Ljubica-Zorka Karadjordjevic (née Petrovic; 1864-1890) was the eldest daughter of the Montenegrin Prince, later King Nikola I Petrovic and the wife of Peter I Karadjordjevic (King of Serbia from 1903 to 1918 and King of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes from 1918 to 1921).

She was born 11 December 1864 in Cetinje. At baptism on the day of Saint Sava, her godfather was the Serbian Prince Mihailo Obrenovic, who was represented at the baptism in Cetinje by the state counselor Djordje Djosa Milovanovic (1813-1885). In order to establish good neighborly relations between Serbia and Montenegro and to as a symbol of national unity, she was given the name Ljubica-Zorka at baptism, to be a symbol of the love and dawn of the new age. She was the first of twelve children of Montenegrin Prince Nikola I Petrovic and Princess Milena.

She spent her childhood up to the age of 11 in Cetinje, where she was educated by Cetinje teachers and a Swiss teacher Mrs. Nykom. In 1875, Princess Zorka was sent to Russia to continue her education at the Smolny Institute (attended by the girls from the most prominent Russian aristocratic families). After graduation, she returned to Cetinje. At the beginning of 1883, Prince Petar Karadjordjevic came to Cetinje. His intention was to marry in Cetinje, get closer to the Montenegrins and move there to live with his family. He asked for the hand of the young and beautiful Princess. The arrival of Petar Karadjordjevic in Cetinje and his engagement with Kneginja Zorka Petrovic-Njegos were disapproved by the opponents of these two dynasties, but the act was gladly accepted by the Serbian and Montenegrin people, who saw it as the confirmation of their future bond. The wedding of Princess Zorka (19 at the time) and Petar Karadjordjevic (39) took place at the Cetinje Monastery on 30 July 1883. The wedding party, like the engagement before it, was organized according to folk tradition, with many guests who could barely accommodate themselves in the small space of Cetinje.

Prince Peter and Princess Zorka traveled on their wedding day, in the afternoon, to Paris, on their honeymoon. When they returned, the Princely couple settled in Cetinje. There, in Cetinje peace, they raised their children. Princess Zorka gave birth to five children to Peter I Karadjordjevic:

• Jelena, born 23 October 1884. She was the wife of Grand Duke Ian Konstantinovich. With her children, she luckily escaped the fate of the imperial family in 1917, thanks to her courage and resourcefulness, as well as the assistance of the Serbian Ambassador in St. Petersburg. Miroslav Spalajkovic, while her husband, as the closest relative of the imperial Romanov family, was shot. She died in 1962.

• Milena, born 26 April 1886, died as a child 22 December 1887.

• Djordje, born 27 August 1887. He relinquished his right to the throne in 1909 in favor of his younger brother Alexander. He died in 1972.

Alexander, born 4 December 1888. He was the second King of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (1921-1929) and later the King of Yugoslavia (1929-1934). He was assassinated in Marseille in 1934.

• Andrija, born and died in 1890.

The Karadjordjevics lived in Cetinje until their residence there became small for the new family. Then they decided to build a new one, on the Bar coast. It was named Topolica, after Peter’s birthplace Topola in Serbia and it is located on the waterfront. Two high masts, in the yard’s corners, hoisted the Serbian and Montenegrin flags.

The principal preoccupation of Princess Zorka was to make her husband the King of Serbia, and she was constantly pregnant in order to leave as many descendants to the Serbian throne pretender. She died on 4 March 1890, shortly after the birth of her last son Andrija, who also passed away a few days after his mother. In order to help his wife, Peter I called the doctors from Vienna, but they could not help the Princess. She died with the words: “He will be the King!”, referring to Petar Karadjordjevic, which happened 13 years later, after the May Coup. She was buried in Cetinje, near the St. Peter’s Monastery, but when the Foundation of King Peter I was finished in Oplenac, she was transferred there on 15 March 1912. Although her life was not a long one, Princess Zorka left a big mark in history as a link between Serbia and Montenegro and as the mother of the Yugoslav King Alexander I Karadjordjevic.

Thirteen years after her death, her father, Nikola I, congratulated his brother-in-law, Peter Karadjordjevic on acceding the throne of Serbia with this telegram, on 6 June 1903: “Our common interest and blood ties are a warrant for eternal and indivisible brotherhood of Serbia and Montenegro. This brotherhood will forever remain shining, holy, unblemished and lifesaving for our people. The souls of our Serbian martyrs are praying to the throne of the Almighty for this brotherhood. It will always be guarded by the angelic soul of my Zorka, your wife, whose blood and love will bind your and my sons forever”

Share this article: