Is Prince Paul the True King of Romania?

In the latest episode of a regal saga of financial fortunes and disinheritance, Prince Paul has been placed under house arrest on reheated fraud charges.

12.24.15 6:00 AM ET

The complicated world of the Romanian royal family, with its dramatic twists and turns, such as the unilateral disinheriting of the heir apparent which took place earlier this year, never ceases to engage the Royalist.

The Hohenzollerns’ tribulations continue this holiday season with the house arrest, on reheated fraud charges, of Prince Paul, who claims he is the true King of Romania, not the current incumbent, his uncle, the 93-year-old King Michael.

Try to put out of your mind, for a moment, the fact that Romania is a republic and has been since 1947, when the Soviets deposed King Michael (who was then just 26). Numerous European royal families do this very successfully every day of the week.

Really this is all about money. Paul is fighting for a share of the vast Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen fortune, the dynasty that officially ruled Romania from 1866 until 1947 and was enormously wealthy.

Michael has, remarkably, succeeded in getting a lot of that wealth back in the name of the Romanian royal family.

Michael has actually been king twice; the first time he was a 6-year-old child, but that reign ended when his father, Carol II, reneged on an earlier abdication.

Indeed, Carol II, a mischievous womanizer, is at the root of the Hohenzollerns’ current problems with Prince Paul.

Prince Paul has what most would consider a very clear claim to be the rightful heir to the throne. He is the eldest son of the eldest son of the philandering King Carol II.

He is not illegitimate and nor was his father, who was the product of a brief marriage with a socialite named Zizi Lambrino, whom the then-king married in 1918.

However, because he married a commoner rather than another noble, the marriage was ruled invalid for succession purposes, and Carol’s descendants via the marriage (namely Paul) were cut out of the royal family and its fortunes.

As you may well imagine, this seems a grossly unfair situation to Prince Paul, who has been fighting his way through the courts for many years now, and appeared to be getting close to forcing the Hohenzollerns to pay up a share of their fortune—if not the entire 62% he claims.

He claims vast swaths of land in the northern part of Bucharest valued at more than €100 million.

Says a source, “He managed to get a court decision in 2012 which he claims gives him rights to receive back some properties.”

However, Paul has once again apparently been thwarted by the establishment after being charged and placed under house arrest in connection with a decade-old alleged $150m fraud.

Paul is arguing, Romanian sources say, that the arrest is a politically motivated frame-up of which he is innocent.

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A British friend says, “Paul is obviously a victim of political infighting there and the change of government. I just hope it turns out all right for him.”

One could hardly blame Paul—who claims he is entitled to property worth hundreds of millions of dollars—for being suspicious.

Paul’s house arrest is just the latest chapter in a long tale.

Monarchists in Romania have long hatched plots against Prince Paul and sought to diminish him. They used to, for example, allege that he was working for the former communists to stir up trouble for the king in the years after the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu was executed—with no evidence to support such serious allegations.

In the latest round of arrests in the city of Brasov, prosecutors collared businessman Remus Truica, the former head of the cabinet of ex-Premier Adrian Nastase.

Truica has been charged with fraudulently acquiring state-owned land for Prince Paul in an alleged fraud estimated at 136 million euros ($150 million), according to a Romanian news website.

Paul was questioned Friday afternoon and, following a court appearance on Monday, was released back to his home.

A member of Prince Paul’s staff told The Daily Beast in a phone call that Prince Paul was being set up, adding, “For 21 years he has been fighting this paternity case. It’s a clear case of political interference.”