Simeon Borisov Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (born 16 June 1937) is the last reigning Bulgarian monarch and Prime Minister of Bulgaria from 2001 to 2005. During his reign as Simeon II, King (or Tsar) of Bulgaria, from 1943 to 1946 he was a minor, the royal authority being exercised over the kingdom on his behalf by a regency. The regents were Simeon’s uncle Prince Kiril, General Nikola Mihov and the prime minister, Bogdan Filov. In 1946 the monarchy was abolished as a consequence of a referendum, and Simeon was forced into exile. He returned to his home country in 1996 and formed the political party National Movement for Stability and Progress (NMSP) and became Prime Minister of the Republic of Bulgaria from July 2001 until August 2005. In the next elections he, as a leader of NMSP, took part in a coalition government with the ex-communist party BSP, and in 2009 after NMSP failed to win any seats in the Parliament, he left politics.
Simeon is one of the three last living heads of state from the time of World War II (the others are former King Michael I of Romania and Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet), the only living person who has borne the title “Tsar”, and one of only two former monarchs in history to have become the head of government through democratic elections (the other is the now-deceased Norodom Sihanouk of Cambodia).
Simeon was born to Boris III and Giovanna of Italy. Following his birth, Boris III sent an air force officer to the River Jordan to obtain water for Simeon’s baptism in the Orthodox faith. He became tsar on 28 August 1943 on the death of his father, who had just returned to Bulgaria from a meeting with Adolf Hitler. Since Tsar Simeon was only six years old when he ascended the throne, his uncle Prince Kyril, Prime Minister Bogdan Filov, and Lt. General Nikola Mikhov of the Bulgarian Army were appointed regents.
They joined the Axis powers during World War II and on 5 September 1944 the Soviet Union declared war on Bulgaria. Three days later the Red Army entered the country without encountering resistance. On the next day, 9 September 1944, Prince Kyril and the other regents were deposed by a Soviet-backed coup and arrested. The three regents, all members of the last three governments, Parliament deputies, heads of the army and eminent journalists were executed by the Communists in February 1945.
The royal family (Queen Giovanna, Simeon II, and his sister Maria-Louisa) remained at Vrana Palace near Sofia, while three new regents were appointed (Todor Pavlov, Venelin Ganev and Tsvetko Boboshevski). On 15 September 1946, a referendum was held in the presence of the Soviet army. It resulted in a 97% approval for republic and abolition of the monarchy, and the boy Tsar Simeon was forced to abdicate. For the first time since the first Caesar took power in 27 B.C., there was no longer anywhere in Europe a ruler calling himself Ceasar/Czar/Tsar and claiming to derive his authority from Rome.
On 16 September 1946, the royal family was exiled from Bulgaria. Simeon II has never signed any abdication papers—neither at that moment when he was nine years old and his legal capacity to sign such an instrument would be questionable in any event, nor at any time later. The royal family first went to Alexandria, Egypt, where Queen Giovanna’s father Victor Emanuel III, King of Italy, lived in exile. There, Simeon II finished Victoria College (along with Crown Prince Leka of Albania). In July 1951, the Franco’s dictatorship in Spain granted asylum to the family.
In Madrid, Simeon studied at the Lycée Français, but did not graduate. On 16 June 1955, upon turning 18, in accordance with the Tarnovo Constitution Simeon II read his proclamation to the Bulgarian people as the Tsar of Bulgaria, confirming his will to be king of all Bulgarians and follow the principles of the Tarnovo Constitution and free Bulgaria. In 1958, he enrolled at Valley Forge Military Academy and College in the United States, where he was known as “Cadet Rylski No. 6883”, and graduated as a second lieutenant. Once again in Spain (between 1959 and 1962), Simeon studied law and business administration.
He became a businessman. For thirteen years, he was chairman of the Spanish subsidiary of Thomson, a French defence and electronics group. He was also an adviser in the banking, hotel, electronics, and catering sectors.
On 21 January 1962, Simeon married a Spanish aristocrat, Doña Margarita Gómez-Acebo y Cejuela. The couple have had five children – four sons (Kardam, Kiril, Kubrat and Konstantin) and a daughter, Kalina, all of whom subsequently married Spaniards. All of his sons received names of Bulgarian kings, his daughter has a Bulgarian name, although only two of his eleven grandchildren have Bulgarian names (Boris and Sofia).
