A Brief History
On July 24, 2001, Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha made history as the first monarch of a country to get elected to the top political government job, in this case, Prime Minister of Bulgaria. Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, born in 1937, had previously reigned as the last Czar of Bulgaria from 1943 to 1946. As a minor child while Czar (or Tsar if you prefer), he reigned as Simeon II, though with a regency appointed to actually make the royal decisions
Speaking of leadership trivia, there are only 2 surviving people that served as head of state during World War II (1939-1945), and of course, Simeon II is one of them. The other is Jetsun Jamphel Ngawang Lobsang Yeshe Tenzin Gyatso, usually referred to as Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Born in January of 1935, Tenzin Gyatso has served as Dalai Lama since February of 1940, of course with a regent assigned when he was underage. Tenzin Gyatso assumed full duties as Dalai Lama in 1950 at the age of 15, which is apparently old enough in Tibet! In 1951, the People’s Democratic Republic of China (aka, Red China, or Communist China) took control of Tibet, so the 14th Dalai Lama did not have a long run as actually being in charge.
And of course, Simeon II did not have a long reign, either. In 1946, in the wake of World War II and in the face of Soviet expansionism in Eastern and Southern Europe, Bulgaria held a referendum that abolished the monarchy, and Simeon II was obliged to seek refuge in Alexandria, Egypt as an exile, attending Victoria College for his primary education, an English language school for the wealthy and powerful. At the age of 18 in 1955, Simeon asserted his claim to the throne of Bulgaria, but of course, such a claim was symbolic at that point. He later moved with his family to Spain in 1951. Simeon attended Valley Forge Military Academy and College in Pennsylvania in the United States in 1958, and was known as “Cadet Rylski.” Having studied law and business, Simeon graduated and moved back to Spain. He became a prominent business executive, and moved up to the Chairmanship of Thomson SARL (now Technicolor SA), a multi-national defense and electronics company. Simeon also dabbled in other types of business.
Simeon II (now just Simeon) returned to Bulgaria in 1996, well after the fall of communism. He established a new political party, called the National Movement for Stability and Progress (NMSP) and ascended to the top government job in 2001 with his election as Prime Minister. He served in that capacity from 2001 until 2005, a term that gave him the distinction of being the only monarch to ever later become the politically elected head of state or government of any country.
Simeon has never renounced his claim to the throne of Bulgaria, and even referred to himself as “Tsar of the Bulgarians” in some of his campaign paperwork and correspondence. Never having abdicated before he went into exile, his claim, if you believe in such things, is still legitimate. Otherwise, Simeon has made no public claim to the throne since returning to Bulgaria and does not discuss the subject. Having married in 1962 (to a Spanish aristocrat), he has fathered 5 children, so among them would be an heir if the monarchy is ever restored. For those monarchist that love all things nobility, Simeon is also the nominal head of the House of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha-Koháry.
Now 83 years old, Simeon stands as a part of history, at least for now.
(We have touched on the subject of monarchy numerous times on our website, and invite you to browse our articles on the subject by typing in “monarchy,” “monarchs,” “king,” “queen” and “emperor” in the search box or clicking the link. Warning: We are generally not all that positive about “royalty!”)
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For more information, please see…
Hindley, Geoffrey. The Royal Families of Europe. Basic Books, 2001.
Shaw, Karl. Royal Babylon: The Alarming History of European Royalty. Three Rivers Press, 2002.
The featured image, a charity card of the Bulgarian Youth Red Cross from 1939 with the image of Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, in this article is in the public domain, because its copyright has expired and its author is anonymous. This applies to the European Union and those countries with a copyright term of 70 years after the work was made available to the public and the author never disclosed their identity.