HRH Crown Prince Alexander was very pleased to give a very thorough interview to German media portal Promipool.de, in which he spoke about the funeral of his Godmother, late HM Queen Elizabeth II, his connections with her and HM King Charles III, as well as the tradition of the Royal family of Serbia, the inseparable connection with the homeland, as well as activities to support the people of Serbia and his views on the constitutional parliamentary monarchy as an excellent principle of state regulation.
The text, which was published in two parts, is also available below. We thank Ms Patricia Gunkel on the realization of the interview. The interview is also available on Promipool.de media portal on links: LINK 1, LINK 2
Your Royal Highness, thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
You were of course present at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. Could you give us a few impressions?
– Yes, my wife, Crown Princess Katherine, and I attended the funeral of my beloved godmother, HM Queen Elizabeth II, and the most important impression is how deeply, strongly, and truly she was loved by not only her family and people who knew her personally but by her people. Because, she was the best example of the constitutional parliamentary monarch of the 20th and the 21st century, and the people of the United Kingdom and all other countries of the Commonwealth realms felt and understood how committed she was in performing her duty of serving to the people. And of course, this is very well known by all the members of other Royal families of Europe and the world and state officials who came in such remarkable numbers to pay their respect to the late Queen.
How did you and your wife, HRH Crown Princess Katherine, feel about the ceremony and the atmosphere in the country?
– The mixture of sadness and deep respect marked that grievous day, and it was not just my wife and me, but as we could see, all the people shared the same emotions. The entire ceremony was very solemn and most appropriate. The personal touch of late Queen Elizabeth could be felt, because it is not a secret that, while she was alive, she took a very active part in making plans for the sad day, and it could be very well experienced on the day of the funeral.
Also, all events before the funeral that we attended- Lying-in-State in Westminster Hall, the reception at Buckingham Palace held by Their Majesties King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla, were so dignified, so this remarkable woman is honoured most appropriately, as she deserved.
Besides deep grief, you could also feel everywhere the hope and firm determination that her legacy must keep living.
When was the last time you were together with HM the Queen?
– It was in March this year when we all gathered at the Thanksgiving Service for the life of her husband, who was also my dear cousin and friend, HRH Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh. Since he died during the outburst of the COVID-19, his funeral could only be attended only by members of the Royal family, and this was an event during which we paid our respect to him, together with members of numerous Royal families of Europe, and of course, and to remember the great love the Duke and the Queen shared.
With her death, an era comes to an end. How did you feel about travelling to London, knowing that Her Majesty isn’t going to receive you anymore?
– It will definitely not be the same, and it will be very hard, as it always is when you lose someone you love and respect. And it is not just going to London, I will deeply miss her letters, Christmas cards, but most of all – her wisdom and gentle spirit.
How would you describe your personal relationship you had with your godmother, Queen Elizabeth II?
– I am grateful for all the moments we shared together, for her kind and caring words, and for her love. She always received me and my family with great respect and affection. I have very fond memories of many meetings with Her Majesty at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. She has always been very good to me and very caring. I so much enjoyed our conversation. And she had such great sense of humor. I will always remember how she congratulated me my 70th birthday with personal, hand-written letter, where she said, remembering my baptism, that I was “a very big baby, and it was hard for her to hold me”.
When you think about your christening in Westminster Abbey, how does it make you feel, to know, that the Queen, who still was a princess at that time, and her father, King Georg VI were your godparents?
– It makes me very proud and honoured. And, so your readers can understand it better, it is important to say that for us Serbs, “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” within a family.
It also should not be forgotten that this is not the beginning of these relations between our families. The best man at the wedding of my grandparents, King Alexander I and Queen Maria, as well as godfather at the baptism of my father, King Peter II, was King George V of the United Kingdom (Queen Elizabeth’s grandfather). He was represented at both events by his son, at that time Prince Albert, the Duke of York, who later became King George VI.
You must have experienced many unforgettable moments with Queen Elizabeth II. Can you tell us about one that you remember particularly fondly?
– I will always remember her coming to my 50th birthday. Just to give you a short introduction, I was born in London, in Claridge’s Hotel in suite 212 My father asked the British government to temporarily declare this hotel suite where the heir of the throne would be born to be Yugoslav territory. I was born there because my father was forced to leave the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1941, with the invasion of Nazis and their allies to our country. My father joined all the other Heads of State from occupied Europe in London, and he made a tremendous effort to help the people of Yugoslavia in the fight against Nazism.