Kardam (1962 – 7 April 2015) married Miriam de Ungría y López. They had two sons, Boris and Beltran.
Kiril (born 1964) married María del Rosario Nadal y Fuster-Puigdórfila. They have two daughters, Mafalda and Olimpia, and one son, Tassilo.
Kubrat (born 1965) married Carla María de la Soledad Royo-Villanova y Urrestarazu. They have three sons: Mirko, Lukás and Tirso.
Konstantin-Assen (born 1967) married María García de la Rasilla y Gortázar. They have twins, Umberto and Sofia.
Kalina (born 1972) married Antonio José “Kitín” Muñoz y Valcárcel. They have one son, Simeon Hassan Muñoz.
In 1990, just months after the fall of communism, Simeon was issued a new Bulgarian passport. In 1996, fifty years after the abolition of the monarchy, Simeon returned to Bulgaria and was met in many places by crowds cheering: “We want our King!” He did not, at that point, make any political announcements or moves. However, these monarchist sentiments gradually disappeared after his premiership and specifically during his coalition as a leader of NMSP with the ex-Communist Party, together with changing of generations; since today the majority of voters were born after the fall of the monarchy.
Various estates in Bulgaria that had been nationalised during the Communist era were returned to Simeon and his family. In 2001, Simeon, who had by this time taken the name Simeon Borisov Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, announced he would return to Bulgaria to form a new political party, the National Movement Simeon II (NMSII) (later renamed to NMSP), dedicated to “reforms and political integrity.” Simeon promised that in 800 days the Bulgarian people would feel tangible positive effects of his government and would enjoy significantly higher standards of living.
NMSP won a large victory in the parliamentary elections held on 17 June 2001, capturing 120 of the 240 seats in Parliament and defeating the two main pre-existing political parties. Simeon gave an oath as Prime Minister of Bulgaria on 24 July, forming a coalition with the ethnic Turkish party, Movement for Rights and Freedoms (MRF). He gave ministerial positions in his government mainly to technocrats and Western-educated economic specialists. In 2002, his efforts were recognized by his receiving the 2002 Path to Peace Award from the Path to Peace Foundation. During his time in power, Bulgaria joined the EU and NATO.
In the 2005 elections, Simeon’s party ranked second and participated in the grand coalition government led by the Bulgarian Socialist Party and including the Movement for Rights and Freedoms. Simeon II was given the unofficial ceremonial post of Chairman of the Coalition Council.
The party got just 3.01% of votes and no seats at the parliamentary elections of 2009. Shortly after, on 6 July, Simeon also resigned as NMSP leader.
Simeon II has never formally renounced his claim to the Bulgarian throne. He used the title “Tsar of the Bulgarians” in his political statements during his exile. Since his return to Bulgaria, however, Simeon has consistently declined to reveal his views on the restoration of the Bulgarian monarchy, notwithstanding the name of his party. Upon taking office as prime minister, he took an oath to protect the country’s republican constitution.
Simeon II wrote an autobiography in French under the title Simeon II de Bulgarie, un destin singulier that was released in Bulgaria on 28 October 2014. It was first presented at the headquarters of the UNESCO in Paris on 22 October 2014.
After the death of his distant cousin Prince Johannes Heinrich of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in April 2010 and due to the exclusion of the late prince’s uncle Philipp Josias Maria Joseph Ignatius Michael Gabriel Raphael Gonzaga (Walterskirchen, 18 August 1901 – 31 December 1994) children and descendants from his morganatic marriage with Sarah Aurelia Halasz, Simeon became the Head of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry, former Magnates of Hungary, and heir to the castles of Čabraď and Sv. Anton, both in modern-day Slovakia. In early 2012, he nominally ceded his rights (and those of his children) to the headship of the princely house of Koháry to his sister Princess Marie Louise of Bulgaria. In a statement published on its website on 1 May 2015, the Bulgarian Patriarchy announced that Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha will be referred to as king of Bulgaria in all public and private services held in the dioceses of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church