HRH Crown Prince Alexander was very pleased to give a very thorough interview to Danas daily newspapers, in which he spoke about the centennial of his father’s birth, and his memories of King Peter II.
The text, which was published in the printed edition of Danas newspapers on 6 September 2023 is also available below. We thank the journalist, Mrs. Jelena Tasić for her professionalism and the interview.
On the occasion of the King Peter II’s birth centennial, Prince Aleksandar Karadjordjevic speaks for Danas
GREAT POWERS DETERMINED MY FATHER’S FATE
BELGRADE – The centennial of the birth of the last Yugoslav king Peter II Karadjordjevic, whose remains were transferred to his homeland a decade ago and buried in the Endowment of his grandfather King Peter I Liberator, will be marked today with a memorial service in Oplenac and an exhibition at the Royal Palace in Dedinje. One century after his birth and 53 years after his death, does history and the public have a clear and objective picture of his place and role in Yugoslav and Serbian history? Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic talks about this for Danas.
Unfortunately, not yet completely, but to be honest the image is much more objective than it was before. When it comes to history as science, there is no question about it, the documents, and historical facts, they show us an objective picture where everything is clear. But the problem is that “official” history in the period after World War Two was written by historians who were listening to the dictates of politicians. Science was in the service of communistic propaganda.
In recent times, a lot has been done to clear my father’s name. After almost six decades of orchestrated lies, it has been not easy to unveil the truth. As the saying goes which was the leitmotif of another extreme ideology – “Repeat a lie a thousand times and it becomes the truth”. Their propaganda was repeated not a thousand but a million times, which is why this struggle for truth is not easy.
For the truth to be released in the light of the day, we were fighting only with truth. And the results can be seen, since more and more people know who my father really was.
King Peter II was the third and last Yugoslav king. Why is the question of his alleged abdication, which the Royal Palace has repeatedly denied, so often raised?
It is the fact that my father never abdicated. The act of abdication is an official act and it must be submitted in a written form, properly witnessed and verified. But even if he ever abdicated, his heir, and that would be me, would immediately become the King.
I can not tell for certain, but I can guess that the question of abdication was repeated so much because it was one additional part of communist propaganda. I personally think that they wanted to give a sense of legitimacy to their illegitimate act. We should remember what were the circumstances for the elections on which the monarchy was abolished – killings of political opponents, “blind” boxes and only one party to “choose”, opposition arrested and suppressed, people deleted from elections lists… And despite tremendous pressure, in Serbia almost 23% of citizens boycotted the elections, and over 11 % voted for the empty list, “blind” box. Could these circumstances be called fair and democratic elections? And how can we consider the results of these elections to be legal and legitimate.
That is why they insisted on this alleged abdication – to make it like my father himself renounced the throne, so it was ok for them to act as they did. Well, most mildest said, it was not ok at all.
In the Memoirs, which he wrote when he was 31 years old, King Petar explained most of the events that are still seriously blamed on him today – his emigration after the April collapse in 1941, his marriage in the middle of the war, which was not approved by either the Government in Exile or Queen Maria, the abandoning of General Dragoljub Mihailovic under the pressure of the British and Winston Churchill, the appeal to his subjects to join the partisan movement… Were the circumstances and history (un)fair to him?
Too much was put on the plate of first a young boy and then a young man my father was. Unfortunately, he did not have much influence on his destiny, but it was the will of the greater powers of Europe and the world that were forcing the young King and setting his fate. And yes, he gave explanations for all these, let’s say, “controversial” events. And when you read his Memoirs, it shows us that it is not all black and white like some would like us to see. Circumstances of world politics, and spheres of interest in the moment of World War going on are so complex, that the broader picture must be seen to understand.
You mentioned General Dragoljub Mihailovic, there are very deep words this hero said on the trial “Fate was merciless towards me when she threw me into the most severe whirlwinds. I wanted a lot, started a lot, but the whirlwind, the world whirlwind, took me and my work away.” It can be said that these words of the King’s most loyal soldier can relate to the King himself.
From today’s distance and historical experience, how should we understand Churchill’s refusal of King Peter II’s request to return to his homeland during the war and join General Mihailović’s Ravna Gora movement?
For Churchill, it was only important to support the war efforts of Great Britain, and he would do anything in order to achieve it. He was ready to tread on the dead, in order to defeat the Germans as soon as possible. But at what cost? He did not care much about the fact that in Serbia Nazis started the most horrific repressions to kill 100 Serbs for 1 German. Draza Mihailovic cared about this, and he stopped direct fighting in Serbia, switched activities against Germans to sabotages, and moved direct fighting to other parts of Yugoslavia. But this was not enough for Churchill, so he switched from supporting the legitimate Yugoslav Army in Homeland to partisans. Of course, the infiltration of the undercover communist spies into the British command for Special Operations Executive (SOE) in Cairo, also had disastrous effects for the troops of Dragoljub Mihailovic. James Klugmann spent two and a half years working on the headquarters staff of the Yugoslav Section of SOE. He was one of the most active British communists of his generation and exploited that post to manipulate operations and policy in the interests of the communist cause.
At the moment when he switched his support from Draza to Broz, it would not have suited Churchill’s interest if my father had come to Yugoslavia and joined his troops. This kind of development of events would most definitely lead to additional strengthening of the Yugoslav Army in the Homeland, boosting the fighting morale of the troops, which would result in the inability to realize his plans. In this course of events, partisans would never have a chance to succeed in Serbia. The partisans succeeded only when Red Army came, with their support. If at that moment King Peter II was among Ravna Gora troops, how would anybody explain that the Soviet army was attacking a military formation led by the crowned Supreme Commander who was the symbol of the allied resistance, cousin, and Godson of the King of the United Kingdom. (And that is the commander with whom Stalin himself exchanged letters.) It would be impossible to explain, that is why he did everything he could to stop it, including the arrest of officers surrounding my father.
