KING MICHAEL OF ROMANIA was the only constitutional monarch to lead his people in person during the Second World War. After refusing to act as a puppet king and thereby give legitimacy to the regime Hitler had set up in Romania, the twenty-year-old king led a coup d'Útat against the Germans that shortened the war and postponed the communist dictatorship of his country. In the first biography of King Michael for many years, Ivor Porter draws on a wealth of primary sources, including interviews with King Michael—whom he first met as a young Army officer over sixty years ago—the Romanian royal archives and Queen Helen's unpublished diaries, to tell the dramatic and moving story of this unique monarch.
Michael's childhood was as grim as a grotesque fairy tale. Born in 1921, one of his first memories was of his mother in tears. The cause of her unhappiness was her unscrupulous husband, King Carol II—who abandoned his family and crown for his mistress but later returned to usurp his son's throne and exile his wife. During the war everything changed. King Carol was forced by the Germans to abdicate in favour of eighteen-year-old Michael. Hitler made Romania a staging post for his invasion of Russia but completely underestimated its new king. On 23 August 1944 Michael, with the support of the Romanian Resistance, led a successful coup d'Útat against the Germans. For three years—with the Soviet army in occupation, the Western Allies unable to help, and the two main democratic parties virtually destroyed—he hung on grimly to some degree of constitutional democracy until Stalin showed his hand. Ivor Porter tells the inspiring tale of the king who tried desperately to save his country and who, after being exiled by the Communists for fifty years, was finally able to return and tell his people, 'I love you. Don't forget that.'
IVOR PORTER was sent to Romania in 1943 as one of a three-man mission led by Colonel Gardyne de Chastelain to urge the Resistance to rise against the Germans whatever the consequences. Dropped in fog too far from the target, they were captured and imprisoned. Eight months later he met King Michael on the evening of his anti-German coup, 23 August 1944, and he was in Romania throughout the King's resistance to Soviet occupation. Now retired from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and living in London, Ivor Porter is the author of the acclaimed Operation Autonomous: With SOE in Wartime Romania which was short-listed for the Time-Life/Pen Award for non-fiction.
'Though many people
think that not to be allowed back into your country is easier to
bear than not to be allowed out of it, this is not true. The feeling
of powerlessness and loss of liberty is associated with both.'
Jacket photographs (front): portrait of King Michael of Romania, 28 November 1941 (© Bettmann/Corbis); (spine): Crown Prince Michael, London, November 1938 (Private Collection); (back): King Michael of Romania returns to his country, 3 March 1997 (© Langevin Jacques/Corbin Sygma).