The body of King Michael I, Romania’s last sovereign, was brought to Romania on Wednesday, December 13. The former king, who spent almost 70 years of his life away from Romania, will be buried at Curtea de Arges on Saturday. He died on December 5 at his private residence in Switzerland, at the age of 96.
The king’s coffin was brought by plane from Switzerland to the Henri Coanda International Airport in Otopeni, from where it was taken to the Peles Castle in Sinaia. Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis, prime minister Mihai Tudose and other top officials went to Peles in the afternoon to pay their last respects to the king. Then, in the evening, the casket was taken to the Royal Palace in Bucharest, where it will stay until Saturday, when the funeral will take place.
King Michael ruled over Romania from July 1927, when he was only 6, to June 1930, when his father Carol II reclaimed the throne. He was again proclaimed king in September 1940, at the age of 19, and reigned until December 30, 1947, when the communists forced him to abdicate and leave the country. One year later, the communist regime stripped him of his Romanian citizenship.
King Michael spent his exile in Greece, Italy, Great Britain and Switzerland. He married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in June 1948, in Athens. The couple lived near Florence, Italy, until 1948, near Lausanne, Switzerland, until 1950, and then in Hampshire, England, until 1956. After that, the couple settled near Versoix, Switzerland, where they would live for the next 45 years.
The king’s exile, however, didn’t end in December 1989, when the communist regime in Romania was overthrown through a bloody revolution. The new regime led by former Communist Party member Ion Iliescu, didn’t allow King Michael to return and it was only in 1997 that the king got back his Romanian citizenship and the right to return to the country.
King Michael first expressed his wish to return to visit Romania in 1990, but the post-communist regime suggested this was not a good idea as this would have triggered anti-monarchy protests. In December 1990, on Christmas day, he managed however to get a 24-hour visa and came to Romania accompanied by several members of the Royal Family. He wanted to go to Curtea de Arges, to pray at the tombs of his ancestors, but the police stopped his car and forced him to return to the airport and leave the country.
The king was first allowed to return to Romania in the spring of 1992, on Easter. Over one million people reportedly gathered in Bucharest to see him. This alarmed the regime of president Ion Iliescu, which didn’t allow the king to return to Romania for several years. In 1994, King Michael flew to Otopeni Airport but was not allowed to enter the country.
In 1997, after Iliescu lost the presidency, president Emil Constantinescu and prime minister Victor Ciorbea restored King Michael’s Romanian citizenship and allowed him to return and visit the country.
After 2000, the Romanian government returned some of King Michael’s properties, including the Savarsin domain near Arad, and the Peles and Pelisor Castles in Sinaia. The Royal Family was also granted the right to use the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest as a private residence.
However, despite coming to Romania more often, especially around the holidays, King Michael and his wife Queen Anne continued to live in Switzerland, at Aubonne.
On October 25, 2011, when he turned 90, King Michael delivered a speech before the Romanian Parliament. His last public appearance in Romania was in November 2014, when he greeted the people gathered in front of the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest.
That was also one of his last trips to Romania. The king retired from public life in March 2016, when he was diagnosed with cancer.
Romania’s King Michael carried special watch