Compression

Regele Mihai I al României

"Attention! Attention!" hawked Rumania's radios. "Here is an important statement!" A pause followed. Then a dry voice spoke: "We, Michael I, King of Rumania, to all those present and those to come, good health!"

Many political changes had taken place in the country during the last years, continued the voice, rendering the monarchy little more than an obstruction in the path of progress. "Consequently," it concluded, "and fully conscious of the importance of the action which we are about to take . . . we abdicate the throne. . . . We give the Rumanian people full freedom to elect its own new form of government."

Thus the world had one king less and one "people's republic" more—though the people had nothing to do with it. Nor was Michael's abdication, as many a U.S. and British sob sister declared, the climax of a lightning-swift and star-crossed romance. The Communists had decided to get rid of Michael long before he met his wistful, willowy Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma.

The Telephone Rang. Last October, Michael's mother, Queen Helen, was summarily commanded to vacate her Banloc villa. Rumania's blowzy, blow-torchy Communist boss and Foreign Minister Ana Pauker, her ruddiest henchmen and Yugoslavia's Tito needed a meeting place. Tito arrived in a private train protected by 1,500 crack troops and a food-taster. The servants in the villa were locked up to insure privacy, and for four days (while Rumania's top Communists rustled their own food and made their own beds) the policymakers discussed Queen Helen's son Michael.

The task was obvious: compression (as Balkan Communists now call the elimination of political undesirables).

One night last week, Michael was preparing for a New Year's party at his palace in Sinaia near Bucharest, when the telephone rang. It was a summons to Bucharest from the king's first minister, Communist stooge Petru Groza, "to discuss important matters." The king set off at 3 a.m., was received in the Villa Elizabeth by Groza and comrades, who handed him an instrument of abdication, complete and ready for the king's signature. Said Michael: "If I refuse to sign you cannot force me." "In that case," replied Groza suavely, "thousands will be arrested. Rumania will be steeped in blood. I am sure Your Majesty does not want such a thing."

"Long Live Our King" 

Michael signed his abdication, and within two hours a special session of Parliament had been called to announce the formation of the Rumanian People's Republic under a tractable five-man "presidential council." It all went so quickly that one member of the new council was not even in town to take his oath of office. Contemporary history's prettiest paradox—a king by the grace of Communism—was ended.

Three years of Communist domination had taught Michael's subjects to release their feelings, if any, in private. So as Michael packed his bags, many a Rumanian wept—at home. The few who cared to join the perfunctory demonstrations celebrating the new republic were equally embarrassed. As Rumania's national anthem begins with the words "Long live our noble King," they had to make do with the Internationale.

Michael, at least, was now quite free to join his Princess Nan. She, last week, startled connoisseurs of royal romance by talking like a modern novel. "When Michael and I met, it was love at first sight," said Nan to reporters in Copenhagen. "I didn't think it could happen to me... Where he goes I will follow."

This week, as a special train carried the newly styled "Prince of Hohenzollern" (on his way to Switzerland) across the River Enns into the U.S. zone of Austria, a member of Michael's entourage fell into the same sanguine idiom. "Now," he sighed happily, "we are on the sunny side of the street again."

Time, Monday, Jan. 12, 1948

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