|King Carol I|
Finally united and independent, in March of 1881 the government in Bucharest declared the country the Kingdom of Romania and Prince Carol crowned himself King Carol I of Romania with the famous “Steel Crown”, so-called because it was made from one of the guns that saw action at the battle of Plevna. The Kingdom of Romania was at last a fact but it would need a strong monarchy with a Royal Family and assurance of an orderly succession to see it thrive and prosper. Toward that end, King Carol I married Elizabeth von Wied (aunt of the Prince Wilhelm who would be Prince of Albania for a time in 1914). She was a literary woman, author of many poetry books under the name of “Carmen Sylva”. However, their only child, Princess Marie, died before her fourth birthday so in order to secure the succession King Carol adopted his nephew Prince Ferdinand von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. Prince Ferdinand upset his family by renouncing Catholicism to join the Romanian Orthodox Church but he was just as determined as his uncle to see the Kingdom of Romania persevere and succeed. He learned Romanian and began seriously looking for a bride of his own to secure a stable Romanian royal dynasty. At the court of the German Kaiser he decided on Princess Marie of Edinburgh, granddaughter of Queen Victoria and daughter of Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
So, at that moment, in the summer of 1916 the Kingdom of Romania declared war on the Central Powers and launched an invasion of Hungary. Unfortunately, things began to go wrong very quickly. The army was not well trained or prepared and German Colonel General Erich von Falkenhayn already had a plan for the conquest of Romania ready to put into effect. The Central Powers were not so crippled as the leaders in Bucharest thought and soon Field Marshal August von Mackensen was leading a massive invasion of Romania with troops from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey. Overwhelmed by this massive counter-attack, Romania was almost completely conquered and even started to destroy their oil facilities to keep them out of German hands. A remnant managed to hang on in the east but the next year, 1917, Russia began to come apart and the Romanians were left with no choice but to concede defeat and sign a treaty giving up border territories to the Central Powers and Germany control over Romanian oil production. Some were amazed that Romania was to survive at all given how furious the German Kaiser Wilhelm II was that a member of his own family would declare war on him. Fortunately for Romania, this humiliation was only temporary.
Crown Prince Carol finally agreed to return and marry the woman his parents chose; his sister-in-law Princess Helena of Greece in 1921. Later that year a son and heir was born to the royal couple; Prince Michael, named in honor of Prince Michael the Brave of Romanian history. However, the Crown Prince already had another mistress in the person of Elena Lupescu which caused quite a scandal. No one could decide what was worse; that she was a commoner, that she was Catholic by religion or that she was Jewish by blood. She converted to Orthodoxy but she had also been married before and divorced so that, for any number of reasons, “Magda” Lupescu was popular with practically no one besides Crown Prince Carol. Finally, in 1925 he was forced to renounce his rights to the throne in favor of his young son Michael. He divorced Helena and lived in France with Magda Lupescu. So it was that when King Ferdinand I died in 1927 he was succeeded by his 6-year-old grandson who officially became King Michael I of Romania.
|King Carol II|
King Carol refused and shortly thereafter Codreanu was shot by the police, supposedly while attempting escape though few believed it. As World War II broke out, things got worse for Romania. Hitler was hostile to King Carol II and there was nothing to do but concede when Stalin (at the time in league with Hitler) demanded the return of Bessarabia. Hitler also demanded that Carol II return northern Transylvania to Hungary. All of this was done, and it is hard to see how the King could have done anything else, but it cause a massive uproar in Romania particularly by the Iron Guard and the pro-German supporters of General Ion Antonescu, a former Minister of War. In September of 1940 General Antonescu organized a coup that brought down King Carol II and put King Michael I back on the Romanian throne. However, he was to be a mere figurehead with General Antonescu ruling Romania as dictator. He took the country into the Axis camp and participated in the invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. King Michael did not even know his country was at war with Russia until he heard about it on BBC radio. Still, despite the situation, King Michael was able to prevent the hand-over of Romanian Jews to the Nazis and he began to organize his own network of pro-Allied supporters.
|King Michael I|
When the war ended in victory for the Allies, the Soviet stranglehold on Romania became tighter. However, King Michael did all in his power to block them at every turn. Still, he was limited to small things since Romania had been abandoned by the west to the vicious Stalin and his stooges. There were some happier moments though, such as in 1947 when King Michael met Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in London, the woman who would be the great love of his life. They soon made plans to marry the following year and that was the last sort of spectacle that anyone in Moscow or their lackeys in Bucharest wanted to see. The Romanian communists had hoped the King would have stayed in Britain but he returned home and was determined to never leave his people. The communists had other ideas and when all of their harassment could not induce him to leave, they finally resorted to outright coercion. In December they demanded that King Michael abdicate his throne or else they would begin executing 1,000 students as “subversives”. Of course, the King could not allow such a bloodbath and had no choice but to agree. He signed their document, under duress so it had no validity, and left the country with little more than the clothes on his back as all royal property was confiscated by the communists.
|the royal wedding|
The National Liberal Party did ask King Michael to run for president, which he of course refused and the party won no seats in the election. The King was perfectly willing to return as monarch if the Romanian people so desired it but he had no desire to become a politician. To return to his beloved country was, however, naturally the first thing that King Michael wanted to do but he met opposition from the government. His first effort to return saw the government cancel his visa so the first member of the Royal Family to return was Princess Margarita, his daughter, in December of 1990 on a humanitarian mission. That year she had founded a charitable organization after being moved by the plight of the children in the wretched state orphanages run by Ceausescu. For those not aware, this was probably the greatest horror of the communist regime and what happened to the orphaned children in state care is a story too horrific to relate here. There was starvation, neglect, abuse and even more disgusting crimes that can scarcely be imagined. After bringing up the subject with the prime minister, who did not say the King would not be allowed to return, the King prepared to come home.
|The King & Princess Margarita|