Former King Michael I of Romania, the country’s last monarch and one of the last-surviving leaders from World War II, has died in Switzerland after a lengthy illness, the royal house says. He was 96 years old.
Michael died at his residence in Switzerland at 12 p.m. local time on Tuesday while in the presence of Princess Maria, his youngest child. The former king’s health had been deteriorating for weeks as he suffered from leukemia and a form of skin cancer.
Princess Margareta, the former king’s eldest daughter, is expected to address the country at 7 p.m. local time in Romania. She was designated by Michael as the heir presumptive to the throne, although the act was never recognized by the Romanian government.
Michael’s body will be taken to Peleș Castle in Romania and lie in repose for two days at the former royal palace in the capital Bucharest. A funeral service will take place at the Romanian Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest and details will be released on Wednesday, the royal house added.
Michael I, a cousin of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, reigned as a young child from 1927 until 1930, and again from 1940 until December 1947, when he was forced to abdicate by the Communist Party-controlled government. He lived in exile for decades before his return to Romania in 1992.
Michael was the last surviving head of state from the Interwar period and one of three surviving heads of state from World War II, during which he shared company with figures such as German Führer Adolf Hitler, Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.
Although there is little demand for monarchy to be restored, both Michael and his wife Anne were widely respected by Romanians. Anne married Michael in 1948, a year after his forced abdication, but was still often referred to as a queen. She died in August 2016.
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