BUCHAREST, Romania -- The remains of King Carol II, Romania's "playboy king," were welcomed with national honors at home Thursday, 50 years after he died in exile in Portugal.
The national guard carried his coffin and played the national anthem at a ceremony carried live on television.
The remains are to be buried today in a national funeral in the royal chapel in the southern town of Curtea de Arges.
"Romania receives back its prodigal sons to help us be stronger in the future," said Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, calling the return "a reconciliation with the past."
Carol's son, Romania's former King Michael, was notably absent from the ceremony. Michael, who had cool relations with his father, had agreed to the return. Carol died 1953 in Portugal.
The coffin was flown from Lisbon to Bucharest on a presidential plane. A coffin containing the remains of Elena Lupescu, Carol's mistress and later his third wife, also was returned. Her body will not be buried alongside Carol's.
Carol II, who ruled Romania from 1930 to 1940, was known for romantic escapades that led him to give up his throne twice and earned him the nickname of "the playboy king." He installed a royal dictatorship in 1938, outlawing all political parties.
During 1938-1940, he wavered between Germany and Britain, adopting Nazi-inspired racial legislation banning Jews from public office while at the same time trying to rally support against the Germans.
Historians say his thwarted attempt to forge an alliance of small countries in the Balkans and Central Europe against Hitler was partly to blame for Romania's loss of territory to the Soviet Union in 1940.
Marshal Ion Antonescu, a pro-Hitler leader, ousted Carol. The king later settled in Estoril, a coastal resort 18 miles from Lisbon. Other exiled European royals and nobles, such as those from Italy and Spain, also sought exile in Estoril.
Some Romanians protested that Carol did not deserve a national funeral. "It is a shame that the national guard would play the anthem for him," said Ion Coja, a historian.
Royal rule began only in 1866, when Carol I of the German Hohenzollern family -- Carol's great-uncle -- was invited to end power struggles among local princes.