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Romania mourns death of King Michael I, European royalties attend funeral

 
 
 
 
 
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Prince Charles and fellow European royals joined tens of thousands of Romanians to pay their respects to the country’s late King Michael I as a state funeral got underway on Saturday.

Michael, who ruled Romania twice before being forced to abdicate by the communists in 1947, died aged 96 in Switzerland this month.

Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, and Spain’s former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, were among those at a pre-funeral service at the Royal Palace in Bucharest where Michael’s body had been laying in state for the past two days. The Swedish king saluted as Michael’s coffin was placed on a dais.

Among non-European royals attending the funeral was Princess Muna al-Hussein, mother of King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Other royals including Henri, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz of Belgium were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis for a sung funeral service, led by the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel.

Bishops wafted incense in the small cathedral where Michael was crowned for the second time on Sept. 6, 1940. Michael, who was a great-great grandson of Queen Victoria, first became king aged five after his father Carol II eloped with his mistress and abdicated.

In the hours before Michael’s coffin was taken out of the palace, Romanians gathered silently, many in tears, in Revolution Square. Church bells tolled around the country and a choir of priests sang as the coffin was taken out and was laid on a dais in the square.

Earlier, the crowd cheered and shouted ‘King Michael!’ as the coffin, led by Orthodox priests and a guard of honor, was transported by an army jeep toward the cathedral.

Last goodbye: Princess Margaret of Hohenzollern, daughter of former Romanian King Michael, touches his coffin, at the former royal palace.

From left, Belgium’s Prince Lorenz, Princess Astrid, Princess Muna al-Hussein of Jordan, Greece’s Queen Anne Marie, Britain’s Prince Charles, former Spanish royals, Queen Sofia, King Juan Carlos I, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg, Sweden’s Queen Silvia and King Carl XVI Gustaf, stand in the front row as they attend the funeral ceremony.

Romania’s former King Michael (C), accompanied by his daughter Princess Margareta and his nephew Prince Nicolae, waves during a ceremony celebrating both his 92nd birthday in 2013.

Michael’s five daughters and his estranged grandson Nicholas Medforth-Mills, who was stripped of his title for allegedly fathering a child out of wedlock, walked behind the coffin.

Nicholas Medforth-Mills said before the funeral “I will return. I will not give up. I am beside my country and my people just like my grandfather has always been.”

From left to right, Prince Nicolae, Princess Margaret and her husband Radu Duda.

Mourner Georgeta Anastasiu, 60, said the late king had been ‘demonized by the communists, but in the end we found out the truth about him.’

She called the king ‘the last moral example for Romanians.’

His body will then be taken by a royal train to the central Romanian city of Curtea de Arges where he will be buried next to his wife, Anne de Bourbon-Parme, who died last year.

For many, it’s a sad reminder of the train the communists made Michael and his mother Queen Helen take from Bucharest to Switzerland after he was forced to abdicate in December 1947 and began his exile 70 years ago.

It’s not clear exactly how much Michael and the royal house owns, but they do have castles and real estate.

While Romania has been a republic for 70 years, the monarchy still holds some allure for Romanians, and Michael was seen as a symbol of morality and modesty.

Honor guard soldiers carry the coffin of the late Romanian King Michael during the funeral ceremony outside the former royal palace.

Pictured (L-R): Greece’s Queen Anne-Marie, Prince Charles, former Spanish Queen Sofia and former Spanish King Juan Carlos and Princess Margaret of Hohenzollern, daughter of former Romanian King Michael.

Prince Charles, Former Spanish Queen Sofia and former Spanish King Juan Carlos attend a funeral ceremony for late Romanian King Michael in Bucharest.

Greece’s Queen Anne-Marie and Britain’s Prince Charles engage in conversation as they attend the funeral ceremony.

Belgium’s Princess Astrid and her husband, Prince Lorenz, Greece’s Queen Anne Marie, Britain’s Prince Charles, Former Spanish Queen Sofia and former Spanish King Juan Carlos, King Carl Gustaf of Sweden (unseen) and his wife, Sweden’s Queen Silvia and Henri, Duke of Luxembourg, (unseen), Crown Princess Margareta of Romania and her husband, Radu Duda at the funeral ceremony.

Honor guard soldiers perform a changing of the guard by the coffin of late Romanian King Michael.

People wait outside the former royal palace to attend Romanian King Michael’s funeral ceremony in Bucharest.

A steward checks on a man who kneeled by the coffin of late Romanian King Michael, at the former royal palace.

Honor guard soldiers carry the coffin of the late Romanian King Michael during the funeral ceremony.

A Romanian boy wearing the royal flag over his shoulders prior to the start of the funeral ceremony of late King Michael I of Romania.

Romania’s revered king Michael, a long and tragic life.

Romania’s former king Michael incarnated the tragic fate and political turmoil suffered by his country in the 20th century.

One of the last surviving World War II leaders, the beloved monarch who suffered from leukaemia announced last March he was seriously ill, withdrawing from public life and handing his duties to his eldest daughter Margareta, 68.

Born on October 25, 1921 in Sinaia, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) north of Bucharest, Michael was a descendant of the German Hohenzollern dynasty.

He ruled twice, from 1927 to 1930 and then from 1940 to 1947, before the communist government ended the monarchy in the Balkan country.

He was just 19 when he began his second reign as the war was raging, and Romania, then led by marshal Ion Antonescu, had become an ally of Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

Despite his inexperience, the young king managed to stage a coup d’etat in 1944, leading to Antonescu’s arrest and Bucharest’s joining the allied forces.

But the end of World War II unleashed the rise of communism and Romania became a satellite of the Soviet Union.

The slim, blue-eyed ruler with an unmistakable aristocratic bearing was forced to abdicate and go into exile on December 30, 1947.

Ex-King Michael I of Romania, with wife Anne and daughters, Princess Margarita and Princess Elena, at Aberdeen Station.

A few months later, he was also stripped of his citizenship.

Michael opted to settle in Switzerland, where he earned a modest living as an aircraft mechanic and farmer.

He had five daughters with his wife Anne of Bourbon-Parma.

Democracy returned to Romania in 1989 when Nicolae Ceausescu’s dictatorship collapsed.

Dreaming of ‘serving’ his people again, the former king tried to settle back in his home country on several occasions, but Romanian authorities blocked his attempts.

Fate turned in his favour in 1996 with the ousting of president Ion Iliescu, once a high-ranking communist official and a key opponent of the former monarch.

The new government restored Michael’s citizenship the following year and he began to revisit the country.

He also took on some quasi-diplomatic roles for Romania, campaigning for its admission to NATO and the European Union.

After moving back to Bucharest in 2002, he kept a low profile, making only brief appearances in public for major events.

For his 90th birthday in 2011, Michael gave his first parliamentary speech since being deposed.

In the historic address, he spoke of his ‘long life, full of happy and unhappy events’ and called on Romania to shed ‘bad habits of the past’.

He spent his remaining years residing in both Romania and Switzerland.

In 2016, he was diagnosed as suffering from skin cancer and a chronic form of leukaemia. It was also the year that his wife died.

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