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European royals join thousands of Romanians in farewell to King Michael

European royalty have joined tens of thousands of Romanians who wept and applauded as they said farewell to Romania's last monarch, King Michael, who was buried next to his wife after a state funeral.

Michael, who ruled Romania twice before being forced to abdicate by the communists in 1947, was remembered for his dignity and morality. He died aged 96 in Switzerland on December 5.

Britain's Prince of Wales, Swedish 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 lying in state for two days.

Non-European royals attending the funeral included Princess Muna al-Hussein, mother of King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Other royals including Henri, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz of Belgium were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis for a funeral service, led by the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel.

Bishops wafted incense in the small cathedral where Michael was crowned for the second time on September 6 1940.

Michael, who was a great-great grandson of Queen Victoria, first became king aged five after his father Carol II eloped with his mistress and abdicated.

Michael's reign is best remembered for the August 23 1944 coup he led to oust pro-Nazi leader Marshal Ion Antonescu, a move that took Romania into the war on the side of the Allies.

For this, the king was awarded made a Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit by US president Harry S Truman and he was decorated with the Soviet Order of Victory by Joseph Stalin.

After his abdication, Michael spent decades in exile working as a chicken farmer and aircraft pilot, living in Britain and settling in Switzerland. He finally got his Romanian citizenship back in 1997, eight years after the collapse of communism.

The Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty that ruled Romania from 1866 until Michael's reign ended in 1947 no longer enjoys special status, but its heirs enjoy a certain prestige and hand out honours.

Successive Romanian governments have returned castles and other properties that were seized from the royal family when the communists came to power.

The funeral procession carrying the Michael's coffin drove slowly through the capital to a railway station, where, accompanied by a phalanx of priests, the casket was put on a royal train.

It later arrived in the central town of Curtea de Arges, where priests performed a service before the late king was buried next to his late wife, Anne de Bourbon-Parme, who died last year.

Earlier, thousands of ordinary Romanians crowded the streets to see the procession go by, while others threw flowers as the royal train bearing the coffin passed through railway stations on its way to burial in central Romania.

AP

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