 6 September 1940. Although King Michael was formally the Supreme Head of the Army and entitled to appoint the Prime Minister with full powers named 'Leader of the people' = "Conducător", in reality he was forced to remain only a figurehead until August 1944.
The young King Michael of Romania.


Turning against Nazi Germany

In 1944, World War II was going badly for the Axis powers, but the military dictator Prime Minister Marshal Ion Antonescu was still in control of Romania. As of August 1944, the Soviet conquest of Romania had become inevitable, being expected in a few months according to Encyclopedia Britannica. On 23 August 1944, Michael joined the pro-Allied politicians, a number of army officers, and armed communist-led civilians in staging a coup against Antonescu, whereas it was recognized in the late 1970s that King Michael ordered his arrest by the Royal Palace Guard. On the same night, the new Prime Minister, Lt. General Constantin Sănătescu—who was appointed by King Michael—gave custody of Antonescu to the communists (in spite of alleged instructions to the contrary by the King), who delivered him to the Soviets on 1 September. In a radio broadcast to the Romanian nation and army, Michael issued a cease-fire just as the Red Army was penetrating the Moldavian front, proclaimed Romania's loyalty to the Allies, announced the acceptance of the armistice offered by Great Britainmarker, the United Statesmarker, and the USSRmarker, and declared war on Germany. However, this did not avert a rapid Soviet occupation and capture of about 130,000 Romanian soldiers, who were transported to the Soviet Union where many perished in prison camps. Although the country's alliance with the Nazis was ended, the coup sped the Red Army's advance into Romania. The armistice was signed three weeks later on 12 September 1944, on terms the Soviets virtually dictated. Under the terms of the armistice, Romania recognized its defeat by the USSR and was placed under occupation of the Allied forces with the Soviets, as their representative, in control of media, communication, post, and civil administration behind the front. The coup effectively amounted to a "capitulation", an "unconditional" "surrender". It has been suggested that the coup may have shortened World War II by six months, thus saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

King Michael was the last monarch behind the Iron Curtain to lose his throne. At the end of the war, King Michael was awarded the highest degree (Chief Commander) of the Legion of Merit by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. He was also decorated with the Soviet Order of Victory by Joseph Stalin "for the courageous act of the radical change in Romania's politics towards a break-up from Hitler's Germany and an alliance with the United Nations, at the moment when there was no clear sign yet of Germany's defeat," according to the official description of the decoration. He is the only surviving recipient as of 2009.

The reign under communism

In March 1945, political pressures forced King Michael to appoint a pro-Soviet government dominated by the Romanian Communist Party. Under the communist régime King Michael functioned again as little more than a figurehead. Between August 1945 and January 1946, during what was later known as the "royal strike," King Michael tried unsuccessfully to oppose the first communist government led by the communist Prime Minister Petru Groza, by refusing to sign its decrees. In response to Soviet, British, and American pressures, King Michael eventually gave up his opposition to the communist government and stopped demanding its resignation.

He did not pardon former Marshal Antonescu, who was sentenced to death "for betrayal of the Romanian people for the benefit of Nazi Germany, for the economic and political subjugation of Romania to Germany, for cooperation with the Iron Guard, for murdering his political opponents, for the mass murder of civilians and crimes against peace". Nor did King Michael manage to save such leaders of the opposition as Iuliu Maniu and the Bratianus, victims of communist political trials, as the Constitution prevented him from doing so without the counter-signature of communist Justice Minister Lucreţiu Pătrăşcanu (who was, himself, later eliminated by Gheorghiu-Dej's opposing communist faction). The memoirs of King Michael's aunt Princess Ileana quote Emil Bodnăraş—her alleged lover, Romania's communist minister of defense, and a Soviet spy—as saying: "Well, if the King decides not to sign the death warrant, I promise that we will uphold his point of view." Princess Ileana was skeptical: "You know quite well (...) that the King will never of his free will sign such an unconstitutional document. If he does, it will be laid at your door, and before the whole nation your government will bear the blame. Surely you do not wish this additional handicap at this moment!"

Forced abdication

The Standard of the King


In November, 1947 King Michael traveled to Londonmarker for the wedding of his cousins, The Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and The Duke of Edinburgh, an occasion during which he met Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma, who was to become his wife. According to unconfirmed claims by so-called Romanian 'royalists', King Michael did not want to return home, but certain Americans and Britons present at the wedding encouraged him to do so; Winston Churchill is said to have counseled Michael to return because "above all things, a King must be courageous." According to his own account, King Michael rejected any offers of asylum and decided to return to Romania, contrary to the confidential, strong advice of the British Ambassador to Romania.

However, on 30 December 1947, King Michael I was forced at gun point (by either Petru Groza or Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, depending on the source) to abdicate Romania's throne in his own Royal Palace which was surrounded by the Tudor Vladimirescu army units loyal to the communists. Later the same day, the communist-dominated government announced the 'permanent' abolition of the monarchy and its replacement by a People's Republic, broadcasting the King's pre-recorded radio proclamation of his own abdication. On 3 January 1948, Michael was forced to leave the country, followed over a week later by Princesses Elisabeth and Ileana, who collaborated so closely with the Russians that they became known as the King's "Red Aunts."

