Crown Prince Alexander returns

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Crown Prince Alexander returns

There was a rousing welcome for Crown Prince Alexander when he returned to the Yugoslav capital, Belgrade . . . and now the new regime that deposed President Slobodan Milosevic has restored citizenship to the Crown Prince and his family after they had been deprived of this connection with their homeland during the post-war period of communist period. Marco Houston sees the Karadjordjevic dynasty restored as Yugoslav citizens and examines what Alexander can contribute to rebuilding the shattered country after the NATO bombing and the overthrow of the Milosevic regime.

On Tuesday March 13th, the exile of Yugoslavia’s royal family finally came to an end when Crown Prince Alexander Karadjordjevic of Yugoslavia officially received his Yugoslav citizenship documents from Zoran Zivkovic, the Yugoslav Interior Minister, who flew in from Belgrade for the occasion. It was the culmination of a rapid series of events that in February had seen the Yugoslav parliament vote to scrap the Communist-era law that stripped the Karadjordjevic family of its citizenship and property. The good feeling between the government officials and Prince Alexander was clear for all to see during the ceremony held at Claridges Hotel in London. The location for the brief ceremony could not have been more symbolic – the hotel’s suite 212 where Prince Alexander was born in 1945, and which was temporarily declared sovereign Yugoslav territory by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Crown Prince Alexander is greeted by crowds in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. (Above) Crown Prince Alexander and family during the ceremony at Claridges Hotel, London, in which HRH’s Yugoslav citizenship was restored.

Crown Prince Alexander is greeted by crowds in the Serbian capital, Belgrade. (Above) Crown Prince Alexander and family during the ceremony at Claridges Hotel, London, in which HRH’s Yugoslav citizenship was restored.

Although Britain supported Marshall Tito’s communist partisans during World War Two and in the post-war period, it was still an important gesture. Under Yugoslav law, the heir to the throne had to be born on Yugoslav territory to maintain his right of succession. Some fifty-five years later, in a brief but emotional ceremony, the country officially welcomed back the Karadjordjevic family. Prince Alexander, flanked by minister Zivkovic and the Yugoslav Ambassador in London, chose to read a speech both in English and Serbo-Croat. But he was quickly overcome by emotion and, holding back tears, abandoned his speech to tell the assembled press and media: “Anyhow, I am going home.”

Prince Alexander then took questions from the international media, much of which concentrated on what role the monarchy could play in the country’s reconstruction: “The issue now is jobs, the healthcare system, the future of the country”, he said. While reiterating his own commitment to using his experience as a businessman to encourage investment, he also called on the European Union and the USA to help the country and said that he and his family would be lobbying for more Western assistance. A long time opponent of the Miloscevic regime, Alexander was also critical of the 1999 NATO military campaign. “We have people who are suffering, we have damage from the system and damage from the bombs,The Danube is still blocked and I think this is pitiful . . . it would be very nice if the EU and the USA remember us. We are a proud country but we are always grateful for good investment.”

The question of a restoration was also raised as there are proposals for a referendum on the return of the monarchy in the near future. Prince Alexander was careful to stress his adherence to the democratic process and dismissed hopes of an immediate monarchical return, but felt the property issue was no different for the Karadjordjevic family than any other citizens who had faced illegal confiscation of their property. However, the return of the former royal properties is not without complications. The former palaces in Belgrade are today the City Hall and the Serbian presidency building and property of the state. Petitions for their return have been trapped in legal procedure for years but Micha Gavrilovic, who administers the royal estate of Oplenac, said all the legal experts think it will go in favour of the Crown Prince. (Extract from Royalty Magazine Vol. 17/01)