Thousands of mourners say farewell to Romania’s anti-Nazi king
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Thousands of mourners say farewell to Romania’s anti-Nazi king

Michael I ordered the arrest of pro-fascist leader Marshal Ion Antonescu in 1944, taking the Eastern European country into WWII on the side of the Allies

A woman pays her last respects next to the coffin of the late Romanian King Michael at the former royal palace, in Bucharest, Romania, December 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)
A woman pays her last respects next to the coffin of the late Romanian King Michael at the former royal palace, in Bucharest, Romania, December 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST, Romania — 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 December 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 August 23, 1944, which took Romania into the war on the side of the Allies.

Romania’s former King Michael I at the Elisabeta Palace in Bucharest, Romania. November 19, 2014. (AP Photo/Octav Ganea, File)

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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