Of deposed royals and shifting perceptions

The end of the Great War saw three great Imperial families scattered to the winds– the Prussian Hohenzollerns, the Austrian Hapsburgs, and the Russian Romanovs– and the resulting dismantling of their empires. With that being said, the end of WWII saw an equal fall of a number of minor houses, including the Savoy family in Italy, the Saxe-Coburg-Gotha house in Bulgaria, the Karađorđević dynasty in Yugoslavia, and the Romanian Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen franchise. Meanwhile, the House of Glücksburg in Greece just barely held on.

Two of those came full circle this month.

King Michael I of Romania (25 October 1921 – 5 December 2017) cousin of Queen Elizabeth II and member of the Royal Victorian Order, was given a full state funeral in Romania last week attended by members of just about every royal family in Europe. He was escorted by a military honor guard and his coffin– with the crown he was forbidden to wear– carried to the sepulcher on an artillery caisson pulled by a U.S.-made humvee, Romania being a NATO ally and all these days.

The crowd, reportedly, went wild.

Michael of course was no saint, allowing much of the crap that happened in Romania during the era of dictator Ion Antonescu.  Nevertheless, he did, in the darkest days of WWII, turn against the Germans and support a coup ousting Antonescu that brought the country to the side of the Allies and saved his throne until the communists forced him from it at gunpoint in 1947, going into exile in the West simply as “Prince of Hohenzollern” rather than King of Romania.

Further, as reported by the AP: “The remains of Italy’s King Victor Emmanuel III were repatriated from Egypt and interred in a family mausoleum Sunday in northern Italy, 71 years after Italians rejected the monarchy in a referendum and the country’s royals went into exile.”

Notably, he was placed at the Sanctuary of Vicoforte, a church in the northwest Piedmont region tied to his family, rather than the Pantheon where Italy’s first two Savoy kings, Victor Emmanuel II and Umberto I, and its first queen, Margherita, are buried.

King Victor Emmanuel III (short) of Italy visits Russia – 1902. He kept his throne much longer than Tsar Nicholas II to his right, but in the end died in exile, just not at the hands of his own people as in Nicky’s case

The “Soldier King” was on the throne during both World Wars, the first an outright territorial grab by the Italians against their former allies Austria and Germany, the second the product of Il Duce, whom Victor abided and dutifully accepted the crown of “Emperor of Ethiopia” and “King of the Albanians” from after Mussolini’s further colonial efforts. In the end, with the Allies in Sicily, Victory dismissed Mussolini in 1943 in favor of Marshal Pietro Badoglio and ordered the strongman’s arrest (which is tempered with the fact that he allowed him and the Blackshirts to achive power in the first place in 1922), this knocked Italy out of the Axis bullpen and sparked a brutal civil war for two years. In the end, Victor abdicated but, in 1947 when the socialist government revoked the Italy privileges of all male members of the House of Savoy, left the country for Egypt where he died.

This month an Italian air force military plane officially repatriated the remains of Victor Emmanuel III, which were transferred from Alexandria to the sanctuary of Vicoforte, near Turin, and interred with honors over the howls of Italy’s Jewish community and those still around who fought against the fascists.

I guess in a way time heals all some wounds.

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