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Your Majesty, Your Royal Highnesses, Your Excellencies, My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As you know, King Michael of Romania, my father, celebrated his 90th birthday last year, in Romania, in extraordinary circumstances: he addressed the Joint Chambers of the Parliament on his birthday, the 25th of October, and was celebrated by millions of Romanians who watched the television’s live transmission of the celebratory Gala at the National Opera House in Bucharest. Recent polls show His Majesty to be the most respected and trusted Romanian leader. The Royal Family is seen today as a permanent part of the national identity, an institutional symbol of modern Romania, an instrument of our democracy.
However, the last 65 years were a long and hard road, which called for patriotism, patience, generosity and vision. When the King left Romania on January the 3rd 1948, the last bastion of democracy in South-eastern Europe fell. The King represented the last piece of institutional Romania that was still free. In the years of the Cold War, the King represented in himself an institution that kept alight the flame of state principles, over and above issues of form of government or political circumstances. The return of the Royal Family to Bucharest in 2001 opened up the road to the reconstruction of the Romanian State.
The popularity of the King and his family, and public sympathy towards him, have steadily increased. People know and understand much more than they did twenty years ago. Young people are better informed, more connected, and they feel the need for identity and state reference points. They are sympathetic towards the courage and moral stature of the King, and towards his selflessness and charming modesty. Millions of Romanians in Europe and America, young and competent, understand better, and much more profoundly the importance of living in a country that is proud, dignified and respectable.
Even without changing the form of government, the Royal Family is a transatlantic and European argument for Romania. It is not just a historical, cultural or diplomatic argument, but also a State and political one. That is why it was possible for the King continuously since 1948 to uphold the same principles in which he believes and always has.
Some years ago, a journalist from the New York Times came to interview King Michael. He did not come to the politicians with ‘real’ power in Romania, but to the King. Because he represents that part of power which is not always visible in the democratic world, but which exists nonetheless. The King’s power is not just great, but of a quite rare essence: he is trusted, loved, believed and admired. He inspires pride and respect.
His historical labour is not yet over. Although it extends over nine decades and has been full of pain and disappointment, his story is still a beautiful one, because it is not only long lasting but also holds meaning for the future.
I thank you all, on behalf of my father, for your presence tonight. And I want to present my grateful congratulations to the Chaplain of the Royal Savoy, and to Sir Gavyn Arthur, a great supporter of the Romanian Royal House in Britain.
I would like, together with my husband, to wish from the depth of our hearts A Very Happy Birthday to His Majesty King Michael of Romania!
25 October 2012
HM King Michael of Romania: “I have served the Romanian nation throughout a life that has been long and full of events, some of them happy, many of them unhappy.(…) After freedom and democracy, the most important things to be gained are identity and dignity. Here a major responsibility rests upon the Romanian elite.” (discourse in the Parliament of Romania with the occasion of the 90th birthday celebration, 25 Oct. 2011)
After the Declaration of War – the departure of a Romanian regiment for the front. The Crown Prince Carol of Romania (right, second) watches the men of a regiment of infantry proceeding on active service as they march through the streets on their way to the front.
A few years after the First World War, Queen Marie of Romania was asked to write an article for ‘The Graphic’ entitled “What the Future Holds. Monarchy”. There she was of the view that monarchies are essential as rallying points for the peoples of the countries of Eastern Europe, and that after the onslaught of the Great War and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia monarchy will rise once more in serener skies as a star of hope to which all will turn. Marie recognised with her specific vanity that she had become a sort of a philosophical thinker, discussing the fate of those thrones in the aftermath of the Great War. Among the opinions uttered by Marie, there was an interesting appreciation on the monarch’s mission, which I find it worth to present on my blog:
Every king today takes his life in his hand, and has to face the music. He knows that the world is sitting in judgment upon his caste, wondering if his time is not passing, if one had not better get on without him, or try something else, something newer, more in keeping with our democratic times.
He is not asked what he thinks or feels about it, but I for one have just this word to say: I look on quietly from my height upon all your struggles, debates and improvements, at the chaos brought about by your violent changes, and this is the conclusion I have come to: your desperate efforts to find something better than monarchy make me believe ever more firmly that our day is far from being over. I think the world is going through a period of extreme unrest which resembles drunkenness; a drunkenness which is bound, however to sober down finally, and of which the natural reaction will be a desire of order, peace, stability; for something which is undeniably recognized and that will be a guaranty of quiet, of continuity.
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Princess Marie in her first Romanian peasant costume (from the Arges ethnographic region) given to her by King Carol as a wedding gift. Romanian peasant dress was introduced for court festivities and ceremonies by Queen Elizabeth. The peasants were identified in the national ideology as the quintessential Romanians and many among the Romanian elite started in that period to follow the court’s example and express their national identity by wearing peasant attire when participating at national events and other festivities. Princess Marie from the very beginning wrote to her mother: «The other day there was a charity ball here, and everybody came in Romanian costumes, it looked so pretty».
[see D.M, 'Marie of Romania. Images of a Queen', RRB, 2007, p.16] Continue reading
King Ferdinand of Romania driving from the Royal military headquarters, October 1916. The King acts as his own chauffeur when occasions arise. Beside him is Prince Carol. The car is of a powerful, for those times, touring type with external brake levers. Behind is the pillared portico of the royal hunting lodge from Scroviste, near Bucharest. These are one of the first photographs of the monarch and his staff taken after Romania entered the First World War (August 1916). Continue reading