Romanian ex-King Michael withdraws from public life due to illness

Wed Mar 2, 2016 4:30pm EST
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BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Former King Michael of Romania will withdraw from public life because of illness at age 94 and will be represented in future by his eldest daughter Margaret, the royal house said on Wednesday.

Michael, a cousin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth, was forced to abdicate in 1947 after the post-war Communist takeover of Romania and has lived in exile in the West for decades.

He recently underwent surgery for leukemia and cancer and will follow a course of treatment that will rule out further public appearances, royal council member Andrew Popper said.

"In the last weeks I have received news of a serious medical diagnosis," Michael said in a statement. "I am certain that my daughter Margaret will find the wisdom and strength to represent me and carry out all my public actions."

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and other politicians expressed concern for Michael’s health and said they hoped his family would continue to embody hope for Romanians.

There is no popular demand for a restoration of the Balkan state's monarchy but Romanians respect Michael as a historic figurehead as they have grown increasingly disillusioned with a political class perceived as corrupt.

Born in 1921 in Peles castle in the Carpathian mountains, Michael as king played a big part in Romania's change of course during World War Two, participating in a 1944 coup against fascist leader Marshal Ion Antonescu, after which Romania broke with Nazi Germany and switched to the Allied side.

After communism collapsed, politicians fearing Michael's influence blocked his first few attempted visits after decades of exile in Switzerland, Britain and the United States.

Michael, also a descendant of Germany's old Hohenzollern dynasty, finally returned to Romania in 1992. Since 2004, he and his wife, Queen Anne, have been living in Aubonne, Switzerland.   Continued...

Romania's former King Michael waves during a ceremony celebrating both his 92nd birthday, which fell on October 25, and his name day at Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest, November 8, 2013.  REUTERS/Bogdan Cristel