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H.R.H Prince Paul of Yugoslavia

40’s-50’s – Born in 1893 in St. Petersburg Russia, he was the son of Princess Aurora Demidoff and Prince Arsen of Yugoslavia. His parents were divorced when he was an infant and he was sent to live with his uncle King Peter of Serbia, while his father spent most of the time consumed by military campaigns. He grew up in Geneva, Switzerland where the royal family were in exile, and then moved to Belgrade when the Karageorgevic dynasty were reinstated. He remembers seeing his mother twice in his life, the last time he was only 6-years-old. He was taken to a train station where a woman descended from a train, clasped him to her bosom and then disappeared. In essence, Paul grew up an orphan. He found comfort in his wife’s Olga’s close-knit family which included most the royal houses of Europe. He was educated at Oxford University where he developed a passion for culture and art. He donated 482 paintings and works of art, opening the first museum of modern art in all of Eastern Europe.

He was named Chief Regent after his cousin King Alexander of Yugoslavia(King Peter I’s son) was assassinated. Prince Paul, in contrast to Alexander, was Yugoslav rather than Serb in outlook. Paul’s domestic policy was to eliminate a dictatorship and military control and to solve the Serb-Croat problem in a functioning democratic government. Not only did he heal the internal rifts of his country but he had to protect Yugoslavia from hostile regimes that surrounded him on all sides: Nazis, Communists and Fascist Italians.

In 1939, Paul, as head of state, had to accept an official invitation from Adolph Hitler and spent 9 days in Berlin. After meeting Hitler for the first time, Paul wrote to the Queen of England, “I feel that I have looked pure evil straight in the eye”.

Long before the rest of the world recognized the Nazis as a threat, Paul warned Joe Kennedy, who was US Ambassador to England at the time, and the Prime Minister of England, but his concerns fell on deaf ears. When WW2 broke out, the Allies demanded that Yugoslavia declare war on Germany unprovoked, while offering no military aide. Paul refused, declaring this would be an act of suicide for the Yugoslav people. As a last resort, Paul travelled to meet with Hitler in secret. After 5 harrowing hours, he worked out the terms of a neutrality pact. On March 25, 1941, the Yugoslavian government signed the Tripartite Pact, which included Paul’s clauses:

1. The Axis powers had to respect the territorial integrity and
    sovereignty of Yugoslavia.

2. The Axis promised not to ask Yugoslavia for any military assistance.

3. No Axis troops were allowed in or through Yugoslavia.

Two days later, Paul was forcibly removed from power in a coup masterminded by the British and carried out by a few disgruntled Serbian soldiers. He asked the British to give him and his family asylum and was shocked when they refused. He had always felt a kinship with all things British and maintained close ties to the British royal family throughout his life. King George (Bertie) was best man at his wedding and George’s younger brother, Georgie, the Duke of Kent became Paul’s brother-in-law. He refused to bug the British embassy in Belgrade. If he had been less trusting, he could have averted his downfall. When Paul refused to declare war unprovoked on Germany, a coup d’etat was declared and he was arrested. He was forced to abdicate and was given 4 hours to leave the country or else he and his family would have been shot. Paul did not know at the time that the British were behind the coup to topple him from power and he was devastated when they painted him as a Nazi traitor. Paul’s great downfall was, that as a humanist, he greatly underestimated the destructive urge of mankind. He was not very religious but he was very superstitious.

H.R.H Princess Olga of Greece and Denmark

30’s-40’s – Paul’s wife and daughter of Prince Nicholas of Greece (younger brother of the King) and Helen, the Grand Duchess of Russia. Olga grew up with her cousins Tsar Nicholas and Empress Alexandra and their children.

She moved to live with Paul in Belgrade, which must have been considerable downsizing after the Russian Imperial lifestyle.

She struggled with Queen Marie’s rivalry and remained a staunch supporter of her husband. She had 3 children. Alexander, Nicholas and Elizabeth.

She had 2 sisters, Marina and Elizabeth and was very close to her family. It was particularly challenging for her when she was separated from them when the war broke out as one sister lived in Germany and the other in England. Olga was always dutiful to her mother until the Grand Duchess told her to leave Paul as he would be of no use to her anymore. She defied her, choosing to live in exile with Paul, under house arrest in Africa, for the duration of the war.

The Duke of Edinburgh, married to the current Queen of England, is Olga’s 1st cousin.

