Yugoslavia's exiled Queen returns home at long last - Telegraph
4 May 2013
Yugoslavia's exiled Queen returns home at long last
The body of Queen Maria of Yugoslavia is to be repatriated to Belgrade after being exhumed from the Royal Burial Ground at Windsor today.
Her husband King Alexander I was assassinated by a Bulgarian terrorist and her son King Peter II forced into exile by the Nazis. Tomorrow Queen Maria of Yugoslavia will be reunited with her family when her body is repatriated to Belgrade having been exhumed from the Royal Burial Ground at Windsor. The journey marks the end of her long exile from her adopted homeland in what is now modern day Serbia.
Queen Maria, who was a second cousin once removed of both the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, was forced to leave during the Second World War and spent the rest of her life in Britain up until her death in 1961. Marshal Josip Tito, the Communist leader who ruled Yugoslavia from 1945, never allowed her back. The modern Serbian republic has permitted the return of the royal family, although they do not have a constitutional role. It is Serbian royal family that has arranged for the remains of the Queen to return. A spokesman said: “This is very emotional for us. This is a huge moment for modern Serbia. This is a great historical moment.”
Her body was exhumed on Friday after permission was given by the Queen and the remains transferred from Windsor to a Serbian Orthodox church in London yesterday. A memorial service will take place today in London. Queen Maria’s body will then be flown back to Belgrade, accompanied by her grandson Crown Prince Alexander. The body will then be interred at the Royal mausoleum at Topola about 80 miles from the capital.
Queen Maria, a great granddaughter of Queen Victoria, was considered a pioneering, modern European royal. “She was the first woman to drive a car in that part of Europe,” said the Royal spokeswoman, “She spoke five languages; she was very stylish; she was a great painter and sculptor and a philanthropist. She was loved by so many.” But she also witnessed the turbulent years that followed the First World War. Her husband, whom she married in 1922, was assassinated during a state visit to France in 1934 by a right-wing Bulgarian terrorist, Vlado Chernozemski, who shot the King as he was being driven through Marseille. The French foreign minister Louis Barthou also died in the attack. Archive footage exists showing the assassination.
Their eldest son King Peter II – the last Yugoslav king – inherited the throne at the age of just 11. But the Royal family were forced to flee Yugoslavia in 1941 following the country’s invasion by Axis powers. Queen Maria, who was born into the Romanian royal family, spent the years after the war in a cottage in the English countryside. During her exile in Britain she was known as Marie. She was buried at the royal burial ground at Frogmore near Windsor castle in a grave close to Queen Victoria's.
Surviving members of the Serbian royal family returned to their homeland in 2001 and the move to bring bodies of their deceased relatives back to the country began in earnest about seven years ago.
Queen Maria’s son, who died in 1970 and was buried in Illinois, was repatriated from the US in January. King Peter’s wife Queen Alexandra was buried in Athens and her body will be returned in May. Serbia will then hold a state funeral for Queen Maria, King Peter II and Queen Alexandra on May 26th.