Ferdinand I
Ferdinand I of Romania
King of the Romanians
Reign 10 October 1914 – 1 December 1918
Predecessor Carol I
Successor Carol II
Spouse Marie of Edinburgh
Full name
Ferdinand Viktor Albert Meinrad
House House of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
Father Leopold of Hohenzollern
Mother Antónia of Braganza
Born 24 August 1865
Sigmaringen, Prussia Flag of the Kingdom of Prussia (1803-1892).svg
Died 20 July 1927 (aged 61)
Eastwell Park, United Kingdom Flag of the United Kingdom.svg
Religion Roman Catholicism

Ferdinand I (Ferdinand Viktor Albert Meinrad; 24 August 1865 – 20 July 1927) was King of the Romanians from 10 October 1914 until his abdication in 1918.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Born in Sigmaringen in southwestern Germany, the Roman Catholic Prince Ferdinand Viktor Albert Meinrad of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen. The name was later shortened simply to Hohenzollern. Within his family, he was called Nando.

Ferdinand I was the son of Leopold, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen and Infanta Antónia of Portugal (1845–1913), daughter of Queen Maria II and King Ferdinand II, a Prince of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and heir to the Slovakian-originated Hungarian magnates of Kohary on his mother's side.

Following the renunciations, first of his father in 1880 and then of his elder brother Prince Wilhelm of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen in 1886, young Ferdinand became the heir-presumptive to the throne of his childless uncle, King Carol I of Romania, who would reign until his death in October 1914. In 1889, the Romanian parliament recognized Ferdinand as a prince of Romania. The Romanian government did not require his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy from Catholicism, as was the common practice prior to this date, thus allowing him to continue with his born creed, but it was required that his children be raised Orthodox, then the state religion of Romania. For agreeing to this, Ferdinand was excommunicated from the Catholic Church, although this was later lifted.

Ferdinand's mother's first cousin Tsar Ferdinand I of Bulgaria sat on the throne of the neighbouring Bulgaria beginning in 1887 and was to become the greatest opponent of the kingdom of his Romanian cousins. The neighboring Emperor Francis Joseph, monarch of Austria-Hungary and as such, ruler of Transylvania, was Ferdinand's grandmother's first cousin.

Ferdinand, a complete stranger in his new home, started to get close to one of Queen Elisabeth's ladies in waiting, Elena Văcărescu. Elisabeth, very close to Elena herself, encouraged the romance, although she was perfectly aware of the fact that a marriage between the two was forbidden by the Romanian constitution (according to the 1866 Constitution of Romania, the heir-presumptive to the throne was not allowed to marry a Romanian).

The affair caused a sort of dynastic crisis, in 1891. The result of this was the exile of both Elisabeth (in Neuwied) and Elena (in Paris), as well as a trip by Ferdinand through Europe in search of a suitable bride, whom he eventually found in Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Marie of Edinburgh.

Marriage[edit | edit source]

In Sigmaringen on 10 January 1893, Prince Ferdinand of Romania married his distant cousin, the Lutheran Princess Marie of Edinburgh, daughter of Anglican Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh and the Orthodox Grand Duchess Marie Alexandrovna of Russia. Marie and Ferdinand were third cousins in descent from Franz Frederick Anton, Duke of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld. Marie's paternal grandparents were Victoria of the United Kingdom and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Her maternal grandparents were Alexander II of Russia and Marie of Hesse and by Rhine. The reigning Emperor of the neighbouring Russia, at the time of the marriage was Marie's uncle, Tsar Alexander III, who would be succeeded by his eldest son, Marie's cousin, Nicholas II, the following year.

The marriage produced 3 sons: Carol, Nicholas and Mircea (one of whom, Mircea, died in infancy) and 3 daughters: Elisabeta, Maria (Mignon) and Ileana. The marriage was unhappy and the couple's two youngest children, Ileana and Mircea, are generally acknowledged to have been sired by Marie's long-time lover, Barbu Știrbey.

King of the Romanians[edit | edit source]

Ferdinand succeeded his uncle on the latter's death (Carol I died without surviving issue) as King of Romania on 10 October 1914, reigning until he was pressured to abdicate on 1 December 1918.

He was the 1,174th Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece in Austria in 1909 and the 868th Knight of the Order of the Garter in 1924.

World War I[edit | edit source]

Though a member of a cadet branch of Germany's ruling Hohenzollern imperial family, Ferdinand presided over his country's entry into World War I on the side of the Triple Entente powers against the Central Powers on 27 August 1916. Thus he gained the nickname the Loyal, respecting his oath when sworn in before the Romanian Parliament in 1914: 'I will reign as a good Romanian'.

Wilhelm and Ferdinand (British World War I poster)

As a consequence of this "betrayal" toward his German roots, Kaiser Wilhelm II had Ferdinand's name erased from the Hohenzollern House register.

Despite the setbacks after the entry into war, when Dobruja and Wallachia were occupied by the Central Powers, Romania fought in 1917 and stopped the German advance into Moldavia. When the Bolsheviks sued for peace in 1918, Romania was surrounded by the Central Powers and forced to conclude the Treaty of Bucharest, 1918. However, Ferdinand refused to sign the treaty. Even when the Allied forces collapsed on the Thessaloniki front, which knocked Greece out of the war and crushed the Serbian Army, Ferdinand still refused to sign. Forced under government and subsequently Austro-Hungarian, Bulgarian, and German pressure to surrender parts of his kingdom to foreign rule, he was finally outmaneuvered by the pro-German administration of Alexandru Marghiloman, and abdicated in favour of his eldest son in December 1918.

The outcome of Romania's war effort was the union of Bessarabia with the Kingdom of Romania, but loss of Southern Dobruja to Bulgaria and the Carpathian Mountain passes to Austria-Hungary in 1918.

After the war[edit | edit source]

After his abdication, Ferdinand went into exile to the United Kingdom at the invitation of Queen Marie's cousin George V. Initially settling in London but moved to his wife's childhood home in Eastwell Manor. Although he abdicated, he was still adressed as King of the Romanians in various cyrcles out and inside Romania.

Ferdinand died in Eastwell in 1927. At the request of the government of Ion I. C. Brătianu his remains were returned to Romania. Ferdinand was given a state funeral and buried in Curtea de Argeș Cathedral.

Titles, styles and honours[edit | edit source]

Monarchical styles of
Ferdinand I of Romania
Kingdom of Romania - Big CoA.svg
Reference style His Majesty
Spoken style Your Majesty
Alternative style Sir
  • 24 August 1865 – 16 September 1886: His Serene Highness Prince Ferdinand of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
  • 16 September 1886 – 10 October 1914: His Royal Highness Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen
  • 10 October 1914 – 1 December 1918: His Majesty The King of the Romanians
  • 1 December 1918 – 20 July 1927: His Majesty King Ferdinand I of Romania, Prince of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen

Ferdinand I of Romania
Cadet branch of the House of Hohenzollern
Born: 24 August 1865 Died: 20 July 1927
Romanian royalty
Preceded by
Carol I
King of the Romanians
10 October 1914 – 1 December 1918
Succeeded by
Carol II
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