INDEPENDENT: TRIUMPH OF THE BOY WHO FLED IN TERROR

Politics | June 18, 2001, Monday // 00:00| Views: | Comments: 0

By Justin Huggler
18 June 2001

As a frightened nine-year-old child, Simeon II was bundled into a car and driven to Istanbul. It was to be the last time he saw his native Bulgaria for 50 years.

With Red Army units stationed in Bulgaria, the country's new Communist rulers had held a referendum. In what is widely believed to have been a rigged plebiscite, the people voted to abolish the monarchy and depose the boy king.

His father, the hugely popular King Boris III, had died suddenly and mysteriously in 1943. Simeon was crowned at the age of six in the midst of the Second World War. After the Communist coup in 1944, his three regents, including the boy's uncle, were executed.

From Istanbul, Simeon sailed to Egypt, into a life of exile. He lived in Egypt for six years, and studied at Victoria College, a British school in Alexandria. In 1951, he was granted asylum in Spain, where he became a close friend of the Spanish king. He attended a military academy in Pennsylvania.

The former king has a taste for expensive suits ­ but he paid for them himself. He has led a successful career as a business-man in Spain, under the name Simeon Saxe-Coburgotski, and returned to Bulgaria for the first time in 1996, to a rapturous welcome. He speaks fluent if old-fashioned Bulgarian and once said: "Exile is the best schooling for a king, provided he can return."
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