Romanian king’s funeral sees family feuds in the spotlight
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The death of the late King Michael is a solemn and sad time for many Romanians, but beyond the tears it’s proving a colorful — and awkward family reunion.
Michael, who ruled Romania twice and was forced to abdicate by the communists in 1947, died Dec. 5 in Switzerland at age 96.
The king was known for his modesty and commitment to Romania.
However, family feuds are also in the spotlight before Saturday’s funeral which will be attended by members of European foreign families including Prince Charles of Britain and King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.
Back for the funeral in a first appearance next to her family since she lost her royal title in 2013 after involvement in illegal cockfighting, was U.S.-based Irina Walker, one of Michael’s five daughters.
And grandson Nicholas Medforth-Mills, who was greeted with cheers when he laid flowers, was disinherited in 2015 after reports he fathered an illegitimate child. Well-wishers told the popular former prince, “We want you as our king!” to which he replied: “I am with the country and people as my grandfather always was.” He says he’s never been officially told why he was stripped of his title.
Prince Paul, an estranged nephew, who is on trial in Romania for money laundering, also paid his respects, filing past the coffin this week. He is not expected to be a guest at Saturday’s state funeral.
The 69-year-old, the grandson of former king Carol II is accused of illegally acquiring 64 hectares (158 acres) of state-owned land, costing the state $173 million. He denies wrongdoing.
He and others may have claims to the late king’s estate which is known to include castles and other real estate and is currently managed by Michael’s eldest daughter Princess Margareta.
Michael stripped three of his daughters of their titles in his lifetime. One was disinherited after she married a French man who went by the phony title of “Michel de Laufenburg.” Her title was restored five years after they divorced.
Michael’s youngest daughter Maria lost her title after she married a Catholic. The king and his daughters were baptized Orthodox Christians and were expected to marry into the faith.
Cristian Parvulescu, dean of the National School of Political Studies and Public Administration, told The Associated Press Friday Michael strictly applied ethical codes of behavior to the family because he wanted to “be the opposite of his father,” Carol II, known as the playboy king.
However, mourner Maria Damcali, 67, said Friday she understood why Michael acted the way he did and she would remember the late king as “a person of great kindness who suffered a lot, but also was a symbol of morality.”