Sputnik Escalates the Cold War
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Michael I, King of Romania (1921–)

King of Romania (1927–1930, 1940–1947) and pretender to the throne since 1947. Born in the royal castle at Sinaia on 25 October 1921 to Romania's Crown Prince Carol and Princess Helen of Greece, Michael succeeded his grandfather Ferdinand I as king in 1927, bypassing his father, who had renounced his claim to the throne in 1925 in order to pursue a liaison with the socialite Magda Lupescu. This brief regency ended in 1930 with the return of his father, who engineered his own accession as Carol II, pursuing self-indulgent policies and political gestures and ultimately creating a royal dictatorship in 1938 meant to counter the growing influence of defense minister Ion Antonescu and the fascist Iron Guard. After the Soviet Union's occupation of Bessarabia and the ceding of Transylvania to Hungary, in September 1940 Carol was obliged to abdicate in favor of Michael, then nineteen years old. It was Antonescu, however, who held real power in Romania.

Michael and Helen, now effectively wards of the state, spent most of the war years at Sinaia, visiting the capital only for command figurehead appearances with Antonescu. On 23 August 1944, with the Soviets poised for invasion of Romania, Michael and a sympathetic military element managed a coup that deposed Antonescu and a number of ministers, who soon were turned over to the Soviets. In September 1944 Michael traveled to Moscow to sign an armistice with the Allies, ending the war for Romania and paving the way for the Romanian communists to fully emerge and claim power. By force of will, Michael maintained a presence in Romania until he was pressured to abdicate and sent into exile in December 1947. He has since made his home in Switzerland, working with an American brokerage firm and acting as a goodwill ambassador on behalf of Romania since the fall of the regime of Nicolae Ceauşescu.

Gordon E. Hogg


Further Reading
Hitchins, Keith. Rumania, 1866–1947. Oxford, UK: Clarendon, 1994.
 

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