by Scott Mehl
King Carol II of Romania
- Princess Elisabeta, Queen of the Hellenes (1894) – married King George II of the Hellenes, no issue (divorced)
- Princess Marie, Queen of Yugoslavia (1900) – married King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, had issue
- Prince Nicholas (1903) – married (1) Ioana Doletti, no issue; (2) Thereza Lisboa Figueira de Mello, no issue
- Princess Ileana, Archduchess of Austria (1909) – married (1) Archduke Anton of Austria-Tuscany, had issue (divorced); (2) Dr. Stefan Issarescu, no issue
- Prince Mircea (1913) – died as a child
King Carol II was the first King of Romania to be born in Romania, and the first member of the Romanian royal family to be brought up in the Orthodox faith. His predecessors were both born in Germany, and had been permitted to remain members of the Roman Catholic church.
From a very early age, Carol was raised primarily by his great-uncle and aunt, King Carol I and Queen Elisabeth. The King felt that Carol’s parents were unable to raise their son in a proper way. Ferdinand and Marie were young, and Marie had already had several affairs which contrasted with the strict moral attitudes of the King. The result was a virtual tug-of-war between Carol’s parents and the King and Queen, which left him, according to one historian, “both spoiled and deprived of love.”
Despite the King’s efforts to raise Carol in his own militaristic image, the young prince soon found that he preferred to spend his time chasing women and partying with his friends. By the time he was 19, he had already fathered two illegitimate children. In 1913, the King had him commissioned in the Prussian Guards, in hopes of curbing his hedonistic lifestyle. He later took his seat in the Romanian Senate upon reaching his maturity.
On August 31, 1918, Carol married Joanna “Zizi” Lambrino, the daughter of a Romanian general, at the Cathedral Church of Odessa, Ukraine. The marriage had not been sanctioned by the King, nor was it welcomed by the Romanian people. The marriage was annulled seven months later, by the couple continued to live together, and the following year, in January 1920, they had a son – Mircea Gregor Carol Lambrino (later known as Prince Mircea Grigore Carol of Romania).
Arranged to help form an alliance between Romania and Greece, the marriage was never a happy one, and the two of them were horribly mismatched. Helen was very aristocratic and refined, while Carol continued his partying ways and indulged in numerous affairs. In 1925, he began a relationship with Elena “Magda” Lupescu. She was the daughter of Jewish parents, but had been raised Roman Catholic, as her mother had converted in her youth. (Her father had converted to Orthodoxy.) Magda had married a Romanian army officer in 1919, but was later divorced. It is speculated that she was still married when she first met Carol in 1923, but this is uncertain. Other sources state her divorce took place in 1920.
Carol made no efforts to hide his affair, and it quickly caused great controversy in Romania. Knowing that the Romanian constitution barred him from marrying her, on December 28,1925, Carol renounced his rights to the Romanian throne. Once ratified by the parliament, this left his son, Mihai, as heir-apparent.
On July 20, 1927, King Ferdinand died, and Mihai became King of Romania at just six years old. Several months later, Carol asked Helen for a divorce. After initially refusing, she was later advised to agree and their marriage was formally dissolved on June 21, 1928.
In early June 1930, Carol quietly returned to Romania to negotiate with the Prime Minister for his return to the throne. On June 7th, following a coup, Carol’s early renunciation was voided, and he was restored as King of Romania, replacing his young son. Despite taking an oath to uphold the 1923 Constitution, King Carol had no intention of doing so. From the beginning, he attempted to increase his powers, with the intent of establishing a dictatorship. In a reign riddled with political in-fighting, Carol often pitted the political parties against each other, for his own gains.
After discovering a plan to bring the anti-Semitic party into power, King Carol suspended the constitution on February 10, 1938, proclaiming martial law and suspending civil liberties. He dismissed the Prime Minister and appointed the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church as his replacement. With the fear of impending war, King Carol tried to play both sides of the fence. He appealed to Britain for help, offering to place Romania under their economic influence, while also visiting Hitler in Germany, attempting to improve relations between the two countries. At the onset of war, Carol declared neutrality, violating both the 1921 treaty with Poland and the 1926 treaty with France. It wasn’t until May 1940, seeing that France was losing the battle, that Carol aligned with the Axis powers.
The following month, he was forced to cede several regions to the Soviet Union, knowing that the Romanian forces were no match for the Red Army. Further land was lost in August 1940, as a result of the Second Vienna Award. With no support from the Romanian people, and the Romanian forces refusing to follow his orders, King Carol II was forced to abdicate on September 6, 1940 in favor of his son, Mihai.
Carol went into exile, settling in Mexico with Magda Lupescu. They bought a home in Mexico City, where he attempted to organize a movement to overthrow General Antonescu. Several attempts to regain the throne failed, as he had no political support.
Carol and Magda moved to Brazil in 1944, where they married on June 3, 1947. They soon moved to Estoril, Portugal, where he would live in exile for the remainder of his life. King Carol II died suddenly of a heart attack on April 4, 1953 in Estoril. His remains were placed in the Royal Pantheon of the House of Braganza, at the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora in Lisbon. He was joined by his wife Magda after her death 24 years later. In 2003, their remains were brought back to Romania and buried in a chapel outside the Curtea de Argeş Monastery. His son, King Mihai, who had not seen his father since 1940, did not attend.