King Mihai I, sometimes spelled in the Anglicized "Michael I", was born in Sinaia, Romania, to the then Crown Prince Carol and Princess Elena. He was a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria. Because his father renounced his rights to the throne, when King Ferdinand died in Jul 1927, he became the king of Romania at the young age of six. In 1930, his father was invited back to the country and claimed the throne as King Carol II.Share
In Sep 1940, Ion Antonescu successfully overthrew Carol and installed Mihai as his puppet leader, and had himself named Conducător with dictatorial powers. Mihai allowed Antonescu to reign freely, but he reportedly told his grandmother that "I have learned not to say what I feel, and to smile at those I most hate", suggesting he was merely waiting for the right opportunity to gain revenge. Wilhelm Keitel of Germany met the king at this time during one of the many conferences between Germany and Romania, and described the young king as "a tall, slim and good looking youth, still rather awkward in his manner but not unlikeable." The opportunity came on 23 Aug 1944, when the war Antonescu started with Russia brought Russian troops at the Romanian borders. Mihai, backed by pro-Allied politicians, ordered the arrest of Antonescu and his entire government, then declared war on Germany after joining the Allies. Russian troops, however, still poured into Romania and did not sign an armistice (which strongly favored the Russians) until 12 Sep 1944. American leader Harry Truman later awarded him the highest degree of the Legion of Merit as a sign of appreciation for his efforts that aided the Allies in the Balkans region. Russian leader Joseph Stalin decorated him with the Soviet Order of Victory.
In Mar 1945, political pressure forced Mihai to select a pro-Russian government, which rendered him to be no more then a figurehead. After returning from London after attending the wedding of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain (who was his third cousin), he was forced to abdicate this throne on 30 Dec 1947. On 3 Jan 1948, he was forced to leave the country. He settled in London with his wife Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma and became a commercial pilot. The communist government in Romania stripped him of his Romanian citizenship, rendering him unable to visit his home country until the communist government was overthrown in 1989. In 1990, he said "[i]f the people want me to come back, of course, I will come back... Romanians have had enough suffering imposed on them to have a right to be consulted on their future", which alarmed Romanian President Ion Iliescu, though Mihai was not known to have any plans to return as a monarch. In 1992, Iliescu cautiously invited him to return to Bucharest for Easter celebrations. In 1997, President Emil Constantinescu restored Mihai's citizenship. (Read more.)