Romania held a grand state funeral for former King Michael, who died in Switzerland at the age of 96 on December 5, 2017. Churches in the city rang their bells and mourners, many in tears, threw white flowers as a funeral procession made its way through the streets. People were heard chanting “King Michael” in tribute to their former monarch.
European royals joined Romanian President Klaus Iohannis for a funeral service led by the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel, on December 16, 2017, in the capital, Bucharest. Huge crowds gathered in Bucharest for the funeral of the former king, one of the last surviving European heads of state who dated back to World War II. Prince Charles from the U.K. was joined by Spain’s former king, Juan Carlos and King Carl Gustaf of Sweden and his wife, Queen Silvia. Other royals including Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz of Belgium, who joined the state funeral service in the cathedral where Michael was crowned for the second time in 1940.
The monarch’s coffin was carried on the railway line built by his grandfather Carole I from Bucharest to the necropolis at Curtea de Arges, which was also built by his grandfather.
A descendant of the German Hohenzollern dynasty and a cousin of Queen Elizabeth, Michael first took the throne aged just age five after his father eloped with a mistress and abdicated the throne. Michael was in his early twenties when he participated in a 1944 coup that overthrew the fascist leader Marshal Ion Antonescu. Romania then broke with Nazi Germany and switched to the Allied side. Historians have said his actions might have shortened the war and saved thousands of lives.
After communism collapsed, politicians, fearing Michael’s influence, blocked his first few attempted visits after decades of exile in Switzerland, Britain, and the US. He finally returned to Romania in 1992 and regained citizenship in 1997. However, he had retired from public life in recent years after struggling with illness.
Princess Margareta, his eldest daughter, remains custodian of the crown.