6. Contemporary Period: Internal Development

In order to obviate internal disturbances or external interference, the leaders of the movement which had dethroned Prince Cuza caused parliament to proclaim, on the day of Cuza's abdication, Count Philip of Flanders - the father of King Albert of Belgium - Prince of Rumania. The offer was, however, not accepted, as neither France nor Russia favoured the proposal. Meanwhile a conference had met again in Paris at the instance of Turkey and vetoed the election of a foreign prince. But events of deeper importance were ripening in Europe, and the Rumanian politicians rightly surmised that the powers would not enforce their protests if a candidate were found who was likely to secure the support of Napoleon III, then 'schoolmaster' of European diplomacy. This candidate was found in the person of Prince Carol of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, second son of the head of the elder branch of the Hohenzollerns (Catholic and non-reigning). Prince Carol was cousin to the King of Prussia, and related through his grandmother to the Bonaparte family. He could consequently count upon the support of France and Prussia, while the political situation fortunately secured him from the opposition of Russia, whose relations with Prussia were at the time friendly, and also from that of Austria, whom Bismarck proposed to 'keep busy for some time to come'. The latter must have viewed with no little satisfaction the prospect of a Hohenzollern occupying the throne of Rumania at this juncture; and Prince Carol, allowing himself to be influenced by the Iron Chancellor's advice, answered the call of the Rumanian nation, which had proclaimed him as 'Carol I, Hereditary Prince of Rumania'. Travelling secretly with a small retinue, the prince second class, his suite first, Prince Carol descended the Danube on an Austrian steamer, and landed on May 8 at Turnu-Severin, the very place where, nearly eighteen centuries before, the Emperor Trajan had alighted and founded the Rumanian nation.

By independent and energetic action, by a conscious neglect of the will of the powers, which only a young constitutional polity would have dared, by an active and unselfish patriotism, Rumania had at last chosen and secured as her ruler the foreign prince who alone had a chance of putting a stop to intrigues from within and from without. And the Rumanians had been extremely fortunate in their hasty and not quite independent choice. A prince of Latin origin would probably have been more warmly welcomed to the hearts of the Rumanian people; but after so many years of political disorder, corrupt administration, and arbitrary rule, a prince possessed of the German spirit of discipline and order was best fitted to command respect and impose obedience and sobriety of principle upon the Rumanian politicians.

Prince Carol's task was no easy one. The journal compiled by the provisional government, which held the reins for the period elapsing between the abdication of Cuza and the accession of Prince Carol, depicts in the darkest colours the economic situation to which the faults, the waste, the negligence, and short-sightedness of the previous regime had reduced the country, 'the government being in the humiliating position of having brought disastrous and intolerable hardship alike upon its creditors, its servants, its pensioners, and its soldiers'.[1] Reforms were badly needed, and the treasury had nothing in hand but debts. To increase the income of the state was difficult, for the country was poor and not economically independent. Under the Paris Convention of 1858, Rumania remained bound, to her detriment, by the commercial treaties of her suzerain, Turkey, the powers not being willing to lose the privileges they enjoyed under the Turkish capitulations. Moreover, she was specially excluded from the arrangement of 1860, which allowed Turkey to increase her import taxes. The inheritance of ultra-liberal measures from the previous regime made it difficult to cope with the unruly spirit of the nation. Any attempt at change in this direction would have savoured of despotism to the people, who, having at last won the right to speak aloud, believed that to clamour against anything that meant 'rule' was the only real and full assertion of liberty. And the dissatisfied were always certain of finding a sympathetic ear and an open purse in the Chancellories of Vienna and St. Petersburg.

[Footnote 1: D.A. Sturdza, Treizeci de ani de Domnie ai Regelui Carol, 1900, i.82.]