Romania prepares to mourn king
Church bells across Romania will toll for King Michael’s funeral today (Wednesday) marking the point his casket arrives for Switzerland, the beginning of the service at the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest and the burial ceremony at the new Curtea de Arges Royal Cathedral.
The deposed king (pictured) died on December 5 at his Swiss home aged 96.
Romania will hold three days of mourning from Thursday.
The UK’s Prince Charles, a distant relative of Michael through Queen Victoria, is due to attend. Michael’s cousin, Queen Sofia, and former Spanish king, Juan Carlos, are also expected.
During his fascinating life, Michael was crowned in 1927 aged six after his father Carol II eloped with his mistress and abdicated.
Carol, the crown prince of Romania, was notorious for his volatility and womanising. He abdicated his right to the throne in 1925 ahead of King Ferdinand’s death in 1927.
Michael played a pivotal role in his country’s switch to the Allied side in 1944.
In 1945 a British envoy wrote: “Michael is the only person who may be able to pull the country through the coming months and save it from anarchy or communism.”
Michael was the last monarch to abdicate after Soviet occupation. He was forced out after he refused to sign any royal decrees while calling on the west to act.
He was forced to abdicate by Stalin’s henchman, Andrei Vyshinsky, in 1947 and spent decades in exile working as a chicken farmer in the English county of Hertfordshire and a Swiss commercial pilot.
After the fall of communism in 1989, Michael was prevented from visiting Romania on several occasions by successive governments, who were alarmed by the level of public support he still enjoyed.
In 2001, the government granted him an official residence and staff, in line with other former Romanian heads of state. Four years later Michael and his family were compensated for confiscated property and permitted to use the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest. On his 90th birthday, he addressed parliament for the first time in more than 60 years, calling for a break with bad political practices.
In 2014 Michael removed his daughter Irina from the line of succession after her guilty plea to abetting a cock-fighting enterprise in Oregon. In 2015 his only grandson, the supposedly popular Nicholas, was also cut from the succession.
King Michael. Picture credit: Wikimedia