open menu

Photo Gallery (click to enlarge)

The Royal House at Alba Iulia. The story goes on

This topic has a tradition that extends back more than a century. As early as 1915, important political and public circles in Bucharest entertained the project of crowning King Ferdinand I in Alba Iulia. From that time evolved various stages of a relationship between the kings of Romania and the city consecrated by Romantic historiography as the capital of the principalities united by Michael the Brave. These stages have given birth to memorable images and events. We should not overlook the royal exile (1947-1997), a period when the connection between the royal house and the city took refuge in the memory of Romanians. Beyond this grey intermission, the fact that Alba Iulia is a place of reference in the life of Romanian royalty remains a reality.

The memories of King Carol I demonstrate that he was aware regarding the reign of Michael the Brave. However, given the ties with his country of origin, Germany, and with Austro-Hungary, we cannot imagine him cultivating publicly the model of the unifying prince. His nephew and successor, King Ferdinand I, was a different type of monarch however. The entrance of Romania into the First World War and the goal of unification of Transylvania with Romania turned Michael the Brave into an exemplary national hero. Moreover, on 1 December 1918, the Great National Assembly took place in Alba Iulia, the brief, but memorable capital of Michael the Brave. After visiting the Romanian troops fighting on the Tisza front, King Ferdinand included Alba Iulia among the cities to visit during his return journey. On 30 May 1919, the automobile carrying King Ferdinand and Queen Mary, passing through the three western gates, entered the Fortress. The sovereigns visited Unification Hall and watched a folkloric train whose goal was to familiarize the royal family with the habitus, customs, and feelings of their new subjects.

The royal family was again present in Alba Iulia on 27 April 1921, when the king and queen visited the construction site of the church of coronation. However, their great historical moment in Alba Iulia took place on 15 October 1922 and consisted in the coronation ceremony, which shall be dealt with in another section of this series of stories and images.

Eight years later, while prime-minister, Iuliu Maniu took over responsibility for the organization of the first national festivities celebrating ten years since the Unification. King Ferdinand, who deserved the gratitude of the nation for events between 1916 and 1919, had died two years earlier.

A massive presence of members of the royal house was a way of compensating, to some degree, for the absence of the defunct sovereign. On the morning of 20 May 1929, King Michael I, at that moment less than eight years old, Helen, the queen mother, Queen Mary of Yugoslavia, former Princess of Romania, Prince Nicholas and Princess Ileana descended from the royal train in Alba Iulia railway station. The most distinguished representative of the Royal House was Queen Mary.

Carol II, who was put on the throne on 8 June 1930, granted his son, whom he had just deposed, the compensating title of Great Voivode of Alba Iulia. Although this ceremonial invention did not become a custom of the Royal House, later King Michael did not forget that his name was associated with that of the Unification city. The Unification festivities were usually marked by whichever regime was organizing the ceremonies. The celebrations held on 1 December 1939 were marked by the cult of personality of King Charles II and by the world war that had started a few months earlier.

Then, there intervened a sort of freezing of the relationship between the royal house and Alba Iulia. At the end of the Second World War, the Communist regime was imposed upon the country. After the so-called abdication of King Michael, on 30 December 1947, he was subject of a plot of oblivion, so much so that after some years uninformed adults and most children did not know if the king was still alive.

The thaw took place only after 1989, and even then was a gradual and difficult process. In 1994 Queen Anna became the first representative of the Royal House to visit Alba Iulia in the post-Communist era. Andrei, the Orthodox Bishop of Alba Iulia and György Jakubini, Roman-Catholic Bishop of Alba Iulia hosted her during this visit. In October 1997, King Michael came back to Alba Iulia after 70 years, accompanied by Queen Ana, in order to participate at the celebration of 75 years since his coronation. Ten years later, on 23 December 2007, in the Hall of Unification, the king received the title of honorary citizen of Alba Iulia. From 7-8 April 2007 this connection took on a more profoundly spiritual meaning through the participation of the king and queen in the Resurrection service celebrated in the Coronation Cathedral. During the following years, this Easter pilgrimage to Alba Iulia was continued by Princess Margareta and Prince Radu, and later still by Prince Nicolae.

An exceptional event took place on 15 October 2012: the 90th anniversary of the coronation. That was the moment when, after many decades, the royal train came back in order to bring Princess Margareta, Prince Radu, and Prince Nicolae. The high point was the visit to an exposition in the Hall of Unification presenting, among other valuable objects, the royal crowns from 1922, the mantles worn then by the sovereigns, and the golden mace of King Ferdinand.

It is superfluous to add that without the efforts and support of the ecclesiastic hierarchs and administrative local authorities we would not be able to talk today about this as a continuing history. (V.M.)