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Eastern Europe

New Monarchy for Serbia?

by Nick Hawton, 15 August 2006. Updated 21 June 2022

The man who would be king of Serbia smiles warmly at me as I enter the royal palace in Belgrade.

There is no hint of a Serbian accent from him as he guides me into the splendid interior.

Trials and tribulations of the royal family

'The first time I came into the royal palace, it was very emotional for me. This is where my father lived, where my grandfather lived. It was quite something.'

His Royal Highness Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia and Yugoslavia only moved to Serbia in 2001. Most of his life had been spent in the United Kingdom - and one of his godparents is Queen Elizabeth II.

The Yugoslav royal family was abolished when Tito's communists came to power following the conclusion of the Second World War. Alexander was born in Claridge's Hotel in London in 1945. Winston Churchill declared the hotel suite to be Yugoslav territory for the occasion.

'The previous regime castigated the monarchy, said that we left with trainloads of gold. That would have been great. But it never happened,' says the crown prince. In many ways, he is the last embodiment of the old Yugoslavia, following the final dissolution of the old country in the summer of 2006 when Montenegro and Serbia decided to go their own ways.

The six republics of the former Yugoslavia - Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, and Slovenia - are now six independent states.

New royal role?

Crown Prince Alexander believes there is a role for the monarchy in the new Serbia.

'I do believe a constitutional parliamentary monarchy is a very positive thing. It works very well in Europe and Australia, New Zealand and Canada. You have a head of state who is neutral, not a member of any political party. I think a monarch can help provide political stability.'

But how much support is there in the country for a return of the monarchy?

'I don't have a coffer to do campaigns, blow up balloons, blow trumpets. But the polls say that more than thirty percent of the people are solid for it - which is more than most political parties here.'

'Lack of unity'

He believes Serbia has real potential for the future, but that certain actions have to be taken before the country can really move forward. He also believes that former Bosnian Serb leaders - Radovan Karadzic and Ratko Mladic - who have been accused of genocide by the UN War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, have to be arrested (Radovan Karadzic was indeed arrested in 2008, while Ratko Mladic was arrested in 2011).

  • 1804 Founder of dynasty, Djordje Petrovic, known as Karadjord-jevic or 'Black George', leads Serb uprising against Ottomans
  • 1811 Karadjordjevic confirmed as ruler
  • 1918 Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes proclaimed
  • 1929 Kingdom of Yugoslavia declared
  • 1934 King Alexander I assassinated in Marseille
  • 1941 Peter II goes into exile
  • 1945 Crown Prince Alexander II born in London. Tito's communists abolish monarchy
  • 2001 Prince Alexander II returns to live in Belgrade

'We have to fulfil our international obligations. Even though they will be distasteful for some. But we do have to do it and move ahead towards European Union membership and to kickstart negotiations which were suspended. We have to work hard to bring in more money, business, and investors into Serbia. We're suffering from a lack of unity and a sense of purpose. I don't think there'll be a proper settlement in the region until Serbia is at peace with itself and with its neighbours.'

And as for the Serbian language? 'I am improving all the time,' he says.

Unfortunately that seems not to be the case. By 2021 it is well known that he has still failed to grasp the language, and is generally viewed with a mild feeling of negativity. On the plus side, a new pro-monarchist political party does, by 2022, hold a very few seats in parliament.

Map of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Bulgaria, and Greece AD 1000
A map showing the earliest beginnings of Serbia, when much of its present territory was part of the cometopuli Bulgarian state (click or tap on map to view full sized)



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