BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) — The body of Anne of Romania, the wife of the country's ex-king, arrived in Bucharest Tuesday for the biggest royal funeral in almost 80 years.
Anne married King Michael six months after communists forced him to abdicate in December 1947. She did not visit Romania until she was almost 70, and never learned to speak the language.
Her Aug. 1 death in Switzerland aged 92, however, has provoked an outpouring of grief in the East European country where she is commonly known as Queen Anne. A day of mourning has been proclaimed in Romania and neighboring Moldova.
Anne's coffin was flown from Switzerland Tuesday afternoon on a Romanian Tarom airlines plane, arriving to great fanfare. Four of the couple's five daughters lined up on the tarmac, dressed in black, their heads covered, as soldiers placed the coffin draped with the royal flag on a catafalque. Orthodox and Catholic priests then conducted a short service.
Later Tuesday, Anne's body will lie in state in the Peles Castle, the royal family's former home in the mountain resort of Sinaia, and later in Bucharest.
Michael, who is 94 and has cancer, will remain at the family home in Switzerland and miss the funeral on the advice of doctors. He was the last of Romania's four kings; the first, Carol I, was enthroned in 1866.
"Romanian monarchs were animated by deep patriotism, not like (the government) we have now," Theodor Paleologu, a former culture minister and professor, told The Associated Press.
Paleologu, who belongs to an ancient Romanian princely family, met Anne in Paris when he was 17. His father, Alexandru Paleologu, was Romania's first post-communist ambassador to France.
He recalls her drinking beer with bodyguards and giving candies to children and her "total lack of affectation."
Explaining the deep feeling for Anne, Paleologu cited her 68-year marriage to Michael whom he called "a symbol" for Romania: "Without this cycle (of kings) we would not exist as a nation."
The ceremonies, the grandest royal burial since Queen Marie died in 1938, contrast with the authorities' sometimes hostile attitude toward the royal family. In 1994, Michael and Anne flew to Romania but were denied entry because he had not formally applied for a visa. Michael's citizenship was not restored until 1997.
She will be buried at the Curtea de Arges cemetery of the royal family on Saturday.