Thursday, July 21, 2011

Montenegro gets a prince ... sort of

On Tuesday, the little country of Montenegro got a prince ... well sort of!   Montenegro's Parliament approved a new law "On the status of the descendants of the dynasty of Petrovic-Njegosh."  The vote was approved by the country's two leading political parties, the Democratic Party of Socialists and the Social Democratic Pary.   Two other parites, the Deputies from the Socialist People's Party and the New Serbian Democracy party, voted against the legislation, although neither party could muster enough votes to overturn the majority. 
The two latter parties see the law as revisionist history, as the text of the law includes a provision "that the dynasty of Petrovic-Njegosh was ousted from the throne as the result of the annexation of Montenegro by Serbia in 1918.  This provision has also been criticized by Montenegro's president.

Prince Nikola, the current head of the house, expressed his thanks to the government and to the people of Montenegro for the "correction of great historic injustice," and for the "historical and rehabilitation of the Montenegrin dynasty."
The Prince added: "The Assembly of Montenegro returned dignity to me and my family, and pride and dignity to the Montenegrin dynasty."
In implementing the law, the Montenegrin government will provide 4.3 million euros for seven years.   The law also requires the establishment of the Petrovich Njegos Fund, which will be headed by a member of the dynasty whose "activities will be aimed at promoting the culture of Montenegro."

The new law also allows for the descendants in the male line (as well as their spouses) to obtain Montengrin nationality, but they will also be allowed to maintain their first nationality.  Prince Nikola and his two children are French citizens.

Nikola and his family will have a home built for them in Cetinje, and they will also be given an apartment in Podgorica.   They will also have use of the late King Nikola's house in Njegusi, as well as the gardens and meadow lands.

Nikola will receive a monthly salary equivalent to the President's monthly salary.  He will also act as an official representative of the Montenegrin government.  Earlier this month, Nikola carried out his first duty, representing the Prime Minister at Archduke Otto's funeral.   The new law also requires that Prince Nikola and other members of the dynasty received full state protocol when carrying out official engagements.

This is a very interesting event.  Apart from the historical fact that the Montenegrin dynasty was not overthrown.   King Nikola supported Serbian unity, and the Montenegrins chose to become a part of the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.  King Nikola's eldest daughter, Zorka, married Peter Karageorgevitch, the parents of Alexander I.

Nikola died in 1921.  He was succeeded, in exile, by his eldest son, Danilo, who was married Princess Jutta of Mecklenburg-Strelitz.  The marriage was without issue.  On March 7, 1921, only six days after his father's death,  Danilo abdicated in favor of his nephew, Michael, the son of the late Prince Mirko.

Michael had recognized the unification of Montenegro and Serbia.  Having renounced his rights to the Montenegrin throne, he was a member of King Peter II of Yugoslavia's Crown Council.
He also swore his loyalty to the Yugoslav monarchy.  His cousin, Alexander I, granted him a pension.
During the second world war,  Michael and his wife, Genevieve Prigent, were taken prisoners by the Germans.  Although the German and Italian officials offered the prince the Montenegrin throne, naturally with the support of the Germans and Italians,  Michael refused the offer.

Michael's aunt, Queen Elena of Italy, secured the family's release in 1943.  Michael and his wife returned to Paris to live, where they were soon arrested, again, by the Germans.  This time, the couple were sent to an internment camp in Czechoslovakia. 

The couple's only son, Prince Nikola, was born in this camp in 1944.   After the war, the family was repatriated to Paris.  Michael's marriage collapsed, and ended in divorce in 1949.  Two years later,  Michael, who once served King Peter II, now in exile,  became close to Yugoslavia's new leader, Marshall Tito.   He became Yugoslavia's Head of Protocol for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

One wonders what cousin Peter thought about this betrayal as Michael and his family moved into their new home in Belgrade.  It didn't take long for Prince Michael to realize that Tito was actually a Communist, and had no plans to restore the monarchy in Yugoslavia or support an independent Montenegro.

By the summer of 1948, the family was back on Paris.  A year later, the marriage was over.  Genevieve received custody of young Nikola and raised him largely as a single mother.  Growing up in France, Prince Nikola barely saw his father.  He knew very little about Montenegro.  He was raised and educated as a Frenchman.

Nikola, an architect by profession, married Francine Navarro in 1976.  They had two children, Princess Altinai (1977) and Prince Boris (1980.)  Although Nikola I's children made a series of dynastic marriages,  the present Prince Nikola has very few ties to other European royal houses, including Serbia.

In Serbia,  Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine have active roles, especially with charities.   It is high time the Serbian government formalize and recognize the Karageorgevich dynasty's contribution to Serbia.  All three of the Crown Prince's sons, Hereditary Prince Peter, Prince Philip and Prince Alexander live outside the country, they return often for family events.  All three young men are intensely proud of their Serbian heritage.

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