Thousands of mourners say farewell to Romania's King Michael

Thousands of mourners say farewell to Romania's King Michael

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BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — Thousands of Romanians on Thursday paid their respects to King Michael I, whose body is lying in state at the Royal Palace before his funeral this weekend.

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

Mourners arrived late Wednesday and stayed until early Thursday to pay their respects to the king. His coffin stood on a rostrum in a grand room not far from where he ordered the arrest of pro-Nazi leader Marshal Ion Antonescu on Aug. 23, 1944, which took Romania into the war on the side of the Allies.

Outside the palace, there were thousands of candles and flowers, as mourners, many in tears, said farewell to Romania's last king.

Retired medical secretary Gabriela Dumitrache called Michael "a model of morality, dignity and kindness," calling his death "a great loss, it was like losing a parent, my heart and body ached."

Michael, who spent decades in exile working as a chicken farmer and aircraft pilot, finally got his citizenship back in 1997, eight years after the collapse of communism in Romania.

He will be given a state funeral on Saturday attended by members of other European royal families. Among those who will attend are 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, the royal house said.

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