European Royalty: Romania

The Romanian monarchy was a 19th century creation introducing a German family. The Romanian nation, however, has a fascinating history streaching back to ancient times. The medievel era is particularly interesting. Romanians played an important role in impeding the Ottomon movement beyond the Balkans.

Ancient History

Romania was a part of the Roman being known as the province of Dacia. The Romanian language still reflects the Roman origins and is a romance language based upon Latin. At the end of the ancient era Romanian was overrun by the Huns and became part of the short-lived Hunic Empire.

Medievl History

There was no Romania in the medievil era, but there were several predecessor states which came to make up modern Romania, some of which, however, were also claimed by neighboring countries. The most important were Moldavia, Transylvania, and Walachia. The history of Romania before 1856 is primarily the history of the principality of Moldavia and Walachia (also spelled Vallachia ).

Early Romanian history

Some of the first political organization of the Romanian people was the kniezates and voivodates which first appeared in Transylvania and Dobrudja (10th century AD). This continued later east and south of the Carpathian Mountains (12-13th centuries). There was no unified Romanian nation at this stage. Rather there were three major principalities.

Transylvania and Hungary (10th-13th centuries)

Hungarian kingdom to the east in the early medievel era attempted to establish control over what is now Romania. Territorial disputes between Hungary and Romania continued into the 20th century. The Hungarians were a tribe which migrated west from the Volga. The tribe settled in Pannonia (895). The German Emperor Otto I stopped them from moving further west (995). It is at this time they began to settle permanently in modern Hungary and begin to look at lands to the south and east, manning the area of modern Romania. The Romanian kniezates and voivodates resisted the Hungarians, but in part because they were not unified the Hungarians gradually gained control over much of Transylvania (10-th-13th centuries). (Hungarian control there is the principal reason that Moldavia and Walachia have dominated Romanian history.) The Hungarian monarchy to establish control over what was essentially a ethnically Romanian province sought to encourage Hungarian migration into the area. The Crown made Transylvania an autonomous voivodate. The Crown, in order to consolidate their power in Transylvania and protect the frontier of the voivodate, also promoted the settlement by Szecklers and Germans (Saxons) (12-13th centuries).

The Mongols (13th century)

The Mongols swept through Eastern Europe, destroying Kiev (the most important early Russian state) and seriously weakening the medeivel states in Eastern Europe, especially the Poles and Hungarians (13th century). With the death of Genghis, the Mongols withdrew east leaving a desstabllized situation in eastern Europe. Out of this situatiion Moscow would begin to rize in Russia. In Romania the principalities of Molavia and Walachia would increase in prominance.

Moldavia and Walachia (14th century)

The Mongols had severely weakened the powerful medieval states north of the Carpathians (Poland and Hungary). This allowed Moldavia and Walachia to emerge as independent medievil principalities. The Tartar principalities to the the east did not have the strength of the former Mongol empire. Basarab I founded Moldavia (around 1310). Bogdan I founded Walachia (around 1359). Both the Polish and Hungarian kingdoms attempted to seize control of both principalities, but failed (14-15th centuries). The Romanians defeated a Hungarian army at Posada (1310).

Ottoman threat (14th-15th century)

The principalities of Moldavia and Tranyslvania after establishing their autonomy from the larger Christian kingdoms to the north (Hungay and Poland) in the laste 14th century faced a challenge from the expanding Islamic Ottomon Empire from the south. The Ottomans entered the Balkans (1354) an reached the Danube which flows through modern Romania (1396). The Christian kingdoms and principalities resisted the Ottomans. The specific kingdoms and alliances varied over time. They were resisted by the Byzanties, Bulgars, and Serbs. The voivodes of Wallachia, both Mircea the Old (1386-1418) and Vlad the Impeller (1456-1462), with Stephen the Great and Holy (1457-1504) played important roles. The voivode of Moldavia and Iancu of Hunedoara, the voivode of Transylvania (1441-1456) played major roles in resisting the northword advance of the Ottomons.

