The royal did not set foot into the country she was queen of until age 70

By Diana Pearl
August 02, 2016 11:30 AM
Keystone-France/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Anne of Romania was not your typical queen.

The royal, who died Monday, didn’t speak her country’s language. And it took 44 years into her “reign” for her to make it inside Romanian borders.

Born Princess Anne Antoinette Françoise Charlotte Bourbon-Parma in 1923, she had family ties to nearly every royal family in Europe, including the British, the Russian, the French and the Danish. She was the daughter of Prince René of Bourbon-Parma and Princess Margarethe of Denmark, and spent her childhood hopping between Italy, Denmark and France until Germany invaded the latter during World War II, after which, she and her family relocated to New York.

There, in war time, their royal bloodlines didn’t carry the same kind of cache they did in France. Her father worked for a domestic gas company, her mother made hats and Anne spent time working as an assistant in a shop.

That position was temporary, as she later enlisted in the French Free Army as an ambulance driver. In the war, she served in North Africa, Italy, and the South of France. She was even awarded the prestigious Croix de Guerre – the Cross of War – for her service.

It was after the war ended that Anne’s next step really started: At the wedding of Queen Elizabeth (then Princess Elizabeth) and Prince Philip, she met King Michael of Romania, her future husband. The Telegraph reports that Michael was instantly smitten with her, and proposed within days.

Anne, however, was not so easily swayed: She declined at first, saying that she didn’t know him well enough yet. That didn’t do much to deter Michael, who invited Anne to come to Switzerland with him and his mother, where she accepted his proposal, 16 days after their first meeting.

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But their engagment was hardly blissful. Weeks after their engagement, Michael had a meeting with Communist leader Petru Groza, thinking it would be to discuss his marriage, which needed the approval of the Romanian Parliament. He was wrong: Instead, Groza forced the king to abdicate, and he fled to Switzerland.

King Michael and Queen Anne with two of their daughters
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That was only the first of their issues on the way to the altar. Anne was initially led to believe that Michael abdicated over the marriage, and the two were separated for over a month. Their families clashed over religion (Michael was Orthdox and Anne was Catholic), even going so far as to get the Pope involved. These tensions led to press attention, some of it cruel.

Despite it all, they married on June 10, 1948 in Athens, by an Orthodox priest, even though Anne’s Catholic parents could not attend the ceremony. Nearly 20 years later, in 1966, Anne was able to marry Michael in a Catholic ceremony when she discovered that the church had become less rigid with their requirements. She learned this was possible after meeting with Princess Grace of Monaco.

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Exiled from the country he once ruled, Michael and his new wife were forced to live elsewhere. First, they relocated to England, where they rented a house and ran a ill-fated poultry farm. Then, they moved to Versoix, Switzerland, located on Lake Geneva. It was there that they raised their five daughters: Margarita, Elena, Irina, Sophie and Marie.

In 1989, after over 40 years of exile, the revolution brought the Soviet Union crashing down. Michael was finally able to return to his home country, and Anne was able to finally set foot in the country of which she technically still was queen.

King Michael and Queen Anne returning to Romania
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They were there for just three days, and then in 1993, Michael was barred entry again. Anne, however, was not, and was able to visit the country in her husband’s place. The restrictions were lifted in 1997, and they were able to return to Romania with much more frequency. Within a few years, they even had some of the royal family’s properties, such as the Savarsin and Peles Castles, returned to them. In 2008, the country held a three-day-long celebration of their 60-year diamond wedding anniversary.

Anne died at 1:45 p.m. on August 1, and is survived by her husband and three daughters. Despite the brief amount of time she spent in Romania, Anne will be buried there, at the New Cathedral of Curtea de Arges, after her body is kept for a day at the Royal Palace in Bucharest and another at Peles Castle.