Michael I (Romanian: Mihai I [miˈhaj]; 25 October 1921 – 5 December 2017) reigned as the King of Romania from 20 July 1927 to 8 June 1930 and again from 6 September 1940 until his abdication on 30 December 1947.
Shortly after Michael’s birth, his father Prince Carol had become involved in a controversial relationship with Magda Lupescu. In 1925, Carol was eventually pressured to renounce his rights to the throne and moved to Paris in exile with Lupescu. In 1927, Michael ascended the throne as Mihai l, following the death of his grandfather, Ferdinand I. As he was still a minor, a regency council was instituted which comprised his uncle, Prince Nicholas; the Patriarch Miron Cristea; and the president of the Supreme Court, Gheorghe Buzdugan. The council proved to be ineffective and in 1930, Carol returned to Romania and replaced his son as king, reigning as Carol II. As a result, Michael returned to being heir apparent to the throne and was given the additional title of Grand Voievod of Alba-Iulia.
Carol II was deposed in 1940, and Michael once again became king. Under the government led by the military dictator Ion Antonescu, Romania became aligned with Nazi Germany. In 1944, Michael participated in a coup against Antonescu, appointed Constantin Sănătescu as his replacement, and subsequently declared an alliance with the Allies. In March 1945, political pressures forced Michael to appoint a pro-Soviet government headed by Petru Groza. From August 1945 to January 1946, Michael went on a “royal strike” and unsuccessfully tried to oppose Groza’s Communist-controlled government by refusing to sign and endorse its decrees. In November, Michael attended the wedding of his cousins, the future Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and Prince Philip of Greece in London. Shortly thereafter, on the morning of 30 December 1947, Groza requested a meeting with Michael where he was forced to abdicate. Michael was forced into exile, his properties confiscated, and his citizenship stripped. He married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in 1948 with whom he had five daughters and eventually settled in Switzerland.
Nicolae Ceaușescu‘s communist dictatorship was overthrown in 1989 and the following year Michael attempted to return to Romania, only to be arrested and forced to leave upon arrival. In 1992, Michael was allowed to visit Romania for Easter where he was greeted by huge crowds; a speech he gave from his hotel window drew an estimated one million people to Bucharest. Alarmed by Michael’s popularity, the government refused to allow him any further visits. In 1997, after Iliescu‘s defeat by Emil Constantinescu in the presidential elections of the previous year, Michael’s citizenship was restored and he was allowed to visit Romania again. Several confiscated properties, such as Elisabeta Palace, were eventually returned to his family.