Ottoman Era (16th-19th centuries)

The Ottomon Empire gradually consolidated uts hold over the Balkans and began an advance into central Europe. Mohammed II shocked Christian Europe when he finally succeeded in overcoming the massive fortificatiins of Constantinople and took the surrounded city (1453). This ended nearly 1,000 years of Byzantine history. Suleiman the Magnificent seized Belgrade (1521). The Ottomons then destroyed the Hungarian kingdom by killing the last Hungarian king at the battle of Mohacs (1526). (The crown passed to the Hapsburgs.) This in effect surrounded the principalitities of Moldavia and Wallachia. They were forced to recognize the suzerainty of the Ottoman sultan, thus becoming a part of the Ottoman Empire. Although the Romanian provinces for three centuries remained within the Ottomon Empire, they were largely autnomous provinces. There were also rebellions and shifts in the status of the principalitiesand by the 19th century Ottomon authority had become nominal.

Autonomy

After the Battle of Mochas, the Ottomans took Buda and turned Hungary into a pashalik (a province governed by a pasha--an official appointed by the Ottomon sultan). Transylvania which had been controlled by the Hungarian crown became a selfruling principality (1541), but like Moldavi and Walachia recognised the suzerainty of the Ottoman sultan. The Romanian provinces, however, were the only Christian principalities to retain their state struture within the Ottoman Empire. This meant they maintained Christianity as the state religion even though they were nomially a part of the Ottoman Empire. It also meant that they maintained their military force as well as their political and administrative systems. These principalities paid tribute to the Ottoman sultan. The Romanian provinces not only bought autonomy with their tribute, but it meant that they were protected from the incroachment from the stronger Christian kingdoms from the west and north. As a result, a small island of Byzantine culture survived in eastern Europe. (This explains in part the importance of the Eastern Orthodox Church and Byzantine cultural traditions in much of Romania while the Catholic Church is stronger in Translvania which was for many years under Hungarian control.)

Michael the Brave (1593-1601)

Michael the Brave became voivode of Wallachia (1593). Michael joined the Christian League inspired by the Papacy to resist the encrochments of the Ottomons into Christian Europe. The Holy Roman Empire was the principal power resising the Ottomans. Majpr battles and the Holy Roman Empire and he succeeded, following heavy battles (Calugareni, Giurgiu) were fought. Michael was able to unite the Romanian provinces for the first time (1599-1600). Michael proclaiming himself 'Prince of Wallachia, Transylvania and the whole of Moldavia.' His principality, however, lasted only a brief period. The aristocracy in the different provinces did not fully support him. In addition the great powers surronding Michael (Austria (the Hapsburgs), Poland, and the Ottomons all had desires on his territiry. Michael was assassinated (1601).

Decline of the Ottomon Empire and Poland

The Ottomanse failed to take Vienna in a major military campaign (1683). The arrival of a Polish army saved the city. This proved to be the highwater-mark of the Ottomons. Naval defeats in the Mediterrean at the hands of the Spanish weakened the Ottomons. The rise of science and industry in Western Europe and failure of the Ottomons to move innovate like the West meant that that their military and economic strength would gradually decline. The first sign of this was the Austrian-Turkish peace treaty of Karlowitz (1699). Under the terms of the treaty, the Austrian Hapsburgs who inherited the Hungaroan crown obtained control over Transylvania which became an autonomous principality within the Hapsburg empire. The Hapsburgs made in a great principality under an appointed governor (1765). At the same time that the Ottomons declined, so did Poland. Poland was divided by three partitions between Austria, Prussia and Russia.

