A state funeral of the last King of Yugoslavia, Peter II (1923 – 1970), has taken place near Belgrade in the family church in Oplenac. The funeral was also held for his wife, Queen Alexandria (1921 – 1993), his mother Queen Maria (1900 – 1961), and brother Prince Andrej (1929 – 1990). After the memorial service, they were placed in the family mausoleum. The coffins of the four members of the royal family were laid out in the centre of the church before army guards placed them in the crypt, alongside their ancestors.
In Topola, coffins were transferred to special carts, and coffin of HM King Peter II was escorted by members of the Guard on horses. Members of the Royal Family and numerous citizens have walked behind in procession from Topola to Oplenac.
At the Church of St. George in Oplenac, His Grace Bishop Jovan of Sumadija and the clergy of Sumadija Diocese, together with a great number of citizens gathered waiting for the late Royals and members of the Royal Family. Then His Grace Bishop Jovan of Sumadija officiated the Requiem service at the Church in the presence of Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander, Crown Princess Katherine, Hereditary Prince Peter and Prince Alexander, Princess Katarina, Prince George, Prince Michael, Princess Linda, Prince Vladimir and Princess Brigitta, Prince Dimitri, Princess Lavinia and Mr. Austin Pritchard-Levy and Luca Pritchard-Levy, and Princess Elizabeth.
Peter II Karadjordjevic was the third and last king of Yugoslavia, taking the throne in 1934 at the age of 11 following the assassination of his father, King Alexander I. His cousin, Prince Paul, became Prince Regent until he was overthrown in a military coup for signing a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany.
By March 1941, all but one of Yugoslavia’s neighbours was under Nazi domination or influence. Despite Prince Paul’s pro-British sentiments, to avoid bloodshed and military defeat he felt obliged to sign the unpopular pact with Germany and Italy to insure Yugoslavia’s neutrality (although King Peter and his advisors were opposed to Nazi Germany). Shortly afterwards on 27 March 1941 the Regency was deposed in a military-led coup and King Peter II was declared of age.
Within a week, Germany along with its allies Bulgaria, Hungary and Italy invaded Yugoslavia and forced the government to surrender. The Royal Yugoslav Government made its way via Athens, Jerusalem and Cairo to London where King Peter II joined other monarchs and leaders of governments in exile from Nazi Germany occupied Europe. The Axis occupied Yugoslavia, which was then dismembered and divided to satisfy Italian, Bulgarian, Hungarian and German demands. A puppet Croatian fascist state was proclaimed. Germany occupied Serbia, while Italy occupied Dalmatia and Montenegro.
In November 1945 the monarchy was abolished without a referendum and Yugoslavia remained a single party state under the League of Communists for more than four decades. King Peter II, Queen Alexandra and their son Crown Prince Alexander (born 17 July 1945 in London) were stripped of their citizenship and rights by the communist regime in 1947 and banned from returning to Yugoslavia. HM King Peter II never abdicated and remained in exile for the rest of his life. Peter II had originally been interred in Libertyville, Illinois, his wife in Greece and his mother near Windsor Castle in the UK.
King Peter II of Yugoslavia was the firstborn son of King Alexander I and Queen Maria of Yugoslavia. King Peter II was born in Belgrade 6 September 1923 his Godparents were King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later Queen Mother of Great Britain). His education commenced at The Royal Palace after which he went to Sandroyd School in England, which he left after his father’s assassination in 1934. Since King Peter II was 11 years old and underage at the time of his father’s assassination, a regency was formed consisting of three regents including his great uncle Prince Paul Karadjordjevic.
The Yugoslav Army was unprepared to resist the ensuing invasion by Nazi Germany and Yugoslavia was occupied within eleven days. King Peter II and the other members of Royal family fled the occupied countries, with exceptance of Peter’s uncle, George, who remained in Yugoslavia during the war and in post-war communist period, until he died in 1972. Later he completed his education at Cambridge University and joined the Royal Air Force.
Princess Alexandra of Greece and King Peter met in London: “The princess, a pretty, dark-haired girl, used to serve waffles and coffee to American officers and nurses over a snack bar at the London Red Cross club. There she met King Peter, a slender young man in naval uniform who often dropped in to listen to the music of a United States infantry band” (Chicago Tribune, 8/1/43). But it would not be without consequences.
Love for Princess Alexandra, 22-year-old niece of the king of Greece, has cost King Peter of Yugoslavia the chance to lead his country’s battle against the Nazis, the Daily Express indicated today. The newspaper said that the young king, who also is 22 years old [he was 20], now “faces the harsh consequences of the decision to which he was led six months ago.
At that time, the Express said, Peter turned down a suggestion that he dissolve his cabinet and fly to the headquarters of Marshal Josip [Tito] Broz, leader of the Partisan army opposed to the king and his war minister, Gen. Dragoljub Mihailovic. Any possibility of returning to power, or even to Yugoslavia, soon was over. He was now just a rich man with the novelty of a useless crown. His cousin, Prince Alexander, was discovered in 1948 selling washing machines in Bristol, England. “Great future in them,” he told the Associated Press.
King Peter II never abdicated. Initially King Peter II lived in exile in London with his wife (he married the Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark in 1944, she was the daughter of King Alexander of the Hellenes and Aspasia Manos) and his son Crown Prince Alexander was born in 1945.
King Peter II spent the last years of his life in America. After a long and grave illness, King Peter II died 3 November 1970 in Denver Hospital Colorado, and he was buried at the St. Sava Monastery Church in Libertyville, Illinois. He was the only king buried in the United States. The King’s remains were transferred to Royal Palace Chapel on 22 January 2013 for a state funeral on 26 May 2013 at the Karadjordjevic dynasty Mausoleum of St. George in Oplenac, Serbia where His Majesty will join other members of The Royal Family.