Unfortunately, a non-democratic communistic dictatorship took power in our country after World War Two, and in 1947 they passed a Decree, by which all rights including citizenship of the members of the Royal Family Karadjordjevic were removed, and entire private property confiscated. I was an enemy of the state, although not even two years old at the time. I was a very dangerous baby indeed…
So, in 1995, my wife organized the fiftieth birthday party for me at Claridge’s Hotel in London – the very same place where I was born. And the Queen came, which made me so happy and joyful – I told you what godmother means to Serbs, the Queen was my spiritual mother. We were speaking and dancing, and I remember her asking me what my birthday wish was, and I replied: “To be home, with my people, in my country.” This wish came true exactly 6 years later, on my 56th birthday, in 2001, when my family and I finally returned home, to Serbia.
How would you describe your personal relationship to King Charles III?
– HM King Charles III is my cousin and a very dear friend, we share great mutual respect and love, and I am always looking forward to meeting him and sharing our thoughts. We have very good cooperation, we hear from each other every few months, we were together at every important event of the United Kingdom Royal family. He was our guest in the Royal Palace in Belgrade during his official visit to Serbia in 2016.
It is interesting that, although he is younger than me, in a way that we Serbs look at family relations since we all tend to keep them very close, he is my uncle – my late mother Queen Alexandra was his cousin, Greek King George I was my great-great-grandfather, and King Charles’ great-grandfather.
King Charles III and you went to school together. Do you remember some special moments from that time, which you would like to share?
– Yes, we both attended the Gordonstoun School in Moray, Scotland. These were nice times, with much fewer worries on our minds. But, out of respect for His Majesty, these memories I would like to keep for ourselves until he also decides to share them.
What kind of changes do you think King Charles III will bring, subject the British monarchy to?
– I am sure that King Charles III will be a worthy follower of his great mother, and I know that he will, with the same devotion and determination that Queen Elizabeth II had, serve his people and his country as the monarch of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms. The Queen’s shining example will lead him in performing his important duty.
As in every monarchy, stability, tradition, and continuity are carried and brought by the monarch, and I know King Charles III will continue this path.
Is the new British King planning on visiting you in the Royal Palace in Belgrade in the near future?
– We will see, I would very much love to greet him in our family home again, but it will all depend on his schedule and numerous obligations as the head of state.
After many years you have returned to your roots, to Serbia. What do you value most about this country and its people?
– While living in unwanted and forced exile, I kept dreaming of coming here and being able to see the land of my ancestors. And when this long-lasting dream finally came true, although I never was in Serbia before, I knew I was home. There is something in the blood of Karadjordjevics that makes this strong connection with our people and our homeland, that is like a magnet to us. We can not be separated from this land.
The thing that I value the most is the tremendous potential that both Serbia and its people have. Speaking of the country, I have traveled a lot and seen many different places, but this beauty of nature that Serbia has, just makes your heart beat quicker. And we have so many good, talented people, who have enormous potential. Our people have so much contributed to the entire world – everybody heard about Nikola Tesla, Milutin Milankovic, Mihailo Pupin… Let’s not forget Mileva Maric Einstein, whose contribution to Albert Einstein’s work was very important and significant. It would take days and days to mention all the names of great Serbian people who gave so much to the entire world. And believe me, there are a lot more jewels like this within our people. Great ideas, great intelligence, and a huge potential for the entre world.
Do you think that a constitutional monarchy, as it is in Great Britain, would be a benefit to Serbia, the country in which you then would rightfully be King?
– I have said it many times, and I still think the same – I do think that a constitutional parliamentary monarchy would be good for Serbia, and I am ready to take the position which belongs to me by the tradition of our country and also by the legacy of my family, as the Head of the Royal House, but only if it is the wish of the people of Serbia.
Because of the decades-lasting negative propaganda against my family and everything that had even the slightest connection with monarchy, this is the topic that requires serious and thorough discussions, because the people of Serbia deserve to hear all the facts about the advantages of constitutional parliamentary monarchy and to listen the substantiated points of both sides, of those who are for and also those which are against the renewal of monarchy. Only then the proper answer can be given.
