King Michael of Romania, Who Ousted a Hitler Puppet, Dies at 96

For years, while living mainly in Switzerland, he returned only as a stirring memory on Voice of America Christmas broadcasts. After communism fell, he headed home from his exile in Geneva in December 1990.

“King Michael! King Michael!” crowds screamed on his arrival. But, the country’s rulers, who had been elected that May, were shocked at his popularity and banished him again, saying he had not received proper permission for the visit.

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Crown Prince Michael with the British prime minister, Neville Chamberlain, on a visit to Britain in November 1938 as Europe crept closer to war.

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Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

He was allowed to return for Romania’s celebration of Easter, however, in 1992, and again Romania’s leadership was horrified by the size of the crowds he drew, news reports said at the time. He was not allowed to return for another visit until 1997.

But on that visit his citizenship and his castle — though not his crown — were returned, and King Michael visited regularly after that. In 2011 he addressed Parliament, which that year granted him the same rights as other former heads of state. He received a standing ovation.

The Kingdom of Romania was formed in the mid-19th century when two Balkan principalities, Moldavia and Walachia, merged. Its shape and size changed radically as empires waxed and waned. It had a king only five times in its history, twice with Michael: He was king from 1927 to 1930 and again from 1940 to 1947.

He was born Prince Mihai Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen on Oct. 25, 1921, in Sinaia, Romania. His father was Crown Prince Carol; his mother, Princess Helen, belonged to the Greek royal family. Other relatives belonged to Prussian royalty, and his great-great-grandmother was Queen Victoria of England.

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Michael with his father, King Carol, in Romania in 1939. Carol was forced to abdicate the next year, returning Michael to the throne.

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Associated Press

In 1925, Carol, widely known as the “playboy prince,” bowed to his family’s fury over an affair he was having with a woman named Magda Lupescu. She was divorced; he was married. He renounced his right to the throne and went to live in Paris, leaving Michael heir to the kingdom. When Carol’s father, King Ferdinand I, died on July 20, 1927, his…

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