In the previous post of this series the fate of an aristocrat in Greater Romania was portrayed as an illustration that adjustment to the country’s realities was not impossible. Such phenomena existed not only at the upper end of the social ladder. The most telling examples of expressions of loyalty and acceptance are petitions submitted to the king. The practice had long traditions rooted in the concept of the generous and righteous king caring for all of his/her subjects. It was neither a novelty nor the individuals merger with a nation as the king’s role traditionally was less associated with the emerging entity of the nation than with the state and the kingdom and prescribed magnanimity towrads every one of his subjects.
It is therefore not surprising that the kings of Greater Romania received a series of petitions from their Hungarian subjects as well. The very nature of these made it more probable to originate from the lesser strata of the society. People asked for material help after sudden and irreparable loss due to unexpected events (natural disaster, the death of the earner in the family etc.), dowry for a girl who otherwise wouldn’t have been able to marry her love, permission to baptize a child after the king and that way assume his „guardianship” over the child’s life.
The success of these attempts was neither certain nor impossible. As the role of the king implied such acts of generosity and magnanimity every – reasonable – petitioner were treated seriously and their case investigated. The kings chancellery sent it to the respective local or county authorities and asked for their opinion on these issues. (As a consequence the decisions often reflected the stance of the authorities instead of the king’s.) Betti Juhász, 21, from Petroşeni, applied for financial support in order to conclude marriage with her fiancée for five years, Adalbert (Béla) Váta. Váta was locksmith at the mines while three of Juhász’ four brothers (locksmiths too) were married, one of them (a miner) single. They had no means to support their sister and the couple could not have afforded to set up a separate household without financial support. However, the local police nurtured rather unfavorable views of the family. In their opinion they advised the king not to grant the sum Juhász asked for, because she is „the sister of some suspected communists, only slightly speaks Romanian” and Váta was alleged to have committed burglary. The conclusion of the report run: „Every one of them being minority they not really nurture Romanian sentiments”.
Nevertheless, granting and denying the requests of his subjects varied in the practice and individuals continued to petition their ruler. Not every one of them raised so serious problems like Betti Juhász. Ştefan Kun (Kun István, see the picture below, showing him and his family) asked the king to accept the role of virtual godparent over his sixth son. Kun, who referred to himself as a humble electrician from Cluj, proudly mentioned being Hungarian and not Romanian, but saw no objection in this fact for granting his request, as he described himself as faithful and loyal subject, whose desire is to give similarly faithful soldiers to His Majesty.
The story of individual petitions reveals another aspect of interwar Romania, usually veiled by the dominant national (and nationalist) perspectives of historiography. Firstly, it is a sign of differences in personal identification, contradicting to assumptions based on the broad interpretation of national conflict. Secondly, it is a sign of the continuous existence of the role of the ruler and sovereign as it was constructed before the age of mass nationalism and kept – sometimes deliberately against the latter – even during the 19th and early 20th centuries. From this perspective the king was not identical with the nation state, as its head, rather the traditional figure of the good ruler and therefore approachable by everyone, regardless of nationality or religion. For the „humble people” this role was familiar and appealing. It was not an invention, the king played a similar role even before 1918, as it is seen for example in the Memorandum movement. However, just as it happened in the latter case, the king of Greater Romania was inseparable from his state. Even if he was not entirely constrained by its apparatus, certain rules bound him as well, giving influence to state authorities on decisions. With it these authorities also gained the possibility to enforce considerations not necessarily part of the king’s own deliberations. Like in the case of Betti Juhász, who was unfortunate enough to belong simultaneously to the two most feared enemy group of Greater Romania: communists and irredentists.