Margareta of Romania, an influential lady
Article by Claudiu Pădurean
Her Royal Highness Princess Margareta of Romania, the Custodian of the Crown, has become a symbol of the changes our country has undergone. The attitude towards the new central figure of the Romanian Royal Family has served as a true thermometer of democracy.
Whereas in January 1990, the Romanian elite was still traumatised by communism, and the potentates of the day treated the members of the Romanian Royal Family with undisguised hostility, in 2016, the year in which Romanians celebrate the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Romanian Dynasty, Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess has been named by Forbes magazine as the most influential woman in Romania.
The road from a society organised along Stalinist lines to a European democratic society has been a long one. Recently, Princess Margareta of Romania and her husband, Prince Radu of Romania, became honorary citizens of Cluj County. Meetings between members of the Romanian Royal Family and the public authorities have become routine, and on 26 March, Romanian Prime-Minister Dacian Cioloș attended the official dinner given at Castle Peleș by the Crown Princess, a year after Romanian President Klaus Iohannis attended the same event.
But beyond the theoretical concepts, from the pragmatic standpoint, every layer of Romanian society recognises the rôle of the Royal Family, a psycho-social shift that logically leads to the restoration of the monarchy through a democratic act of reinforcing the historical legitimacy of the Royal House of Romania. Since 1 March, when His Majesty King Michael I of Romania was diagnosed as being seriously ill and cancelled his public engagements, the central figure of the dynasty has been Princess Margareta of Romania.
Erroneously, the foreign press reported that the Crown Princess had taken over the rôle of Custodian of the Crown, which is usually incumbent upon the head of the Royal Family. But in fact Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess Margareta of Romania assumed the rôle of Custodian of the Crown on 30 December 2007, through an act promulgated by His Majesty King Michael I of Romania in his capacity as sovereign and suzerain.
The date on which this took place is significant for the way in which King Michael I of Romania has been able to take his revenge against History. 30 December 2007 was the sixtieth anniversary of the day when the communists blackmailed His Majesty King Michael I of Romania into abdicating, on 30 December 1947, as well as the tenth anniversary of the proclamation of Princess Margareta of Romania as Crown Princess, in 1997, through an act whereby King Michael I renounced Salic law in the naming of heirs to the Crown of Romania. These decisions may be compared with those taken by King Carol I of Romania, who, in the absence of direct descendants, proclaimed his nephew the Crown Prince, who was to become King Ferdinand the Loyal.
The Crown Princess
Princess Margareta of Romania came into the world shortly after her father went into exile. She was born on 26 March 1949 in Lausanne, Switzerland, the first of the five daughters born to Their Royal Majesties King Michael I and Queen Anne of Romania. Princess Margareta attended schools in Italy, Switzerland and Great Britain. Her baptismal godfather was His Royal Highness Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Consort of Great Britain. Prince Philip is a close relative of the Romanian Royal Family, via the mother of King Michael I, Queen Elena of Romania, who was born a Princess of Greece and Denmark.
Likewise, the Romanian Royal Family is closely related to the Royal Family of Great Britain, and Her Royal Highness the Crown Princess Margareta of Romania is eighty-second in line to the Throne of Great Britain. On the advice of her grandmother, Queen Elena of Romania, Princess Margareta attended the University of Edinburgh, gaining a Degree in Sociology, Political Sciences and International Public Law.
Princess Margareta and her sister, Princess Sofia, were the first members of the Romanian Royal Family to return to the country, on 18 January 1990. In an interview granted to the HotNews.ro website a few years ago, Her Royal Highness recalled the tumultuous atmosphere of that time. The two daughters of His Majesty King Michael I were greeted with joy by some Romanians, but with hostility by the members of the political elite. The two Princesses of Romania spent eight days in the country, and their memories of that time were evoked in the speech Her Royal Highness gave at the Romanian Athenaeum on 18 January 2015, when Romania’s elite celebrated the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Royal Family’s return to their homeland:
“His Majesty the King and his mother, Queen Elena, left Romania on the night of 3 January 1948. Forty-two years passed before I stepped onto Romanian soil on the blessed day of 18 January 1990, accompanied by my sister, Princess Sofia. It was a journey of return, a journey of personal and historical integration. Today we celebrate together a quarter of a century during which day after day we have been at our fellow countrymen’s side, and at the side of Romania’s most vulnerable above all, continuing the covenant of our ancestors.
“In 1990 the deeper Romania did not know the Crown, like a child that has never met its parents. The last quarter of a century has given the Crown the rôle of educator and model, in the major fields of Romanian life, just as Carol I taught us. Today, the Princess Margareta of Romania Foundation, which is celebrating the twenty-fifth anniversary of its foundation, enjoys trust and prestige. Under the guidance of King Michael, the Royal Family has built a social, cultural and educational edifice, as well as a respected royal institution, in a time that has need of rôle models, love, inspiration and personal example.
The historic speech given by the Crown Princess represented an accolade for the twenty-five years she has spent in the country’s service. In 1990, Princess Margareta of Romania founded the foundation that bears her name and which served as an umbrella for the charitable work carried out by the members of the Royal Family of Romania. Today, however, the public engagements of the members of the Royal Family represent much more than the work of the Princess Margareta of Romania Foundation. Among other things, the Crown Princess has become Chairwoman of the Romanian Red Cross Society, the position once held by her great-grandmother, Queen Maria of Romania. And the members of the Romanian Royal Family have gradually come to occupy a central place within the Romanian elite.
The system of royal decorations has been revived, the members of the Romanian Royal Family grant High Patronage, they represent Romania and the Republic of Moldova in various official international actions, they sponsor talented youngsters and families in need, they provide assistance to the elderly, and they support culture, the arts, sport, the economy, the mass media and schools and universities. Institutions such as the Romanian Olympic and Sporting Committee enjoy High Royal Patronage, and national sporting federations, such as the rugby league, organise Royal Cups. Three members of the Royal Family permanently reside in Romania at present: the Crown Princess Margareta and her husband, Prince Radu, and her sister, Princess Maria.
“Under the guidance of King Michael, the Royal Family has built a social, cultural and educational edifice, as well as a respected royal institution, in a time that has need of rôle models, love, inspiration and personal example” The Crown Princess Margareta of Romania
Article published in Romania Libera, 31 March 2016. Translation into English by Alistair Ian Blyth.