Romania’s last king, Michael I, returned on Wednesday to Romania, the country that he loved until his death and where he will be buried. When he first took the throne, at the age of 6, a life of luxury and ease seemed to lie ahead of him, and yet his destiny was immensely tragic. Forced by the communists to abdicate in 1947, he left the country, and was only allowed to return, not without difficulties, only after the 1989 Revolution. As the King put it, himself, in an interview, “many times I have been asked what I felt when I left Romania. The best way of expressing my feelings that I have managed to find is to say that I left with death in my soul.”
The dethroned monarch worked among strangers, built a family among strangers, and could never forget that he was a foreigner in a foreign country. With his last journey from Switzerland, the country where he had settled and where he died, to Romania, a lifetime of exile ends. Michael I will be buried on Saturday next to his wife, Anne of Bourbon-Parma, in Curtea de Arges, in the south of Romania, where all Romania’s kings are buried. Until then, his body lies in state in the Throne Hall of the Royal Palace in Bucharest, where Romanians can pay their tribute to him. Some have already done so, alongside top-level officials from Romania and the neighbouring Republic of Moldova, at the Peles Castle in Sinaia, in the southern Carpathians, where Michael I was born and spent his childhood years.
The late king is paid homage to, these days, by an entire country, from common people to politicians, diplomats and historians. One of them is the founder of the Institute for the Memory of Romanian Exile, Dinu Zamfirescu, who said:
“We are losing a Romanian hero, we are losing a model of personal and royal dignity. I believe Romania needs people of this kind, and it is with utmost sadness that I say that at present there are hardly any to be found here. Every time I saw him abroad, he was always interested in what was happening in Romania, in how Romanians were doing. He felt great responsibility for the country and would always ask what he could do for Romania.”
Expected to attend the funerals on Saturday are, among others, the King and Queen of Spain, Juan Carlos and Sofia, the latter being a first cousin of the former sovereign of Romania. Also present will be Charles, Prince of Wales, who cares deeply for Romania, King Philippe of Belgium, Europe’s third-youngest monarch, Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduke of Austria.
Until Saturday, Romania observes a three-day national mourning.
(Translated by E. Enache)