King Michael I of Romania has a special place in Romania’s history. He is the only sovereign who survived 90 years of his own coronation which took place in 1927. He is also one of the Head of State of the Second World War period who spent the turn of the millennium with his people. Furthermore, King Michael I will go down in history as the Romanian who has defied the dreadful dictators of the twentieth century: Adolf Hitler and Iosif Visarionovici Stalin.
Michael I was born on 25 October 1921, in Sinaia. His mother was Princess Helen, born Princess of Greece and Denmark. His father was the Crown Prince Carol of Romania. Through his paternal and maternal ascendants, Michael I is related to the kings of the Holy Roman – German Empire, the Austrian Empire and the German Empire, with the Tsars of Russia, with the kings and queens of Great Britain, Greece, Portugal, Denmark and a large number of families that have influenced the fate of the European continent.
Prince Michael of Romania had a tumultuous childhood. His father gave up the Crown, divorced his mother, and severed ties with the Royal Family of Romania. Thus, Michael was proclaimed Crown Prince by his grandfather, King Ferdinand I of Romania, who went to the Heavenly Father in 1927. Under these circumstances, although he was only six years old, Michael I became King of Romania. Since he could not exercise the prerogatives of a constitutional monarch due to his age, a Regency was formed in Romania, consisting of his uncle, Prince Nicholas of Romania, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church, His Holiness Miron Cristea, and the famous attorney-at-law Gheorghe Buzdugan from the Court of Cassation.
These years of the Regency overlapped the beginning of the Great Economic Crisis between 1929 and 1933. As Romania faced great difficulties, in 1930 the King Michael’s father returned to the country and was proclaimed King under the name of Carol II. Michael I received an ad-hoc title, the Great Voivode of Alba Iulia, and assumed again the functions of the Crown Prince. The return of Carol II to Romania unfortunately coincided with the exile of the Queen Mother of Romania, which meant that Michael I was deprived of the presence of the most beloved person, his mother.
Michael I received a fine education. His father created a special class, called the Palatine Class, where teachers were the most eminent scholars of Romania, and classmates of King Michael came from all regions of the country and from all social classes. In addition to the academic education, Michael I undertook military training, and at the age of 16 he became sub-lieutenant of the Romanian Royal Armed Forces. It was the first military rank for the only Marshal of the Romanian Army in 2017.
The outbreak of the Second World War found Romania in a difficult situation. The Allies of Romania, first of all France, then Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Greece were invaded by the Nazi Germany and its allied countries. Under these conditions, King Carol II had to consent to painful territorial surrenders. The USSR occupied Bessarabia, Bukovina and Herţa Land, Hungary occupied Northern Transylvania, and Bulgaria occupied Southern Dobruja (Dobrogea). Under these circumstances, in September 1940, Carol II was forced to leave his country and the Throne.
Michael I resumed his reign as King in a country transformed into a dictatorship led by General Ion Antonescu, allied with the fascists of the Legionary Movement for several months. King Michael I had a strictly decorative role.
Ion Antonescu decided to strengthen the relations with the Nazi Germany, the only power that offered to guarantee Romania’s sordid borders. Ion Antonescu feared that Romania was under the risk of being attacked by both the USSR and Hungary.
In 1941, Ion Antonescu decided to declare war on the Soviet Union and to fight alongside Germany to recover the Romanian territories occupied by the USSR, and King Michael I learned about it from the radio. After four years of war, on 23 August 1944, to prevent the invasion of Romania by the USSR, King Michael I ordered that dictator Ion Antonescu be arrested, and joined the United Nations. The King’s actions shortened the war by six months and saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. Afterwards King Michael I reinstated the democratic Constitution from 1923 and opposed the establishment of communism.
For three years, he managed to oppose Stalin. But on 30 December 1947, threatened with the execution of 1,000 students, he was forced to sign a null act of abdication and go into exile.
In 1948, King Michael I married Princess Ana of Bourbon-Parma, who became Queen Ana of Romania. The royal couple had five daughters. During the exile, King Michael I became the legitimate leader of the Romanian democratic exile and continued to oppose communism.
After 1989, the Royal Family of Romania managed to return to the country, except for King Michael I. The new authorities in Bucharest did not allow his Majesty to return until 1992, when the King of Romania was welcomed in the streets by one million people who wanted to greet their legitimate leader. King Michael I was able to return definitively to the country only in 1997.
Although he was not reigning, he undertook the mission of promoting Romania’s interests during the NATO and EU accession. The merits of King Michael I are indesputable. Now, in his twilight years, he is the personality that enjoys the greatest appreciation among the Romanians, and the prospect of restoring the monarchy is more and more present.