Adolph Hitler

Hitler was hell-bent on militarization long before Europe had any idea that he was violating WWI’s Treaty of Versailles. He saw Yugoslavia as a prime candidate to supply him with essential raw materials and pursued trade aggressively. Paul was very uncomfortable being so economically dependant on Germany, but had little choice as other countries offered little.

Hitler repeatedly requested that Paul meet with him. Paul declined and for several years he sent various cabinet members to represent him.

As Europe prepared for war, his government urged him to accept Hitler’s invitation. He spent 9 days in Germany on an official visit with his wife Olga. Hitler described Paul “as slippery as an eel” as he refused to agree to anything.

Paul met him one more time in March 1941, in secret at his mountain retreat, to work out the terms of a non- aggression treaty. Yugoslavia was the only country in the Balkans to hold out against the Nazis. Hitler made concessions with him that he didn’t allow with any other country. Paul transcribed Hitler’s dialogue in letters he sent to the Grand Duchess Helen.

After Paul abdicated, Hitler refused to honor the treaty and decided to make an example of Yugoslavia by launching “Operation Punishment”. In 6 days, the country lay in ruins and over a 1,700,000 lost their lives. This is what Paul fought so valiantly to avoid.

Winston Churchill

60’s – Prime Minister of Britain.

“It is the right of a great power to sacrifice a smaller, neutral state for the sake of ultimate victory” This sums up Churchill’s view of the fate of Yugoslavia. At first, he was content to Yugoslavia’s neutral status, but then, he decided that neutrality did not suit his purposes. He wanted a Balkan front to attack Germany.

Paul requested military aide, Churchill offered him the privilege of being on the winning side, but gave no tangible help. “Prince Paul’s attitude looks like that of an unfortunate man in a cage with a tiger, hoping not to provoke him, while steadily dinnertime approaches. In the end, Paul interfered with his plans and he authorized his removal. “The sooner ‘Palsy’ (his nickname for Paul) is interned and out of our way, the better”.

Not until his memoirs, many years later, did he admit that he regretted his harsh treatment of Paul.

Benito Mussolini

50’s – Fascist Italian leader, AKA El Duce.

He was known for his erratic, mercurial decisions.

From one day to the next, he would declare war on any given country and then, just as quickly, change his mind. He backed the Croatian fascist separatist group ‘The Ustase’ and funded their leader Ante Pavelic.

He considered King Alexander an adversary and was implicated in his assassination. Sources revealed that Mussolini watched the film of King Alexander’s assassination three times a day.

The League of Nations, which was the pre-cursor to the United Nations, never issued any rebuke to Italy for their involvement- this angered the Yugoslavs considerably.

King Alexander of Yugoslavia

40’s-50’s – the first and last king of Yugoslavia> versus Serbia. He abolished the constitution and ruled Yugoslavia with an iron fist. He was one of the last absolute monarch’s of his era. He made many enemies with his autocratic rule and had a habit of imprisoning anyone who opposed his policies.

Although he was close to Paul, he refused to give him any official position while he was alive.

Alexander was the target of many assassination attempts. Much of the terrorism directed at Yugoslavia was the result of disgruntled neighbors: Italians, Bulgarians and Hungarians who lost lands after WWI.

He was shot in Marseilles, on a state visit by a Bulgarian who was trained in a terrorist camp in Hungary. The plot was masterminded by Ante Pavelic, the leader of the Croatian Ustase who was funded by Mussolini.

Alexander was a big spender and left Yugoslavia in considerable debt. His assassination was the first one ever captured on film.
Dr. David Albala

Dr. David Albala – born in 1886, a Serbian Sephardic Jew, a WW1 war hero who founded the Zionist Party in Yugoslavia. In 1915, he was sent to the USA to help with the Serbian war effort; and because of his efforts, Yugoslavia was the first country to back the Balfour Declaration - establishing the independent state of Israel. After WW1, he was sent to Versailles to collaborate on the peace treaty, forming the new country of Yugoslavia. Through his fundraising efforts, two forests were planted in Israel dedicated to the late King Alexander and his father King Peter. Paul sent Albala to America in 1939, for another fundraising trip. He died there in 1942, some say of a broken heart, after hearing the terrible news of the destruction and extermination of the Serbian and Jewish people of Yugoslavia.
Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark

30’s – Olga’s youngest sister.

She married the King of England’s youngest brother, ‘Georgie’ the Duke of Kent.

Known for her great sense of humor and joie de vivre. She was very flirtatious

Princess Elizabeth of Greece and Denmark

30’s – Olga’s middle sister.

