THE ROYAL FAMILY AND ADMIRERS REMEMBER KING PETER II OF
ON HIS BIRTHDAY
Belgrade, 6 September 2007 – The Royal Family today marked
the day of King Peter II birth, 84 years ago, on 6 September 1923. King Peter
was the eldest son of Their Majesties King Alexander I and Queen Maria (formerly
a Romanian Princess).
His Godfather was His Majesty King George VI and his
Godmother was Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth of Great Britain. Young Crown Prince
Peter (at the time) was a quiet boy and spent his childhood at the Royal Palace
in Belgrade, playing with his brothers and cousins, and received his early
education at the Palace. He attended Sandroyd School in Wiltshire, United
Kingdom. At the early age of 11, his father King Alexander I of Yugoslavia was
assassinated in Marseille in 1934.
It was at that moment that the young King Peter lost not only
his father, but his childhood. He returned to Belgrade, and as King Peter II of
Yugoslavia. He was still not of age, a Regency was formed and headed by his
great uncle Prince Regent Paul of Yugoslavia and two other regents.
On 27 March 1941 the people took to the streets and
demonstrated against the signing of the Tripartite Pact. Across Yugoslavia, and
especially among the Serbian people, the siding with Nazi Germany and Hitler was
considered treason. With the help of the air force, King Peter II assumed full
Royal duties, even though he was just short of legal age (18). Prince Regent
Paul was sent into exile in Kenya with his family for the rest of the war, while
young King Peter II took hold of the country that was about to fall apart under
internal and external troubles, and the Second World War was approaching the
country. The Communists would later celebrate this date, but it is clear from
historical film found recently that it was the brave ordinary people who took to
the streets, calling out King Peter’s name and carrying his posters.
On the day Yugoslavia had put a finger in Hitler’s eye, it
was Sir Winston Churchill who said that “Yugoslavia had found its soul”.
On 6 April 1941 Hitler bombed Belgrade. Tens of thousands of
people died. In two weeks, Yugoslavia fell and was torn up and divided among
Germany and its satellites. On the advice of the Government, and of most
influential figures, King Peter II was asked to lead the country from abroad.
Abroad, he would get in touch with the Allies and ask for help. In the country,
he could be imprisoned by the Germans. King Peter II decided with a heavy heart
to leave the Palace in Belgrade – the only Royal Palace that was bombed during
the Second World War, and he left for London via Athens, Jerusalem and Cairo. He
was greeted as a hero whose country and people dared to oppose Nazi Germany and
Hitler. Even today, memories of his meeting with Churchill, or his addressing
the United States Congress, remain vivid. King Peter II died in the United
States in 1970 in exile of a broken heart longing to go home.
King Peter II was a young King. He was a boy whose father who
was taken away and whose country was pushed into turmoil. At such a young age it
was normal that he lacked experience in politics, especially at the time when
the entire Europe was falling apart and at war. He always loved his country and
his people more than anything in the world. He always dreamed of returning home.
That dream, unfortunately, did not turn out for him and his wife Queen Alexandra
of Yugoslavia (formerly a Princess of Greece and Denmark). But, the dream came
true for their only child, Crown Prince Alexander II and his family, who was
born in 1945, in London on the territory proclaimed as Yugoslav sovereign
territory, and who returned to Belgrade in 2001, where he has been living ever
Crown Prince Alexander and his family expresses their deep
gratitude and thanks to everyone who remember King Peter’s birthday.