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Ferdinand I of Bulgaria
His Majesty Ferdinand I, King of Bulgaria (February 26, 1861 - September 10, 1948), born His Highness Prince Ferdinand Maximilan Karl Leopold Maria of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, was monarch of Bulgaria as well as an author, botanist and philatelist.
The son of Prince Augustus of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1818-81) and his wife Clémentine of Orléans (1817-1907) and a grand-nephew of Ernst I of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Ferdinand was born in Vienna, initially with the title Duke of Saxony, later succeeding his father as Prince of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
He was proclaimed Prince Regnant of autonomous Bulgaria on July 7, 1887 in the Gregorian calendar (the "New Style" used hereinafter), ten months after the abdication of his predecessor Prince Alexander.
Bulgaria's domestic political life was dominated during the early years of his reign by liberal party leader Stefan Stambolov, whose foreign policy saw a marked cooling in relations with Russia, formerly seen as Bulgaria's protector.
Despite Ferdinand's preference for handsome young blond men, he took his responsibility to wed and father a dynasty with the utmost seriousness, marrying Marie Louise of Bourbon-Parma, Princess of Bourbon-Parma, daughter of Roberto I of Parma on April 20, 1893 at the Villa Pianore in Luccia in Italy, producing four children:
Ferdinand's bisexuality was both well-known and exploited throughout European diplomatic circles. It became the custom for visiting dignataries seeking favour from Ferdinand to be accompanied by a handsome young equerry and Ferdinand's regular holidays on Capri, then a famous haunt for wealthy gay men, was common knowledge in royal courts throughout Europe. A much repeated tale of First World War vintage centred around the occasion the Bulgarian war minister arrived at Ferdinand's quarters to discuss an urgent military manner only to discover that Ferdinand had left for a picnic with a young man he had just met.
Stambolov's fall (May 1894) and subsequent assassination (July 1895) paved the way for a reconciliation with Russia, effected in February 1896 with the conversion of the infant Prince Boris from Catholicism to Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Ferdinand became Tsar of Bulgaria upon the country's declaration of independence from the Ottoman Empire on October 5, 1908. The two Balkan Wars of October 1912-July 1913 saw the partial reversal of initial Bulgarian territorial gains.
Ferdinand abdicated on October 3, 1918 after Bulgaria's defeat in World War I, which she had entered (October 1915) on the side of Germany, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire in an attempt to reverse the losses of 1913.
- Foxy Ferdinand, Tsar of Bulgaria, Stephen Constant, 1979.
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