Carol I of Romania

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Carol I
Prince of Romania (until 1881)
King of the Romanians (since 1881)
Image:Carol I of Romania.jpg
Reign 10 May, 1866 - 27 September/10 October 1914
Full name Karl Eitel Friedrich Zephyrinus Ludwig von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
Born April 20, 1839
Sigmaringen, Germany
Died 27 September/10 October 1914
Sinaia, Romania
Buried Curtea de Argeş, Romania
Predecessor Alexandru Ioan Cuza (Domnitor)
Heir-Apparent Ferdinand I
Successor Ferdinand I
Consort Queen Elisabeth (Elisabeth of Wied)
Issue Princess Maria
Royal House House of Romania
Dynasty Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
Father Prince Karl Anton of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
Mother Princess Josephine of Baden

Carol I of Romania, original name Prince Karl Eitel Friedrich Zephyrinus Ludwig von Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen (April 20, 1839 - September 27/October 10, 1914), German prince, was elected Domnitor (prince) of Romania in April 1866 following the overthrow of Alexander John Cuza (name in Romanian: Alexandru Ioan Cuza), and proclaimed king on March 26, 1881. He was the first ruler of the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty which would rule the country until the proclamation of a republic in 1947.

During his reign, he personally led Romanian troops during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 and assumed command of the Russo/Romanian army during the siege of Pleven. The country achieved full independence from the Ottoman Empire (Treaty of Berlin, 1878) and acquired the southern part of the Dobruja from Bulgaria in 1913. Domestic political life, still dominated by the country's wealthy landowning families organised around the rival Liberal and Conservative parties, was punctuated by two widespread peasant uprisings, in Walachia (the southern half of the country) in April 1888 and in Moldavia (the northern half) in March 1907.

He married Elisabeth of Wied in 1869. They only had one daughter, Maria, who died aged three.

Carol's childlessness left his elder brother Leopold next in line to the throne. In October 1880 Leopold renounced his right of succession in favour of his son William, who in turn surrendered his claim eight years later in favour of his younger brother, the future king Ferdinand.


[edit] Early life

Carol was born in Sigmaringen as Prince Karl von Hohenzollern Sigmaringen. He was the second son of Karl Anton, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and his wife, princess Josephine. After finishing his elementary studies, Karl entered the Cadet School in Münster. In 1857 he was attending the courses of the Artillery School in Berlin. Up to 1866 (when he accepted the crown of Romania) he was a German officer. He took part in the Second War of Schleswig, particularly at the assault of the Fredericia citadel and Dybbøl, experience which will be very useful to him later on in the Russian-Turkish war.

Although he was quite frail and not very tall, prince Karl was reported to be the perfect soldier, healthy, disciplined, and also a very good politician with liberal ideas. He was familiar with several European languages. His family being closely related to the Bonaparte family (one of his grandmothers was a Beauharnais and the other a Murat), they enjoyed very good relations with Napoleon III of France. Romania was, at the time, under the influence of French culture and Napoleon's recommendation of Prince Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen weighed heavy in the eyes of Romanian politicians of the time, as did his blood relation to the ruling Prussian family. Ion Brătianu was the Romanian politician sent to negotiate with Karl and his family the possibility of installing Karl on the Romanian throne.

[edit] On the way to Romania

House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen

Carol I
Queen Consort
   Princess Maria
Ferdinand I
Queen Consort
   Prince Carol
   Elisabeth, Queen of Greece
   Marie, Queen of Yugoslavia
   Prince Nicholas
   Ileana, Archduchess of Austria
   Prince Mircea
Carol II
Queen Consort
   Prince Michael
Michael I
Queen Consort
   Princess Margarita
   Princess Elena
   Princess Irina
   Princess Sophie
   Princess Maria

Styles of
King Carol I of Romania
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir

The former Romanian ruler, Alexander John Cuza, had been banished from the country and Romania was in chaos. Since his double election had been the only reason the two Romanian countries (Wallachia and the Principality of Moldavia) were allowed to unite by the European powers of the time, the country was in danger of dissolving.

Young Karl had to travel incognito on the railroad Düsseldorf-Bonn-Freiburg-Zürich-Vienna-Budapest, due to the conflict between his country and the Austrian Empire. He travelled under the name of Karl Hettingen. As he stepped on Romanian soil, Brătianu bowed before him and asked him to join him in the carriage (at that time, Romania didn't have a railroad system).

On May 10, 1866, Karl entered Bucharest. The news of his arrival had been transmitted through telegraph and he was welcomed by a huge crowd eager to see its new ruler. In Băneasa he was handed the key to the city. As a proverbial sign, on the same day it had rained for the first time in a long period of time. He pledged his oath in French: "I swear to guard the laws of Romania, to maintain its rights and the integrity of its territory".

