Abdication, Adolf Hitler, Carol II of Romania, Duke of Edinburgh, Elizabeth II, Hohenzollern, Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, House of Honhenzollern, King Constantine I of Greece, King Michael of Romania, King of Romania, Michael I of Romania, Prince Philip Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, World War ii
Romania’s former King Michael I has died in Switzerland at the age of 96, a year after being diagnosed with cancer. The death of King Michael – a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh was announced by his family at his home on the shore of Lake Geneva on Tuesday.
King Michael was King of Romania twice in his lifetime. The first was from 1927 to 1930 and once again from 1940 to 1947 and then he was removed from office when the communist government ended the monarchy.
He was one of the last surviving Heads of State that was in power during World War II. His most important actions as king came in August of 1944 was when he played a role in Romania changing sides going from a State which supported Hitler’s Nazis Germany to a State that supported the Allies.
Michael I (October 25, 1921 – December 5, 2017) was King of Romania from July 20, 1927 to June 8, 1930 and then again from September 6, 1940 until his abdication on December 30, 1947.
Michael was born in 1921 at Foișor Castle, Sinaia, Romania, the son of King Carol II of Romania (then Crown Prince of Romania) and Princess Elena of Greece (The third child and eldest daughter of King Constantine I of Greece and Princess Sophia of Prussia, Elena [Helena] was bor in Athens during the reign of her grandfather, King George I). He was born as the grandson of then-reigning King Ferdinand I of Romania of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. When Carol eloped with his mistress Elena “Magda” Lupescu and renounced his rights to the throne in December 1925, Michael was declared heir apparent. Michael succeeded to the throne of Romania the death of King Ferdinand in July 1927. Michael was 6 years old at the time.
Since the new King Michael was a minor, a regency council was instituted. This council consisted of the king’s which uncle, Prince Nicholas; the Patriarch Miron Cristea; and the president of the Supreme Court, Gheorghe Buzdugan. It was the inefficiency of this council that prompted the return of King Michael’s father, Crown Prince Carol, who replaced his son as king in 1930. Michael resumed his position as heir apparent to the throne and was granted the title Crown Prince along with the additional title of Grand Voievod of Alba-Iulia.
In 1940 the ineffective King Carol II was deposed and Michael once again mounted the Romanian throne as king. The government of the time was under the control of the military dictator Ion Antonescu. Under his guidance Romania became aligned with Hitler’s Nazi Germany. In 1944, King Michael was an essential figure in a coup against Antonescu, who was removed from office. The king assigned the Allies friendly, Constantin Sănătescu, as head of the government who swiftly declared an alliance with the Allies.
In March 1945, under political pressures, King Michael was forced to appoint pro-Soviet, Petru Groza, as the head of the government. Displeased and angry over the circumstances, Michael went on a “royal strike” and in an attempt to voice his opposition toward Groza’s Communist-controlled government, the king refused to do his constitutional duties and would not sign and endorse its decrees and laws passed by the government. This occurred from August 1945 to January 1946.
In November 1947 Michael left Romania to attend the wedding of his cousins, Princess Elizabeth (future Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom) and Prince Philip of Greece-Denmark in London. Shortly upon his return, on the morning of December 30 1947, Groza requested a meeting with Michael where he was forced to abdicate. Michael was forced into exile, confiscated of his properties, and stripped of his citizenship. In 1948 Michael married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma (only daughter of Prince Rene of Bourbon-Parma and Princess Margaret of Denmark). The royal couple had five daughters and eventually settled in Switzerland.
In 1989 Nicolae Ceaușescu’s communist dictatorship collapsed and the next year Michael attempted to return to Romania but was arrested and forced to leave upon arrival. In 1992, an estimated one million people in Bucharest came out to listen to a speech given by the king when the government allowed Michael to visit Romania for Easter.
The government was greatly alarmed by Michael’s popularity and refused to allow the king further visits. In 1997, after Iliescu’s government was defeated by Emil Constantinescu; who was more sympathetic toward the king, returned Michael’s citizenship and he was allowed to visit Romania again. Also, many confiscated properties, such as Elisabeta Palace, were returned to the Romanian Royal Family.
At his death King Michael left only daughters. The king designated his eldest daughter, Princess Margareta, as Crown Princess of Romania, despite the fact that the Romanian constitution, and the house laws of the House of Hohenzollern, prohibited the succession of females to the Romanian throne. In the coming days I will post another article discussing the complex succession to the Romanian throne and the headship of the Romanian Royal Family.
