Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Will the Monarchy return to Romania?

Victor Ponta, Romania's Prime Minister, told a local TV reporter on Sunday that he would hold a referendum on a form of government if he wins the election for President.

"I believe that, in the coming years, in Romania we should have not only a public date, but we should also make a decision, through a referendum, on the form of government."

Although recent polls show Romanians favoring a republic,  nearly 45% of Romanians have a "good and very good opinion" about Romania's royal house.  This survey was taken in early May, and shows an increase of 5 points from a previous poll in 2013.

Ponta, who appears to have a good relationship with Crown Princess Margarita (and has been a guest at official dinners held at the Elisabetha Palace), said he would step down as President if Romanians vote for a monarchy.

We should have such a referendum on the government form sometime during my mandate, maybe even by 2016,” Ponta  said.

Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (1839-1914) was elected as Prince of Romania on April 20, 1866 after a palace coup overthrow Prince Alexandru Ioan Cuza.  It was not until 1878 after the Ottoman Empire was defeated in the Russo-Turkish war that Prince Carol was able to declare Romania as an independent, sovereign state.   He was proclaimed as King of Romania on March 26, 1881.

Prince Karl was the second son of Karl Anton, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Princess Josephine of Baden.  He was closely related to the Bonaparte family as one of his maternal grandmother, Stephanie de Beauharnais, was the niece-in-law of Empress Josephine, first wife of Emperor Napoleon.  The princely family of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen maintained good relations with Napoleon III, who recommended Prince Karl to Romanian politicians.  It was Ion Bratianu who made the offer and invited Prince Karl to Romania.   When Karl crossed the border, he was met by Bratianu, who welcomed him, and invited him to join him in his carriage for the ride to Bucharest.

The 1866 Romanian Constitution established a hereditary monarchy with male line succession only.  The king's heirs would be raised according to the Eastern Orthodox faith, although the king and queen were not required to convert.   On November 15, 1869,  Carol married Princess Elisabeth of Wied.  It was not a happy marriage.  He was straitlaced and formidable. She was emotional, a dreamer,  eccentric -- and better known as the writer Carmen Sylva.

In 1871, Elisabeth gave birth to the couple's only child, Marie, who died three years later.  Elisabeth never truly got over the death of her daughter, which lead to a further estrangement between the couple.  It was only in the final years of Carol's life that there was a rapprochement between them due to their shared belief in German militarism.

Carol's elder brother, Leopold and his eldest son, Wilhelm, renounced their rights to the Romanian throne in favor of Leopold's second son, Ferdinand.

Ferdinand (1865-1927) was the second son of Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmarginen, and Infanta Antonia of Portugal.  He was recognized as Prince of Romania in 1889.  He nearly caused a dynastic mishap when he fell in love with Elena Vacarescu, Queen Elisabeth's lady-in-waiting.  Queen Elisabeth, a hopeless romantic herself who was trapped in a loveless marriage, encouraged the relationship even though the Romanian Constitution forbid a marriage between the heir and a Romanian.

The crisis ended in 1891 when Elena was packed off to Paris and Queen Elisabeth exiled to her childhood home at Neuwied.  Crown Prince Ferdinand, still pining for his lost love, was sent by King Carol (Der Onkel) to find a nice, eligible princess. 

On January 10, 1893 in Sigmaringen,  Crown Prince Ferdinand married Princess Marie of Edinburgh, eldest daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia.   The new Crown Princess of Romania, who remained an Anglican, was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and Alexander III of Russia.

The couple had six children: Carol II, Elisabetha, Marie, Nicholas, Ileana and Mircea.  The youngest child was most likely fathered by Marie's lover Barbu Stirbey.

The children were all baptized according to the rites of the Romanian Orthodox Church

King Carol I died on October 10, 1914, and was succeeded by his nephew, King Ferdinand.  It was Ferdinand's pro-British wife Marie who played a successful role in moving Romania away from the Triple Alliance and onto the side of the Triple Entente during the first world war.

Unfortunately, for Romania, the young Crown Prince Carol (1893-1953) was more interested in a social life than preparing for his future role as King Carol II.  Much to his parents' dismay, Carol fell in love with a Romanian commoner, Zizi Lambrino, and ran off and married her in Odessa in August 1918.  The marriage was annulled a year later, but Carol remained with Zizi for a few more months because she became pregnant and gave birth to their son, Mircea Gregor Carol Lambrino.    The joy of fatherhood did not last long, and Carol dumped his former wife and son,  and agreed to return home and find a more respectable bride.

Queen Marie played matchmaker and effectively arranged the marriages between Carol and his sister, Elisabeta, to Princess Helen of Greece and her brother, the future King George II.  The Greeks were the children of Marie's first cousin, Queen Sophie of the Hellenes.   (Both marriages were abysmal failures.)

Carol and Helen were married on March 10, 1921.  Seven months later, on October 25th,  she gave birth to their only child, Michael.    Carol was already having an affair with Elena Lupescu, the divorced wife of an Army officer.  He was so enamored with Elena that he abandoned Helen and Michael to live with Elena in France.  He also renounced his right to the throne in favor of his son, Michael.   He and Helen were divorced in 1928.

