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Who was King Michael I of Romania?

The king spent decades in exile before winning the right to return to his homeland

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Who was King Michael I of Romania?

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King Michael I of Romania, who died on Tuesday (December 5), reigned twice in the country, but most of his life was spent in exile.

The former monarch was born the son of Carol II of Romania. When his father eloped with his mistress and renounced his rights to reign in December 1925, Michael was declared heir apparent. He became king at the end of 1925 following the death his grandfather King Ferdinand I. Michael was just six years old.

His father returned to Romania three years later and became king.

In 1940, the pro-Nazi government of Ion Antonescu came to power. Carroll II was considered anti-German and was forced to abdicate. At 18 years of age Michael was back on the throne but as a puppet monarch.

In 1944, he joined a number of pro-allied politicians and army officers in starting a coup against Antonescu. Although the country’s alliance with the Germans ended, the coup sped the advance of the Red Army into Romania.

By 1947 the Russians had occupied Romania. Michael returned to the country – against the advice of Winston Churchill – to announce his engagement to Princess Anne, but the authorities forced him to abdicate at gunpoint. He married Anne a year later and began a long and happy life in exile.

The fall of communism did nothing to change the status of the Romanian crown, with the post-communist governments also fearing a restoration of the monarchy.

In 1990, Michael tried to visit the country but was expelled by police. Two years later, at Easter, he was allowed to visit for three days when more than a million people turned out to see him.

He said he had visited to get a clear answer to the question of reconciliation. His words fell on deaf ears and he had to wait a further three years for his passport to be restored along with several of his properties.

He was finally allowed to live in Romania, and with his family of five daughters split his time between Romania and Switzerland.

In 2012, he was voted the country’s favourite personality but there have been no moves to restore the monarchy.

His eldest daughter Margaret, the Crown Princess, said last month: “Romanians look to the Crown with respect, admiration and hope”.