Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Carol II, King of Romania (1893–1953)

Title: Carol II, king of Romania
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Romanian monarch who reigned from 1930 to 1940. Born on 15 October 1893 at Sinaia, Romania, Carol was the eldest child of Ferdinand I of Romania and Princess Marie of Great Britain. Carol's upbringing was controlled by his great-uncle Carol I of Romania, who encouraged his fixation on German militarism, including service in a German army regiment in Potsdam. Carol toured the front in the Second Balkan War but took little part in World War I, save as a diplomatic envoy to Russia in January 1917. He provoked scandal by deserting and eloping with "Zizi" Lambrino in September 1918, although the marriage was later annulled by the Orthodox Church.

During the early 1920s, Carol appeared to have reformed, marrying Helen of Greece in March 1921 and fathering a son, Michael. However, he associated himself with a single political party, the National Peasants, and he played little role in running the country, apart from founding the Romanian Boy Scouts. Before long, he met a divorcée, Elena Lupescu, for whom he abandoned his marriage in August 1925 and went into exile in Paris, formally renouncing the throne in favor of his son. His father, Ferdinand, died in 1927, and in May of the following year, Carol attempted a coup but was thwarted by British intelligence. On 6 June 1930, he successfully returned to Bucharest and disbanded the regency to seize the throne from his son.

Carol's reign was disastrous for Romania. He alienated the upper classes by persecuting the surviving members of his family, exiling his siblings Nicholas and Ilena and his ex-wife Helen, allowing his mistress Lupescu to choose his advisers, and encouraging political gridlock by playing off one political party against the other.

Carol II allowed Corneliu Zelea-Codreanu's Iron Guard to encourage fascism, at least until it began attacks on Lupescu, who was Jewish. His subsequent 1933 banning of the Iron Guard led to the assassination of two prime ministers. To restore order after the national elections in February 1938 failed to establish a political majority for any party, Carol II declared himself dictator and named the Orthodox patriarch Miron Christea as his prime minister. Carol was unable to protect Romania from the effects of the German-Soviet Non-aggression Pact of August 1939 and was forced to cede part of Transylvania to Hungary, Bessarabia to the Soviet Union, and the southern Dobruja region to Bulgaria.

Carol II fled the country with Lupescu and the royal art collection in September 1940, leaving his son, Michael, as king, under the control of General Ion Antonescu. He spent the rest of his life in exile in Brazil and Portugal. He married Lupescu in 1952 and died in Estoril, Portugal, on 4 April 1953.

Margaret Sankey


Further Reading
Bolitho, Hector. Roumania under King Carol. New York: Longmans, Green, 1940.; Easterman, Alexander Levvey. King Carol, Hitler and Lupescu. London: V. Gollancz, 1942.; Quinlan, Paul D. The Playboy King: Carol II of Romania. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995.
 

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