The rich and varied life HM Queen Maria of Yugoslavia is being commemorated with a fascinating exhibition at Belgrade’s White Palace. The exhibition was launched by HRH Crown Prince Alexander II and his family.
The interesting exhibition of historical artefacts and personal effects will give visitors a unique opportunity to learn facts, details and personal memories about the life of Queen Maria, from 1922 when she came to Belgrade until 1961 when she died in London.
Queen Maria was a fascinating women, dedicating most of her life to humanitarian work and, as such, she is remembered as a kind, generous and modest woman by Serbia. Through this exhibition, visitors will see Queen Maria of Yugoslavia as an emancipated woman ahead of her time in many ways and a warm mother who did her utmost to nurture and protect her family, even after they were forced to relocate to England.
As a woman of her time, Queen Maria was at the forefront of many modernisations in the former Yugoslavia. She was the first female driver in her realm and would regularly drive herself. Period photographs also show the young queen dressed in the latest fashions of the times, with hats, furs and jewellery from Paris setting off her cutting-edge hair do.
“We decided to have an exhibition to show her life,’ Crown Prince Alexander said during an interview with W!LD RooSTeR at the Royal Palace. “We have little bits and pieces of her life here: her art, pictures, books, letters and so on. I think this will be quite popular. Occasionally we have other exhibitions here, in conjunction with embassies so what better place to do it than the White Palace. The palace ought to be a centre for culture and for history. The Government could use it for a visiting Head of State, but first it needs some work.”
On 22 June, the morning after the launch ceremony, His Holiness the Patriarch of Serbia served a memorial service at the Royal Palace Chapel of St Andrew the First Called, before the Crown Prince and Princess travelled to England for a family memorial service at Frogmore, Windsor, where Queen Maria is buried.
“We will go as a family to visit her grave, to lay a wreath and say a prayer,’ said Crown Prince Alexander. “In the evening we will go to Claridges, where I was born and where the family used to live at the end of the Second World War, which will be very nice.”
HRH Crown Prince Alexander II was joined by Crown Princess Katherine and Prince Philip at an official ceremony to launch the exhibition at Belgrade’s White Palace.
“I was 15 years old when my grandmother died,’ said Crown Prince Alexander at the exhibition launch. “I was a school in Scotland at a place called Gordonstoun, in the middle of nowhere. I remember clearly going by train down to her funeral. Tomorrow we will lay a wreath at her grave as a family. But the dream is that she will come to Serbia and she will be interred in our mausoleum along with my father and my mother. I hope that this will be achieved shortly.”
“It is my great pleasure to present this wonderful exhibition which will give us the opportunity to learn about little-known facts of the life of my grandmother. Her Majesty Queen Maria of Yugoslavia. She was truly a great lady loved by everyone who knew her and this exhibition is a token of appreciation to her.”
Privy Council President Dragomir Acovic delivered a speech to visiting dignitaries, ambassadors and representatives of cultural and public life in Serbia. “In her youth she was called Mignon, after the heroine of a Goethe story which was a popular opera at the time,’ he said. “In difference to the literary Mignon, the Princess she did not end her days in her castle. She died in undeserved exile, too old for her age, desolate and lost in the world.
“We have gathered here to invoke memories and pay respects to a Queen, to a wife, to a mother, to an artist, to a woman who turned from real life into a legend. There is a shortage of personalities who are remembered by all contemporaries as models of dignity, self sacrifice and philanthropy. So often contemporaries greet each other with contempt. Queen Maria is an exception to the rule, partly because of her own nature and partly because of her personal merits.
“Queen Maria was gifted with beauty, opulence, artistic talent, family bliss and, beyond that all she was granted a sensitive heart, and a soul filled with compassion. Queen Maria’s life was spent mostly in the shadow of others. Firstly in the shadow of her beautiful and exuberant mother, Queen of Romania, afterwards in the shadow of her spouse, the great and Spartan King Alexander, thereafter in the shadow of her son Prince Peter, and finally in the deep and lesser shadow of a great Balkan dictator.
“This last shadow is still casting over her and sucks life from her memory. In the warning of Shakespeare, ‘The evil that men do lives after them and good is often interred with their bones’. But by not forgetting, we are ready to forgive.”
The Yugoslav Queen Marija Karadjordjevic was born in 1900 in the German city of Gotha, as the third child of the Romanian Crown Prince Ferdinand and Maria Hohenzollern. From an early age, she was known to family and close friends as Mignon, to distinguish her from her mother of the same name. Her mother was daughter to Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, a son to Britain’s Queen Victoria.
In 1922, when she married His Majesty King Alexander I, the Romanian Princess became Queen of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. One year later she gave birth to their heir to the throne Crown Prince Peter, followed by Prince Tomislav in 1925 and Prince Andrej Karadjordjevic in 1928. In 1929, Marija Karadjordjevic became Queen of Yugoslavia.
Following the assassination of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia in 1934, her son became King Peter II. She received the title Queen Mother of Yugoslavia in 1941 and moved to a farmhouse in Kent, England, to live a humble life void of royal extravagance. This sad stage in her life is depicted in the exhibition, showing the shocking changes she must have felt in her life, when she was relocated to the small English farmhouse.
The exhibition is open to the public at Belgrade’s White Palace until Tuesday 5 July (weekdays from 12:30pm). Visitors should contact the Office of HRH Crown Prince Alexander to arrange entrance (+381 11 306 4075)