BUCHAREST – Thousands of Romanians gathered in the country’s capital Bucharest on Saturday to bid a final farewell to the former king of the southeastern European nation, who died last week at the age of 96 in Switzerland following a long illness.
Some 30,000 people have visited the throne room of the Royal Palace since Wednesday, where the mortal remains of King Michael I, Romania’s last monarch, have lain in state.
Saturday’s religious and military ceremonies are expected to draw thousands more to the square outside the palace, which currently houses the National Museum of Art.
From there, a procession is to take the late king to the Patriarchal Cathedral in Bucharest, where he is to receive a state funeral ceremony according to Orthodox Christian tradition.
Michael I, who was forced to abdicate in 1947 under the Communist regime, died on Dec. 5 at his residence in Switzerland, after suffering from skin cancer and leukemia.
His remains are later to be interred at the Curtea de Arges Royal Cathedral, some 155 kilometers (96 miles) to the north of Bucharest, next to his wife, Ana de Borbón-Parma (d. 2016).
Joining in the solemn ceremonies are the emeritus King and Queen of Spain, Juan Carlos I and Sofia; the King and Queen of Sweden, Carlos Gustavo XVI and Silvia; and Charles, Prince of Wales, among others.
The Orthodox Church announced that, during the ceremony, the bells of all the churches are to be rung simultaneously across the country.
Romania became a republic after the abdication of Michael I, who ruled from 1927-1930 and again between 1940 and 1947.
He was able to return to Romania in 1997, eight years after the fall of the communist regime, and recovered some of his heritage.