Bulgarian Royalty: Boris III (1918-43)

Figure 1.--This photograph shows the children of King Ferndinand I in 1901. The two older boys wear what look to be knee pants sailor suits weith long stockings. The oldest boy is the future Boris III.

Boris III's father was Ferdinand I of Saxe-Coburg-Goth, King of Bulgaria. Boris wore dresses as a little boy. As an older boy, kneepants sailor suits seem to have been a popular outfit for both him and his broyther. Prince Boris and Cyril were commonly dressed in identical or similar outfits. Borris III was crowned in 1918 after the abdication of his father. Bulgaria's disastrous participation in World War I had made King Ferdinand very unpopular. Boris was only about 24 years old when he became king. The King was forced to assume executive authority as Fascism grew in power. The King tried to keep Bulgaria out of World War II, but with the German Army on the border, he was forced to declare war on Britain and America and to provide war materials. Despite intense German pressure, he refused to declare war on the Soviet Union or to turn over Bulgaria's Jews to the NAZIs. King Boris died under misterious conditions in 1943 leaving his young son Prince Simeon who was only 6 years old to deal with the Germans and advancing Soviet Army.


Boris'father was Ferdinand I of Saxe-Coburg-Goth, King of Bulgaria (1861-1948). His parents were August of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (1818- ) and Clementine d'Orleans (1817- ). Ferdinand I lived until 1948, but abdigated in 1918 as a result of Bulgaria's disastrous participation in World War I. Boris' mother was a French princess, Marie Louise de Bourbon of Parma (1870-99). Her father was King Louis Philippe I d'Orleans, of France (1773- ). Her mother was Queen Marie-Amélie de Bourbon, Queen of France (1782- ). Marie Louise died at a very young age in 1899. She was only 20 years old, leaving four young children. King Ferdinand remarried in 1908 to Elenor Reuss (1860-1917). Her fther was Henry IV, Prince Reuss zu Köstritz (1821- ). I do not know how Boris got on with his step mother.


King Ferdinand had four children. Boris who succeed is father in 1918 was born in 1894. Cyril was born a year later in 1895. As the two boys were close in age, they were raised together and very close. Princess Eudoxia was born in 1898. Princess Nadejda was born in 1899.


Childhood Clothes

Boris wore dresses as a little boy. As an older boy, kneepants sailor suits seem to have been a popular outfit for both him and his broyther. Prince Boris and Cyril were commonly dressed in identical or similar outfits.



Borris III was crowned in 1918 after the abdication of his father. Bulgaria's disastrous participation in World War I had made King Ferdinand very unpopular. Boris was only about 24 years old. A left wing coalition of agrarians and communists ruled from 1920-23, but were then over thrown by a military coup in 1923. The Prime Minister was brutally assisinated. Dozens of political and military figures--parties to the coup, were murdered and there was an abortive attempt to assassinate Tsar Boris III himself. The military responded in 1925 with a massive wave of killings. A period of stability, even of certain uplift of the Bulgarian economy, set in after 1925.


Fascism began to develop in Bulgaria, as in the rest of the Balkans, during the 1930s. In association with the Reserve officers league, the Zveno group engineered a coup d'etat in 1934. Its government headed by Kimon Georgiev, suspended the constitution, dismissed the National assembly, prohibited and dissolved the political parties, and undertook a number of reforms. Confirmed republicans as they were, the Zveno government undertook a series of steps challenging the position of the monarch. The Zveno government took only a few months in office to antagonize the upper middle-class, the traditional parties, the communists and the monarch. Lacking in noticeable popular support, it fell an easy prey to the military, loyal to Tsar Boris III. It was one of those military groups that forced the prime-minister Kimon Georgiev to resign in January 1935. A new government, loyal to the palace was formed.

Executive Authority

In those years Tsar Boris III's ideas of the monarch assuming executive authority had taken shape. Worried about the fate of his dynasty and convinced of both the old parties' and the new 'high-handed' circles' incapacity to make provision for its future, the monarch resorted to an elaborate political plan and, similar to his first experience in unseating Kimon Georgiev's government, succeeded in gradually ousting Zveno from the political stage before the beginning of World War II. The sovereign did not naturally have the slightest intention of restoring the constitutional parliamentary system. It was not easy for him to repeal the Constitution of Turnovo either, as the Bulgarian society, having been deprived of its good old aristocracy and of its elite spiritual guides for nearly 600 years in a row, had been organically sensitive and ill-disposed to any authoritarian power. Even at the time of the wars, the Bulgarian monarchy had its prerogatives over the government strictly limited. Because of that, Tsar Boris III got his diligently elaborated political plan going, resorting to expedient elements of social demagogy such as holding out promises for elections, implanting fear of the future (the timing of this threat was well-calculated as the prelude to the Second World War was already apparent) and engineering campaigns against the incompetence of the conventional bourgeois state machinery. In this way he succeeded in pronouncing himself to be the only raIling figure for the Bulgarian people and their aspirations in those hard times of grave political crisis. It should be admitted that the royal propaganda was a success. Tired of butchery and inter plus intra-party rough-and-tumble, the Bulgarian society consented to the dictatorship and accepted the monarch as the monocratic political guide of the nation.


King Boris mairred Giovanna, Princess of Italy (House of Savoy) in 1930. Her father was King Victor Emmanuel III de Savoie of Italy (1869- ). Her mother was Helen of Montenegro (Petrovic-Njegos) (1873- ).


They had two children. Their first child was Princess Marie-Louise who was born in 1933. Simeon II was born in Sofia on June 16, 1937. This event was greeted with enormous enthusiasm by the Bulgarian people.

World War II

King Boris III from 1936 until his death shepherded the country almost single-handedly, aided by care-taker governments were persomally loyal to him. After the rise of the NAZIs, the King gradually turned toward the Axis Powers and away from the Russians now dominatedand by the communists. The Kng in 1940, with Hitler's approval, forced Romania to restore southern Dobruja to Bulgaria. While visiting Hitler in Berlin, he agreed to declare war on Great Britain and the United States, but not on Russia. The King's movement toward the NAZIs appears to have been primarily a reflection of Germany's power rather than a commitment to Fascism. The Bulgarians never committed troops to the German campaign in Russia. The Bulgarians generally resisted German demands with delaying tactics until forced by the Germans to comply. Bulgaraia was one of the few Eurpean countries which succeded in protecting its Jews--virtully the only European country to do so. This was particularly telling, because deportingthe Jews was a high priority for the Germans. King Boris who was very popular died mysteriously in 1943, possibly by heart attack or by assassination. His 6-year old son, Simeon II, succeeded under a regency.

Simeon II (1943-46)

Simeon Borissov Saxe-Coburg-Gotha was born in 1937. As heir to the throne, Simeon was given the title Prince of Tirnovo. He spent his early childhood with his parents and elder sister Princess Marie-Louise, in the palace of Vrana, near Sofia, where he began school. He succeeded his popular father, Boris III, as king of Bulgaria during World War II in 1943. A regency was forned as he was only 6-years old at the time.


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Created: June 6, 1998
Last updated: 2:43 AM 7/27/2008