I would like to emphasize that this system has proven itself to be very good and efficient in many countries – just look at modern monarchies, the Kingdom of Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, Japan, Canada, and many others. These are all countries with high levels of democracy, human rights and freedoms, social justice…
The monarch in constitutional parliamentary monarchy is the guarantor of democracy, continuity, stability, and unity. He is there for every citizen, regardless of their political, religious, or any other affiliation. His position as a non-party and above-party person is important for the country.
And it is my opinion that it could be beneficial for Serbia as well.
You have already had a very exciting and eventful life. Is there an experience that particularly shaped you?
– It is very hard to point out only some of them… Living in forced exile certainly left a mark, being unable to be in direct contact with my people, living in constant danger from the communistic secret service, as well as their plots and games. It definitely left a trail.
But, so it is not only negative things, meetings with so many great people, and sharing experiences and opinions with them is something that was very helpful and meant a lot to me. And it is impossible to list all of them – from Nelson Mandela to the late Serbian Patriarch Pavle, they all contributed a lot to me.
In royal families, usually a lot of value is placed on tradition. Is there a tradition that is particularly important to you in your own family and why?
– We have many traditions, but one stands out, and it is something that is the destiny and duty of each member of Karadjordjevic dynasty, and of every Royal in the constitutional parliamentary monarchy – from our childhood, we are taught and directed to always work for our country and for the benefit of our people. It is the path that all my ancestors took, from Karadjordje to my father, and it was the only path I could take – giving our contribution to our people and our country as always, and in every moment being in the service of the people. Even our family motto says – “From the people. For the people”.
It is our main duty, the highest point of our tradition that we must follow in our every activity. I always like to quote the words of my father, King Peter II, that in the best possible way describe the role of our family in Serbia’s history, and also in the future: “For us Karadjordjevics, the Crown was only a mean by which we served to the people, not the goal of personal dynastic rule.” That is our destiny, and the only path we can follow.
You and your wife are known for your numerous social projects. Which one of these is particularly close to your heart?
– The main focus of our humanitarian work is on supporting Healthcare, Social Welfare, and Education Systems in Serbia and the Republic of Srpska. The activities in the humanitarian field have always been very important to the Royal family Karadjordjevic. Inspired by my ancestors who did the same in the past, my wife, Crown Princess Katherine, has dedicated her life to helping others and providing support to the people of Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, providing aid to all the people who need it, regardless of their gender, religion, race, age, or ethnicity. And she is always ready to help. It should be said that one of our first projects together was the donation of Isolation, a Sterile room for hematology patients to University Children’s Hospital Tiršova, 30 years ago. This carries a lot of symbolism in it because the hospital in Tirsova was built by my grandmother, HM Queen Maria. And the help was delivered even before we were able to come back to Serbia.
Also, my Foundation for Education and Culture every year awards 600 best high school graduates from Serbia and the Republic of Srpska, at the reception we organize at the White Palace. We even managed to keep this going during the Covid-19 pandemic, with online ceremonies, and sending gifts to the best scholars through the mail. Good education is the foundation of every state in the world, and every kind of support for young people is always welcome and much needed, so they are motivated to continue their education. That is why I started my Foundation for Education and Culture after our return to Serbia, to preserve the tradition of my ancestors and to carry out my personal vision – to provide quality education for the youth of Serbia, so they can achieve personal development, successful careers, and personal fulfillment.
I am also very proud of the Easter and Christmas receptions we have for more than 1,000 children without parental care, with disabilities, and other categories of socially vulnerable children, when we welcome them in the Palace, and give them presents. Same as the reception for the best students, we kept this tradition even in times of pandemic, and we sent the presents for children to institutions.
You were born in Claridge’s Hotel in London and the suite was declared Serbian territory. Which feelings do you have today, when you visit this place?
– It is a mixture of sad feelings, when I remind myself of the reasons that caused my birth to be here, but also nostalgic and happy because of all the nice things that happened here.
Is there a special event that you remember in connection to the Claridge’s Hotel that you would like to share with us?
– Besides already mentioned my 50th birthday celebration, it is definitely March 2001, when in this hotel, in the very same room 212 where I was born, the representatives of the Serbian Government delivered Serbian passports for my family and me. Our citizenship was restored, and we could finally go back to our country, where we belong.
Thank you very much!