King Michael I of Romania celebrated his 90th birthday on October 25, 2011. The King is the only child of King Carol II of Romania and Princess Helen of Greece. King Michael is descended from the German Hohenzollern dynasty. He is also descended from Britain’s Queen Victoria through both his parents. The king is the last surviving leader from World War II. Michael reigned as king from 1927 to 1930 (under a regency) and then from 1940 until 1947 when he was forced to abdicate by Soviet backed communists. In 1944, King Michael bravely staged a coup against the Romanian dictator, Marshal Ion Antonescu, who was an ally of Hitler. Romania then joined the Allied side, a move credited by numerous historians for helping shorten the war and saving thousands of lives. After the king’s abdication in 1947, he has largely lived in exile in Switzerland with his wife, the former Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma. King Michael and Queen Anne are the parents of five daughters.
On the day King Michael turned 90, he gave a historic speech in the Romanian Parliament in Bucharest, saying that “the time has come after 20 years to … break for good with the bad habits of the past”. The king also denounced the “demagogy, selfishness and attempts to cling to power” as being unworthy or Romanian institutions. The king elicited a standing ovation from those present, saying that, “it is within our power to make this country prosperous and worthy of admiration”
I’m very grateful for the help King Michael gave me in my research for my first book, “Born to Rule.” He kindly discussed with me his reminiscences and impressions of his grandmother, Queen Marie of Romania, who is one of the protagonists in “Born to Rule.”
King Michael has endured great challenges in his long life, including having to battle the Nazis and Soviet communists as a young king. The New York Times in a 2007 article on the king, summed up his difficult life, which the newspaper described as having been “marked by betrayal” “from the beginning.” A dignified and quiet man, the King has led an exemplary life and it is hoped that in his twilight years, his wish for a prosperous, respected, and dignified Romania will bear fruit.