She married a wealthy German Count and was separated from her family by the war.

The sweetest and least-known of the three sisters.

Her mother also considered that she had married beneath her station.

Georgie, Duke of Kent

Close friend and Paul’s brother-in-law.

He was the King of England’s youngest brother.

Charming, good-looking and debonair.

He remained loyal to Paul and lobbied for leniency for him and his family.

Georgie was killed in a tragic plane crash in 1942. An unproven claim was made that British intelligence was behind the crash.


Count “Toto” Toerring

30’s – Married to Olga’s sister Elizabeth.

Surly, argumentative and opinionated.

Remained in Germany during the war.

Ante Pavelic

40’s – leader of the Croatian fascist group, The Ustase.

He lived in Rome as a guest of Mussolini.

His goal was to establish a fascist independent state of Croatia. He set up terrorist camps in Italy and Hungary and his goal was to instigate terrorist activity in Yugoslavia.

He was in Marseilles days before the King’s assassination and bribed the Chief of Police to slacken security for the King’s visit.

After Hitler’s invasion of Yugoslavia, and after Macek’s refusal, he was named Chancellor of Croatia. He set up concentration camps such as the infamous Jasenovac, which boasted an unlimited amount of prisoners. He pursued massive ethnic cleansing of Serbs, Muslims, Gypsies and all Croats who didn’t support his regime. He was personally responsible for approximately 700,000 deaths. His motto was, “convert one third (to Catholicism), kill one third, and expel one third, willingly or unwillingly”.

Guards from Auschwitz commented that brutality in the Ustase camps, exceeded even Nazi standards. A large percentage of the victims were boiled alive and turned into soap.

He escaped to Argentina and became Secretary Advisor to Juan Peron, where he helped issue visas to 34,000 Croatians who had been Nazi collaborators.

Queen Marie of Yugoslavia

40’s-50’s – Alexander’s wife and daughter of the King of Romania.

She was never fond of Olga and considered her a threat. She became a rival after she was denied by her husband’s will from having any position as Regent.

She attempted to topple Paul several times, enlisting every disgruntled politician she could.

Eventually, she left for England on a large pension and remained there with 2 of her sons, while her oldest son Peter, remained in Paul’s care.

Although Paul provided for her generously, she continued to spread disparaging rumors about him until her death.

Grand Duchess Helen Romanoff

60’s- 70’s – She was brought up in Imperial Russia and was Grand Duke Vladimir Romanoff’s daughter, brother to Tzar Alexander III and uncle to Tzar Nicholas.

She was the very imperious mother of Olga.

Fierce and domineering and a terrible snob, she never warmed completely to Paul believing that her daughter had married beneath her pedigree.

Young King Peter

Peter was 11 years old when his father was assassinated. He was brought back from school in England to be groomed to inherit the throne when he came of age at 18.

Peter’s mother Queen Marie left for England soon after her husband’s death, leaving him in Paul’s care.

Paul struggled to mentor him, but he found him difficult to relate to. Paul had concerns that he might not have the makings of a leader. He seemed lost and impressionable and was barely able to read and write in his own native tongue.

Although Churchill later said that Peter had heroically escaped from Paul by climbing down a drainpipe, the truth is he cried when Paul and the family left, and begged them to take him with them. Many years later, Peter apologized to Paul for propagating false rumors about him.

Peter died in his early 40’s of alcoholism. He is the only foreign monarch to be buried on US soil.

Milan Antic

40's – served as Minister of the Court under King Alexander and then continued to work for Paul.

He became Paul’s closest, most loyal and trustworthy associate.

He was arrested after the coup d’etat and spent 16 years in jail when he refused to denounce Paul. He was quoted, “Life is not worth living if one has to sacrifice one’s personal dignity”.

He described Paul as very cloak and dagger, “the left hand never knowing what the right hand was doing”. In truth, as Paul’s “right hand”, it was his discretion that Paul could count on.

Young Elizabeth

As a newborn and 4-5 – Paul and Olga’s daughter.

Headstrong and very spoiled, being the only girl. She left Yugoslavia at 5 and spent most of her childhood in Kenya and South Africa, in exile.

She was the first member of the royal family to return to Yugoslavia in 1987. She now lives there permanently.

She helped provide medical support and care for wounded children during the war and started The Princess Elizabeth Foundation which sponsors Serbian artists and a charitable organization to help children during the war.

