Romania: Applause greets ex-king's coffin at Royal Palace

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — A coffin carrying the body of Romania's late King Michael I arrived Wednesday at the Royal Palace in Bucharest, where it was met by applause and will lie in state ahead of his funeral this weekend.

The former king, who ruled Romania twice and was forced to abdicate by the communists in 1947, died on Dec. 5 in Switzerland at age 96.

Michael's five daughters and his estranged grandson Nicholas Medforth-Mills, who was stripped of his title in 2015, took part in a Wednesday ceremony at Bucharest's airport, where flags were flown at half-mast.

A military plane transported the coffin, which was covered in the royal coat of arms. Orthodox priests performed a short religious service before the coffin left for Peles Castle in the resort of Sinaia. Michael was born at small palace nearby on Oct. 25, 1921.

President Klaus Iohannis laid a wreath and Prime Minister Mihai Tudose and other government ministers signed the book of condolences and paid their respects.

Later, the coffin was taken to the palace in the capital, on Bucharest's Victory Way. Hundreds of well-wishers applauded and shouted, "King Michael!" and "The monarchy saves Romania."

The royal house said Prince Charles of Britain, King Carl Gustav XVI and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Princess Astrid of Belgium, Grand Duke Henri of Luxembourg and former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain would be among those attending the funeral on Saturday.

Michael, who played a pivotal role in Romania's switch to the Allied cause following a coup in 1944, spent decades in exile working as a chicken farmer and aircraft pilot. He finally got his citizenship back in 1997, eight years after the collapse of communism in Romania.

Earlier, a handful of people paid their respects at the royal palace Wednesday.

Flickering candles, poems, flags and hundreds of flowers — roses, lilies, carnations and poinsettias, symbols of the nation's grief — were placed on the palace railings.

Retired psychologist Aurelia Turcu, 85, said Michael made "a radical contribution to our country's history in WWII and (showed) fantastic courage."

She said the Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen dynasty that ruled Romania from 1866 until Michael's abdication "brought civilization and prosperity to us. I am convinced Romania would have been better with a monarchy."

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