Monday, October 25, 2021

King Michael - 100th centenary of His Birth.

The Times  October 27, 1926

Michael was born at the Foisor Hunting Lodge on the Sinaia estate, which includes Peles Castle and Pelisor, which is right next door.  The Foisor residence is older than both castles and served as the royal family's residence.  The property was not included when Peles and Pelisor were returned to King Michael.  

The lodge is owned by the Romanian Government and is not open to the public.

The young prince was born second in line to the throne after his father, Crown Prince Carol, who married Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark on March 10, 1921.   

The marriage soon foundered as Helen realized that Carol was never going to settle down and be a responsible and faithful husband, let alone a respectful heir to the throne. By 1925, he was involved with Elena Lupescu, and could not be persuaded to renounce their relationship.  Instead, he renounced his right to the throne and left Romania to live with Elena.  He was removed as a member of the Romanian Royal House.

It was 6-year-old Michael, not his father, who succeeded King Ferdinand, when he died on July 20, 1927.   A year later, Carol and Helen were divorced.   The regency that ruled in Michael's name proved to be ineffective, which lead to Carol returning to Romania as King on June 8, 1930.  

Michael was named as Crown Prince.   Although there were numerous press reports in the British and American press that led some people to believe that Carol and Helen would remarry and she would become Queen Consort.  This was far from the truth.  Elena Lupescu was never far from Carol's side and Helen, much loved and very popular in Romania, was forced by Carol to leave her adopted country and her son behind as she went to live in Italy.

Michael grew up with an indifferent father, who used his son as a weapon against Helen.  He eventually allowed Michael to spend more time with his mother.   It was a difficult situation for an impressionable and stoic young man who felt more freedom when spending time with his mother and her family. 

Carol II's position as king became precarious by the late 1930s.  In 1937, he abolished the 1923 Consitution and all political parties except for the National Renaissance Party, which tried to stand up to the growing power of the Iron Guard, a fascist organization.

The outbreak of World War II certainly changed the dynamics of Carol's reign.  The king had hoped for an alliance with Poland, but once that country fell to the Nazis, Carol had to change his strategy.  He had hoped for Romania to remain neutral but was a near impossibility when the Germans took control of France.

Carol made another mistake.  He decided to align with Germany, as he wanted an agreement from Germany that they would not invade Romania.  Unfortunately for Carol, he was unaware of several clauses in the Ribbentrop=Molotov agreement that led to the loss of substantial land (Bessarabia, Northern Bukovina, northern Transylvania, and Dobruja) to the Soviet Union,  Hungary, and Bulgaria.

[Today Bessarabia includes the republic of Moldova and a part of Ukraine,  as is northern Bukovina.  Northern Transylvania was returned to Romania in 1947.  Dobruja remains a part of Bulgaria.]

It must be said that Carol tried to balance his position between the Allies and the Nazis.  But it was for naught.  His prime minister Calinescu, who supported the Allies was assassinated by the Ion Guard.   There was also the battle for Romania's Ploesti oil fields that both sides wanted to control.   Carol called for higher taxes to pay for the defense of the country.  

But there was nothing the feckless king could do to save his kingdom after France had fallen to the Germans.  So what did Carol do?  He threw Romania's lot in with the Axis Powers and by May 1940, after Belgium fell to the Germans,  the king informed the Crown Council that they must support Germany because it will win the war.

Fed up with their duplicitous king, Romanians took to the streets to demand that Carol abdicate. Matters became worse when he named Iron; Guard's Ion Antonescu as his prime minister and transferred all of his dictatorial powers to him.   Romania was now fully entrenched within the fascist Axis control.   

Further demonstrations took place as Romanians did not support the new government or their king, who in a matter of weeks had lost a large chunk of Romanian land to the Soviets and oversaw the establishment of Antonescu's regime.    Carol abdicated on September 8, 1940.  He and Elena settled in Mexico and later in Portugal, where he died on April 4, 1953.

Michael, now nearly 19-years-od, was again King of Romania. One of the first things he did was to invite his mother to join him in Romania.  He never supported the Antonescu government and long for the day when he could show his support for the Allies.   It was only after the Axis troops were losing in the Romanian front that Michael and members of several political parties, including the communists, took part in a coup on August 23, 1944, that overthrew Ion Antonescu and his regime.   Michael quickly brought Romania into the Allied cause, but sadly, even tragically, this coup would also lead to the Communists taking control of the country only three years later.     

In October 1944, British Prime Minister Winston Church and Soviet leader Josef Stalin's agreement on Eastern Europe led to the Soviet Union having a "90's share of influence" in Romania.  

Soviet troops moved quickly into Romania. After the end of the war,  Michael was largely a figurehead king with the Soviet Union calling the shots.  Only a month after attending the wedding of Princess Elizabeth to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark),  Michael was forced at gunpoint to abdicate.  He and Queen Helen and other members of the Romanian royal family went into exile.  

[Prince Philip, who was four months older than Michael, and Queen Helen were first cousins.  He and King Michael were childhood playmates.]

The Socialist Republic was established soon afterward.   In June 1948,  Michael married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma, whom he had met in London the previous November,   They lived in England for several years before finally settling in Switzerland, where they raised five daughters, HM Margareta, Custodian of the Crown,  Princess Helen, Princess Irina, Princess Sophie, and Princess Marie.   

After the fall of Ceausescu in 1989,  Michael attempted a return to his homeland only to be rebuffed and arrested.  It was not until 1997 that Emil Constantinescu's government restored the king's citizenship.  He was allowed to return to Romania.  Several years later,  Peles Castle, Pelesor, and  Săvârșin, all of which were privately owned by the king before 1947, were returned to him.

Queen Anne died on August 1, 2016.   Only 16 months after Anne's death, Michael who had been diagnosed with leukemia and other cancers died at his some in Arbonne, Switzerland.   He was 96 years old.  

The late king was accorded a state funeral. He and Queen Anne are buried in Curtea des Arges. 


the boy king
Michael and his father, King Carol II

King Michael and his American jeep
King George II with Princes Philip and Michael

Washington, D.C. 1991 @Marlene A. Eilers Koenig

Washington, D.C.  Photo by Marlene A. Eilers Koenig

No comments: