King Carol I of Romania

by Scott Mehl

photo: Wikipedia

April 20, 1839 – Birth of King Carol I of Romania

King Carol I of Romania was born on April 20, 1839 at Sigmaringen Castle. At the time, he was Prince Karl Eitel Friedrich Zephyrinus Ludwig of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, second son of Karl Anton, The Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Princess Josephine of Baden. His siblings included older brother Leopold, who succeeded their father as head of the Swabian branch of the House of Hohenzollern; older sister Stephanie, who married King Pedro V of Portugal; and younger sister Marie, who married Prince Philippe of Belgium, Count of Flanders. (Marie and Philippe were the parents of King Albert I of the Belgians.) Karl also had two younger brothers, Anton and Friedrich.

When he was 11 years old, his father abdicated as Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, and the principality was annexed by Prussia. Karl embarked on a military career, becoming an officer in the Prussian forces. Due to political unrest in what was then called the Romanian United Principalities, the former Ruling Prince (Domnitor) – Alexander Ioan Cuza – was forced to abdicate in February 1866. Due largely to the familial relationship with the French Emperor Napoleon III and the Prussian monarchs, Karl was elected by the Romanian government to become the new Ruling Prince on April 20, 1866 – his 27th birthday.

Karl arrived in Romania on May 10, 1866, and declared his allegiance to his new country, taking on the more Romanian spelling of his name – Carol. Soon after the country established its first Constitution, and formally changed the name to Romania – beginning the steps toward eventual independence from the Ottoman Empire.

On November 15, 1869, in Neuwied, Prince Carol married Princess Elisabeth of Wied. The couple would have just one child, a daughter Maria (born 1870) who died of scarlet fever in 1874.

In the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, Romania declared independence from the Ottoman Empire and joined forces with Russia. The following year, Romania was formally established as an independent nation under the Treaty of Berlin. Three years later, on March 15, 1881, the Romanian parliament declared Romania a Kingdom, and Karl became King Carol I. His coronation was held on May 10, 1881, the 15th anniversary of his arrival in Romania. He was crowned with the Steel Crown, made from the steel of a cannon captured from the Ottomans during the Russo-Turkish War.

Following a reign of more than 48 years, King Carol I died on October 10, 1914 in Sinaia. He is buried in the royal crypt at The Curtea de Argeş Cathedral. He was succeeded by his nephew, King Ferdinand I (second son of his elder brother Leopold).

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