Rise of Russia

Another major development affecting Romania was the rise of a powerful new kingdom to the east--Tsarist Russia. Moscow rose in influence under the Mongols or Tartats as the became known. Ivan achieved independence from the Tartars and successive Tsars expanded the domains of Muscovy. The Russians under Peter the Great (1696-1725) reached the Dniester River. The Deniester became the boundary between Moldavia and Tsarist Russia. This threatened Ottomon rule, but as the Tsars desired to seized the Bosporous and Dardenelles so they could control access to the Mediterrean, it also meant that the Romanian principalities might like the Poles be absorbed into the Russian Empire.

Ottoman reforms (18th century)

The Ottomons had largely allowed Moldavia and Walachia to operate with great autonomy within their empire. This change as pressure from the Russians increased. The Ottomans replaced the former autnomous regimes in Moldavia (1711) and Wallachia (1716) with the Phanariot system. The Greek quarter of Constaninople was Phanar. The sultan recruited Greeks there for important positions in the Greek Orthodix church and as officials in Greece and other areas. These voivodes (governors) were seen as more loyal than local Romanian officials. Observers report that Ottomon economic exploitation increased during this period and corruption became more prevalent. They also report important political and social reforms. The most important was the abolition of serfdom two centuries before that action was taken in Russia. Other attempts at modernization occurred. The Phanariot system did not attempt to undermine domestic autonomy at the local level. Thus Moldavia and Walachia continued to be unique political entities within the Ottomon Empire.

Protracted warfare

Moldavia and Walachia in the 18th and early 19th century pccupied a unique position. Not only were they a unique Christian entity within the Ottomon Empire, they were also located at the point where the three great empires of Eastern Europe touched (Austrian, Ottomon, and Russia. The status of the two provinces was recognized in international treaties such as Kuchuk-Kainargi (1774). Moldavia and Walachia also became a battleground for the contending empires. Austria and Russia engaged the Ottomons in a series of wars: 1710-1711, 1716-1718, 1735-1739, 1768-1774, 1787-1792, 1806-1812, 1828-1829, 1853-1856). The Ottomons would have been expelled earlier, however, the Napoleonic Wars distracted and weakened the two empires for more than two decades. As much of the fighting occurred in what is now Romania, there was considerable loss of like and physical destruction during this period. There were a series of occupations and annexations. Austria annexed Oltenia (1718-93) and Northern Moldavia which they called Bukovina (1775-1918). The Russians following the Russian-Turkish war (1806-1812, annexed eastern Moldavia, the land between the Prut and Dniester rivers, which they later called Bessarabia (1812-1918). Bukovina and Bessarabia continued to be contested territories in the 20th century. The final outcome is yet to be settled. Bessarabia is today a frament of the old Soviet Empire called Moldavia. While nominally independent, the Russians maintain trrops there.

Failed Liberation War and Revolution

The modern Romanian morarchy grew out of the wars of liberation conducted by two interelated conflicts. The first was the wars between Austria, the Ittmons, and Russia for control of the Balkans. The other was the struggle of the Romanians and other Balkan Christian people with the Ottoman Empire. The "Panduri" Revolution led by Tudor Vladimirescu in 1821 spread out all over Wallachia at the same time as the the Greek movement for Independence (Eteria). Even though the Revolution was suppressed by the Ottomons with great brutality and Tudor Vladimirescu killed by his Greek allies, it can be considered as a success. Following the Revolution, the Ottoman Sultan stopped appointing Phanariot Greeks as govenors (Voievozi) in Moldavia and Walachia.

The Russian-Ottoman war (1828-29)

The Russian-Ottoman war (1828-29) considerably reduced Ottomon influence in the Balkans while strenthening Austrian (Habsbourg) and Russian influence. As a result, new innovative western ideas, currents and concepts were introduced in Romania and other provinces of the Ottoman Empire.