Abdication, King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, King Michael of Romania, Prince George Friedrich of Prussia, Prince Louis-Ferdinand of Prussia, Royal Marriages Act of 1772, The Kingdom of Portugal, The Prince of Prussia
On December 30, 2007, King Michael signed a new Statute of the Royal House, called Fundamental Rules of the Royal House of Romania. These new House Laws were implicitly based on European Union type of legislation, specifically those laws which addresses the European Convention on Human Rights, which, however, does not guarantee any right to reign as a monarch of any country, and also on the values of the Romanian society. The document clarifies the order of inheritance of King Michael’s fortune and rights to the Romanian throne. This new Statute, thought by some to be undemocratic because it was not approved by any Parliament, is mostly symbolic but it does attempt to replace the old 1884 Statute Law. According to this new Statute, the first in line of succession is King Michael’s eldest daughter, newly titled “Crown Princess of Romania” and “Custodian of the Romanian Crown,” Princess Margarita. In 1997 King Michael had already designated her as successor to “all” his “prerogatives and rights”, indicating his desires for a gender-blind succession to the throne.
The argument has been made that Crown Princess Margarita will only become head of the royal family because King Michael, as a constitutional monarch, is unable to alter the old and inoperative succession laws which had excluded females and their descendants. King Michael was not and is not an absolute monarch who could rule via the strength of his will. It is only the Romanian Parliament that could ameliorate these laws along with the Constitution where these precepts had been included. Also, the Romanian Parliament will not alter the succession to a monarchy that no longer exists. In order to legally alter the succession the monarchy would need to be restored. There is however, an alternative view which finds that Michael is able to alter these succession laws alone, effectively making him an absolute monarch. This view stems from the rreality of the fact that during his second reign, Michael neither was sworn into office by any Parliament, nor did he take any oath to any Constitution. Instead King Michael was instead anointed king by the Romanian Orthodox Church. The second opinion ignores the fact that Michael never personally claimed to be an absolute monarch, nor had he acted as such, and he always supporting democracy and the constitutional monarchy.
During the week this came in over the news….This is copied from Royal Central…
“In a statement released yesterday, Romania’s King Michael has withdrawn his grandson’s royal title. The former Prince Nicolae of Romania, once third in succession to the throne, and only grandson of the ninety-three-year-old king will now be known as Mr. Nicholas Medforth-Mills. He became third in line to the throne on April 1st, 2010 at the age of twenty-five.
King Michael reached this conclusion by observing his grandson’s behavior in public and in private. Ioan Luca Vlad explained further, “When you are in public, you must have a certain attitude, you must comply with certain norms. If you do this, but you are not happy with it, this won’t last long, so you must make a preventive step,”
The king is merely thinking of the future, stated the Royal House’s representatives. It isn’t a punishment for the former prince, who was in agreement with his grandfather’s decision. Mr. Methford-Mills issued his statement, “The royal life means leading my life in a way I find hard to accept,” he said. “For this reason, I accept with a lot of pain in my heart the decision of His Majesty King Michael for me.”
I have given it some great thought. One problem, as I already stated it, is that these House Laws/Constitutions were written at a time when these thrones were extant. This forever sets them in stone and there is no legal means to change them. If these families were still reigning there would be a legal means of altering the House Laws.
In the majority of these former ruling families, most holding their titles in pretense, there is still considerable wealth and estates to consider and who should inherit these vast holdings are some of the problems the heads of these former ruling families face. In the past these issues were decided legally and while the courts today can rule on these issues they do not have jurisdiction over the claims of titles and thrones that no longer exist. There are limits.
Many of these former ruling families had strict marriages laws/requirements and rules on who was and was not a dynast. Why does this still matter? As I mentioned there is still wealth and land to be inherited but more than that, some of these former reigning families still hold places of privilege and high profile levels of service to their country. The heirs to the thrones of Romania, Serbia, Germany and Portugal all have some relationships with the government either on a national level or local level. For instance, the wedding of the pretender to the Portuguese throne was televised and attended by the Prime Minister and the President of Portugal as well as other foreign dignitaries. When the Prince of Prussia, heir to the German Empire, married in 2011 the religious wedding was broadcast live by local public television. The formal dinner, which many members of German and European royal families attended, was held in the Orangery Palace at Sanssouci Park.