There are several accounts as to why King Michael abdicated. As recounted by Michael himself, the communist prime-minister Petru Groza had threatened him at gun point and blackmailed him that the government was to shoot 1,000 arrested students if King Michael didn't abdicate. In an interview with The New York Times from 2007, Michael recalls the events: “It was blackmail. They said, ‘If you don’t sign this immediately we are obliged’ — why obliged I don’t know — 'to kill more than 1,000 students' that they had in prison.” According to Time magazine, the communist government threatened Michael that it would arrest thousands and steep the country in blood if he did not abdicate.

But according to the book Special Tasks: The Memoirs of an Unwanted Witness -- A Soviet Spymaster, the autobiography of the former leader of the Sovietmarker intelligence agency NKVD, major general Pavel Sudoplatov, the deputy Soviet foreign minister Andrey Vyshinsky personally conducted negotiations with King Michael for his abdication, guaranteeing part of a pension to be paid to Michael in Mexicomarker. According to a few articles in Jurnalul Naţional, Michael's abdication was the result of his negotiations with the Communist government, not of a blackmail, which allowed him to leave the country accompanied by the goods he requested and by some of the royal retinue.

According to the Albanianmarker communist leader Enver Hoxha,who recounts his conversations with the Romanian communist leaders on the king's abdication, King Michael was threatened with a pistol by the Romanian Communist Party leader Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej rather than Petru Groza so as to abdicate—recount which lacks any factual evidence. He was allowed to leave the country accompanied by some of his entourage and, as confirmed also by the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev recounting Dej's confessions, with whatever properties he desired, including gold and rubies. Hoxha does say in his book that the Romanian communist leaders had threatened King Michael with their loyal army troops, which had encircled the royal palace and its troops loyal to King Michael.

This was also, more or less, the 'official' story widely distributed to the Romanian people by dictator Ceauşescu's apparatus, which presented it as a 'novel historical revelation' in the late '60s, in a rather ironical and cynical attempt to gain popular acceptance by stressing the positive role played by King Michael I in bringing about the fall of Antonescu's dictatorship in late August 1944. This communist propaganda attempt—using again the name of King Michael I for their own unsavory purposes—enjoyed rather limited success as it occurred at a time when the dictatorial measures by Ceauşescu and his oppression of the Romanian people greatly intensified. The so-called 'historical revelation' appeared then in several communist-controlled newspapers and magazines as another attempt to 'glorify' dictator Ceauşescu, and also his supposedly important role in the August 1944 coup d'état in Romania, which is not confirmed, or verified, by any reliable historical source; it did raise false hopes in Romania, however, that King Michael I might be allowed to return to his country in the 70's, a hope that proved to be totally unfounded, as it was only an intentional 'red herring' and a con-artist's, communist propaganda job, intended only to bring about a popular recognition of the communist dictator Ceausescu, which it failed to do.

According to Time magazine, in early 1948 there had been negotiations between King Michael and the communist government over the properties he left behind in Romania and those negotiations delayed his denunciation of the abdication as illegal.

There are reports that Romanian communist authorities, obedient to Stalin, allowed King Michael to part with 42 valuable Crown-owned paintings in November 1947, so that he would leave Romania faster. Some of these paintings were reportedly sold through the famed art dealer Daniel Wildenstein. One of the paintings belonging to the Romanian Crown which was supposedly taken out of the country by King Michael in November 1947, returned to Romania in 2004 as a donation made by John Kreuger, the former husband of King Michael's daughter Princess Irina.

In 2005 Romanian Prime Minister Călin Popescu-Tăriceanu denied these accusations about King Michael, stating that the Romanian government has no proof of any such action by King Michael and that, prior to 1949, the government had no official records of any artwork taken over from the former royal residences. However, according to some historians, such records existed as early as April 1948, having been, in fact, officially published in June 1948.

According to Ivor Porter's authorized biography, Michael of Romania: The King and The Country (2005), which quotes Queen-Mother Helen's daily diary, the Romanian royals took out paintings belonging to the Romanian Royal Crown on their November 1947 trip to London to the wedding of the future Queen Elizabeth II; two of these paintings, signed by El Greco, were sold in 1976.

According to recently declassified Foreign Officemarker documents, when he left Romania, the exiled king Michael's only assets amounted to 500,000 Swiss francs. Recently declassified Soviet transcripts of talks between Joseph Stalin and the Romanian Prime-Minister Petru Groza show that shortly before his abdication, King Michael received from the communist government assets amounting to 500,000 Swiss francs. King Michael, however, repeatedly denied that the communist government had allowed him to take into exile any financial assets or valuable goods besides four personal automobiles loaded on two train cars.

