Birthday: June 16, 1937
Age: 83 Years, 83 Year Old Males
Sun Sign: Gemini
Also Known As: Simeon II of Bulgaria
Born in: Sofia
Famous as: Former Prime Minister of Bulgaria
Spouse/Ex-: Margarita Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (m. 1962)
father: Boris III of Bulgaria
mother: Giovanna of Italy
children: Kardam, Konstantin-Assen, Kubrat, Kyril, Prince of Panagyurishte, Prince of Preslav, Prince of Turnovo, Prince of Vidin, Princess Kalina of Bulgaria
City: Sofia, Bulgaria
education: Victoria College
Who is Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha?
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, also known as Simeon II of Bulgaria, is the last reigning king of the Kingdom of Bulgaria. Born into the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry two years before the onset of the Second World War, he acceded the throne at the age of six, reigning for two years under a Regency Council. Thereafter, as the communist government backed by Soviet Russia sized power, he was first put under house arrest and then sent into exile along with his mother and sister. On being told to leave, the royal family first moved to Egypt for five years, and then to Spain where Simeon II lived for the next 50 years. During this period, he ran several successful business ventures and also tried unsuccessfully to set up a government in exile. Finally, 44 years after living in exile, he was issued a new Bulgarian passport, enabling him to visit his homeland at the age of 59. Eventually, he returned to Bulgaria to form a political party, which swept the elections, making him the Prime Minister of Bulgaria. He now leads a retired life in Vrana Palace, his childhood home near Sofia.
Childhood & Early Years
Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born on 16 June 1937 in Sofia as Prince Simeon of Bulgaria. His father Boris III was the Tsar of Bulgaria from 1918 until 1943. During the Second World War, he joined the Axis Power, but proved less malleable than he was expected to be.
His mother Giovanna of Italy was the daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy. Heavily involved in charities, she established children’s hospitals and helped the members of the Jewish community to escape to Argentina during the Second World War. He has an elder sister, Marie Louise of Bulgaria.
Born as Simeon Borisov Sakskoburggotski, the heir apparent to the Bulgarian throne, he was baptized in accordance to the Orthodox faith with water brought directly from River Jordan. Other than that, little is known about his early childhood.
His father died on 28 August 1943 while the Second World War was raging across the globe. He had shortly returned from a meeting with Adolf Hitler, and many believe that he was actually poisoned because in spite of joining Axis Powers, he was keeping contact with Russia.
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Tsar of Bulgarians
After the death of his father, six years old Prince Simeon of Bulgaria acceded to the throne of Bulgaria. No ceremony was held to mark the occasion, possibly given the overall scenario. On his accession, he became Simeon II and assumed the title of Tsar of the Bulgarians.
Since Tsar Simeon II was a minor, a Regent Council was set up on 9 September 1943. It consisted of Prince Kyril of Bulgaria, the second son of Tsar Boris III, the then Prime Minister Bogdan Dimitrov Filov and Bulgarian Army’s Lt. General Nikola Mikhailov Mikhov.
Tsar Simeon II’s reign did not last long. Although his father had always maintained diplomatic ties with Soviet Russia; on 5 September 1944, the latter declared war on Bulgaria. The Red Army crossed the border without resistance on 8th September and seized power on 9th September.
Upon seizing power, they established a pro-Soviet government, dominated by the communists. All the members of the Regency Council along with 92 other public officials were arrested. They were later executed by ‘People’s Tribunal’ and buried in a mass grave.
Although the regents were arrested, Tsar Simeon II was not harmed. He, along with his mother Giovanna of Italy and his sister Marie Louise of Bulgaria, was allowed to remain at the Vrana Palace, located on the outskirts of Sofia, under house arrest.
To carry on the affairs of the state, the new government appointed three new regents. They included Bulgarian Marxist philosopher Todor Dimitrov Pavlov, Bulgarian lawyer Venelin Yordanov Ganev and Tsvetko Petrov Boboshevsk.
On 15 September 1946, the Bulgarian government organized a referendum. Held in the presence of the Soviet army, it resulted in a 97% approval for the abolition of the monarchy and formation of a republic.
On 16 September 1946, the royal family was told to leave the country within 48 hours. However, they did not wait that long, and boarded a special train from Kazichene the very day. Simeon II, who was nine years old at that time, was not made to sign any abdication paper.
Early Years in Exile
On leaving Bulgaria, Giovanna of Italy and her two children, Simeon and Marie Louise, made their first stop at Istanbul. From there, they boarded a ship for Alexandria where Giovanna’s father, Victor Emmanuel III of Italy, was living after his abdication. The family lived here for the next five years.
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In Egypt, Simeon was enrolled at Victoria College. It was founded in 1902 under the impetus of Evelyn Baring, 1st Earl of Cromer. Although many princes belonging to European, Asian and African monarchies studied there, they were mostly treated as regular students.
In 1951, on being granted asylum by the Spanish government, the family left Egypt and set up their home in Madrid, where Simeon lived for the next 50 years. Here, he studied at Lycee Francaise, but not many details are available about that phase of his life.
On 16 June 1955, as Simeon turned 18, he read his proclamation in accordance with the Tarnovo Constitution. In it, he confirmed his will to lead the people of Bulgaria as Tsar Simeon II and follow the principles of the Tarnovo Constitution.
