HRH Crown Prince Alexander was very pleased to give a very thorough interview to Kurir daily newspapers, in which he spoke about the centennial of his father’s birth, and his memories of King Peter II, but also about some topics on which His Royal Highness has not spoken to the media before.
The text, which was published in the printed edition of Kurir newspapers on 12 September 2023 is also available below. We thank the journalist, Mrs. Jelena S. Spasić for her great professionalism and the realization of this interview. The article is also available on the website of Kurir on LINK
I FOUND OUT ABOUT THE DEATH OF MY FATHER, KING PETER II, AFTER THREE DAYS, THROUGH THE RADIO
– It was through a radio broadcast, BBC Radiom that I found out about my father’s death. My friend came to me and said, “Alexander please come, there are some unfortunate news you must hear.” And there it was, a broadcast saying that King Peter II of Yugoslavia has passed away, and that “it was waited three days to inform the public in order the King’s family could be informed”. And there I was, his only son, listening it on the radio. I got in touch immediately with my mother, Queen Alexandra and uncle Tomislav and they also knew nothing about it. Very soon, my uncle got the information about death of his brother from Yugoslavia as well… which was very unusual, having in mind the dictatorship in our country at the time. But it was not surprising that UDBA would get the information much before the family. Having in mind all the games they tried to and played around us – says Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic in an interview for Kurir conducted on the occasion of the centennial of the birth of the last Yugoslav king, Peter II.
When was the last time you saw your father?
– Sadly, it was in May 1970 in the hospital in Los Angeles, where I came to visit my father together with my uncle, Prince Tomislav. Unfortunately, my father was already in a coma, and the doctors prepared me for the worst. I then went to London, where I met my godmother, late Queen Elizabeth II. I asked her to give permission to, once the time comes, to bury my father next to Queen Maria, at the Royal Cemetery at Frogmore near Windsor. She agreed without hesitation, but she also told me “I am not sure it will be easy for you to do it”. Unfortunately, as time will show, Her Majesty was right.
Last conversation with your father?
– At one of the last times I saw him before this, he was already not feeling well, and he repeated to me what he said before: “Even if I am dead, when it is possible take me to our Serbia.” These were very difficult times for me, but I at least fulfilled his oath 10 years ago.
He died on 3 November 1970, and you weren’t at his funeral. Do you regret it?
– My mother and I, also my uncle, my aunt, in one word the entire family was very sorry that we were unable to attend the funeral. But it was very important for us that nobody could use the tragic death of my father as excuse to make new division, new attacks and problems for our people, and our church. That is why this difficult decision should be made.
You mean the schismatics?
– You must realize the most complex circumstances that were present in our diaspora and the very difficult and painful split within our church. My father was surrounded by “raskolnici” in the United States of America while I and my uncle Tomislav were very strong in our position that there is only one Holy Mother Church, and its Patriarch in Belgrade. Since we saw that due to very hostile attitude of raskolnici in America it would be impossible to move the body of my father to United Kingdom, we agreed to the funeral in Libertyville, but we wanted that together with their Bishops and priests, also Bishop Firmilijan Ocokoljic performs the requiem at the funeral. It was because my father was the King of all Serbs, of both sides, and as the Crown has the duty to unite, it was our desire to try to unite the people around the earthly remains (in Serbian use word na odru) of my late father. Unfortunately that was impossible as well. There were words about injunction, and we backed off, since we did not want to allow any incidents to occur. My father had a very difficult life, and he did not deserve his funeral to become place of misbehaviors and tensions. Sometimes, in order to honour your loved ones, we must make difficult decisions.
The Mici Lou factor in the Karađorđević family and your relationship with your father? Later she became your aunt, did you have any meetings with her? (If the answer is yes, please describe it)
– Yes, I have met Milica Andjelkovic, Mici Lou, multiple times, and I have to say, during these meetings she was always very friendly. She was quite an interesting character, an unusual, peculiar person. As you well said, definitely a factor that influenced our family. There were many people surrounding us in those days, and it was not always easy to say from which side, and with what intentions they came. There were so many factors that influenced our lives, and it was not always easy to say which was the game of faith, and which the game of UDBA.
One of the big objections to your father’s image is his marriage at a bad moment – in the middle of a war in exile. Did it have to be that way?
– We can not choose when will the true love strike us… It is true that the Government in London did not agree with my parents getting married in most difficult times, but I think that breaking point for my father to go forward with it was the letter he got from General Dragoljub Mihailovic, who he respected and appreciated very much. Draza wrote to him that the people of Yugoslavia support his marriage, that he asked his commanders from all areas of the country, the people, clergy… and that they all support King getting married. He also wrote about the charter Yugoslav Army in Homeland will make, to be given to King and Queen once they come to liberated country.
