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Ferdinand I of Romania Edit Profile

king , ruler

Ferdinand I was King of Romania from 10 October 1914 until his death in 1927.


Ferdinand I of Romania was born August 24, 1865, in Sigmaringen, Germany. The nephew of the childless King Carol of Rumania, Ferdinand was adopted and declared heir presumptive to his uncle's throne in 1889.


He brought a thoroughly German background to his duties in Bucharest. The young prince was a member of the Swabian branch of the Hohenzollern family. He had been educated at the universities of Tübingen and Leipzig, and then performed military service at Kassel. Wilhelm II of Germany was his cousin; Francis Joseph of Austria-Hungary was a personal friend.


The death of Carol in early October 1914 made Ferdinand king of Rumania. His personal sympathies lay with the Central Powers. Two of his brothers served with the German army, and he was convinced Germany would win the war. Nonetheless, he first disappointed and then outraged those who looked to him to forge a close political link connecting Rumania and the Central Powers. He supported Premier Ion Bratianu's policy of neutrality; then, in mid-1916, the king backed Bratianu's decision that the opportune moment had come to enter the war on the side of the Entente. The queen's vigorous preference for Great Britain and France made itself felt on Ferdinand throughout the war. So too did the powerful currents of concern in Rumania for Rumanians under Habsburg control in Transylvania. Irredentist feeling swelled once word arrived of Austrian military defeats in Galicia and Serbia in the fall of 1914. Ferdinand knew any attempt to bend Rumanian policy to favor the Central Powers meant risking his crown. German and Austrian diplomats repeatedly approached the timid king but Ferdinand remained firmly in tow behind the confident Bratianu.

When Rumania entered the war in August 1916, Ferdinand appealed to the nation's assembled political leaders to support intervention. Berlin rumbled about the "degenerate Hohenzollern" in Bucharest, contrasting him with the pro-German King Constantine of Greece. Ferdinand was nominal commander in chief of the Rumanian forces during the catastrophic campaign of 1916. By midwinter, he had seen his forces badly battered and driven into the northeastern corner of his country. Surrounded by the disintegrating Russian army, the Rumanian units seemed in danger of imminent collapse.

Fedinand gave a rare display of decisiveness. He took the lead in April 1917 in pledging land reform and an expanded suffrage for his peasants, who formed most of the army's rank and file. In June the Rumanian constitution was amended to permit the expropriation of landed estates. That the Rumanian army remained a cohesive and effective force owed much to Ferdinand and like-minded politicians such as Bratianu. But the collapse of the Russians made the Rumanian position hopeless. Ferdinand resigned his role as military figurehead in December 1917 to facilitate the inevitable armistice. The whirlwind of 1918 pulled him passively along. Bratianu stage-managed the appointment of Averescu, then Marghiloman as premier. For a time it seemed that Germany would replace Ferdinand, a step Marghiloman's intervention helped to prevent. The king's most important action was a negative one: he avoided signing the Peace of Bucharest (May 1918), in which Rumania agreed to leave the war. Subsequently, this omission helped Bratianu to reassert Rumanian territorial demands at Versailles, claiming that Rumania had never severed fully its tie with the Entente.

Bratianu's power revived as the position of the Central Powers crumbled in the Balkans in the early fall of 1918. Under his urging, Ferdinand replaced the pro-German Marghiloman on November 6 and reopened hostilities against the Central Powers on November 10. Three weeks later, the royal family returned in triumph to Bucharest.


Ferdinand played a minor part in the Versailles negotiations. Apparently under Bratianu's direction, he addressed a letter to his fellow heads of state in France, Britain, and Italy in November 1919 to plead Rumania's cause. Thanks essentially to Bratianu's stubborn diplomacy, Ferdinand's kingdom more than doubled in size with the territorial fruits of standing on the winning side. In October 1922, Ferdinand and Marie were crowned monarchs of Greater Rumania.

Ferdinand's wartime pledge of generous land reform went unfulfilled. The influence of large estate owners combined with Ferdinand's own conservatism to lead only to the limited land reform of 1922. Much of the postwar period saw Ferdinand under the familiar influence of his mentor Bratianu, and Bratianu was serving as premier when Ferdinand died at the royal retreat of Sinaia on July 20,1927.


In 1893 a countervailing influence entered Ferdinand's life. He married Princess Marie of Great Britain, daughter of the duke of Edinburgh and granddaughter of Queen Victoria. In her memoirs, Marie called herself "the joyful warrior" of the family. She described her husband as "modest, timid, doubting, but honest and unselfish." Contemporary observers and historians alike have agreed with her assessment. Ferdinand was barely visible during his twenty-five years as heir apparent, although he served as nominal commander in chief of the Rumanian army during the Second Balkan War in 1913.

Princess Marie of Great Britain