Revolutions of 1848

Expanding European influence mean that the 1848 Revolutions in Western Europe inspired similar outbreaks in Eastern Europe. Events proceeded differently in the three Romanian provinces. In Transylvania, the most active revolutionaries were Simion Barnutiu and Avram Iancu (who was the leader of the resistance against the Habsbourgic troups sent in to reinstate "order and discipline"). In Wallachia Nicolae Balcescu was the spiritual leader of the revolution. In Moldavia, the most famous leader was Mihail Kogalniceanu. These spiritual leaders brought both new ideas about liberty and human rights and also new life into the old dream of Michael the Brave--a unified, independent Romanian State. After they were exiled, they continued the struggle for an independent Romanian state.

Crimean War (1854-56)

The declining Ottomon Empire came to be called "The Sick Man of Europe". It might have collapsed in the 19th century had the great powers at the time been able to agree on partition along the lines of the Polish Partitions in the 18th century. Britain and France later supported by Italy and Aystria (but not Perussia) fought te Crimean War to prevent wholesale Russian annexation of Ottoman territory. The Crimean War had a major role in creating modern Romania. Romanian nationalists that had participated in the 1848 revolutions pressed for a Romanian state at the Congress of Paris which ended the Crimean War (1856). As a result of the resulting treaty, the status of the Romanian Principalities was guarateed by the seven signatory powers, the southeastern part of Bassarabia was rejoined with Moldavia, and also local assemblies were allowed to decide on their own future political organisation.

Moden Romania


Prince Cuza (1859-66)

Romanians influenced by Kogalniceanu and other 1848 revolutionaries, Colonel Alexandru Ioan Cuza was elected prince in both Moldavia and Walachia (January 1859). We wa not referred to as king because Romania was still nominally a province within the Ottoman Empire. Prince Cuza attempted to introduce measures designed to modernize Romania on the basis of the Western European model. These measures involved many social and political reforms. Some of his achievements were the law to secularise monastery assets (1863) the Penal Code law, the Civilian Code law (1864), the education law (primary school became tuition free and compulsory--1864). New school and Universities (Iasi and Bucharest) were established. Cuza's reforms were not supported by the powerful local nobility (boieri) who forced him to abdicate (1866).

Carol I (1866-1914)

The nobels were forced the abdication of Prince Cuza were unable to agree among themselves on a replacement for Prince Cuza, they looked to established European Royal families. This created an international issue. After considerable diplomatic discussion, Napoleon III and Bismark agreed on a young German prince--Carol prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (related to the Prussian royal family). He ws approved in a national plebiscite. Thus Carol was proclaimed ruling prince of Romania, with the name of Carol I, (Charles I) (May 10, 1866). Some thought at the time that a Prussian princeling would not be a fortuitous choice, but King Carol I proved to be a successful ruler. King Carol became the first independent modern king of Romania. Carol grew up in Germany and served in the Prussian army. He was appointed Prince of Romania after considerable international discussions while Romania was still nominally a part of the Ottoman Empire. Russia was driving into the Balkans as the Ottoman Empire weakened which concerned the Great Powers. Thus it was finally agreed to install a member of the Catholic branch of the Prussian royal family as Prince of Romania. His father was Charles Anthony Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen who when his son was begame king was made Prince of Romania. I do not yet know who his father was. Carol's mother was Josephine Zähringen. Her father was Karl Ludwig of Baden Zähringen, Grand Duke of Baden (1786- ). Her mother was Vicomtesse Stephanie de Beauharnais (1789- ). Carol became king after the Russians defeated the Ottomans in the Russo-Turkish War and Romania declared its official independence. Romania at the turn of the century was in a period of transition from the predominant feudal relationships to capitalism. Manufacturing and industrialization developed, but the country still remained one predominantly agrarian. The local authorities and "boieri" were reluctant to the wind of change blowing all over Europe, and they were imposing big taxes, wouldn't allow the free of movement between properties, etc. So 1907 marks a very important moment in the Romanian history - "the peasants' riot". Tens of thousands of peasants from all over the country reacted at once. Even though the riot was drown in blood it had beneficial effects on the country, the boiari and local authorieties deciding now that they should change their way of treating peasants. King Carol died in 1914 at the age of 75 at Sinaia, Romania without leaving a male heir.


