After his demise in exile, fifty years ago…
King Carol II’s remains are returned to Romania
from the crypt of his Braganza ancestors in Lisbon:
Romanians do like a good Funeral (and a good Wake) But what is President Iliescu’s Government up to? What are the political implications for the Romanian Monarchy? And what had happened to Madam Lupescu?
King Carol II, son of King Ferdinand I and of Queen Marie of Romania, Princess of Great Britain, was the first modern monarch to be born in the land in 1893. This is not exactly what he is remembered for, but rather for the doggerel which will haunt the late king to his new grave at the 16th century monastery of Curtea de Argesh, in the Carpathians:
Have you heard of Madam Lupescu,
Who came to Romania’s rescue’
It’s a wonderful thing,
To be under a King:
Is Democracy better, I ask you?
Carol II ruled Romania for ten years between 1930 and 1940, having previously renounced the throne for Madam Lupescu. He eventually changed his mind and made a dramatic return to become king, a period of history fraught with difficulties, as three of the country’s ministers were assassinated. Carol knew that he was himself a target of the Iron Guard, supported by Hitler.
But is spite of all the turmoil, Romanians will associate Carol’s reign with a period of economic achievement and strides towards modernity. There is much to be said for what Carol had done to strengthen the new structure of Romania’s Institutions as he did to encourage industry, education and the arts. This he succeeded against all odds as he had to fight on the diplomatic front against Stalin and Hitler alike and at home against the fascist Iron Guard. Even after his abdication , in 1940, Carol was a virtual prisoner in Franco’s Spain, before he managed to steal across the border illegally and settle in Portugal, where he eventually died to be buried in the chapel of his Braganza ancestors, in the ancient monastery of Sao Vicente da Fora.
50 years after his death Carol’s remains were at the centre of some political horse trade between the Government of Romania and the Romanian Royal family. Carol’s body and that of his erstwhile mistress (later to become his third wife) Madam Lupescu were brought back from Portugal to be buried in an ancient monastery of the Carpathians, on 14th February 2003. A new chapel of rest, decorated with frescos and with the royal coat of arms had been restored care of the Romanian Government. Calinic Bishop of Argesh had officiated, King Michael has been represented by Princess Margarita and her consort and the Government was represented by the Minister of Culture. Equally present were Portuguese Government officials and that of the Braganza Royal family. The Romanian Government had seen that pomp and military honours, due to a former head of State had been observed. Maybe the Greek Government, which behaved so churlishly towards its Royal family could take a page from President Ilescu’s book…
There is no wonder that the communist and post-communist governments alike found it politically attractive to indulge in the practice of re-burials of scores of notable Romanians who died in exile and whose earthly remains were going to be ‘reunited’ with their homeland. Why go through all this expense, when the average monthly wage of the common denizen in Romania is still only 80 dollars and falling? Well, one may well ask: it is all part of the current Romanian Government’s wider PR strategy to demonstrate to the world its democratic credentials, before it enters NATO and the EU. Because, as a Romanian saying goes,
de morti sa vorbesti numai de bine,
which in Saxon speak loosely translates as: “only speak well of the dead”, implying that “all dead men are good men”. President Iliescu knows that too well: after all he saw that Ceausescu himself was put down in December 1989. Now the President is busy adopting the former ‘errant sons and daughters’ of the Romanian Diaspora. This disguised hijacking of history (after all history is the property of the government of the day) is all window-dressing for the outside world, because for decades Romanian history had been fudged and now it is being rewritten under the guise of reconciliation.
This is the best time when a funeral speech by a politician could score effectively a political point with the electorate – everybody will be listening to it, for the dead cannot turn yet in its grave, where it is soon to be conveyed, before the next political reburial takes place.
It is ironic that fifty years after his demise at his exile retreat in Estoril Carol’s remains could still be a political bone of contention. With the presence of the former king Michael (Carol’s son by Helen of Greece and Denmark, unconstitutionally deposed under duress by the Communists in December 1947) getting ever more pressing in Romania, it became clear that something had to be done to derail the monarchists’s hopes for a possible restoration, of a kind that was made in Spain.
In this context it apparent that in spite of all expectations, Carol’s reburial in the crypt of the Romanian kings at Curtea de Argesh, on the 50th commemoration of his death could be useful for the Government of president Iliescu.
