Thursday, March 29, 2012
Monarch Profile: King Carol II of Romania
Crown Prince Carol was recalled to the front and became a general in the course of the war, but Romanian entry into the conflict proved disastrous for herself, a drain for the Allies and a great benefit to the Central Powers. The Germans and Austrians were not so weak as everyone had thought and in relatively quick order Romania was overrun and occupied by two German armies. The Royal Family had to abandon Bucharest and the vast mineral wealth of Romania was channeled toward the German war effort. In the end, Romania would be one of the few Allied powers to end up getting everything she had wanted when the final victory came but, for the moment, the war was over and Crown Prince Carol saw no reason why he shouldn’t pursue his own happiness. In August of 1918 he ran off to the Ukraine to marry his sweetheart, the daughter of a Romanian general, to the shock and horror of the court. It was a terribly delicate time for the monarchy as the stunning defeat of the Romanian forces had undermined respect for the Crown and forced King Ferdinand to give up much of his powers in order to keep the monarchy in place. The King was furious with his son, ordered him placed in a monastery and his marriage annulled. That was in his power, but he could not forever keep his son and his beloved apart and in 1920 she gave birth to his son.
It was expected that the Crown Prince had, with that renunciation, effectively ended his ‘royal career’. However, the headstrong Carol fundamentally objected to the entire process. He felt it was unjust that he should have been forced to marry, forced to choose between his birthright and the woman he loved and he felt he had been coerced into making the renunciation. In 1927 King Ferdinand died and, with a regency in place, Carol’s young son became King Michael I of Romania. One year later Carol and Princess Elena formally divorced and Carol spent most of his time traveling abroad with Magda. However, in 1930 he unexpectedly returned to Romania, renounced his earlier renunciation and proclaimed himself King Carol II. The boy-king Michael was effectively deposed by his father who had support among many in the army and those who wanted to see a stronger and more authoritarian monarch. Obviously this was a time of considerable turmoil for the royal family and particularly as he grew older the young King Michael would never forgive his father, not simply for deposing him (he was too young at the time to be terribly ambitious) but for displacing his mother in favor of Magda who was treated in every way as wife.
During these years the Nazi Party had risen to power in Germany and with the western democracies refusing to take action and the Soviet Union focused on expanding in the Baltic states, Hitler began to re-draw much of the map in Eastern Europe through diplomacy and intimidation. After the start of World War II, borders shifted and Hungary, Bulgaria and the Soviet Union all demanded territorial concessions from the “Greater Romania” the Allies had gifted after the First World War. King Carol II was forced to go along with this as the defeat of France and the resulting domination of Europe by Nazi Germany (which at that time had a non-aggression pact with Stalin) left Romania isolated. Naturally, this did nothing to help the popularity of the King in his own country and made him appear weak abroad. With those concessions it seemed that the reign of King Carol II was doomed. It also did not help that Adolf Hitler personally despised the King. In addition to Hitler’s virulent hatred of royalty in general the fact that the King lived with a woman who was (gasp!) half-Jewish infuriated the Nazi dictator all the more.
When Romania entered World War II under Antonescu the former King offered to form a Romanian government-in-exile on the Allied side but Great Britain and the United States opposed such a move. After all, such a government would have doubtlessly clashed with the agreed upon Soviet domination of Eastern Europe after the war. He even made a similar offer to Joseph Stalin but communism and royalty simply do not mix and the Soviets didn’t even bother replying. Romania would be in their sphere of influence in any event and they knew it. Through it all, Magda never left his side. After their marriage in Brazil the former King titled her Princess Elena of Romania but the court around his son, needless to say, never recognized it. The couple had to move more than once because of the effects of climate on Magda’s health, improving only after their move to Portugal. However, it was there that the former King Carol II died, unexpectedly, of a heart attack on April 4, 1953 at the age of 59. He was buried there in Portugal and after her death in 1977 his Princess Elena was buried alongside him. It was not until 2003 that their bodies were removed and transported to Romania for reburial. However, old animosities still remained and neither of his sons attended the ceremony and while he was buried in a royal chapel along with the remains of other, long past, Romanian royals, his wife had to be buried outside as her royal status was not recognized by the family. Even in death, the controversy and divisiveness that characterized the rule of King Carol II of Romania still remained.