Figure 1.--Crown Prince Ferndinand and Princess of Romania and three of their children: Prince Carol, Princess Marie, Prince Nicolas And Primcess Elizabeth. The photo was taken in 1906-07. Note that Prince Nicolas still wears a delecate lacey dress like his older sister.

Ferdinand (1914-27)

Ferdinand I (1865-1927) was born Ferdinand Victor Albert Meinrad Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. His parents were Leopold Hohenzollern and Antonia Saxe-Coburg. He was born at Sigmaringen, Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany. He succeeded his uncle Carol I who died without a male heir in 1914. This could not have been a worse time to inherit the throne as it was the year World War I broke out in Europe. Ferdinand married in 1893 at age 27 to Mary Saxe-Coburg, age 17. The children included Carol II (King of Romania), Elizabeth Hohenzollern, Ileana Hohenzollern, Mary Hohenzollern, Mircea Hohenzollern, and Nicholas Hohenzollern. While at first declaring neutrality in World War I, Romania finally joined the Allies in 1916 despite the family relationship to the Germans. Romania suffered some serious defeats during the war, but in the post-war settlement gained territory. King Ferdinand died in 1927 at the age of 62 at Sinaia, Romania.

King Michael I (1927-30)

King Fedinand's eldest son Prince Carol was exposed having an affair. a. The marriage was undone by Carol's affair with Elena "Magda" Lupescu (1895?–1977), the Roman Catholic daughter of a Jewish pharmacist and his Roman Catholic wife. As a result of the ensung scandal, the then Prince Carol renounced his right to the throne (December 28, 1925) in favour of his son by Crown Princess Helen, Michael (Mihai) (1921- ). A very young Prince Michael became King when his grandfather died (July 1927). Prince Michael was only about 6 years old.

Carol II (1939-40)

Carol II (1893-1953) was born Charles Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen at Sinaia, Romania. His father was Ferdinand, King of Romania and his mother Mary Saxe-Coburg. I don't have a great deal of information on Carol. The family was of German origin, the Hohenzollern were the Prussian ruling house and the ruling family of the new German Empire. Presumably the clothes selected for the children reflected the styles commonly worn in Germany. The boys in the Romanian ruling family appear to have worn dresses at least at 3 years of age, perhaps longer. One available image from 1906-07 shows Prince Nicolas, Carol's little brother, in a frilly dress just like his sister (figure 1). Presumably Carol was dressed similarly. The same image shows Prince Carol in sailor suit with a white middy blouse and black pants. Carol mairred three times. The first was in 1918 at age 25 to Joanna Labrina, age 20. The second was in 1921 at age 27 to Helen Oldenburg, age 25. The third was in 1947 at age 54 to Helena Lupescu, age 51. He had two children: with Joanna Labrina --Carol Hohenzollern and with Helen Oldenburg--Michael, King of Romania. After abdicating for a second time in 1940, he died at the age of 59, exiled in Portugal.


Figure 2.--A portrait of King Michael in a portrait taken about 1925-26.

King Michael (1940-47)

King Michael (1921- ) was born Michael Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen at Sinaia, Romania. His father was Carol II and his mother Helen Oldenburg. He was a child king, only 6 years old when he followed his grandfather, King Ferdinand, to the throne in 1927. His uncle, Prince Nicholas, was "senior regent".I remember very little from those years" King Michael recalls. There are mostly just "images". I can remember that my mother was there. (Princess Helen was divorced from King Michael's father, Prince Carol, in 1928). with a Royal Court. Another big mistake was to continue as a king his adolescent passion for a women--Elena Lupescu--instead of forgetting her once he stepped on the throne. In 1927 he abdicated in favor of his son Michael.








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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 3:44 AM 2/19/2009