Romania declares 3 days of mourning after king Michael's death


Bucharest (AFP)

Romania will observe three days of national mourning next week to mark the death of its former king Michael, who was one of the last surviving World War II leaders.

The national flag will be flown at half-staff from December 14-16, which will coincide with the return of his body from Switzerland to the castle north of Bucharest where he was born.

His coffin will then be transferred to throne room at the former Royal Palace in Bucharest, before being buried at Curtea de Arges, where his father Carol II and grandfather Ferdinand are buried.

Michael, who died Tuesday aged 96, had largely withdrawn from public life after announcing last March that he was seriously ill with leukaemia.

But he remained a revered monarch for many Romanians, with candles and flowers being placed outside the Royal Palace as well as at his residence, Elisabeta Palace, in Bucharest.

His death prompted an outpouring of accolades from top officials, with Prime Minister Mihai Tudose calling the former king "a model of morality and dignity".

Michael, a descendant of the German Hohenzollern dynasty, ruled Romania twice, from 1927-1930 and then from 1940-1947, when he led a coup that ousted marshal Ion Antonescu and saw Bucharest join the allied forces against Hitler.

But the postwar communist government ended the monarchy in the Balkan country and Michael was forced to abdicate and go into exile in December 1947.

Stripped of his citizenship, he eventually settled in Switzerland, where he earned a modest living as an aircraft mechanic and farmer.

He finally returned permanently to Romania in 2002.