KING Michael I, Romania’s former monarch who was forced to abdicate by the communists in the aftermath of the Second World War, has died aged 96.

Michael, who played a pivotal role in Romania’s switch to the Allied cause following a coup in 1944, spent decades in exile working as a chicken farmer and aircraft pilot. He finally got his citizenship back in 1997, eight years after the collapse of communism.

Michael’s death leaves only two people alive who headed their nations during the war – former King Simeon II of Bulgaria, and the Dalai Lama of Tibet, both of whom were children at the time.

In a statement, the Romanian royal house said Michael died in his residence in Aubonne, Switzerland.

Michael had been suffering from cancer and last year withdrew from public life, handing over his responsibilities to his oldest daughter.

President Klaus Iohannis declared “days of mourning”, saying Michael “wrote the history of Romania”.

Michael, a great-great-grandson to Britain’s Queen Victoria, acceded to the throne in 1927 when he was six years old after his father Carol II eloped with his mistress and abdicated.

After three years Carol returned to the throne and stayed there until abdicating again in 1940 and Michael became king for a second time.