22 January 2013

Casket of King Peter II of Yugoslavia arrives in Belgrade

Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia at his office in London, with the portrait of his father, King Peter II, in the background. The photo was taken in November 1995.

The casket of King Peter II of Yugoslavia (1923-1934-1945-1970) arrived at the Nikola Tesla Airport in Belgrade in the afternoon today, 22 January 2013. Present at the airport were Crown Prince Alexander, Crown Princess Katherine, Prince Peter, Prince Philip and Prince Alexander, together with Crown Princess Katherine’s daughter Alison, Ivica Dacic, Prime Minister of Serbia, Prof. Dr. Oliver Antic, advisor to the President of Serbia H.E. Mr. Tomislav Nikolic, Bishop Atanasije of Hvosno and members of the Committee for transfer of remains of members of the Royal Family, in addition to an honour guard as well as representatives of the Serbian Army. The casket was brought to the Royal Compound in Dedinje and placed with full honours in the Royal Palace Chapel, St. Andrew the First Called, where Patriarch Irinej of Serbia served a requiem.

The late king's remains were exhumed last week in Libertyville, outside Chicago, Illinois, USA. According to B92.net, the reburial will take place at the Royal Mausoleum of St. George in Oplenac in the spring, together with the reburials of of King Peter II's mother Queen Marie (now buried at Frogmore, Windsor, UK), his wife Queen Alexandra (Tatoi, Greece) and his brother Prince Andrew (Andrej) (Most Holy Mother of God Serbian Orthodox Monastery, Third Lake, Illinois, USA).

For photos from the requiem, go to B92.net's Serbian version. For a video, go here. For photos of the late King Peter II, go to the Royal Family of Serbia's official website.

Press release
While I was working on the article above, the Office of Crown Prince Alexander sent the following press release by e-mail:
King Peter II Now in Royal Palace Chapel
Belgrade, 22 January 2013 – The casket of HM King Peter II of Yugoslavia arrived at Belgrade Airport Nikola Tesla at 2 pm today. The grandson of King Peter II, HRH Prince Alexander (grandson) accompanied the casket on the King Peter II last flight home.

Meeting the casket of HM King Peter II at the airport were Their Royal Highnesses Crown Prince Alexander, Crown Princess Katherine, Prince Peter, Prince Philip and Prince Alexander, together with Crown Princess Katherine’s daughter Alison, H.E. Mr. Ivica Dacic, Prime Minister of Serbia and Prof. Dr. Oliver Antic, advisor to the President of Serbia H.E. Mr. Tomislav Nikolic, His Grace Vicar Bishop of Hvosno Atanasije and members of the Committee for the transfer of remains of members of the Royal Family, with the Serbian Army honour guard and representatives of the Army of Serbia.

The Remains of the late King were then escorted by the police to the Royal Chapel of St. Andrew the First Called beside the Royal Palace in Dedinje, the casket was saluted by a great number of citizens all the way from Belgrade Airport to the Royal Palace . The coffin of the late King, was then covered by a Serbian flag and Royal Regalia, and was placed in the Royal Chapel. His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia officiated the Requiem for the King, together with Their Graces Bishop Atanasije of Hvosno, Bishop Joanikije of Budimlje and Niksic and Bishop Andrej of Remeziana, in the presence of the Royal Family, Muhamed ef. Jusufspahic, Mufti of Serbia, other religious leaders, Prime Minister Ivica Dacic of Serbia , members of the Advisory bodies to the Crown and a huge number of citizens of Belgrade and Serbia who gathered in front of the Royal Chapel.

After the service, His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia emphasized in his address: "We have finally welcomed this sad and happy day, longly wished and expected . It is a day of historical importance for the entire Serbian people and its history“.

H.E. Mr. Ivica Dacic, the Prime Minister of Serbia, also gave an address and expressed his satisfaction on behalf of the Government of Serbia, citizens of Serbia and in his own name, for "we are present here today at the first of the events planned for this year, that we bring back the bodies of our rulers to Serbia . Without the lineage of Karadjordje, Serbian history almost could not have been written. The Government of Serbia will do anything in its power for the remains of the other Karadjordjevic family members to be brought back to our country".

Professor Oliver Antic, PhD, advisor to the President of Serbia and member of the Board for the return of the remains of the Karadjordjevic Royal Family members, said: "the President of the Republic of Serbia Mr. Tomislav Nikolic said that he is today here together with us although he is paying an earlier planned official visit to a foreign country. Our country is being protected by justice and tradition. When these two elements are bonded, then we have the safety of the state and the people“.

After the service, His Royal Highness Crown Prince Alexander II, son of HM King Peter II, made a moving speech: “This is a very emotional time for me and my family. It is a dream come true. My father King Peter is finally home and soon to be with his ancestors in Oplenac. I would like to especially thank His Holiness Patriarch Irinej for being here today, and for all of his prayers. We gathered here today for this event full of dignity and historic symbolism. This year is the 90th Anniversary of the birth of my father, King Peter II, and 72 years since he had to leave his beloved country after the Nazi invasion, and to spend the rest of his life in exile. My father died forty two years ago, and was buried in a distant land, but surrounded by friends and people who were devoted to him. He often spoke about his desire to return home. Obviously, so much time had to pass by, so many historical events, for one historical injustice to be rectified, and one simple human wish to come true. It was my father's greatest desire to come back to his fatherland, because above all he loved his country and his nation. He often spoke about that, always when the two of us were together. Today, he finally came back to Serbia , to the country of his ancestors and his compatriots. He is coming back to help us to understand our history, and how to respect it. Today, all of us together are sending an important message from this place to the world: The citizens of this country pay respect to all of those who took part in creation of its history.

I would like to warmly thank our President Mr. Nikolic, and Prime Minister Mr. Dacic, on this joint endeavour, as well as the State Committee for transfer of remains of he members of Karadjordjevic Royal Family. I thank all members of the Government for their support. I owe special gratitude to Professor Oliver Antic, for his personal initiative and engagement.

The Royal Family warmly thanks His Holiness Patriarch Irinej of Serbia, His Grace Bishop Longin of Middle and Western America, the Army of Serbia, Guard and Gendarmerie, H.E. Mr. Vladimir Popovic, ambassador of Serbia to the United States of America, Mr. Desko Nikitovic, Consul General of Serbia in Chicago, Hon. Branko Terzic, lawyer Mr. Tom Karacic, Association “Sveta gora” and all those who contributed substantially over previous years that this event of historic importance for our nation and our state becomes possible.

Thank all of you who were persistent and helped us along the way. We brought the King back to his land. Welcome home father! May you rest in peace.”
 Updated on 22 January 2013 at 20:55 (press release added), last time on 23 January 2013 at 20:30 (minor text modifciation to stress that one will wait for the reburial of King Peter II until the remains of the three other members of the Karadjordjecic dynasty have returned to Serbia).

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