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Antonescu soon established his own pro-German dictatorship, having persuaded Hitler in January 1941 to sanction a massacre of the Iron Guard, which had outlived its usefulness to the Führer.Antonescu agreed to the stationing of about 500,000 German troops on Romanian territory and in June 1941, when Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the puppet Romanian dictator declare his country’s own “holy” war against Bolshevism.Yet none of Carol’s vanity and arrogance rubbed off on his son.Where Carol nourished absurd delusions of grandeur (he had a special button to call the palace elevator, marked “M” for Majesty), the adolescent Michael was timid and unassuming.In November 1938 the British public caught a fleeting glimpse of Michael, then 17, when he accompanied his father on a state visit to London.At Buckingham Palace he met his distant cousins Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, with whom he swapped notes about stamp collecting (the only interest Carol had passed on to him).When King Ferdinand died in July 1927, five-year-old Michael was proclaimed king.

A second visit to Romania in 1994 also had to be aborted.Still only 19, Michael later presented himself as effectively Antonescu’s prisoner during Romania’s alliance with Hitler – he once reluctantly met Hitler for lunch.That version of events was fiercely disputed by his younger half-brother Prince Paul, the son of Carol and Magda Lupescu.Despite his natural diffidence, Michael proved on two occasions that he possessed considerable political courage.In August 1944, he engineered the overthrow of the fascist dictator Ion Antonescu in a royal coup d’état that allowed Romania to defect from the Axis side just as advancing Soviet troops were about to cross the border.