by Susan Flantzer
Margarita is the wife of Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, who reigned 1943 – 1946 as a child. Simeon was exiled from Bulgaria as a child, and never formally renounced his claim to the throne, but his wife and children never received titles from Bulgaria. Outside of Bulgaria, Margarita is sometimes styled Tsaritsa Margarita of Bulgaria and while in Bulgaria she is usually styled Margarita Sakskoburggotska. Sakskoburggotska is Bulgarian for Saxe-Coburg- Gotha. The first Tsar of Bulgaria was Simeon’s grandfather Ferdinand of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, whose father was a first cousin of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and her husband Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
Doña Margarita Gómez-Acebo y Cejuela was born on January 6, 1935, in Madrid, Spain. She was the youngest of two children of Don Manuel Gómez-Acebo y Modet and Doña María de las Mercedes Cejuela y Fernández. Margarita’s family was wealthy and her father was a lawyer involved with commercial and banking companies. In 1936, at the start of the Spanish Civil War, Margarita’s parents and her maternal grandmother were arrested by Spanish Republicans and were executed. Because of what happened to their family, Margarita and her brother José Luis received the Medalla de Sufrimientos por la Patria (Medal of Sufferings for the Homeland) (link translated from Spanish).
Orphaned before she was two years old, Margarita, along with her brother José Luis Gómez-Acebo y Cejuela (died 2010) were placed in the care of their paternal grandmother Doña Maragarita Modet y Amalgro. After her death, the two children were placed in the guardianship of two uncles. Margarita is a first cousin of the late Luis Gómez-Acebo y Duque de Estrada, Duke of Badajoz, husband of Infanta Pilar, sister of King Juan Carlos I of Spain.
In 1958, Margarita first met Simeon as he prepared to go to the United States to attend the Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Pennsylvania. When the couple decided to marry, they were faced with some religious issues. Margarita was Roman Catholic and Simeon was Bulgarian Orthodox. The Roman Catholic Church required that the non-Catholic partner must declare in writing that the children of the marriage be baptized as Catholic. Simeon could not follow this rule without violating the Bulgarian constitution. After some roadblocks in solving the problem, the Second Vatican Council began meeting in Rome and one of the issues the Council dealt with was relations between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church. These circumstances largely contributed to the successful outcome of Margarita and Simeon’s case.
On January 20, 1962, the Roman Catholic wedding, the first of the three wedding ceremonies, took place in Lausanne, Switzerland. The civil ceremony conducted by the mayor of Lausanne then took place. The next day relatives and Bulgarians from all over the world met at the beautiful L’église russe (Russian Church) in Vevey, Switzerland for the Orthodox wedding ceremony. At the time, Margarita joked, “It is very hard and almost impossible to dissolve a triple wedding.”
After their marriage, the couple resided in Madrid, Spain where all five of their children were born.
- Kardam, styled HRH The Prince of Tarnovo (born 1962)
- Kyril, styled HRH The Prince of Preslav (born 1964)
- Kubrat, styled HRH The Prince of Panagiurishte (born 1965)
- Konstantin-Assen, styled HRH The Prince of Vidin (born 1967)
- Kalina, styled HRH The Princess Kalina of Bulgaria (born 1972)
In 1996, several years after the fall of the communist regime in Bulgaria, Margarita visited Bulgaria for the first time, accompanied by her husband. Their stays in Bulgaria became more frequent until in 2001 when the former Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria became Prime Minister of Bulgaria when his party won 120 of the 240 seats in Parliament. Since then Margarita and Simeon have lived in Bulgaria. The couple currently resides in what was Simeon’s boyhood home, Vrana Palace, near Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria. Vrana Palace was returned to Simeon and his sister Maria Luisa by the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria in June 1998.