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In Pictures 25 Oct 17

Gallery: Romanian Royals Mark Ex-King's Birthday

The Romania royal family is celebrating former King Michael’s birthday with a charity concert, while the 96-year-old ex-monarch is having medical treatment in Switzerland.

Ana Maria Touma

Romania’s royal family is marking ex-monarch King Michael I’s 96th birthday on Wednesday by awarding royal distinctions to a group of supporters and collaborators at the Elisabeta Royal residence in Bucharest and holding a charity concert at the Athenaeum in Bucharest.

The former king remains under medical supervision in Switzerland, a press release from the royal family said.

Romania’s last king and also the last surviving head of state from World War II, Michael announced in early 2016 that he will not make any more public appearances, after undergoing surgery for cancer and leukemia.

A cousin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, he became the monarch for the first time when he was only five, from 1927 to 1930, after his father, King Carol II, briefly abdicated. 

He was crowned a second time in 1940 after his father was overthrown, and reigned until 1947, when Soviet-backed Communists threw him out and turned Romania into a republic.

His role during WWII was controversial, as for most of that time, from 1940 to 1944, Romania was an ally of Nazi Germany and emulated its anti-Semitic policies.

After living for decades in exile in Switzerland, the former king finally returned to Romania in 1992.

While some politicians were concerned about his possible influence on the country’s politics, Michael preferred to keep a low profile and exert his efforts to regain popularity for the royal family. 

He succeeded in getting back most of the former royal property portfolio, including Peles Castle in the Carpathian mountains, the Elisabeta palace in Bucharest, plus land, forests, and paintings worth a total of about 180 million euros. 

On his 90th birthday, the ex-monarch spoke to the Romanian Parliament in his first and last speech after the fall of communism.

He sat on a throne-like chair in the main chamber of the parliament building in Bucharest and his speech was applauded by hundreds of MPs, some of whom responded with shouts of "Long live the king!"

However, government ministers, President Traian Basescu and the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel, refused to attend the address.

King Michael and his late wife Anne had five daughters and the eldest, Princess Margaret - best known for her humanitarian work and cultural projects in Romania - is now the crown custodian and heiress to the throne.

In 2015, King Michael decided, in a surprising move, to remove his popular grandson, Prince Nicholas, from the line of succession.

King Michael’s wife, uncrowned Queen Anne, died on August 1 in hospital in Switzerland, aged 92. 

She was buried in the cathedral at Curtea de Arges, southern Romania, with Romania’s kings and queens.

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