Once upon a time, there were two countries: Moldavia and Wallachia, two magical territories inhabited by Romanians. Why did I start my essay as if it was a fairytale? That is because this seems so long ago, in an age of empires (not the video game). It was a time when the Romanian Principalities were under the influence of the Ottoman Empire. The other Romanian mini-state, one you most definitely have heard of, Transylvania (no, there are no vampires there), was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Like any good fairytale, this one needs an almighty prince and who would be better than a German military man, one of honor and vision? In a freshly united Romania (Moldavia and Wallachia), the leading politicians of the country sought to bring a foreign ruler, in order to keep peace and form a modern state. Thus, they looked to Germany and on May 10, 1866 Karl of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen arrived incognito in Bucharest.Let history unfold and follow me to find out the story of the man, the prince and king who created the modern state of Romania, who started a dynasty, and, most importantly, whose name represents the independence of the Romanian state from the Ottoman Empire.

Overall, too little is being said and taught about his 48-year reign, a time of prosperity, of reforms, of constructing a national state. Undoubtedly, Carol was the best ruler Romania had, and one of the most respected European ones.

He was known as a cold, calculated and rigid man. The same could not have been said about his wife, Elisabeth of Wied, a hopeless romantic, a poet (Carmen Sylva) and a patron of arts. Never have there been two more unlike people. Their marriage resulted in one child, Princess Marioara, who died as an infant. Thus, in the need of an heir, Carol took his nephew Ferdinand under his tutelage, making him the heir of the Romanian throne.

Through his assiduous work, Carol managed to write the new Constitution, renew and modernize the army and create diplomatic relationships with other European states.

Step by step, Carol created a more permissive environment for the country, a country still under the influence of the Sublime Porte (fancy name for Ottoman Empire). Even with bringing him, a foreign prince, as head of state and adopting the 1866 Constitution without the Porte’s consent were proofs of independence.
As it turns out, the ideal of independence came so much closer when the Russo-Turkish was started. With an anti-Ottoman uprising below the Danube, Romania seized the chance to fight its long-term oppressor, allowing the Russian army to pass through its territory. Without a declaration of war, the Porte attacked our country and the Romanian war mobilization started. When the Russian troops failed to conquer the Bulgarian city of Pleven, Prince Carol led the Romanian army into the battles of Grivita, Pleven and Rahova, where thousands and thousands of people gave their life for the country and glory. After the capitulation of the Ottoman Empire, on March 3, 1878, the San Stefano Treaty recognized the independence of Romania.
This was a historic moment for our country: After centuries of subjugation we were finally independent. Thus, Carol was proclaimed King of Romania and crowned on May 10, 1881. His crown was made from the melted steel of a Turkish canon captured by the Romanian army at Pleven.

What followed were years of stability and modernization. The strategy Carol followed was meant to consolidate the independence and defend the territorial integrity. For once, Romania was put on the map of Europe, an independent state with a solid dynasty with military, political, diplomatic and even blood ties to the greatest powers of Europe.On September 27, 1914, King Carol died at Peles Castle after reigning for 48 years. He was a monarch of great strength, prestige and vision, an outstanding military leader and a liberal politician, respected for his German work ethics and sense of duty. For all his work, his achievements, for everything he did and build, let us say one more time: “Traiasca Regele!” (Long live the King – royal hymn).