The renouncement took place on December 31, 1925.  Less than two years later, on July 20, 1927,  King Ferdinand died after a long battle with cancer.   He was succeeded by his 5-year-old grandson, Michael.  A regency included Ferdinand's younger son, Prince Nicholas.

By early 1930, there was discontent in the country and in Parliament.   Carol II was invited back to Romania.  The regency was disbanded, and Carol proclaimed as King.  Michael was named as Crown Prince.  The country moved toward a fascist dictatorship, which was established by Carol II on February 10, 1938.  Two years later, he transferred his powers to the Prime Minister, Ion Antonescu.    In September 1940, Carol was forced to abdicate in favor of Michael.   Carol would never see his son again.  He wanted to go to the United States, which denied him entry, and stayed for a time in Mexico and Brazil before finding a home in Portugal.  He married Elena Lupescu in 1947.

Michael never trusted the pro-German Antonescu.  It was on August 23, 1944, when Michael, aided by like-minded politicians, led a coup against Antonescu.  The pro-German government was overthrown, and Romania was now able to join the Allies.  Unfortunately for Romania and its neighbors, the alliance meant that Soviet, and not American, troops were about to invade and occupy the country.

By the early spring of 1945, King Michael was forced to name a pro-Soviet Government.   He tried to oppose the government by refusing to sign their laws, and, in effect, went on strike for five months until January 1946, when the Allied nations asked him to cooperate with the government.  He had tried to demand the government to resign, but the Soviets were increasing their control in the Balkans.

In November 1947,  Michael and his mother, Helen, flew to London to attend the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip of Greece.  It was in London where Michael was introduced to Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma (whose parents were guests at the wedding).  It was love at first sight.    

Much to the dismay to the Romanian government,  Michael returned to the country and discussed the plans for his marriage.  Petru Groza and the other Romanian communist officials had other ideas, long planned and now about to be carried out with the full support of the Soviet Union.  Michael was a very popular monarch.  A marriage to Princess Anne would have further endeared him to the people.  The government knew this.  But in order for Romania to be fully brought into the Soviet orbit, Michael would have to go.

King Michael was at Peles Castle in Sinaia, on December 30, 1947, preparing to host a New Year's Party, when he received a phone call from Groza.  He was told to return to Bucharest.   He arrived at the Elisabeta Palace to find it surrounded by Communist troops.  Grozu and Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej  were already at the palace, waiting for Michael's return.

It was all planned in advance. The phone lines were cut.  One of the men placed a gun at Michael's head, and handed him the act of abdication.  Michael had no choice but to sign it.  Later that day, Romania was proclaimed a People's Republic.

Michael and Anne were married in Athens on June 10, 1948.   Queen Anne has remained a Roman Catholic, but agreed to raise her children as in the Orthodox faith.

The couple have 5 daughters (Crown Princess Margarita, Princess Helen, Princess Irina, Princess Sophie and Princess Marie.)

Michael's first trip to Romania since his exile was on Christmas Day 1990.  He and several members of his family were given a 24 hour visa.  His plan was to visit the Curtea de Arges cathedral where members of his family are buried, but en route to the cathedral, Michael's car was stopped by the police and he and his family were forced to leave the country.

Two years later,  Michael was permitted to return to the country to for Easter, but after more than one million people showed up to see him in Bucharest,  President Ion Iliescu would not allow the former king to return for another five years.

But after Iliescu was defeated by Emil Constantinescu,  the new government restored Michael's citizenship, which had been taken away in 1948.

Michael changed the succession law on December 30, 2007, naming his eldest daughter as Crown Princess.   As Crown Princess Margarita and her husband, Radu Duda, have no children,  the next in line is Prince Nicholas, the only son of Margarita's sister, Helen.

King Michael, 93, and Queen Anne live in Switzerland, but spend holidays at their home Savarsin in Arad (which was restored to him.)  The Romanian government has also returned Peles and Pelisor, in Sinaia, as these were private properties bought and built by Carol I.  King Ferdinand left Sinaia and other properties to Michael in his will.

The family also maintains a residence in Bucharest at the Elisabeta Palace, once owned by Michael's aunt, Elisabeta.  The palace remains owned by the government, and is placed at the disposal of the former head of state, due to a law passed by the Romanian Parliament.

I was in Romania in October 2011 to attend the 90th birthday celebrations for the King, who is popular and loved.  Crown Princess Margarita and Prince Radu are also respected and do a lot for Romanian charities.  Official dinners and other events take place at the Elisabeta Palace, where the royals mix with Romanian citizens and government officials.

Romania is a country with serious economic problems, and corruption is rife at all political levels.  I certainly believe that Crown Princess Margarita has what it takes to be a constitutional monarch.  The view of the monarchy's history is far more positive now.  When I toured Cotrocenci Palace, I burst into tears because the tour guide spoke only in positive terms about Ferdinand and especially Queen Marie. 


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1 comment:

John said...

Awesome article :-)