Presa olandeză: România onorează Custodele Coroanei
Cotidianul Reformatorisch Dagblad, articol de Hans Jacobs
“A life dedicated to the well-being of the Romanian people.” Before that, Margareta, “Custodian of the Crown,” was lavishly honored at a series of events in Bucharest last weekend. The reason was the thirtieth anniversary of her first trip to Romania in January 1990. “That was like going to a forbidden planet,” says Margareta.
That was actually correct. Exactly 42 years earlier, her then unmarried father, King Mihai, had been put on the train by the Communist regime, leaving Romania. In exile in Switzerland and elsewhere, the King did not think he could ever return. The regimes in the Eastern Bloc seemed too firmly in place for that, thanks in part to the iron grip and military power of the Soviet Union. Mihai, married to Princess Anna of Bourbon-Parma in 1948 – whom he had met at the wedding of Elizabeth and Philip in London – therefore did not think it necessary for his five daughters to learn Romanian. That was not an unusual thought. The Bulgarian king Simeon, for example, did the same with his children.
Mihai’s eldest daughter, Princess Margareta, grew up partly in Switzerland and partly in the United Kingdom, where she grew up with Prince Charles, one year older. Their families were not only friends, but also several times related, as was the case at the time for many royal families. Margareta and Charles still see each other with some regularity and Clive Alderton, the private secretary of the Prince of Wales, was one of the guests of honor in Bucharest. Relationships with other royal houses are also good. For example, Margareta visited King Willem-Alexander last October.
The curtain fell
The big change in Margareta’s life came when the at first such solid and sturdy Iron Curtain came down with a thunderous roar in 1989 and even knocked the Romanian communist dictator Nicolae Ceausescu off his throne. The ‘forbidden planet’ suddenly became accessible, although the new rulers in Bucharest – partly old wine in new bottles – were not waiting for the royal family to return. King Mihai was refused entry, but two of his daughters, Margareta and Sofia, landed in Bucharest on January 18, 1990. “That was an intense and emotional moment,” says Margareta.
It was also a historic moment, but it was not harmless. The Communist regime had blackened the royal family for four decades, and the princesses were treated with hostility in many places by the authorities and the army. But Margareta and Sofia did not focus on politics or the restoration of the monarchy, but on humanitarian work: orphans, AIDS patients, elderly people who suffered, hospitals and homes. Upon their return to Switzerland, this soon led to the creation of a charitable foundation, which also celebrated its 30th anniversary at a special meeting on Saturday at the National Theater in Bucharest.
The hostility and suspicion, and the opposition to the return of the ever-popular King Mihai – during a short visit at Easter in 1992, a million Romanians were on their way to welcome him, a specter of the neo-communist regime of President Ion Iliescu – disappeared with the arrival of a new government. The royal family received passports and their former possessions and Margareta, who married Romanian actor Radu Duda in 1996, was able to further develop her activities.
King Mihai designated his eldest daughter as Crown Princess and since his death in December 2017, Margareta has been at the head of the royal family. She does not use the title Queen, but is, with the government’s approval, “Her Majesty”, with the addition “Custodian of the Crown.” She may continue to use the Elisabeta Palace residence assigned to her father for the duration of his life, the parliament has a law in hand that should give the royal family a legal basis and status within the republic.
In the spotlight
The fact that Margareta (70) has achieved a lot since she first set foot on Romanian soil was demonstrated last month by, among other things, her place of honor in Parliament at the commemoration of the 1989 revolution. Prime Minister Ludovic Orban attended the gala concert in a sold-out Atheneum in honor of “Her Majesty”, and he also attended the buffet dinner in the Art Museum serving for the occasion once again as the Royal Palace.
Margareta accepted all praises with reserve. She prefers to roll up her sleeves rather than put herself in the spotlight. Her husband Prince Radu is better at that, but if the anniversary also drew attention to her foundation, the festivities also had a useful side effect, she said.