Michael came to power as a 5-year-old child when his grandfather, King Ferdinand I, died in 1927. (Michael's father, Carol II, had renounced the throne two years prior to elope with his mistress, earning the nickname "The Playboy King" as a result). The boy-king's first reign was short; Carol II reclaimed the crown when Michael was 8-years-old. But Carol was forced out in 1940 by fascist dictator Ion Antonesc. Although Michael had his title back, he was essentially a prisoner of the new military government, which was overthrown in 1944.
Michael's victory over Antonesc's fascist regime did not last long. After World War II, a wave of Stalin-led communism crept into Romania and, in 1947, Michael was forced at gunpoint to abdicate the thrown. Soon after, he fled to Switzerland, where he worked as a test pilot for the aviation company Learjet and later for a U.S. brokerage firm. In 2000, Romania's Parliament granted him the right to reside in the country's royal palace for as long as he lives, though he continues to spend most of his time in his adopted country of Switzerland. Michael remains popular in Romania, drawing crowds of nearly half a million supporters during a trip to his homeland in 1992.
Royal Factoid: Michael is the last living head of state who ruled during World War II; he once lunched with Adolf Hitler. Like former King Constantine II of Greece, Michael is related to the Windsor family he is the great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria and a third cousin of Queen Elizabeth II.
"Has my name changed? Why do you call me 'Majesty'?"
Michael, quoted at the age of 5 in a 1927 cover story in TIME magazine
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