There still is a lot at stake. For instance, the Prince of Prussia (Prince Georg-Friedrich) was under a lot of pressure to marry someone of equal status after his great-great grandfather, Kaiser Wilhelm II, placed a stipulation in his will that only those of equal marriage were eligible to inherit his vast wealth and headship of the Royal House. The eldest children of Prince Georg-Friedrich’s grandfather, Prince Louis-Ferdinand (1907-1994), did not marry equally so Prince Louis-Ferdinand named his grandson (born of an equal marriage) as heir to the estate and the Headship of the Royal House. This was contested in the courts by Prince Georg-Friedrich’s uncles and although he eventually won, he too, had to marry equally. His wife, the current Princess of Prussia, was born Her Serene Highness Princess Sophie of Isenburg. Although the court could rule on the inheritance it could not rule on the Headship of the Royal House because the monarchy was no longer existing so it had no jurisdiction over pretense to titles.
Times have changed and monarchies in order to survive also need to change with the times. In 1936 King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom of Great Britain had to abdicate in order to marry the woman he loved. This caused great scandal. Today, attitudes on divorce and equal marriage have changed. When the Prince of Wales married his former mistress in 2005 it was accepted by most. When Crown Prince Haakon of Norway married a woman that had had a child from a previous relationship, it was accepted although it did cause a minor uproar. If these former ruling families want to stay relevant and not disappear into the dust bins of history I think they need to be allowed to change and adapt.
I don’t think old House Laws and Constitutions need to tie the hands of these Heads of former reigning Houses. For practical reasons they should not. As we have seen issues and problems do come up in these families and they do need to be addressed and I think the Heads of former reigning Houses need to have some freedom to address these problems and change the Laws as the times change.
Last week I wrote of the controversy surrounding the disputed successor to the Headship of the Royal House of Saxony. This raises the question of does the head of these former ruling houses have the power to change centuries old house laws? With so many disputes after the head of the house dies, I guess the consensus is that they do not have that power or right. I think what may be closer to the truth is that the heads of these former ruling dynasties is that they have no power to make their new laws or ruling stick past their tenure as head of the house.
The Imperial House of Austria has been somewhat more successful in changing their house laws. They had had very rigid marital laws and when the now head of the house, Archduke Karl (Emperor Karl II to his supporters) married in 1993 to Baroness Francesca Thyssen-Bornemisza. The marriage received the dynastic authorization of Karl’s father, Archduke Otto who was then head of the House of Habsburg, despite objections from some members of the dynasty because the brides family was not aristocratic enough. Baroness Francesca is the only daughter of Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza de Kászon, a European industrialist, and his third wife, Fiona Campbell-Walter. The Thyssen-Bornemisza family is of the nobility of pre-republican Hungary and Transylvania, but since they did not descend in the canonically legitimate male line from a family of dynastic, mediatised or alter Adel status, many former Habsburg family members protested the marriage. Since that time Otto amended the rigid marriage rules to allow marriages into noble families that would not have been deemed acceptable during the times when the dynasty ruled.
Romania is another case. King Michael was ousted in 1946 (many say illegally) and he leaves no male heir. His eldest daughter is Princess Margarita and in 2007 the king designated her as his heir with the titles of “Crown Princess of Romania” and “Custodian of the Romanian Crown.” This is technically against the Romanian kingdom’s last democratically approved constitution of 1923 which was in effect while the monarchy was extant. That constitution stated that upon the death of King Michael, and should he have no sons, the claim to the Crown devolves once again upon the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family from which the Romanian royal family descends.
The Constitution of 1923 provides for an agnatic primogeniture (basically the “Salic law”) which means males only may inherit the throne, barring females, and females may not pass succession rights to their children. However, the 1923 Constitution is no longer in affect but many feel that the traditions behind those ancient laws still carry the rule of the day. Under the old constitution the next in line to the Romanian throne are the descendants of Friedrich Wilhelm, Prince of Hohenzollern (1924-2010).
These are the Hohenzollern members in line to the throne under the old Constitution.
- Karl Friedrich, Prince of Hohenzollern (b. 1952)
- Alexander, Hereditary Prince of Hohenzollern (b. 1987)
- Prince Albrecht of Hohenzollern (b. 1954)
- Prince Ferdinand of Hohenzollern (b. 1960)
- Prince Aloys of Hohenzollern (b. 1999)
- Prince Fidelis of Hohenzollern (b. 2001)
The Romanian situation is complex and so I will continue with this next week and then give my overall opinion on if a former monarch or head of a former ruling dynasty does have the right to change their house laws.