Oldest Surviving World War II Monarch Dies at Age 96

December 08, 2017Dec 08, 2017

Romania's former King Michael I died on Tuesday in Switzerland at the age of 96, one year after being diagnosed with cancer. King Michael ruled Romania twice, from 1927 to 1930, and then again from 1940 to 1947, before the communist government was able to end the monarchy, according to BBC.

The king's death was announced by his family at home on the shore of Lake Geneva on Tuesday. He was a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II. He had been ill for quite a while and was unable to attend the funeral of his wife, Queen Anne, in Romania last year. 

King Michael was remembered for his role in making Romania change sides from the Nazis to the Allies in 1944. He was only five when he inherited the throne for the first time in 1927. His father had renounced his rights to the throne and left Romania several years earlier amid scandal after a love affair. 

His father then returned again in 1930 and replaced his son as the monarch. But then, his father was ousted from the throne in 1940 by a military government led by an iconic fascist leader, Antonescu. In 1944, the 22-year-old King Michael involved himself in a coup against the fascist ruler and sided Romania with the allies, who were fighting against Nazism and Fascism in Europe, according to the Guardian

When the war was finished, King Michael was forced to give up power by the country's communists, who then ruled until the revolution in 1989. The king was forced to give up power, as the communist leaders threatened to carry out mass executions if he refused to leave. In particular, they threatened to kill or shoot 1,000 people who were already in prison. 

Banished by the communists in early 1948, the king was forced to spend decades in exile before finally returning back to his homeland after the collapse of the Soviet Union. After returning, he was able to serve as an unofficial diplomat. He then helped Romania join NATO in 2004 and the European Union in 2007, according to the Washington Post

Eventually, King Michael's Romanian citizenship was again restored in 1997. 

In 2016, King Michael announced that he would soon retire from public life, claiming that he was suffering from ailments such as leukemia. His duties fell to his eldest daughter, known as Crown Princess Margareta. His wife, Queen Anne, died in 2016. He is survived by his daughters.

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