The actor who became a prince and wants to play the president

by Victor Grigore, Webphoto.ro

There quite a life story behind Radu Duda. He was born in the Socialist Republic of Romania, under the one party rule of communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu, in a regular family. The only way he could grow to be a prince was in theatre or film, not in real life. But both happened for him eventually. First, he became an actor, having a career of modest success. His polished aspect made him suitable for playing decent party activists in the propaganda films of the time.

But in December 1989 communism was toppled by a revolution and many unthinkable things became possible. The country returned to a democratic system, but a presidential one, remaining a republic. Some proposed returning to the monarchy before communism, as King Michael of Hohenzollern, who was forced to abdicate din 1947, was still living in exile, in Versoix, Switzerland. The idea scared the first president in early nineties and the king was prevented to even visit the country at the beginning of transition to democracy.

Gradually, it became clear that the king was too old to rule and the monarchists were just a tiny minority. The former king Michael was eventually allowed to return, gathering a large crowd of admirers. Than monarchy became a forgotten proposition and moreover the king started to have a warmer relationship with the former communists in power, now branded social democrats. At the heart of the matter was an advantageous financial deal which saw the royal family regain property or use over significant assets such as palaces, forests and other real estate pieces. The most disappointing moment for Romanian monarchists was when King Michael awarded a price to than prime minister Adrian Năstase, who was later imprisoned for corruption.

But there was another „detail” that made returning to monarchy improbable for Romania. According to the constitution before communism, the monarch had to be a male descendant of the royal family. And king Michael had the misfortune of not having boys. He tried in vain, ending up having no less than five daughters. So at the first generation, the succession line was broken. There was a nephew, but even the daughters raised in exile couldn’t speak Romanian so it was hard to imagine a foreigner being accepted by the masses.

The oldest of king’s daughters, princess Margareta was quick to learn the language of the country, which she now speaks very well, but as well as foreign language. Margareta is a distinguished lady with an elegant presence. She was educated in London, where she even had an affair with Gordon Brown, who was to become prime minister of Great Britain later. She married late, at 45, with Radu Duda, who after that retired from acting. Or, one may say, started his greatest role, that of prince Radu in his actual life.

Radu’s entering in the royal family was at the origin of a conflict with the renowned Hohenzollern family. Not because he was a commoner. But because he took this name, which apparently king Michael was only allowed to have and transmit to his blood line, but not bestow upon anyone else. As a result, the royal family gave up altogether the German prestigious name and took the name Michael „of Romania”. Another criticised moment was when the king modified the rule of succession, allowing women to become queens, making Margareta next in line. But this was deemed as an absolutist act as a king cannot modify a constitution neither when he is an acting king, moreover after an abdication.

Radu Duda was some sort of a connection with the social democratic party, as premier Năstase appointed him as an honorary ambassador in the diplomatic effort the country was making to join NATO and EU. Around the same time Duda acquired high military ranks, becoming colonel, a controversial rank for a former actor. But all these were not enough apparently. In the spring of 2009 (when these pictures were taken) Radu Duda announced his official candidacy for the presidency of Romania.

The event was unusual enough to fill the porch of Elisabeta Palace, next to the Village Museum in Bucharest with reporters and old admirers of the royal family. King’s son in law read a speech accompanied by princess Margareta, underlining that he intends to be a president above parties. This, in contrast with the incumbent president at the time, Traian Băsescu, who branded himself as a „player president”. Another thing Duda wanted to clarify was that his eventual election as president does not mean restoration of monarchy, a different topic that could be decided by the people in a referendum. His attempt follows that of king Simeon of Bulgaria, who was prime minister in a republic.

The meeting with sympathisers was disturbed by a protester, Ion Varlaam, former political detainee in communist prisons. Varlaam wanted Duda to clarify the allegations of his connections with Securitate, the communist secret police, who used a lot of informants for mass surveillance. But he was silenced by the loud music in speakers. The rumour started at the Revolution when the name Duda was found in a notebook with lists of connections in an office of Securitate. The institution that investigates the files held by the former institution cleared Radu Duda of such accusations. But they resurfaced when it was revealed that he sold a flat to SRI, the current secret service of the country.

King Michael did not have any position on the candidacy of his son in law. A hypothetical election of prince Radu as president would create another premier: as princess Margareta would become a queen, she would be also first lady of a president at the same time.

Radu Duda ensured his supporters he will be a defender of Justice and of the rule of law, intolerant with corruption:

„When a people cannot bear, when a system is humiliating its own citizens, when we are deprived of dignity and hope, than it’s time for the great hopes.” said Radu Duda, who underlined the historic contribution of monarchy, starting with King Carol I, „who built Romanian state on the principle of professionalism”.

Later during the campaign, Radu Duda announced his withdrawal from the presidential race as he was not able to garner enough public support. The attempt was viewed as a stain on the prestige of the royal family, but it brought it again in public attention.

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