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05 December 2017

Memory Eternal! The Head of the House of Romanoff and the Tsesarevich Mourn the Passing of King Michael I of Romania.

King Michael I during his reign King Michael I during his reign

On December 5, 2017, in Switzerland, His Majesty, King Michael (Mihai) I of Romania passed away at the age of 96.

King Michael I was born in Sinaia, Romania on October 12/25, 1921. He was the son of Crown Prince Carol and Crown Princess Helen (née Princess of Greece and Denmark, and daughter of King Constantine I of Greece), and the grandson of King Ferdinand I of Romania and Queen Marie (née Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, and of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha).

Through his father he was the great-grandson of the daughter of Emperor Alexander II, Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna, Duchess of Edinburgh and Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Through his mother he was the great-grandson of the daughter of Alexander II’s brother, Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolaevich, Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna, the Queen of Greece. King Michael I’s grandmother, Marie of Romania, was the sister of Empress-in-Exile Victoria Feodorovna, the wife of Emperor-in-Exile Kirill I Vladimirovich. The current head of the Imperial House of Russia, H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, is King Michael’s second cousin.

As a result of the renunciation (in 1925) of his father to his rights of succession, King Michael I ascended the Romanian throne at the age of 5, after the death of his grandfather, King Ferdinand I, in 1927. His uncle, Prince Nicholas, served as regent during the young king’s minority.

In 1954, at the baptism of the current Head of the House of Romanoff, Her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, Prince Nicholas stood in for Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich of Russia (the Grand Duchess’s godfather) and, together with Queen Giovanna of Bulgaria (the Grand Duchess’s godmother), held in their arms the newborn Grand Duchess during the Holy Sacrament of Baptism

However, in 1930 King Michael’s father returned to Romania from exile and proclaimed himself King Carol II, and his son, now Crown Prince Michael, resumed the role of heir to the throne.

In 1940, General Ion Antonescu, who sympathized with Nazi Germany, staged a coup. King Carol II was removed and sent into exile, and the 18-year-old Michael I was again made king. However, real power in the country resided with the dictator Antonescu, who took Romania into the Second World War on the side of the Third Reich.

The Royal Family never endorsed the pro-German policy of the Antonescu Regime. King Michael I’s mother, Queen Helen, did much save the lives of Jews and other nationalities in Romania that were under threat from the Nazis (In 1993, she was posthumously granted the appellation “Righteous Among the Nations.”). In 1943, King Michael I entered into contact with the Allies and on August 23, 1944, removed Ion Antonescu from power and had him arrested. The young king then declared war on the Third Reich. His contribution to victory over Nazism was greatly valued even in the USSR. On July 6, 1945, he was awarded the Order of Victory for “his courageous decision to break with Hitler’s Germany and to join in coalition with the United Nations at a moment when victory over Germany was not yet fully assured.” King Michael I received the Order from the hand of Marshal Fedor Ivanovich Tolbukhin. He was the third foreign military and state figure to receive this distinguished award (after the American General Dwight D. Eisenhower and Field Marshal Sir Bernard Montgomery of Great Britain). His name is etched on a memorial plaque at the Great Kremlin Palace.

Despite this, the pro-Communist government of Romania, which had come to power with the support of the USSR, sought to abolish the monarchy. The king attempted to reach a reasonable compromise with the Communists for the sake of the nation, but he was only put under increasingly brutal pressure. He displayed enormous courage and refused to sign decrees that he considered to be unjust and immoral. In 1947, he was in effect living under house arrest, but was allowed to travel to Great Britain for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth, the heiress to the British throne, and Prince Philip. King Michael I declined to seize the opportunity presented him at this time to live in exile and to organize a resistance abroad to the Communist government in Romania. Instead, he returned to his county after the wedding. Nonetheless, on December 29, 1947, he was forced to sign a formal Act of Abdication from the throne under threat of massive repression against his countrymen, who had remained loyal to him.

King Michael I was allowed to leave Romania after his abdication. On March 4, 1948, while living abroad, King Michael I issued a statement denouncing his abdication because it had been signed under extreme duress.

The king settled in Switzerland and became an aeronautical engineer. He worked as a flight instructor and test pilot, and then became the head of a flight school. On June 10, 1948, King Michael I married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma (1923-2016) in Athens in the chapel of the Royal Palace.

Michael I defended monarchical ideals and united around himself those of his countrymen who opposed the totalitarian and atheistic regime in Romania.

After the overthrow of the Communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu in 1989, King Michael I began the process of returning the Romanian Royal House to its homeland. Initially, the new government resisted this and imposed all manner of barriers to their return. Only in 1997, after the presidency of Ion Iliescu, was the king’s Romanian citizenship finally restored. That same year, the king changed the law of succession (formerly based on the Salic Law, which excluded females from the succession) and declared his heiress to be his eldest daughter, Princess Margareta (b. 1949).

In 2001, the Romanian Senate recognized the legal status of the king as the former Head of State. Along with this act, the Senate passed a series of laws that allowed the Romanian Royal Family to live and be active in their homeland, and which in turn determined their rights and duties in the republic.

In 2005 and again in 2010, King Michael I visited Moscow and attended the Victory Parades marking the 60th and 65th anniversaries of the victory of Nazism. In 2005, Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded His Majesty the Russian state commemorative medal “60 Years of Victory in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945.”

In 2011, the 90th birthday of King Michael I was celebrated in Romania. (See in English, and in Russian).

On March 2, 2016, suffering from a chronic form of leukemia, King Michael I transferred his rights and duties as Head of the Romanian Royal Family to his eldest daughter, Princess Margareta.

In November 2017, the king’s health sharply worsened. Crown Princess Margareta, her husband, Prince Radu, and other members of the family rushed to his side. On December 5, King Michael I of Romania died. At his side at that moment was his youngest daughter, Princess Maria (b. 1964).

A national day of mourning was declared in Romania. After his funeral in Peleş and in the Throne Room in Bucharest, King Michael I will be buried next to his ancestors and his wife, Queen Anne, in the Royal Mausoleum—the Dormition Cathedral in Curtea de Argeş.

The Head of the Imperial House of Russia, H.I.H. the Grand Duchess Maria of Russia, and H.I.H. the Heir, Tsesarevich, and Grand Duke George of Russia, are deeply saddened by the passing of His Majesty and extend their deepest condolences to the Head of the Royal Family of Romania, Crown Princess Margareta, and to all the Royal Family and people of Romania.

The Grand Duchess and Grand Duke ask all their countrymen to pray for the repose of the soul of her most august cousin and uncle.

Grand rest, O Lord, to the soul of the newly reposed servant of God, King Michael of Romania, and may his memory be eternal.

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