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Friday, March 29, 2013

King Peter II Returns to Yugoslavia


King Peter II of Yugoslavia. 
The remains of the only king to be buried in the United States were repatriated from Libertyville to Serbia this January. Peter II Karadordevic (1923 – 1970) was the third and last King of Yugoslavia.

In 1934, at 11-years old, Crown Prince Peter succeeded the Yugoslav throne on the assassination of his father, King Alexander. His father had been ruler of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes from 1921 to 1929 when he became the first king of a united Yugoslavia.

Because of his youth, Peter II's great uncle, Prince Paul became Prince Regent. A schism formed when Prince Paul supported the fascist dictators of Europe while King Peter opposed them. King Peter supported a British backed coup d’etat in March 1941, which deposed Prince Paul.

The young king’s strong opposition to Nazi Germany, led to the Germans attacking Yugoslavia for three days and nights in Operation Punishment. Following the Axis invasion, the 17-year old Peter II and  members of the government fled the country. Peter II had to decide to join the anti-monarchist and revolutionary leader Josip Broz Tito against the Nazis, or maintain his government in exile. He chose the latter.

General Montgomery, Peter II, and Sir Winston Churchill in 1941. 
Peter II settled in England in June 1941, where he joined other governments in exile from Nazi-occupied Europe. He completed his education at Cambridge University and joined the Royal Air Force, and was recognized by the government-in-exile as the Commander-in-Chief of Yugoslav forces.

The wedding of King Peter II of Yugoslavia and Princess Alexandra of Greece in London, England  on March 20, 1944.  On far left is King George VI of England. 
On April 8, 1941 President Roosevelt sent a message to Peter II: 

The people of the United States have been profoundly shocked by the unprovoked and ruthless aggression upon the people of Yugoslavia. The Government and people of the United States are witnessing with admiration the courageous self-defense of the Yugoslav people, which constitutes one more shining example of their traditional bravery.

As I have assured Your Majesty's Government, the United States will speedily furnish all material assistance possible in accordance with its existing statutes.

I send Your Majesty my most earnest hopes for a successful resistance to this criminal assault upon the independence and integrity of your country.

In 1945, the provisional government of Yugoslavia was led by Tito, and included representatives from the royalist government-in-exile. A post-war election was held to determine whether the country would continue as a monarchy or become a republic. In November 1945, Tito's pro-republican People's Front, led by the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, won the elections by a landslide, the monarchists having boycotted the vote.

Tito was confirmed as the Prime Minister, and on November 29, 1945, Peter II was formally deposed.

King Peter II refused to abdicate, and went into exile in Britain and the United States. In 1948, he arrived in Chicago, and stayed at the Drake Hotel. While in the Chicago area, he visited the monastery of St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Monastery in Libertyville.

For the most part, Peter II lived in California, but in 1959, he visited Waukegan, where he was greeted by the mayor and treated to a dinner of Lake Michigan trout, sturgeon and smoked chubs, which he called "most exquisite." 


Well-known fisherman and Mathon's restaurant owner,
Mathon Kryitsis met Peter II in 1959.
The restaurant was located near the shore of Lake Michigan on E. Clayton.
Postcard  circa 1945 (LCDM 92.27.305)

He also met Mathon Kyritsis, a well-known fisherman and restauranteur who for many years forecast the weather by gauging the depth at which perch were caught. 

In 1970, Peter II died at age 47 in Denver, Colorado, after a long struggle with chronic liver disease and an unsuccessful liver transplant.

The funeral of King Peter II of Yugoslavia on November 14, 1970
at St. Sava's Serbian Orthodox Monastery Church in Libertyville, Illinois.
News-Sun photo. 
It was the monarch’s wish to be buried at St. Sava’s Serbian Orthodox Monastery Church in Libertyville, in order to be close to the thousands of Serbians living in the Chicago area. King Peter II's funeral in Libertyville drew more than 10,000 people.

In 1976, the king’s son came from Yugoslavia to visit the gravesite at St. Sava’s under police guard. In 2007, Crown Prince Alexander, declared his intent to rebury his father in Serbia.

January 22, 2013, ceremony in Royal Chapel dedicated to
St. Andrew the First Called (patron saint of the Serbian Royal family),
after the remains of Yugoslavia's last king, Peter II Karadjordjevic, were flown back to Belgrade.
The coffin is draped with the national flag.
Photo from Royalty Magazine Volume 22 No. 11

In January 2013, the long anticipated repatriation took place with a private ceremony at St. Sava in Libertyville. On January 22nd, the return of Peter II to his homeland marked another step in the country's reconciliation with its royal past. (above) 

A State Funeral will take place for HM Peter II, his wife HM Queen Alexandra, and his mother HM Queen Maria on May 26 at St. George's Church Oplenac, in the city of Topola, where the Royal Family Mausoleum is located. 

Sources: 
Royalty Magazine, Volume 22 No. 11, www.royalty-magazine.com
"Waukegan Has Ex-King Peter as Its Guest," Chicago Tribune, February 28, 1959. 
"The Sad Life of Peter II, and the Curious Disinterring of the King of Yugoslavia from Libertyville," Chicago Magazine, January 2013. 
News-Sun archives. 
Lake County Discovery Museum files. 

1 comment:

Grant Davis said...

Diana, it was fun reading through articles in your blog. Very interesting.

Regards, Grant