Yugoslavian Royalty: Alexander I

Figure 1.--This is the Serbian Royal Family. I think it was painted during summer 1933 or 34. Prince Andrej, the little boy, wears an open neck shirt and short trousers. I think this is a two piece outfit. He also wears ankle socks and strap shoes. Prince Tomislav, the middle boy, also wears an open neck white shirt, short sleeves, short pants. white ankle socks, and single strap sandals or strap shoes. Prince Peter, the older boy, wjo apparently was home on his summer vacation wears a long sleeved white shirt, matching blue tie, short trousers, and white ankle socks. The boys seem to have been out in the garden. The little one has watered the flowers and picked some for his mum. The middle boy looks as if he has a gardening tool of some description. Peter does not look as if he has been gardening. He might have been with his parents on an official function. They looked very relaxed and comfortable. Prince Tomislav has a mischievous look on his face.

Prince Alexander was not the Crown Prince, but his older brother proved unstable. Alexander grew up in Montenegro. His mother was a Montenegran proncess, but died soon after his birth. Prince Alexander as a young man acquired a reputation for military skills both during the Balkan Wars and World War I. Alexander I became was crowned after his father, King Peter I, died in 1921. King Alexander ruled under the constitution for 8 years. Then faced with foreign threats and devisive nationalist tensions within Yugoslavia, he declared a royal dictatorship. He was assacinated during a state visit to France in 1934. He was succed by his 11-year old son, Crown Prince Peter. An uncle, Prince Paul, became regent. The King's assasination, meant that when Yugoslavia was contronted by the NAZI menace that there was not a experiences soverign in place.


Prince Alexander's father was KIng Peter I (1844-1921) of Serbia. His mother was born Princess Zorka Petrovic-Njegos (1864-90) of Montenegro, a daughter of King Nicholas of Montenegro.


Prince Alexander had three an older brother, including one who who died in childbirth, and two older sisters, Princesses Helen and Milena. Crown Prince Borde (George) should have inherited the crown. As a young man and adult, however, he came to be seen as unstable. There were two serious scandals. In one Prince Borde actually became enraged with a servant and kicked him to death (1909). Serbian authorities insisted that the Crown Prince to renounce his claim to the throne.


Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic was born in Cetinje (1888). Cetinje was in Montenegro. Prince Alexandder was born there because his mother was a Montenegro princess. His mother Queen Zorka died only 2 years after his birth. Even so, hec spent most of his childhood in Montenegro. As a young man he contracted stomach typhus and almost died (1910). As a result he has persistent stomach problems as an adult.


Prince Alexander as a boy was educated at a boarding school in Geneva. He then continued his education at the Military School in Saint Petersburg, Russia. This showed the close ties between Russia and Serbia which played a role in the outbreak of World War I. He had to withdraw from the Acafemy because of health problems.

Balkan Wars (1912-13)

Serbia was involved in two Balkan wars which preceeded World War I. Prince Alexander commanded the Serbian First army in the First Balkan War (1912). He emerged victorios at battles fought in Kumanovo and Bitola. He extended his reputation as a military leader in the Second Balkan War, especially at Bregalnica (1913). Serbia as a result of these struggles acquired much of Macedonia (northern Greece). He was involved in a despute concerning the administration of Macedonia. Col. Dragutin Dimitrijević or "Apis" desputed Prince Alexander's plans, but Alexander prevailed.


Prince Peter became Regent for his father (June 14, 1914). The despute wiyh Apis was a factor. So was the King's declining health. Thus King Peter agreed to hand over the royal powers to his son. This made Prince Alexander Regent of Serbia. It proved to be momentus times. Within weeks Serbian nationalists assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Serbia and all of Europe was at war.

World War I (1914-18)

Prince Alexander at the outbreak of World War I was the supreme commander of the Serbian Army. The Austria-Hungary lanned to punish Serbia and invaded. Alexander was well served with competent generals (Marshals Radomir Putnik, Živojin Mišić, Stepa Stepanović and Petar Bojović). The smaller Serbian Army sucessfully resisted the larger Austrian Army. The Serbs at battles at Cer and at the Drina (the Battle of Kolubara) defeatedcthe Austrians (1914). The Austrians were shocked and forced to withdraw. In addiion they were now at war with the huge Russia Army in the north. The military situation changed radically the next year. The Austrians were reinforced by German units and Bulgaria entered the War, opening another front. The Serbs did not have large enough army to hold out against the new forces hurled at them (1915). The Serbian Army commanded by Prince Alexander was decisively defeated and had to conduct an unpresedented winter retreat--the Great Retreat. The Serbian Army withdrewcfrom Serbia and crossed mountains through gorges in Montenegro and northern Albania. They reached the Adriatic coast where Allied naval forces could evacuate them. Many boys acoompabied the Army and most died because of the difficult conditions. The Allies evacuated them to Corfu. Here the Serbs reorganized and were resupplied. The Allies opened up a new front at Sanonika in northern Greece which finally ebntered the War on the Allied side. The Serbian Army was recommitted here with both British and French forces. The Serbs won a decisive victory at Kajmakcalan. The Serbian army carried out a major part in the final Allied breakthrough (autumn 1918). This broke the Bulgaroan Army and opened the way for the liberation of Serbia itself.

