In another two months I will board a plane to visit Romania for the 13th time. My Romanian-American wife and I stay a month or more there every summer, both of us being school teachers.
Over time, I've picked up on swirling controversies regarding who might be the legitimate heir to the Romanian throne when the current former regent, Michael I, in the course of time, goes to his reward.
In this article I will explain why, after extensive research, I have come to the final conclusion that this distinction is legitimately the inheritance of, mirabile dictu, a young man born in New York City.
King Michael I of Romania
Before I explain my conclusions, I need to express my enormous esteem for King Michael I of Romania. As of this writing he is 94 years old and battling Leukemia. To the best of his abilities he served the best interests of Romania through very trying times, coordinating a Coup d'état against the Fascists holding Romania during World War II. In the years of exile during Communist domination of that country, he never wavered in his love for his Homeland.
After the collapse of Communism, the Romanian people formed a Republic. So the initial answer to the question of "Who is King of Romania?" is simple.
No one. Romania does not have a King. Romania does have a surviving former King, Michael I.
But in case Romania were to ever decide to move in the direction of a Constitutional Monarchy, as countries such as Spain have indeed done, even after years with other systems of governance, it is important to determine who would legitimately be the successor to the last monarch Romania had.
And that is where things get enormously complicated. I will present the three dynastic lines that can make a claim for legitimacy and explain the validity of their right to this latent throne.
Claimant #1: Her Royal Highness Princess Margareta
Princess Margareta is the eldest daughter of King Michael I and his wife Queen Anne. She was born and raised in exile in Switzerland. Following college, she had a respectable career with a number of non-governmental agencies. Following the fall of Communism, she has taken up permanent residency in Romania and occupies herself in a variety of laudable charity ventures.
Princess Margareta and her husband Prince Radu had no children.
She is a decent person who contributes importantly to the country of her heritage.
Claim to the Throne
In 2007, King Michael published the "Fundamental Rules Of The Royal Family Of Romania," which were declared to supercede all previous rules governing succession to the Romanian throne. The most important change is that he declares that his eldest daughter is his successor to the throne, granting her the title "Crown Princess." Under the rules he promulgated, males in the family tree will have priority, but, in their absence, females can ascend to the throne. This is a radical departure from the rules that had previously been in place (which will be explained in more detail below).
King Michael I bases his authority to make these changes on the circumstances of his second term as King.
King Michael I had become King of Romania under the terms of the 1923 Romanian Constitution in 1927, when his own father, Carol II, renounced his right to the throne in the midst of scandal associated with an extramarital affair.
Then, just three years later, Carol II returned and reversed his earlier renunciation of the throne and took it from his son Michael.
In 1940, Carol II abdicated and went again into exile, after which his son Michael again became King, during the rule of the Fascist Antonescu. I repeat, Michael I was not himself a fascist and would be instrumental in overthrowing them and bringing Romania into the side of the Allies.
King Michael was crowned and anointed by the then Patriarch of Romania, Nicodim Munteanu. He did not take an oath of office, nor was his coronation ever ratified by Romanian Parliament.
It is precisely because of the circumstances of his second kingship that Michael I states that he served from 1940 onward as a non-constitutional absolute sovereign. As such, he would continue to have the authority to make changes to his dynasty's succession laws such as he promulgated in 2007.
Claimant #2: Paul-Philippe Lambrino
Remember King Carol II I mentioned above? Well, in 1918, when he was Crown Prince Carol, he ran off and got married to a commoner named Zizi Lambrino. Now, nothing against commoners. I'm a commoner myself. Constitutionally, however, Carol was barred from marrying without the permission of his father, King Ferdinand--and he was additionally barred from marrying a commoner. As a result, the Romanian Supreme Court declared that marriage annulled.
Carol II and Zizi Lambrino had a son from that brief union, Carol Lambrino. Carol Lambrino had a son named Paul-Philippe, who won in European courts the right, based on his ancestors, to use the name Hohenzollern.
Claim to the Throne
Paul-Philippe Lambrino claims that, since he is the son of the first-born son of Carol II, born after a sacramental marriage in an Orthodox Church, he is the rightful heir to the Romanian throne--and not Michael I.
Paul-Philippe Lambrino has made nasty, irresponsible statements, such as his assertion that Michael I was complicit in the genocide of Romania's Jews and deserves the death penalty. He later retracted this statement, following waves of support for Michael from Romanian Jews, not to mention the fact that Michael's own Mother, Queen Anne, is recognized as a "Righteous Gentile" by Yad Vashem for her efforts to protect Jews during WWII.
Claimant #3: The House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
The House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen is the senior Swabian Branch of the House of Hohenzollern. They have governed over areas of modern-day Germany and Romania since the time of the Holy Roman Empire
Claim to the Throne
King Ferdinand of Romania, of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, signed the 1923 Romanian Constitution, within which it was stated that the Kings of Romania must come from that House and they must be males. In the event that the issue of King Ferdinand did not meet these criteria, the Constitution of 1923 states that the sovereign would be drawn from the next in line from within the sovereign dynasties of Western Europe.
