But the people refused to listen to Samuel. “No!” they said. “We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles.” I Samuel 8: 19-20 (NIV)
The people of Romania wanted a king, so they went out and got one. And since everyone knows Germans make good kings, that’s where they went to get theirs. (I’m not sure about the German king idea myself, but the Romanians weren’t the only people to get theirs from Germany over the years – you can look it up!)
A King of course needs a castle, so Peles Castle was built for Carol I, and he lived there until his death in 1914. It’s one of those “must see” sites for any tourist. Romania still has a king, more or less. The Communists abolished the monarchy, but King Michael I is still alive at age 93 (his birthday was yesterday), 86 years after his coronation. He was actually king twice – royal politics can be as confusing as any other type of politics. He doesn’t live in Peles Castle, that’s for us tourists.
I do wonder though what the Romanian people got for their efforts. In the Bible passage quoted at the beginning of this post the prophet Samuel warns the people that there are many disadvantages to having a king, that kings tax the people and send their sons to fight wars, but the people were adamant that they wanted to be just like everyone else, and God let them have their way.
So what did the Romanian people get? A King who didn’t speak their language, and while Christian was a different branch of the faith (Carol was Roman Catholic, most Romanians are Orthodox). The King of Romania didn’t really go and fight their battles, not Ferdinand I in the First World War or Carol II in the Second World War. Kings really don’t do that anymore. I have a suspicion that the royal family didn’t pay for Peles Castle out of their own funds; a nice castle was probably part of the deal. Other than the prestige of having a king, I don’t see what was in it for Romania. I presume there were political reasons, the same ones that precluded putting someone homegrown in the throne.
They charge extra if you want to take pictures, and I thought it was worth it, though our guide said he could get us a DVD with thousands of photos at less cost. Maybe those would be better quality than my pictures, but it is not the same if you don’t take them yourself.
Peles is pretty much what you would expect from a castle, definitely worthy of a royal residence. But given the Biblical warning and the experience of other European countries, why did the Romanians feel they had to have a king?