The Origins of Romania

The Romanians are a people who lived in the three principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia and Transylvania that emerged in central Europe after the collapse of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately for the Romanians these principalities were located right in the middle of the battleground between the Magyar kingdom of Hungary and the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. Consequently they ended up being ruled by one or other of these powers.

Eventually, and despite the activities of one Michael the Brave (also known as Mihai Viteazul), who between the years 1593 and 1601 defeated the Turks in a few battles and styled himself as the 'prince of Wallachia, Transylvania and the whole of Moldavia'), the Romanians were forced to live under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

But although under the domination of the Ottoman Empire both Walachia and Moldavia were able to maintain a high degree of autonomy. (As indeed did Transylvania, but Transylvania was also subject to Hungarian claims, so its history was to follow a slightly different path.

The emergence of the Romanian Monarchy

In the nineteenth century nationalism became fashionable and Turkey became the 'Sick Man of Europe' and after the Treaty of Adrianople in 1829, Ottoman control over the two principalities was reduced to a few legal formalities.

In the aftermath of the Crimean War and the Treaty of Paris of 1856, a gentleman by the name of Alexandru Ioan Cuza declared himself as 'Prince of Romania', that is the united principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia on the 24th January 1859. Alexandru Ioan Cuza however made some political enemies and was deposed in 1866, when a prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen was elected as prince of Romania in his place. (The Romanians thought it would be a good idea to have a German monarch in order to win German support for their independence.)

Carol I as he was known, proved a more capable politician than his predecessor and after the conclusion of the Russian-Romanian-Turk War in 1877, the Romanian Assembly of Deputies formally proclaimed the independence of Romania on the 9th May 1877. In 1881 Carol I was formally crowned as king of Romania (with a steel crown made from a captured Turkish cannon) and Romania thus became a constitutional monarchy.

The Twentieth Century Monarchy

Carol I had no sons, and the succession therefore passed to his nephew, Prince Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who became king Ferdinand I in 1914.

Now Ferdinand's son Carol was an 'interesting' character. During World War I he deserted from the Romanian Army and ran off with the daughter of an army major, came back for long enough to produce a son, only to run off again and eventually renounced his rights to the throne. Hence when Ferdinand died in 1927 he was succeeded by his six year old grandson Mihail.

However, in 1930 Carol turned up again in Romania and deposed his son. In 1938 he abolished the constitution and proclaimed a 'royal government'. This lasted until 1940 when, following the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, when both Germany and the Soviet Union helped themselves to whatever bits of Romania that they fancied, and Carol II was himself deposed and replaced by his son Mihail.

By the time Mihail took the throne for the second time, the nation was under the control of the pro-Nazi General Ion Antonescu, a situation that persisted until August 1944, when king Mihail led a coup that removed Ion Antonescu from power. Romania consequently switched sides and fought against Germany in the closing stages of World War II.

At the conclusion of World War II, Romania was within the sphere of influence of the Soviet Union who naturally insisted that Romania join them in following the Socialist path to peace and prosperity. Mihail was therefore forced to abdicate in December 1947, when Romania became a People's Republic, and Mihail was forced into exile in Switzerland.

Of course the Communists have now been themselves been forced to 'abdicate' power. Romania is now a parliamentary democracy and wants to join NATO and the European Union. In 1997 Mihail was even given back his Romanian passport and officially welcomed by the Romanian government although there are no signs that Romania is thinking about re-establishing its monarchy.

From the Department of Irrelevant Gossip: Mihail's eldest daughter Marguerite, is said to have conducted a five year long affair with one Gordon Brown, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer. Allegedly.


Princes of Romania

Prince Carol crowned king in 1881

Kings of Romania


On Romania and its monarchs;

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