The Royal Family and admirers remember King Peter II of Yugoslavia on his birthday
Belgrade, 6 September 2015 – The Royal Family today marked the day of King Peter II birth, 92 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 returned home and on 26 May 2013. The Royal Family, President of Serbia, Prime Minister, Serbian Church and Serbian People attend State Funeral at Royal Mausoleum in Oplenac.
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 since.
Crown Prince Alexander, Crown Princess Katherine, and King Peter’s grandchildren Prince Peter, Prince Philip and Prince Alexander express their deep gratitude and thanks to everyone who remembers King Peter’s birthday.