Post-War Period

Prince Alexander, Serbian Regent, during the illness of his father, Peter I, reigned under a provisional government. The establishment of constitutional government was delayed by a series of boundary disputes with neighbiring countries, including former World War I ally Italy. Despite opposition by the Croats, a highly centralized Yugoslav Government was established by a conservative coalition. dominated by the Serbs


Alexander was crowned King in 1921 after the death of his father King Alexander I, who had acted as Regent for his ailing father since 1914, had earned national fame as a soldier in the Balkan Wars and the First World War.

Queen Marie (1900-61)

Princess Maria Hohenzollern was born in Gotha, Thuringia in Germany, during the reign of her maternal grandfather Duke Alfred of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Maria's father was Crown Prince Ferdinand of Romania. Her greatuncle was King Carol I of Romania. She was calle Mignon within the family to differentiate her from her namesake mother. King Alexander after his accession married Princess Marie (Mignon) Hohenzollern of Romania (1922). Princess Marie was a daughter of Queen Maria, the Queen Consort of Romania. The marriage choices are interesting. Note that Montenegro, Romania, and Serbia all joined the allied side in World War I. Her mother was Princess Marie, a daughter of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, a son of Queen Victoria. Her maternal great-grandfather was Tsar Alexander II of Russia. She was well educated and spoke several languages fluently. Two of her favorite hobbies were painting and sculpting. She liked to drive at a time when it was not common for women to drive--especially queens. After marrying King Alexander, she emersed herself in charitable work and became highly regarded within Yugoslavia for her humanitarian work.


King Alexander and Queen Marie had three children, all sons--Crown Prince Peter, Prince Tomislav, and Prince Andrej.

Crown Prince Peter (1923- )

King Alexander's son, Crown Prince Peter, was only 11 years old at the time of his death when he became King. Three Regents were appointed. His great-uncle Prince Paul--married to Princess Olga of the Hellenes (Greece)-- became the Prince Regent. Constant pressure from The German Government after the NAZI rise to power brought Yugoslavia increasingly into the German orbit through a series of trade and diplomatic agreements. This policy was unpopular, especially with the Serbs.

Prince Tomislav (1928- )

Prince Andrej (1929- )

Children's Clothing

I have little information on how the princes were raised and dressed.

Royal Dictatorship

The new kingdom faced many threats. Neighboring states coveted many countries territories and internal rivalries between the Serbs and Croats increased tensions still further. Some Yugoslavs believe that it was clear by 1929 that the King had no option but to impose a Royal dictatorship. Serbian domination of the government had caused resentment by Croats, Slovenes, and other natiionalities. A crisis resulted from the killing of a Croat national leader. Civil war seemed imminent. The King claimed he assumed power reluctantly and he promised to restore democracy to the newly renamed Kingdom of Yugoslavia once unity had been achieved and bureaucratic corruption expunged. His government vigorosly repressed opposition.


King Alexander was assassinated in Marseilles (October 9, 1934). Alexander was arriving in Marseille for a state visit to the Third French Republic. The two coubtries were allies as part of the Little Entente. While being driven through the streers, a gunman stepped forward and shot both Alexandwr and French Foreign Minister Louis Barthou as well as the chauffeur. Ot was all caught on film and was featured in movie newsreels around the world. The assasin was struck down at the scene by a mounted French policeman and then attacked by the croed. The French police apparently panicked and fired wildly, killing and wounding bystanders. As aesult significant discrepancies emerged in the balistic assessment. There were variations in reports on the number and direction of shots fired. The press immidiately began writing about Balkan terrorism and blood oaths. It was not lost upon the French that Wotld war I had been ignited by Balkan terrorism. The assasin was a Macedonian terrorist working with Croatian extremists. There are reports of Hungarian and Italian support, but very little has ever been provem. Italy's Dictator Benito Mussolini had designs on the Balkans and Yugoslavia, the region's largest state stood in his way. It was thus in Italy's interests to destabilize Yugoslavia. The investigation proved complicated. The assassin carried a Czech passport identifying him as Petrus Kalemen. There were clains thst he was a Czech, Hungarian, and Croat. A tatoo on his arm caused considerable interest. It included a skull and crossbones and some capital letters. A Yugoslav journalist claimed it was the symbol of the MRO. Fingerprint evidence eventually identified the Assasin as Vlado Chernozemski, Mihailov associate. Other individuals were arrested, all Croats. They implicated Ante Pavelic, the head of a Croatian Ustashe--an outlawed Croation terrorist group. Hungarian complicity was suggested because the conspirators had trained there before the Hungarian Government closed down the refuge camps there. Italy and Germany did not cooperate in the investigation. And with the rise of appeasement sentiment, there was not great desire by the French to push either country. King Alexander was buried in the Memorial Church of St. George. It had been built by his father. The Kings' 11-year old son, Crown Prince Peter, succeeded his father. Pribce Peter at the time was at school in Britain. His father was planning to visit him after meetings in Paris. As a result of his youth, Alexander's first cousin Prince Pavle Karadjordjevic oversaw a regency.


King Alexander I's tomb is in the royal mausoleum at St George's in Windsor.


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Created: December 8, 1998
Last updated: 3:10 AM 7/27/2008