How? Quite simply, King Michael, now 81, would wish to keep the ceremony low key, and sober. as indeed he did not attend his estranged father’s funeral in Portugal, in 1953. Consistently he had neither attended the ceremony at Curtea de Argesh, but he had seen that he was represented by his daughter instead. In a wider context one must not forget that king Michael, had filed in the Romanian Courts official claims for the restitution of his family’s private possessions, amongst which is the Royal castle at Sinaia, built by Carol I with Hohenzollern family funds in the late 19th century. This is a thorn in flesh of President Iliescu’s Socialist government and one which it has interest to placate by encouraging new claimants in the person of Paul Lambrino. As all of a sudden, Carol II body was officially brought back and given a state funeral European royalty had stayed away or had been represented at a minor level. However who kept a high profile at the funeral was the new “pretender”, Paul Lambrino, an antique dealer from London and Carol’s natural grandson, by his first wife, who had just been declared a “Hohenzollern” by a Romanian Court. It is a known fact that Carol’s morganatic marriage to Zizi Lambrino, in 1918, was annulled in 1919, before she gave birth, in 1920, to a male “heir” by the name of Carol Mircea Lambrino. Paul is Carol Mircea’s son. The fact that a republic’s Court of Law and that of a provincial district, in a country rife with legal edicts of a kind that are regularly overturned at Strasbourg international Court of Human Rights, would decide who is and who is not a prince of royal blood could seem somewhat quixotic if not outright risible, by any standards. Not so in today’s Romania, where, as Cioran put it so well, “tout est possible et rien ne m’etonne plus”. Little wonder that Paul Lambrino, son of Carol Mircea Lambrino had been recognised in 2002 in Romania as lawful grandson of the late King Carol II and therefore rightful heir to the throne of Romania, whenever that may become available and inter-allia to King Carol’s estate. His claim is currently pitched at 62% of the Royal estate. In the meantime Paul Lambrino is now encouraged by the neo-communist republican press (Adevarul) by being styled as “Prince Paul of Romania” and his wife (an American divorcee and a commoner) is also called “Princess Lia”. The British press, from time to time had been exercised by “Princess Lia’s” exploits and we shall not dwell upon such unfortunate circumstances. But more importantly, with this reburial, a new saga is likely to unfold before our eyes with respect to Michael’s claims to his family’s rights.
After Carol’s death, in 1953, Madam Lupescu’s own inheritance abroad was in dispute between King Michael and his natural half-brother Carol Mircea Lambrino, for a good nine years between 1953 and 1962, but nothing came of it. Later on, Ceausescu himself also attempted and failed, after Lupescu’s death, in 1977, in laying his hands on Carol’s Portuguese estate, by claiming it on behalf of a Jewish relative, which the late Lupescu still had in Romania. Well, this may be an extra trump card in President Iliescu’s sleeve. If he really wanted to offend the king, he could have insisted that the Lupescu be also buried next to her late husband in the cathedral church of Curtea de Argesh. Still a last-minute compromise was found in Bucharest whereby the remains of Lupescu were laid to rest in the monastery’s cemetery. There is little doubt that, given Madam Lupescu’s romantic talents as a society hostess, the venerable orthodox monks will have great fun in such company. Poor “princess” Lupescu, the woman Romanians love to hate, she would never be able to stop making waves, even some 26 years after her death, into the 21st century. If she knew what was all about, she would love it, for it is singularly true to her form and oecumenically confusing to the end.
This confusion had of late gained an extra dimension, as a Rabbinical Court in Israel had just declared that Carol and Lupescu had in fact had a daughter, which nobody knew about and which would have been sent for adoption and brought up in the Jewish faith. Now the descendants of this putative if unexpected branch from the union of a Romanian Orthodox to a Jewish lady converted to Roman Catholicism had popped up as respected citizens of Israel and potential claimants to Carol’s and Lupescu’s estates in Romania. It is no doubt that the DNA experts will become busier than ever in Bucharest, but in the meantime who said that Romania was not an inclusive society? President Iliescu may be the last person to dispute this impression and the EU should take heed.
For more information about Romanian Royals and about Carol II 3rd wife and entourage, read:
“Blouse Roumaine – The Unsug Voices of Romanian Women”: