Former Bulgarian King Spars with Government

Simeon II, the former king and former prime minister of Bulgaria,
 at Vrana Palace in 2017.
A legal dispute has erupted between the government of Bulgaria and Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (known in Bulgarian as Simeon Saksoburggotski). He was prime minister of Bulgaria from 2001 until 2005. By a twist of history, he was also King of Bulgaria as Simeon II from 1943 until the communists abolished the Bulgarian monarchy in 1946.

Since leaving office as Bulgaria's democratically-elected prime minister, the former king has quietly left the political scene and devoted himself to the preservation of his family's and Bulgaria's royal history. However, one piece of this history is now pushing Simeon into conflict with the country's government. The Bulgarian government has declared that King Simeon II and his elder sister, Princess Maria Louisa, retained "unlawful ownership" of the estate at Vrana Palace, located outside of the capital city of Sofia. In 1998, as relations between the former king and the government steadily improved throughout the decade, the government awarded Simeon and his sister ownership of Vrana Palace, as the surviving heirs of the palace's last undisputed owner, their late father King Boris III. 

The current dispute between the Saxe-Coburg family and the Bulgarian government, however, argues over whether Vrana belongs to the deposed dynasty as a private estate or whether it was purchased with public funds. The Saxe-Coburg family maintains that Simeon and Maria Louisa's grandfather, King Ferdinand of Bulgaria, purchased Vrana as a hunting retreat in 1892 with his own private funds. Indeed, King Ferdinand would have had the requisite funds to make such a purchase. Ferdinand possessed a considerable personal fortune, as his father, Prince Auguste of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, belonged to the extremely wealthy Kohary branch of the Saxe-Coburg dynasty (Auguste's mother, the Hungarian noblewoman Princess Maria Antonia Kohary, passed on the enormous fortune of the Kohary family to her own descendants in this line of the Coburgs). 
Vrana Palace near Sofia, Bulgaria

However, the Bulgarian government has argued that King Ferdinand purchased Vrana with civil payments he received in his capacity as Bulgaria's monarch, and therefore the property belongs to the state. A similar dispute over ownership of former royal properties erupted nearly two decades ago between King Simeon's relative, the deposed King Constantine II of Greece, and the Greek government over whether that country's royal family purchased their country estate of Tatoi with private family funds or with funds received from their public salary. 

The recent ruling that Vrana Palace does not belong to the king and his family, and that they must now pay back the Bulgarian government for having resided there for the past twenty years, has prompted King Simeon to publicly denounce the government over which he presided thirteen years ago. "I feel humiliated; it is like the state will force me again into exile," the 81-year-old ex-king/ex-prime minister stated. The king has now filed a complaint against the ruling with the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg. 
Former King Simeon II and Queen Margarita of Bulgaria on their wedding day

King Simeon II was born in 1937, the second child and only son of King Boris III of Bulgaria and Queen Giovanna, the former Princess Giovanna of Italy. King Boris died in 1943, and Simeon, only six years old, ascended the throne under a regency headed by his uncle, Prince Kyril. The encroaching Soviet influence in Eastern Europe after World War II led to communist agents infiltrating the Bulgarian government, and they launched a coup which dismantled the regency and murdered Prince Kyril. Nine-year-old King Simeon II was taken into exile with his sister and their mother, Queen Giovanna. They went to Egypt, where Simeon's maternal grandfather, King Victor Emmanuel of Italy, had also fled into exile after the proclamation of the Italian republic. Eventually the former Bulgarian royal family settled in Spain at the invitation of the military dictator Francisco Franco. Simeon was educated in Spain and became a close friend of his distant relative, the future Spanish king Juan Carlos. Simeon married a Spaniard, Margarita Gomez-Acebo, with whom he had five children. 

The Bulgarian royal family returned to their country in 1996, where they were greeted by thousands of cheering people jamming the streets of the capital. In 2001, Simeon Saxe-Coburg entered the political fray as head of the political party NMSII, which won the parliamentary elections that year and thus allowed for Simeon to become the country's prime minister. He served until stepping down in 2005, and he resigned as head of NMSII in 2009.
Funeral of King Simeon's eldest son, Prince Kardam, in 2015.
The Bulgarian royals receive condolences from the King and
Queen of the Netherlands and the King and Queen of Spain.

King Simeon and Queen Margarita maintain a steady profile among European royalty. They enjoy close personal relationships with the Spanish royal family, and are also close to the Dutch royals. They frequently appear at European royal events, particularly events related to the former royal families of the Balkan nations. In 2015, King Simeon's eldest son, Prince Kardam, died after a long battle with complications stemming from a severe car accident. Prince Kardam's funeral was held in Madrid and attended by King Felipe VI, Queen Letizia, King Juan Carlos, and Queen Sofia of Spain; along with King Willem-Alexander and Queen Maxima of the Netherlands.

Kardam would have been next in line to become head of the Bulgarian royal family and, had the monarchy ever been restored, would have been heir to the Bulgarian throne. Instead, next in line to succeed as head of the deposed royal family is 20-year-old Prince Boris, Kardam's son and King Simeon's grandson. 


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