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The Four Kings

Romania had four kings. Carol I (1839-1914), Prussian cousin of Kaiser Wilhem I, was the first. He enter Romania incognito in 1866, and proposed to his future queen, Elizabeth of Wied, on their second meeting (said to be the peak of their relationship, after which it degenerated rapidly). He was crowned king or Romania in 1881. His last act before dying in 1914 was to refuse to enter WWI on the side of his German cousin.

His widowed queen (1836-1916) was a cranky poet who wrote under the pen-name Carmen Sylva and decreed that everyone in the royal court should wear folk costume. As a child she had been regularly taken to lunatic asylums to observe the inmates. Elisabeth's failure to produce heir- the couple's only daughter died at the age four - ensured she died diabolical.

Carol I's nephew, Ferdinand I (1865-1927) was Romania's second monarch. Beckoned from Germany to the Balkans to prepare for his regal role, he promptly fell in love his Aunt Elizabeth's favourite lady-in-waiting Helene Vacaresco. King Carol, horrified at this, banished his wide and her lady-in-waiting to Germany, then packed Ferdinand off to Europe, armed with a list of eligible young princesses. The best move Ferdinand - renounced for his weak character and protruding ears - ever made was to wed Marie, Queen Victoria's granddaughter, under whose shrewd guidance he successfully ruled the country form 1916 until his death from cancer in 1927.

Ferdinand and Marie's son, Carol II (1893-1953), was Romania's third king. The notorious playboy was said to be great in bed and the only man in town able to satisfy the 'crew', and infamous Bucharest prostitute of the 1930s. In 1918 the 24-year-old Carol deserted his military unit to elope with a commoner called Jeanne Lambrino or ZiZi. The lovestruck pair crossed the Romanian border incognito and wed in Odessa. The marriage was later annulled although the couple remained together in exile for some time n France. In 1919, following his parent's refusal to allow him to remarry the pregnant Zizi, Carol renounced his right t the throne. Soon after however he returned to Romania and, in 1921, married Princess Helene of Greece, only to elope two years later with the promiscuous Jewish divorcee Elena Lupescu.

In 1930 Carol II returned to Romania to resume his role as king. His 10 year rule was abruptly terminated in 1940 when he fled the country with Lupescu taking nine railway carriages of stolen state treasures as bounty. The couple wandered aimlessly through Europe until the end of WWII when they finally wed and settled in Brazil, the Portugal. After Carol's death in 1953 Lupescu, who lived another 25 years, moved in with one of Carols' former prime ministers.

Carol and Princess Helene's son, Michael (1921-), became king for the first time following Ferdinand's death in 1927. The knickerbockered King Michael (Mihal) was five years old at the time. Following his gather's shock return to Romania in 1930 the nine-year-old was forced to abdicate. Following King Michael's second force abdication in 1947, the entire royal family was exiled from their homeland.

Michael married Princess Ana de Bourbon Parma in 1948 and subsequently settled in Versoix, Switzerland, where he still lives today. The eldest of his two daughters, Marguerite, who was married to the actor Radu Duda, is alleged to have had a five-year affair with Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown.

The exile king, a former test pilot and technical consultant, returned to Romania for the first time in 1990, only to be deported 12 hours later. In 1992 he returned again for Orthodox Easter, being greeted by a crowd of 500,000. It was not until 1997 however he was given back his Romanian passport and officially welcomed 'home' by the Romanian government. He made it clear during his state visiting that he was committed to helping Romania in its NATO and EU bid, and that he hoped to settle permanently in Romania in the near future. He did not rule out the possibility of a return to a constitutional monarchy.

Source: Romania & Midolva