by Scott Mehl
King Peter II of Yugoslavia
King Peter II of Yugoslavia was the last King of Yugoslavia and father of the current Crown Prince Alexander II of Serbia. He was born on September 6, 1923, in Belgrade, the eldest son of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia and Princess Maria of Romania. His godparents were King George VI and Queen Elizabeth of the United Kingdom. Peter had two younger siblings:
- Prince Tomislav (1928) – married (1) Princess Margarita of Baden, had issue, divorced; (2) Linda Mary Bonney, had issue
- Prince Andrej (1929) – married (1) Princess Christina Margarethe of Hesse, had issue, divorced; (2) Princess Kira of Leiningen, had issue, divorced; (3) Eva Maria Andjelkovich, no issue.
Peter was initially educated at the Royal Palace in Belgrade before attending the Sandroyd School in Wiltshire, England. Sadly, his father was assassinated on October 9, 1934, and the 11-year old Peter ascended the throne as King Peter II. Because of his age, a Regency Council was established, led by his father’s cousin, Prince Paul of Yugoslavia.
At the onset of World War II, Yugoslavia was surrounded by countries which had become allies of the Nazis. Prince Paul, against the advice of Peter and his advisers, decided in 1941 to enter into a non-aggression pact with Germany. This resulted in riots and protests in Yugoslavia and led to a coup, supported by the British. As as result, on March 27, 1941, at just 17 years old, King Peter II was proclaimed of age and the Regency was ended.
Within weeks, Yugoslavia was occupied by Nazi forces and the government was forced to surrender on April 17. King Peter went into exile with the government, first to Greece, then to Jerusalem and to Cairo. In June of that year, King Peter went to the United Kingdom, where he finished his education at Cambridge University and joined the Royal Air Force.
While in London, he met Princess Alexandra of Greece, the daughter of King Alexander I of the Hellenes and Aspasia Manos. The couple married on March 20, 1944, at the Yugoslav Embassy in London. Guests at their wedding included King George VI of the United Kingdom, King George II of the Hellenes, King Haakon VII of Norway and Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Peter and Alexandra had one son, Crown Prince Alexander, born in London on July 17, 1945.
Back in Yugoslavia, two rival resistance groups had been born during the Nazi invasion. The first loyalist group was led by Colonel Dragoljub Mihailovic who served as Minister of Defense for the Yugoslav government in exile. The other group, the Partisans, was led by the communist party leader Josip Broz – later known as Tito. Following the German occupation, civil war broke out between the two groups. Despite initially supporting Mihailovic, the Allies soon began to support Tito. In 1944, the Partisans entered Belgrade and established a Communist government. The following year, in November 1945, the abolished the monarchy and formally deposed King Peter II. (This was, however, done without any referendum and the King never abdicated.) Yugoslavia would remain a communist state for over 40 years.
After the war, Peter and Alexandra left London, living in France and Switzerland before settling in the United States in 1949. The marriage suffered from the strain of Peter’s numerous affairs and the constant struggle to find sources of income. Eventually, they went their separate ways. King Peter settled permanently in the US while Alexandra took her son and moved to Venice with her mother.
Suffering from cirrhosis of the liver, King Peter II died on November 3, 1970, in Denver, Colorado, following a failed liver transplant. Per his wishes, he was interred at the Saint Sava Monastery Church in Libertyville, Illinois. To date, he is the only European monarch to be buried in the United States. In January 2013, his remains were returned to Serbia and buried in the Royal Family Mausoleum beneath St. George’s Church at Oplenac.