How do you remember your father, what was your relationship like and how would you describe his fate because you yourself have the experience of being a ruler without a throne, on which he was, admittedly, for a short time?
I remember him as a man devoted to his service to the people, and the responsibilities inherited from his father, grandfather… It is something he was taught from the earliest age, and he could not act any differently, with or without a throne. He was working very hard to bring unity to severely disunited emigration. Most emigrant groups recognized the legitimacy of King Peter and believed that if communism fell in Yugoslavia, the monarchy headed by my father should be restored. Thus, he became the only symbol around which several emigrant organizations could gather. But the relations were so bad that the mission he took upon himself was an impossible task of uniting all those conflicting aspirations.
Our relations were filled with love and great respect, as any father-son bond is. My mother and he were determined that I receive the best possible education and therefore I spent a lot of time in boarding schools, but whenever obligations allowed it we tried to spend as much time together as possible.
His fate was not easy. In moments of respite, he was thinking a lot about his homeland, with a great sense of melancholy and sadness. He wanted to come home so much, it was his greatest wish and desire. He died with this wish in his heart. As his pledge to me, one of the last things he said was “Even if I am dead, return me to our Serbia”. I am grateful to God that I managed to fulfill this legacy in 2013. My heart is calmer since his earthly remains were transferred to Oplenac, to the Royal Family’s Mausoleum, where now he can finally rest in peace, in his beloved Serbia.
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It is time to end the divisions
10 years ago, members of the Royal House who died in exile were buried on Oplenac. Would it be in Serbia’s national interest to finally give General Mihailovic a dignified burial and would that put an end to the civil war in Serbia?
Yes, it would most certainly be in our national interest to give this great man a proper burial, because he deserved it. With his fight against the occupier, he ranked himself among the greatest fighters for the freedom of our people.
Although ghastly vilified by the totalitarian regime in post-World War II Yugoslavia, he received many decorations for his contribution to the Allied victory in the war, including the US Legion of Merit, awarded posthumously by President Truman in 1948, and the French War Cross by General Charles de Gaulle in 1943. The entire world is aware of the fact that he was a fighter against Nazism. It is time that the entire Serbia accepts it as the fact, and corrects the injustices towards General Mihailovic and his good name.
But also, it is time that the divisions which have stretched themselves from the time of Second World War finally end. Let us leave the history to historians, so they independently and objectively make judgements about occurrences from the period. Both movements, Royalist and partisan, should finds its places on the pages of our national history, and deceased fighters of both armies to finally find their eternal peace. Descendants to remember and respect their ancestors, but without continuing the war that started seven decades ago.
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Link between the past and the present
King Peter II’s birth centennial is a significant anniversary, not only for me as the son of King Peter II or for Karadjordjevics, but for our country as well. As its monarch, the past and the destiny of Peter II are strongly intertwined with the destiny and past of Serbia.
As you mentioned, there will be a reception at the Palace in the evening of the 6th September, but the reception is just following the main event which is the exhibition dedicated to my father called “The Centennial of King Peter II Birth – The Link Between Past and Present”. Simultaneously, a promotion of an exclusive “Rulers of Serbia” edition, jubilee postal stamps dedicated to the 100th anniversary of King Peter II and the 200th anniversary of Prince Mihailo Obrenovic’s birth will be held at the Palace. The Post of Serbia was so kind to issue these stamps, I have seen the graphic design and it is absolutely beautiful!
Before the exhibition opening, there will be a memorial service for the late King in the Mausoleum of the Royal Family, Saint George’s Church in Oplenac, which will be officiated by His Holiness Patriarch of Serbia Porfirije and His Grace Bishop Jovan of Sumadija.
In the following days, my Foundation for Education and Culture will present copies of my father’s Memoires to the National Library of Serbia, so his words, his legacy, can be more available to the people of Serbia. Just as a reminder, this is the book that was delivered to best high school graduates this year as in previous years. Also, tours of the Royal Complex and exhibition will be organized for the best students of 7th and 8th grade of Belgrade elementary schools which bear the name of Karadjordjeviic dynasty members – “Karadjordje”, “King Peter I”, “Queen Maria”, and “King Peter II” schools. Of course, so nobody thinks we are making exceptions, the Palace is open for all schools as always, this is just a symbolic gesture honouring the memory of my father. And there will be some additional activities as well – says Crown Prince Alexander.
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King Petar the Second, the first-born son of King Alexander the Unifier and Queen Maria, was born in Belgrade on September 6, 1923. He was a minor when King Alexander was killed in Marseilles, so the royal power was transferred to the viceroy. After the military coup against Prince Pavle and the Cvetkovic-Macek government due to the accession of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia to the Triple Pact, King Peter the Second was declared of legal age. He ruled in his homeland for only 19 days, on April 14 he went into exile. In accordance with the Šubasic-Tito agreement of March 1945, he transferred his powers to a three-member viceroyalty, and in 1945 the communist post-war authorities abolished the monarchy, forbade the members of the Royal House to return, and stripped them of all their civil rights and property. King Peter the Second died in exile on November 3, 1970 in Denver and until 2013 rested in the cemetery of the monastery of St. Sava in Libertyville.