BUCHAREST, Romania – Tens of thousands of Romanians joined European royals on Saturday to pay their respects to late King Michael as a state funeral got underway.
Michael, who ruled Romania twice before being forced to abdicate by the communists in 1947, died at age 96 in Switzerland this month.
Britain’s Prince Charles, Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, and Spain’s former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, were among those at a pre-funeral service at the Royal Palace where Michael’s body had been laying in state for the past two days.
Among non-European royals attending the funeral was Princess Muna al-Hussein, mother of King Abdullah II of Jordan.
In the hours before Michael’s coffin was taken out of the palace, Romanians gathered silently, many in tears, in Revolution Square. Church bells tolled around the country and a choir of priests sang as the coffin was taken out and was laid on a dais in the square.
The crowd cheered and shouted “King Michael!” as the coffin, led by Orthodox priests and a guard of honour, was transported by an army jeep toward the cathedral where there the funeral will take place.
Michael’s five daughters and his estranged grandson Nicholas Medforth-Mills, who was stripped of his title for allegedly fathering a child out of wedlock, walked behind the coffin.
Mourner Georgeta Anastasiu, 60, said the late king had been “demonized by the communists, but in the end we found out the truth about him.”
She called the king “the last moral example for Romanians,” and said many people had finally learned the truth about him since his Dec. 5 death.
His body will then be taken by a royal train to the central Romanian city of Curtea de Arges where he will be buried next to his wife, Anne de Bourbon-Parme, who died last year.