Life after the loss of the throne

In January 1948, Michael began using one of his family's ancestral titles, "Prince of Hohenzollern," instead of using the title of "King of Romania." After denouncing his abdication as forced and illegal in March 1948, Michael resumed use of the kingly title.

On 10 June 1948 in Athensmarker, Greecemarker, he married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma (b. Parismarker, 18 September 1923). They lived first in Britainmarker and later settled in Switzerlandmarker. The Communist Romanian authorities illegally stripped him of his Romanian citizenship in 1948. He became a commercial pilot and worked for an aircraft equipment company. He and his wife have five daughters.

In 1992, three years after the revolution which overthrew the Communist dictatorship, the Romanian government allowed Michael to return to his country for Easter celebrations, where he drew large crowds. In Bucharest over a million people turned out to see him. Michael's popularity alarmed the government of President Ion Iliescu so Michael was forbidden to visit Romania again for five years. In 1997, after Iliescu's defeat by Emil Constantinescu, the Romanian Government restored Michael's citizenship and again allowed him to visit the country. He now lives partly in Switzerlandmarker at Aubonnemarker and partly in Romaniamarker, either at his Săvârşinmarker castle in Arad county or in an official residence in Bucharest—the Elisabeta Palace—voted by the Romanian Parliament by a law concerning arrangements for former heads of state.

According to the succession provisions of the Romanian kingdom's last democratically approved monarchical constitution of 1923, upon the death of King Michael without sons, the claim to the Crown devolves once again upon the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringenmarker family, (see "Line of succession to the Romanian throne").

However, on 30 December 2007, on the 60th anniversary of his abdication, King Michael signed the Fundamental Rules of the Royal Family of Romania, by which he designated Princess Margarita as heiress to the throne with the titles of "Crown Princess of Romania" and "Custodian of the Romanian Crown." On the same occasion, Michael also asked the Romanian Parliament that, should it consider restoring the monarchy, it should also abolish the salic law of succession.

Political positions

Michael cannot be said to have encouraged monarchist agitation in Romania and royalist parties have made little impact in post-communist Romanian politics. He takes the view that the restoration of the monarchy in Romania can only result from a decision by the Romanian people. "If the people want me to come back, of course, I will come back," he said in 1990. "Romanians have had enough suffering imposed on them to have the right to be consulted on their future." King Michael's belief is that there is still a role for, and value to, the monarchy today: "We are trying to make people understand what the Romanian monarchy was, and what it can still do" (...for them). According to a 2007 opinion poll conducted at the request of the Romanian Royal House, only 14% of Romanians were in favor of the restoration of the monarchy. Another 2008 poll found that only 16% of Romanians are monarchists.

Michael has undertaken some quasi-diplomatic roles on behalf of post-communist Romania. In 1997 and 2002 he toured Western Europe, lobbying for Romania's admission into NATOmarker and the European Union, and was received by heads of state and government officials.

In December 2003, allegedly to the "stupefaction of the public opinion in Romania", Michael awarded the "Man of The Year 2003" prize to the then Prime Minister Adrian Năstase, leader of the PSD party, on behalf of the tabloid VIP. The daily Evenimentul Zilei subsequently complained that 'such an activity was unsuited to a king and that Michael was wasting away his prestige', with the majority of the political analysts 'considering his gesture as a fresh abdication'.One notes that such commentaries implicitly admit that Michael still is a king of Romania, albeit without his throne, and that they would like to retain the status quo on the 'basis' of unproven speculations which are often repeated that "he might be unfit to rule again as a parliamentary king".

Personality and personal interests

Michael has had a reputation for taciturnity. He once said to his grandmother, "I have learned not to say what I feel, and to smile at those I most hate."Before getting to know his future wife, Anne of Bourbon-Parma, Michael had a romantic relationship with, among others, a Greek woman, Dodo Chrisolegos, a protégée of the former Romanian Communist Party leader Ana Pauker. Some claim that political influences had been exerted upon King Michael through this liaison.

Michael is passionate about cars, especially military jeeps. He is also interested in aircraft, having worked as a commercial flight pilot during his exile.

On 10 May 2007, King Michael received the Prague Society for International Cooperation and Global Panel Foundation's 6th Annual Hanno R. Ellenbogen Citizenship Award, previously awarded to Vladimir Ashkenazy, Madeleine Albright, Václav Havel, Lord Robertson, and Miloš Forman. On 8 April 2008, King Michael and Patriarch Daniel were elected as Honorary Members of the Romanian Academy.

The family

King Michael and Queen Anne have the following five daughters:

Both Elena and Irina have sons as well as daughters. Sofia, whose marriage was not accepted by her father, has a daughter.

For further details, see the genealogical listing.

Honours

King Michael is Grand Master of the Romanian Royal Orders, as The Order of Carol I and received numerous Honors like:



For further details, see the genealogical listing.

Ancestors


















See also



External links



References


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