Fun fact: Romania has a royal family. This is not something I knew until I moved here.
The history of the Romanian royals is kind of a neat story. I’ll tell you a (very) simplified version.
See, the Romanians wanted a king. But they couldn’t find anybody they liked in Romania.
So they asked a German guy (Karl/Carol) to come be their king. And he was like, sure.
And for the next 48 years, he took his job very seriously. He built Peleş Castle. He married Elizabeth, who became Queen. Their only daughter died as a child. When he died in 1914, the crown eventually passed to his nephew, Ferdinand (after some abdications…apparently heavy is the head that wears the crown).
Ferdinand (also German) was king until 1927. When he died, his grandson Mihai became king. [There is a very confusing timeline here – Mihai’s father, Carol II, was a controversial character who renounced his succession rights but then later came back to retake the crown from his son in 1930. Here is a comment from romanianobserver that explains it better than me, “Ferdinand was actually the grandfather of Mihai….and in between was Mihai’s father King Carol. Carol was less well-loved, serving first for a few years years but leaving the throne in 1925 due to his mistress, then reclaiming the throne in 1930 Carol eventually collaborated with the fascist Antonescu regime. It was Mihai, returning as King in 1940, who played a key role in rescuing Romania from its fascist government later in the war.”]
Mihai was crowned King in 1927 and ruled until 1930. He returned to the throne in 1940 after his father, Carol II, was removed from his position. This second reign lasted until 1947, at which point he was forced to abdicate and live in exile. Which is what he did until he died this year on December 5th at the age of 96.
However, Romanians never forgot their king. After the fall of Communism, he and his family were invited back to the country. The royal family (as they are still called, despite the abolishment of the monarchy in 1947) do not have any powers, nor are they in the news very often. But they exist and every now and then you hear about them.
Last year, King Mihai’s wife, Anne, died at age 92. They had five children, one of which is now the Queen of Romania, Margareta.
The royal family is not without controversy, though. One of Mihai and Anne’s daughters lives in the United States. Princess Irina was arrested for illegal cockfighting in 2013. Mihai’s grandson, Nicolas, has been disinherited (no idea why).
When we were on our way to our ski trip in Rânca, we passed through the town of Curtea de Argeş. In this town, there is a monastery where the royal family are buried. We happened to be there the day before Mihai died. The monastery is very beautiful inside and out.
Mihai will be buried next to his wife, Anne.
The funeral was held this last weekend and was televised all day. The ceremony began in Bucharest with some familiar faces in attendance (HRH Prince Charles). A processional through the streets of the city followed – this part was the most touching to me, as many Romanians walked down the streets, accompanying the procession. The procession finished at the train station, where he was carried to Curtea de Arges for his final resting place.
From the video below, you can tell that many Romanian people had a special place in their hearts for King Mihai. He stood up to Nazis and Communists and fought for the Romanian people, even though it meant he would be exiled for almost all of his life from his homeland.
Rest in peace, Mihai.