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Romanians, royals turn out in big numbers for king's funeral

Honor guard soldiers carry the coffin of the late Romanian King Michael during the funeral ceremony outside the former royal palace in Bucharest, Romania, Saturday, Dec.16, 2017. Thousands waited in line to pay their respects to Former King Michael, who ruled Romania during WWII, and died on Dec. 5, 2017, aged 96, in Switzerland. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) Tens of thousands of Romanians joined European royals to pay their respects to late King Michael who was given a state funeral on Saturday.

Michael, who ruled Romania twice before being forced to abdicate by the communists in 1947, died at age 96 in Switzerland on Dec. 5.

Britain's Prince Charles, Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, and Spain's former King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia, were among those at a pre-funeral service at the Royal Palace where Michael's body had been laying in state for the past two days. The Swedish king saluted as Michael's coffin was placed on a dais.

Non-European royals attending the funeral included Princess Muna al-Hussein, mother of King Abdullah II of Jordan.

Other royals including Henri, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Princess Astrid and Prince Lorenz of Belgium were joined by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis for a sung funeral service, led by the head of the Romanian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Daniel.

Bishops wafted incense in the small cathedral where Michael was crowned for the second time on Sept. 6, 1940. Michael, who was a great-great grandson of Queen Victoria, first became king aged 5 after his father Carol II eloped with his mistress and abdicated.

In the hours before Michael's coffin was taken out of the palace, Romanians gathered silently, many in tears, in Revolution Square. Church bells tolled around the country and a choir of priests sang as the coffin was taken out and was laid on a dais in the square.

Earlier, the crowd cheered and shouted "King Michael!" as the coffin, led by Orthodox priests and a guard of honor, was transported by an army jeep toward the cathedral.

Michael's five daughters and his estranged grandson Nicholas Medforth-Mills, who was stripped of his title for allegedly fathering a child out of wedlock, walked behind the coffin.

Mourner Georgeta Anastasiu, 60, said the late king had been "demonized by the communists, but in the end we found out the truth about him."

She called the king "the last moral example for Romanians."

His body will then be taken by a royal train to the central Romanian city of Curtea de Arges where he will be buried next to his wife, Anne de Bourbon-Parme, who died last year.

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