[edit] The Constitution

Immediately after arriving in the country, the Romanian parliament adopted, on the 29th of June 1866, the first Constitution of Romania, one of the most advanced constitutions of its time. This constitution allowed the development and modernization of the Romanian state. In a daring move, the Constitution chose to ignore the country's current dependence on the Ottoman Empire, which paved the way for Independence.

Article 82 said "The ruler's powers are hereditary, starting directly from His Majesty, prince Carol I of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, on male line through the right of first-born, with the exclusion of women and their issue. His Majesty's descendants will be raised in the Eastern Orthodox Religion."

After the proclamation of the Independence (1877), Romania became a kingdom. On the 15th of March 1881, the Constitution was modified to state, among other things, that from then on the head of state would be called king, while the heir would be called royal prince.

The basic idea of all the royalist constitutions in Romania was that the King rules without governing.

[edit] A devoted King

King Carol was reported to be a cold person. He was permanently concerned with the prestige of the dynasty he had founded. His wife, Elizabeth, claimed he 'wore the crown in his sleep'. He was very meticulous and he tried to impose his style upon everyone that surrounded him. Though he was devoted to his job as a Romanian prince and king, he never forgot his German roots.

In 48 years of rule (the longest rule any Romanian principality has ever known), he helped Romania gain its independence, he raised its prestige, he helped redress its economy and he established a dynasty. In the Carpathian mountains, he built Peleş Castle, still one of Romania's most visited touristic attractions. The castle was built in German style, as a reminder of the king's origin. Also, during his rule the first Romanian universities were built, in Iaşi and Bucharest respectively. After the Russo-Turkish war, Romania gained Dobruja and Carol ordered the first bridge over the Danube, between Feteşti and Cernavodă, linking the new acquired province to the rest of the country.

[edit] The end of the reign

The long rule of Carol helped the quick development of the Romanian state. But, towards the end of his reign and the start of the World War I, the German-born king wanted to enter the war on the side of the Central Powers, while Romanian public opinion sided with the Triple Entente. Carol had signed a secret treaty in 1883 which had linked Romania with the Triple Alliance (1882) and although the treaty was to be activated only in case of attack from Imperial Russia towards one of the treaty's members, Carol was convinced that the honourable thing to do was to enter the war supporting the German Empire.

An emergency meeting was held with members of the government where Carol told them about the secret treaty and shared his opinion with them. The strong disagreement he faced is said to have brought on his sudden death on the 27th of September/10th of October 1914. The future King Ferdinand, under the influence of his wife, Marie of Edinburgh, a British princess, was more willing to listen to public opinion.

[edit] Life and family

King Carol I (right) and Queen Elizabeth of Romania

When he was elected prince of Romania, Carol was not married and, according to the Romanian Constitution he himself had approved, he was not allowed to marry a woman of Romanian origin. In 1869, the prince started a trip around Europe and mainly Germany, to find a bride. During this trip he met and married princess Elizabeth of Wied. Their marriage was one of the most unfitted matches in history, with Carol being a cold and calculated man while Elizabeth was a notorious dreamer. They had one child, Princess Maria, born in 1871, who died on the 24th of March 1874. This led to the further estrangement of the royal couple, Elizabeth never completely recovering from the trauma of losing her only child.

After the proclamation of the Kingdom (1881), the succession was a very important matter of state. Since Carol's brother, Leopold, and his oldest son, William, declined their rights, the second son of Leopold, Ferdinand, was named prince of Romania and heir to the throne. Elizabeth tried to influence the young prince into marrying her favorite lady in waiting, Elena Văcărescu. According to the Romanian constitution, though, the heir was forbidden from marrying a Romanian. As a result of the affair, Elizabeth was exiled for two years, till after Ferdinand's marriage to Princess Marie of Edinburgh.

Towards the end of their lives, though, Carol and Elizabeth finally found a way to understand each other and were reported to have become good friends.


Boris Crǎciun - "Regii şi Reginele României", Editura Porţile Orientului, Iaşi

House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen

Born: April 20 1839; Died: October 10 1914

Regnal Titles
Preceded by:
Alexander John Cuza
Prince of Romania
Became King
New Title King of Romania
Succeeded by:

bg:Карол I (Румъния) ca:Carles I de Romania de:Carol I. (Rumänien) et:Carol I fr:Charles Ier de Roumanie hu:I. Károly román király ja:カロル1世 (ルーマニア王) ko:루마니아의 카롤 1세 nl:Carol I van Roemenië ro:Carol I al României sv:Carol I av Rumänien zh:卡罗尔一世 (罗马尼亚)

Carol I of Romania

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