Key wrong statesmanship move of King Petar II?
– It would not be correct to speak about wrong moves, when it is very big question how much of these actions were really the ones done by the will of my father, and which were forced, but I mean truly forced on him. He did not want to go to exile, but the Government and Queen Maria insisted he leaves the country (and objectively seen, it was the only possible solution for him, taking all the circumstances). The key wrong statesmanship move would have been him staying in Yugoslavia. Who knows how many divisions Hitler would send to catch him or kill him, and how many people would have died in these attempts…
He wasn’t really asked about anything when it came to the fate of Yugoslavia, neither before the coup on 27 March, nor then, nor later?
– The will of great powers of that time were steering the wheel of my father’s destiny, and of our country as well. At the time when Peter II went to official state visit to the United States in 1942 and worked very hard to motivate the Americans to support war efforts of Yugoslav Army in Homeland, British intelligence office in Kairo, SOE, was already infiltrated by communists who started spreading their lies and propaganda. He wanted to get on a plane and join his troops in Yugoslavia, but Churchill arrested the officers who were helping my father to do so. He strongly rejected to support Broz and partisans, but he was blackmailed that the Red Army will enter Yugoslavia and physically eliminate Draza Mihailovic and wipe out his troops… Put yourself in position like that, and ask, objectively, would the moves be any different, and would it be easy to make them.
Did King Peter as a ruler, so young, even a minor, without experience, have any chance of doing better, both he and the country he headed?
– Unfortunately, no. Teheran Conference, Yalta gathering, communists in SOE, interest spheres that split Europe in half between USSR on one side and UK and USA on the other side – these are the factors that shaped the fate of our country and my father as well. Not even much experienced rulers could do differently than my father in such conditions.
In the eyes of Serbs today
The truth can no longer be suppressed
King Petar II in the eyes of Serbs 100 years after his birth? Are you satisfied?
– I am happy that the situation is much better than it was 20 or 30 years ago. Dictatorship wanted too threw my father into oblivion, and that only false image about him exists. But the truth continued to smolder, like a small piece of ember under the ashes, and it needed a bit of boosting up to see the light again. So, I can not be unfair, but I must be satisfied that my dear father is much better seen now than he was. We have released the truth, and now nobody can suffocate it again.
Word box 2:
He took me to museums, galleries, exhibitions…
Your first memories of your father?
– He was very good father, caring and gentle, which was quite unusual for people of those times who in general believed more in “tough love” principle. I remember that he loved cars (inherited this from his mother) and he would bring me car toys as presents that I enjoyed very much. He also took me everywhere, to so many museums, galleries, exhibitions, he wanted me to have as much interests as possible. I remember the two of us going to space exploration exhibition he took me in London when I was eight, we both dressed as astronauts… These are nice memories.
But you were always at boarding schools, and not with your father or mother?
– He, as well as my mother, they both also believed in the value of good education and did everything they could to provide it for me. I was in boarding schools, and he was always surrounded by our diaspora, who saw him as gathering point, he was working very much to unite them bring them together, so we could not spend that much time together as we both wanted, but we always tried to catch up whenever possible.
Relationship with the father in one word?
– I can’t do it in one word, have to use two – love and respect.
Word box 3:
He didn’t leave me much. And I’m not angry. It’s silly to talk about gold bullions
He only left you $5,000 in his will? Is that why you were angry?
– It would not be appropriate that I discuss exact amount (never did that before, so I am holding my principle) but it is true that it was not much. And no, I was not angry because of that. I knew that my father did not have many possessions, except those that were confiscated in Yugoslavia (and still are). So, he could not leave me so much financially, in a material way, he left me much more in terms of who I am today, son of my father with all the obligations one Karadjordjevic has. And he left me guidelines on how to fulfill this duty towards our people and country.
But when speaking about material values, does not this make you wonder? Does not this put in question the fairy tale that was made up about my father? That “gold bullions were falling out of his pockets as he was leaving Yugoslavia”, that he “put millions and millions of tons of gold into the bags and took them himself” (this sounds more like Clark Kent in disguise, so he could carry that much weight). He was accused of taking more gold than Yugoslavia ever produced, and that he was “living cozy life on the money he took from the people”… When you see how little material values remained after him, how modestly my parents were living, when you see that he was not changing suits like handkerchiefs, doesn’t then this story that which was placed on purpose by communistic services, seem even more shallow, and I will openly say, stupid. For those who want to think with their head and not to believe in every made up story, it is obvious what is the truth.