Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the last tsar of Bulgaria when he was a child, was sworn in as Prime Minister of Bulgaria on this day in 2001, and became the first monarch in history to regain political power through democratic election to a different office.
Born the son of Tsar Boris III and Tsaritsa Giovanna di Savoia, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became tsar of Bulgaria on 28 August 1943 upon the death of his father. He was only six years old at the time and ruled with regents, including his uncle, Prince Kyril, Prime Minister Bogdan Filov, and Lieutenant-General Nikola Mihailov Mihov of the Bulgarian Army. The child tsar and his panel of advisers ruled for three years until a Soviet coup abolished the monarchy and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was exiled in 1946, eventually settling in Madrid with his mother.
Over the ensuing decades, while Bulgaria remained under Communist rule, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha became a successful businessman, working as an adviser in the banking, hotel, electronics, and catering sectors and eventually becoming chairman of the Spanish subsidiary of Thomson, a French defense and electronics group.
In 1996, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha returned to Bulgaria and formed a new political party, the National Movement Simeon II, dedicated to “reforms and political integrity.” As head of this party, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha promised that the Bulgarian people would feel tangible effects of his proposals and enjoy significantly higher standards of living in 800 days. On 17 June 2001 Saxe-Coburg-Gotha’s party captured 120 of 240 seats in Parliament in parliamentary elections, defeating two dominant pre-existing parties there. And on 24 July 2001 Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was sworn in as Prime Minister, making him the first monarch in history to regain political power through democratic election.
As prime minister, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha gave ministerial positions in his government to technocrats and Western-educated economists. His efforts to buoy Bulgaria’s economy were largely successful, and Bulgaria’s capital markets moved forward during his term. During his time in power, Bulgaria also joined NATO and the European Commission. His efforts were recognised in 2002 when Saxe-Coburg-Gotha received the Path to Peace Award. Though he never renounced his royal title, while in office, the former child tsar was careful not to refer to himself as king. “I’d like to emphasize that my job is prime minister of the republic of Bulgaria,” he once told American news talk show host Charlie Rose.