Wednesday, May 19, 2010
H.M. King Michael of Romania- the monarch whose decision have shortened World War II by at least six months
H.M. King Michael of Romania (born October 25, 1921) reigned as King of the Romanians (Romanian: Maiestatea Sa Mihai I Regele Românilor, literally "His Majesty Michael I King of the Romanians") from July 20, 1927 to June 8, 1930, and again from September 6, 1940, until forced to abdicate by the communists backed up by orders of Stalin to the Soviet armies of occupation on December 30, 1947.
He is also a Prince of Hohenzollern.
Married 10 June 1948 to Queen Anne of Romania
A great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria by both of his parents and a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, he is one of the last surviving heads of state from World War II, the others being Simeon II of Bulgaria and former King Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.
In 1944, World War II was going badly for the Axis powers, but the military dictator Prime Minister Marshal Ion Antonescu was still in control of Romania. As of August 1944, the Soviet conquest of Romania had become inevitable, being expected in a few months according to Encyclopedia Britannica. On August 23, 1944, Michael joined the pro-Allied politicians, a number of army officers, and armed communist-led civilians in staging a coup against Antonescu, whereas it was recognized in the late 1970s that King Michael ordered his arrest by the Royal Palace Guard. On the same night, the new Prime Minister, Lt. General Constantin Sănătescu—who was appointed by King Michael—gave custody of Antonescu to the communists (in spite of alleged instructions to the contrary by the King), who delivered him to the Soviets on September 1. In a radio broadcast to the Romanian nation and army, Michael issued a cease-fire just as the Red Army was penetrating the Moldavian front, proclaimed Romania's loyalty to the Allies, announced the acceptance of the armistice offered by Great Britain, the United States, and the USSR, and declared war on Germany. However, this did not avert a rapid Soviet occupation and capture of about 130,000 Romanian soldiers, who were transported to the Soviet Union where many perished in prison camps. Although the country's alliance with the Nazis was ended, the coup sped the Red Army's advance into Romania. The armistice was signed three weeks later on September 12, 1944, on terms the Soviets virtually dictated. Under the terms of the armistice, Romania recognized its defeat by the USSR and was placed under occupation of the Allied forces with the Soviets, as their representative, in control of media, communication, post, and civil administration behind the front. The coup effectively amounted to a "capitulation", an "unconditional" "surrender". It has been suggested that the coup may have shortened World War II by six months, thus saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
Many historians believe that if Romania was not returning at the right time arms against the Nazis, end of World War II could be different, Hitler's laboratories preparing at that time for building nuclear bomb. Only a matter of time, probably a few months, prevented him to perform nuclear weapon.
King Michael was the last monarch behind the Iron Curtain to lose his throne. At the end of the war, King Michael was awarded the highest degree (Chief Commander) of the Legion of Merit by U.S. President Harry S. Truman. He was also decorated with the Soviet Order of Victory by Joseph Stalin "for the courageous act of the radical change in Romania's politics towards a break-up from Hitler's Germany and an alliance with the United Nations, at the moment when there was no clear sign yet of Germany's defeat," according to the official description of the decoration.
In March 1945, political pressures forced King Michael to appoint a pro-Soviet government dominated by the Romanian Communist Party. Under the communist régime King Michael functioned again as little more than a figurehead. Between August 1945 and January 1946, during what was later known as the "royal strike," King Michael tried unsuccessfully to oppose the first communist government led by the communist Prime Minister Petru Groza, by refusing to sign its decrees. In response to Soviet, British, and American pressures, King Michael eventually gave up his opposition to the communist government and stopped demanding its resignation.
In November, 1947 King Michael travelled to London for the wedding of his cousins, The Princess Elizabeth (the future Queen Elizabeth II) and The Duke of Edinburgh, an occasion during which he met Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma, who was to become his wife. According to unconfirmed claims by so-called Romanian 'royalists', King Michael did not want to return home, but certain Americans and Britons present at the wedding encouraged him to do so; Winston Churchill is said to have counseled Michael to return because "above all things, a King must be courageous." According to his own account, King Michael rejected any offers of asylum and decided to return to Romania, contrary to the confidential, strong advice of the British Ambassador to Romania.
However, on December 30, 1947, King Michael I was forced at gun point (by either Petru Groza or Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej, depending on the source) to abdicate Romania's throne in his own Royal Palace which was surrounded by the Tudor Vladimirescu army units loyal to the communists. Later the same day, the communist-dominated government announced the 'permanent' abolition of the monarchy and its replacement by a People's Republic, broadcasting the King's pre-recorded radio proclamation of his own abdication
There are several accounts as to why King Michael abdicated. As recounted by Michael himself, the communist prime-minister Petru Groza had threatened him at gun point and blackmailed him that the government was to shoot 1,000 arrested students if King Michael didn't abdicate. In an interview with The New York Times from 2007, Michael recalls the events: “It was blackmail. They said, ‘If you don’t sign this immediately we are obliged’ — why obliged I don’t know — 'to kill more than 1,000 students' that they had in prison.” According to Time magazine, the communist government threatened Michael that it would arrest thousands and steep the country in blood if he did not abdicate. In 1992, three years after the revolution which overthrew the Communist dictatorship, the Romanian government allowed Michael to return to his country for Easter celebrations, where he drew large crowds. In Bucharest over a million people turned out to see him. Michael's popularity alarmed the government of President Ion Iliescu so Michael was forbidden to visit Romania again for five years. In 1997, after Iliescu's defeat by Emil Constantinescu, the Romanian Government restored Michael's citizenship and again allowed him to visit the country. He now lives partly in Switzerland at Aubonne and partly in Romania, either at his Săvârşin castle in Arad county or in an official residence in Bucharest—the Elisabeta Palace—voted by the Romanian Parliament by a law concerning arrangements for former heads of state.
According to the succession provisions of the Romanian kingdom's last democratically approved monarchical constitution of 1923, upon the death of King Michael without sons, the claim to the Crown devolves once again upon the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen family, (see "Line of succession to the Romanian throne").
Michael has undertaken some quasi-diplomatic roles on behalf of post-communist Romania. In 1997 and 2002 he toured Western Europe, lobbying for Romania's admission into NATO and the European Union, and was received by heads of state and government officials.