Today marks the 80th Anniversary of the Death of King Boris III of Bulgaria, who passed away on this day in 1943! The son of Prince Ferdinand I of Bulgaria, son of Prince August of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha and Princess Clémentine of Orléans, and Princess Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma, daughter of Robert I of Parma and Princess Maria Pia of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Prince Boris was christened in the Eastern Orthodox Church which earned the animosity of the Catholic Church and his mother’s Roman Catholic relatives, thus leading to his younger siblings being christened as Catholics, though it did lead to reconciliation with Russia and Tsar Nicholas II becoming his godfather. Educated at the Palace School before enrolling at the Military College in Sofia, Crown Prince Boris took part in the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and the First World War of 1915-1918, gaining the rank of lieutenant-colonel by the end of the War.
After the defeat of Romania during the First World War, Tsar Ferdinand abdicated the Throne and went into exile, while Boris became the Tsar of the Bulgarians. Reigning though a period of major political turmoil, Tsar Boris presided through the political tensions, coup, revolts, strikes and assaults, attempting to preserve peace and order while trying to maintain the democratic Turnovo Constitution in the midst of military takeovers.
In 1930, Tsar Boris married Princess Giovanna of Savoy, daughter of King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and Princess Elena of Montenegro. The couple ha two children, Princess Marie Louise and the future Tsar Simeon II.
By the beginning of the Second World War, Bulgaria had become a nation with stable institutions, a sizable and versatile industrial output and subsidised agriculture and Tsar Boris concentrated his efforts maintaining the country’s neutrality though the government sided towards Germany and thus yielded to the pressure and joined the Tripartite Pact, though Bulgaria stayed out of combat despite declaring a symbolic war on the Allied Powers in 1941. The Tsar personally intervened to stop the order for the deportation of Bulgarian Jews, sparing nearly 50 000 Bulgarian Jews from the Concentration Camps, which angered Hitler. Tsar Boris was summoned for a meeting with Hitler in August 1943, refusing to deport Jews or declare war on the Soviet Union, with the King suddenly passing away just days after his return from Germany, with the attending doctors believing his death was the result of a slow acting poison, either by the Germans or even the Soviets as has been speculated by his family.
Tsar Boris was initially buried at the Rila Monastery following a State Funeral at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia, but a year later, was exhumed and secretly buried in the courtyard of the Vrana Palace by the Communist Government, from where it was later removed to a secret location and remains missing to this day. After the fall of the Iron Curtain, Tsar Boris’ heart was discovered at the Vrana Palace and was taken by Queen Giovanna to be reinterred at the Rila Monastery in 1993, 50 years after his passing.
Tsar Boris was succeeded by his six-year old son, Tsar Simeon II, who was deposed by a Soviet-dominated Referendum in 1946, and later served as the Bulgarian Prime Minister from 2001 to 2005, after decades in Exile. Had he still been Reigning, Tsar Simeon II would be celebrating his Oak Jubilee today.