Let me start with Paul Lambrino. He has no legitimate claim to the throne. The Fundamental Rules governing the Royal Family when his father was conceived clearly state that Carol II had no valid way to contract a marriage that would also have dynastic implications without permission from his father, King Ferdinand. It may have been a valid Sacramental Marriage in the eyes of God. If so, the fact that Carol II himself would later marry two more times while Zizi Lambrino yet lived is a final indictment on the seriousness of the claim that Paul Lambrino is secretly King of Romania.
Princess Margareta's claim to the throne hinges crucially on her father's authority to change the Fundamental Rules governing succession. And that authority ends up resting entirely on his claim that he became, the second time he reigned, a non-constitutional absolute sovereign.
But that claim also ends up resting upon whether the Patriarch of Romania has the authority to give Romania a King.
Which he clearly does not.
The Patriarch officiated over a ceremony in which Michael I was returned to the Throne. He did not create, by Divine Right, an Absolute Monarch.
He was merely reinstated to the Throne his father had stolen from him ten years earlier to be a puppet of sorts for the Fascist government of Antonescu. To his credit, Michael I later helped overthrow the Fascists, but that doesn't make him a King serving by Divine Right.
He was still king under the terms of the 1923 Constitution, even if the 1923 Constitution itself was not in force.
The Rightful Heir to the Romanian Throne
Now, to be sure, the Romanian People have the ability, were they to choose, to make Michael I their king again and approve by an act of Parliament his revisions to the Laws of Succession.
But barring that unlikely development, to determine the current rightful heir to the Romanian throne, we have to go back to the source of Michael's original regency--the 1923 Constitution.
Here are key points from that Constitution:
Regele nu are alte puteri decat acele date lui prin Constitutiune.
The King has no other powers except those given to him through the Constitution.
So if the Constitution does not give him the authority to change the Laws of Succession, he doesn't have them.
The fact that the Constitution of 1923 does address succession issues is further proof that the terms of his Kingship do not include his input in his area:
Puterile constitutionale ale Regelui sunt creditare in linie
coboritoare directa si legitima a Maiestatii Sale Regelui Carol I de
Hohenzollern Sigmaringen, din barbat in barbat prin ordinul de
primogenitura si cu exclusiunea perpetua a femeilor si coboritorilor
The Constitutional Powers of the King are granted in the direct and legitimate line descending from his Majesty King Carol I of Hohenzollern Sigmaringen, from man to man through the firstborn order and with the perpetual exclusion of women and their descendants.
Finally, the Constitution of 1923 addresses the scenario of what happens in the event that the Throne is vacant and no legitimate successor was available from the descendants of Carol I:
La caz de vacanta a Tronului, ambele Adunari se intrunesc de indata
intr'o singura Adunare, chiar fara convocare, si cel mai tarziu pana in
opt zile dela intrunirea lor aleg un Rege dintr'o dinastie suverana din
In case of the vacancy of the Throne, both Houses (of Parliament) gather immediately in a single session, even without a convocation, at the latest within eight days of their gathering and they choose a King from a sovereign dynasty in Western Europe.
The 1923 Constitution seems to give the Parliament latitude to open the search broadly within Western Europe. They could theoretically choose any royal. But the fact that, in 1927, when Carol I died without children, they summoned his nephew, Ferdinand, shows their Constitutional intent to continually appoint whatever male member of the House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen is next in line.
Again, let me repeat. Romania today is a Republic. It has exactly one former King and no actual current King.
But the question of theoretical succession, especially in light of the continual potential of Monarchical Restoration, is an important one.
Based on my research, in spite of my great esteem for King Michael and his long years of patient service to the Romanian Nation, he served as King under the terms of the 1923 Constitution, he has no authority to make changes to the Salic Law governing Dynastic Succession of his Kingship.
In the absence of any male issue from him, the next in line to his Throne has to go back up his paternal lineage until it finds a legitimate male. King Ferdinand's father was Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern. Leonpold's great-great-grandson Karl Friedrich, Prince of Hohenzollern, would become the heir. He has publicly stated:
Chiar dacă succesiunea la tron ar fi fost reală, n-aş lăsa totul baltă în Germania numai ca să merg în România. Regele Mihai a luat o decizie extrem de corectă.
Even if the succession to the Throne would be real, I would not utterly abandon things in Germany in order to go to Romania. King Michael has taken an extremely correct decision.
Karl Friedrich is entitled to his opinion. But it does not change the rules. He is still the legitimate hereditary successor to the Romanian Throne. And if he doesn't want it, then it will still eventually fall to his son, Alexander, Hereditary Prince of Hohenzollern, a young man born in New York City in 1987.
And so, we come full circle. I am an American, born and raised in Wisconsin. I love Romania. And it turns out that the heir to the Throne of Romania is my fellow American, Alexander.
God bless you, young man. I primarily pray that you enjoy the life of your choosing and that you find meaning in whatever vocation God has in store for you. If you have not already done so, however, come and visit Romania. By accidents of history and your ancestry, you are, in my opinion, the rightful heir to its Throne. If you happen to ever be there when I am visiting, I invite you to my favorite downtown restaurant. (In Romania, by the way, my invitation means I'm paying.)
Details to follow... :)