In 1958, he travelled to the USA to study at Valley Forge Military Academy and College. Located in Wayne, Pennsylvania, the academy followed the traditional military school format. Here, he was known not by his own name, but as Cadet Rylski No. 6883.
In 1959, Simeon graduated from Valley Forge Military Academy as a second lieutenant before returning to to Spain. Back in his adopted country, he studied law and business administration from 1959 to 1962.
Adult Years in Exile
After completing his studies, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha began his career as a businessman. Apart from opening his own ventures, he served as the chairman of the Spanish subsidiary of Thomson SARL for 13 years and worked as an adviser in the banking, hotel, electronics and catering sectors.
During this period in Spain, he maintained contacts with the business community across the world, travelling frequently to different countries. He also followed the developments in his country, working with Bulgarian emigrants all over the world and helping many of them.
He also tried to set up a chancellery in Madrid during this period, issuing several declarations directed at the Communist regime in Bulgaria. But his attempts to form a government in exile was not successful.
Returning to Bulgaria
In February 1990, the Communist Party of Bulgaria was forced to give up its claim on the governance, holding the first free election in June. In the same year, Simeon was issued a new passport. By now, he had begun to call himself Simeon Borisov Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
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In 1996, 50 years after the royal family was forced to leave Bulgaria, Simeon II returned to his homeland for a short visit. The Bulgarians welcomed him with open arms. In many places, he was met by cheering crowds, who shouted, "We want our king!”
Despite being welcomed by the Bulgarians, he did not make any political announcement about restoring the monarchy. Instead, he declared his intention to return to Bulgaria to form a new political party.
In June 1998, the Constitutional Court of Bulgaria restored the royal estates, including the Vrana Palace, to the royal family. These had earlier been nationalized by the communist regime. The move gave rise to controversies, with many Bulgarians claiming that they were public properties.
In October 1999, Simeon II and his sister Marie Louise of Bulgaria, now co-owners of Vrana Palace, donated the erstwhile royal park to the city of Sofia. However, the controversy surrounding their restoration continued all through the 2000s.
Prime Minister of Bulgaria
In 2001, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha officially returned to Bulgaria with his wife Margarita. In spring, they set up their home at the renovated old hunting lodge of the Vrana Palace. Subsequently, he formed a political party called, ‘National Movement Simeon II (NMSII).’
The election was held on 17 June 2001. Although NMSII was formed barely eleven weeks before, it swept away both the major parties, capturing 120 seats out of 240. In his victory speech, Simeon II declared, “We are embarking together on the road to ... Bulgaria's spiritual and economic revival.”
Although NMSII could have formed the government by itself, Simeon II opted for a coalition with a centrist political party called, Movement for Rights and Freedoms, which got only 21 seats. Out of 17 ministries, 15 remained under his control while two were given to his coalition partner.
On 24 July 2001, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha took oath as the Prime Minister of Bulgaria. In his oath, he promised to protect Bulgaria’s republican constitution. He also promised to fight corruption and generate employment, declaring that Bulgarians would see the difference within 800 days and enjoy a higher standard of living.
He also worked to improve his country’s international relations, as a result of which Bulgaria was invited to join NATO in 2002, becoming its member in March 2004. Meanwhile in 2003, Bulgaria was elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council.
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Post Prime Ministers Tenure
In 2005, Simeon II completed a successful 4-year term of office. It was the first post-communist cabinet that ended its mandate with improved public approval. However, in 2005 parliamentary elections, his party ranked second, while Bulgarian Socialist Party garnered the maximum number of seats.
Since none of the parties had garnered enough seats to form a cabinet, a tripartite coalition was formed after a month-long negotiation. Other than Simeon’s party, it consisted of Movement for Rights and Freedoms and Bulgarian Socialist Party.
In spite of ideological difference with BSP, Simeon II agreed to join the coalition because he realized it was the only way the reforms necessary for joining the European Union could be accomplished. He became the Chairman of the Coalition Council.
In 2007, Bulgaria joined the European Union. Otherwise, the coalition government achieved little, being plagued by ineffective administration and high level of corruption. Consequently in 2009 election, NMSII got just 3.01% votes and failed to retain any of its seats. Soon after that, Simon II resigned from the party’s leadership.
In 2010, he became the Head of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry. During the same time, he also started writing his autobiography. Entitled, ‘Simeon II de Bulgarie, un destin singulier’, it was released in Bulgaria on 28 October 2014.
Awards & Achievements
In 2002, Simeon II received the Path to Peace Award from the Path to Peace Foundation. In addition, he has also been honored with Grand Cross of the Order of Stara Planina and Collar of the Order of Justice by the Government of Bulgaria.
Family & Personal Life
On 21 January 1962, while living in Spain, Simeon II married Doña Margarita Gómez-Acebo y Cejuela, the daughter of Spanish aristocrat Don Manuel Gómez-Acebo y Modet and his wife Doña Mercedes Cejuela y Fernández. The couple now lives in Vrana Palace near Sofia, Bulgaria.
The couple had four sons; Prince Kardam, Prince Kiril, Prince Kubrat and Prince Konstantin. They also have a daughter, Princess Kalina. Prince Kardam passed away in 2010.
Since 1 May 2015, Simeon II is referred to as King of Bulgaria in all public and private services held in the dioceses of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.
With his election as the Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Simeon II became one of the two former monarchs who became the heads of government through democratic elections. The other one being late Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia.