The article “Connections between the Royal Family of the United Kingdom and the Royal Family of Serbia”, prepared in cooperation with the Royal Palace in Belgrade, Serbia, was recently published in the “Serbian Month Catalogue”.
This catalogue is produced and published by the Serbian Council of Great Britain on behalf of the Round Table of Serbian community organisations, with support from the Serbian Ministry of Foreign Affairs – The Office for Cooperation with the Diaspora and Serbs in the Region.
This year’s Serbian Month Catalogue was published in the United Kingdom in February 2022 and is part of a long-term project which started with the publication of last year’s catalogue to tell the history of British Serbs. The catalogue accompanies Serbian Month in Great Britain now in its fourteenth year and recognised as one of the most significant festivals of Serbian arts and culture in the Serbian Diaspora, showcasing the artists from Serbia and the British Serbian artists.
It focuses on the history and development of Serbian communities in Britain and Ireland. Sections are showing the richness of the community in Britain and the contribution it has made to Great Britain and Serbia and also the relationship between the two countries over the years and articles by young British Serbs about growing up in Britain with a Serbian heritage. It also lists Serbian community organisations, associations, networks, charities, and schools in Britain, and British Serbs or Serbians active in the arts, culture, education and sport, education in Britain. The catalogue and Serbian Month program can be accessed on the Serbian Council’s website Serbian Council of Great Britain
Below you can read the whole article:
Connections between the Royal family of the United Kingdom and the Royal family of Serbia
The connections between the Royal Families of the United Kingdom and Serbia, the House of Windsor, and the House of Karadjordjevic, go back in time and they are over a century old. Starting as the usual relation between the ruling monarch of two states, they advanced to be connected by family ties and god-parental relationships.
In 2016, an exhibition “Karadjordjevics and Windsors, Two Royal Families – Historical Ties” was organized at the Royal Palace in Belgrade by Mr. Dragomir Acovic and Mr. Dusan Babac, members of the Privy Council, and on this occasion, HRH Crown Prince Alexander, the Head of the Royal Family of Serbia stated:” The history of the relations between Serbia and Great Britain had its ups and downs, but the history of the relations between the Karadjordjevics and the Windsors has always been the history of close family ties and friendly relations. I hope that the closeness and understanding between our two families will help our countries to overcome all differences and restore the majestic splendor of their two wartime alliances.”
HRH Regent Alexander and HRH Prince Albert in London, 1916
At the beginning of the 20th century, almost all European rulers were relatives of the ruling dynasty of the United Kingdom, while in Belgrade, the Serbian dynasty had almost no relatives among the European rulers. Interests of a few large European countries shaped the entire world at the time. Great Britain ruled the world at the time; Serbia had not yet succeeded in ruling itself, because the large scale of the territory of the Kingdom of Serbia was still occupied by the Ottoman Empire. Britain saw an ally in Turkey, while Serbia was looking for support from Austria and Russia, for its urge for freedom. The choice of allies, in both cases, determined the status and importance of the relationships between the two countries.
The officers’ coup of 1903 worsened the already modest links between the two courts. The killing of the last King of the Obrenovic Dynasty was not accepted well by the British Royal Court, and the relations between Britain and Serbia entered from the cold into the frozen stage. The first connections between the Courts were established after several years, at the great state funeral of Edward VII, the King of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Emperor of India, in 1910. Serbia and its King Peter I were represented by Crown Prince Alexander (later King Alexander I), which was also recorded by a film camera. The following year, he again represented Serbia and his father, when he attended the coronation of King George V. In this way, HRH Crown Prince Alexander would re-establish and improve diplomatic relations between the two Kingdoms.
The outbreak of the First World War significantly changed the diplomatic situation in Europe, and the wartime alliance between the Kingdom of Serbia and Great Britain led to the establishment of much more frequent and closer ties between the two countries, as well as between the two Royal courts. Regent Alexander in spring 1916 visited England where he was received not only at the highest levels but also with the greatest cordiality. He made the first step of ending the war by convincing the Allies of the necessity to equip the Serbian Army and maintain the Thessaloniki Front. Although many disagreed at that moment, they gave in to the convincing words of the young military commander. His foresight ended the war.
HM King Alexander I and his best man, HRH Prince Albert of Great Britain, on the Royal wedding in Belgrade, June 8th, 1922
After the Great War came a time when the relations between the two Royal families were raised to a higher level. On June 8th, 1922, HM King Alexander I married HRH Princess Maria of Romania, who from that day became Queen of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. She was a great-granddaughter of HM Queen Victoria, and from this marriage, the family ties between the offsprings of King Alexander I and Queen Maria and the Royal family of Great Britain were established. Many countries sent their envoys to the royal wedding in Belgrade. Representatives were even sent by Persia, also from distant Japan, and even a guest from Austria arrived, with whom Serbia was at war until four years ago. The best man at the wedding was King George V of Great Britain, who was represented by his younger son, Prince Albert, the Duke of York.
The very next year, on September 6th, 1923, their first son was born – Crown Prince Peter. For the Karadjordjevic dynasty, as well as for the Kingdom, the birth of the heir to the throne who will continue the family line and provide the stability of the state was of the greatest importance. That is why the birth of the first son of King Alexander I was an exceptional event. The Crown Prince’s baptism was set for 21 October that year. A few days before the baptism, the esteemed guests from the European Royal Families started to arrive, among them the Duke of York, who later became King George VI, who acted as proxy-godfather on behalf of his father, King George V.
It is important to emphasize that for Serbian people, “kumstvo” (which is a word that jointly represents both relations when somebody is someone’s godparent at baptism and/or best man/maid of honour at the wedding) is a sacred relation, which is considered either equal to or sometimes even more important than the “blood relations” of a family.
Baptism of HRH Crown Prince Peter, October 21st, 1923 – HM King Alexander with Royal family of Romania and HRH Prince Albert
In March 1941, the Yugoslav government signed the Tripartite Pact with Nazi Germany, the people of Yugoslavia rebelled and declined the pact. HM King Peter II took his oath as an eligible adult, even though only seventeen years old, to stand up against Hitler. King Peter II, his people, and the country became the victims of Hitler’s wrath with opposition to the Tripartite Pact. With the invasion of Nazis and their allies to the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, King Peter II and other members of the Royal family were forced to leave their homeland and join all the other Heads of State from occupied Europe in London. At that time, King Peter II appealed to all leaders of the world to support the fight of the brave people of Yugoslavia against the Axis powers, and he was also constantly trying to come back to the country and be with his people. King Peter II made a tremendous effort to help the people of Yugoslavia in the fight against Nazism. He feverishly looked for support for his countrymen meeting with many important world leaders of the time including President Roosevelt, Sir Winston Churchill, and also his godfather King George VI of the United Kingdom.
When King Peter II married Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark in 1944, a foundation for the new connection between the two Royal families was made. Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia was the niece of the late Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Philip, and also a cousin and a dear friend of HRH Crown Prince Alexander and the Royal Family. Prince Phillip was a son of the Greek and Danish Prince Andrew, the brother of the Greek King Constantine, the maternal great-grandfather of Crown Prince Alexander. HM King Peter II and HM Queen Alexandra also attended the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip on November 20th, 1947.
HM King George VI and HM King Peter II in London during World War II
HRH Crown Prince Alexander, HM King Peter II, and HM Queen Alexandra’s son was born in Claridge’s Hotel in London in suite 212 on 17 July 1945. King Peter II asked the British government to temporarily declare this hotel suite where the heir of the throne would be born to be Yugoslav territory, for the birth of the future King.
The baptism of Crown Prince Alexander was officiated by Patriarch Gavrilo and Bishop Nikolaj Velimirovic (who is now a Saint in Serbian Orthodox Church) on October 24th, 1945 at Westminster Abbey. The godparents were the then Princess Elizabeth, now Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and her father, His Majesty King George VI.
Baptism of HRH Crown Prince Alexander on October 24th, 1945 at Westminster Abbey - Princess Elizabeth, now HM Queen Elizabeth II, HM King George VI and HM King Peter II
In the decades after World War II, the Royal family of Serbia was living in unwanted exile, away from their homeland, as a consequence of a Decree that was brought by the non-democratic communistic regime in Yugoslavia after WW2, by which all rights including citizenship of the members of the Royal Family Karadjordjevic were removed, and entire private property confiscated. Crown Prince Alexander was considered to be an enemy of the state, although not even two years old at the time when the Decree was passed.
In that same hotel where HRH Crown Prince Alexander was born, in London, in 1995, HRH Crown Princess Katherine hosted the fiftieth birthday party for her husband. The celebration of this significant jubilee was attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, together with many other Royals. At the birthday celebration, HM Queen Elizabeth asked Crown Prince Alexander what his birthday wish is, and he replied: “To be home with my people in my country.” This wish finally came true 6 years later, in 2001, on Crown Prince’s 56th birthday when the Royal family finally returned home, to Serbia, after decades of forced exile.
HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Crown Prince Alexander, Crown Prince’s 50th birthday, July 17th, 1995, London
TRH Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine attended all major events of the British Royal Family including the Royal wedding of HRH Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge and HRH Princess Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge in 2011, as well as the Diamond jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth II in May 2012, where they were guests of Her Majesty.
Crown Prince Alexander keeps a close relationship with his godmother, HM Queen Elizabeth II. Some time ago he shared with the public that the Queen sent him a handwritten letter for his birthday, where she remembered His Highness’ baptism, that he was “a very big baby, and it was hard for her to hold him”.
Diamond jubilee of HM Queen Elizabeth, Royals of the world, May 2012, London
When His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales visited Serbia in March 2016, he was a guest of TRH Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine. They greeted him in the Royal Palace, and Crown Prince gave Prince Charles an icon of Saint George, the patron saint of England, and the best wines from the Royal Vineyards in Oplenac. Crown Princess Katherine prepared a handmade Serbian shawl and handbag for the Duchess of Cornwall. In the past by asking Crown Princess Katherine, the Prince of Wales gave to the Princess Katherine Foundation an autoclave sterilizer for the Gynecological Clinic within the Clinical Centre of Serbia. This valuable donation was delivered by Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine, in the presence of the Ambassador of the United Kingdom to Serbia.
This all represents a timeline, a memory of good relations between the two Royal families, the House of Windsor and the House of Karadjordjevic, and this relationship will for sure be even stronger in the future.
HRH Charles, the Prince of Wales and HRH Crown Prince Alexander, Royal Palace, Belgrade, March 16th, 2016
Parts of the text were taken from the catalog “From foreigners to relatives – a century later”, as part of the exhibition with the same name prepared by Mr. Dragomir Acović and Mr. Dušan Babac, members of the Privy Council, in 2016 and “Diplomacy of the Unifier HM King Alexander I” from 2019