In 2005, she ran for President and came in 5 out of 16 candidates.

Young Alexander

17 – Paul and Olga’s eldest son.

He and his brother Nicky were schooled at Eton College in England and only spent holidays with their parents.

Alexander was a poor student and preferred sports, cars, guns and trains.

Bullish with a terrible temper and often butted heads with his parents.

Young Nicky

15 – Paul and Olga’s second son.

Definitely Paul and Olga’s favorite son.

Sweet, funny, intelligent and curious.

Tragically, he died in a car accident in England in his early 20’s.

Anthony Eden

30’s - 40’s – British Foreign Minister.

He went to Oxford at the same time as Paul and they never took a liking to each other. He considered Paul “over-emotional, over-sensitive and foppish”.

Paul considered him “over- ambitious, humorless and arrogant”.

Paul attempted to establish a rapport with him and repeatedly asked him to increase trade.

Anthony was instrumental in orchestrating Paul’s downfall and engineered his exile to the house of a murdered man, in the most remote part of Kenya.

Professor Radoje Knezevic

30’s – Young King Peter’s first tutor. Paul fired him after he discovered that Radoje was brainwashing the young King with his radical views. Radoje wanted revenge and had a vendetta to destroy Paul – something he shared in common with everyone else whom Paul fired! – He was one o the masterminds and organizers of the coup. He was a member of the secret society, The Black Hand which had been responsible for most of the political assassinations in the country. The Black Hand was responsible for killing the last Obrenovic King and Queen which resulted in the return of the Karageorgevic family. Once crowned, King Alexander then ordered the execution of their leader Apis, which caused an uproar amongst its members. After Paul was sent into exile, Radoje resumed his influence over Peter and wrote Peter’s memoirs for him, which conveniently depicted Paul as a villain.

Major Zivan Knezevic

20’s – Radoje’s younger brother, also a member of the Black Hand. He enlisted the other disgruntled members of the Serbian army to rise up against Paul’s government who believed in Serbian superiority and did not having to fight alongside the Croats.

Vladko Macek

60’s – He lead the Croatian Peasant Party and was imprisoned for treason by King Alexander as he was one of the main opponents of his dictatorship.

Paul released him and allowed him to mount his opposition party.

Paul won Macek’s respect and they worked well together.

When Paul was arrested on the train to Zagreb, Macek came to his rescue and offered him the Croatian 4th Army to fight. Paul refused to be the cause of destroying the unity that he had fought so hard for. He asked Macek to promise to work with the new government. Macek ended up in the infamous Croatian concentration camp, Jasenovac, after he refused to lead Croatia under the Nazi regime.

Nikola Uzunovic

50’s ~ Prime Minister under Paul’s regime. He was a staunch Serb and refused to work cooperatively with the Croats. Paul had to fire him as Croat opposition leader Vladko Macek refused to work with him after he unfairly won the election. The way the constitution was skewed was to favor the dominant Serbian party and to make it impossible for an incumbent to win, regardless of how many seats they won. Uzunovic then went on to plot against Paul with Queen Marie and became a member of the Black hand. If we were going to be historically accurate, he was replaced by Bogoljub Jevtic and then by Stojadinovic, but in order to avoid confusion, we chose to consolidate the 2

Milan Stojadinovic

50’s – Paul’s longest running Prime Minister.

He was recommended by the British Ambassador as a promising candidate.

He, too, failed to achieve Paul’s vision of unification. He became overly influenced and impressed by Fascist regimes, even going so far as to organize a military-like legion of his own called the Green Shirts, adopting the Nazi salute.

Power went to his head and he decided he would make a superb dictator.

He plotted against Paul and was eventually imprisoned.

Sir Ronald Campbell

40’s – British Ambassador to Yugoslavia. (This character is a composite of the three Ambassadors who served over the 7-year period of Paul’s Regency: Sir Neville Henderson, Ronald Campbell and Sir Ronald Campbell.)

Campbell is shocked to discover that Paul refuses to bug the British Embassy.

As the story progresses, he is won over by Paul’s vision and integrity and
at the same time disheartened by his country’s treacherous behavior.

Hermann Goering

50’s – Field Marshall, high-ranking Nazi who spent a lot of time in Yugoslavia as Hitler’s envoy.

Very flirtatious with Olga. During one incident, he lifted up the hem of her skirt to admire it, upon which Olga quipped, “How high do you plan to lift my skirt? He dropped it, embarrassed.

Dr. Hjalmar Schacht

President of the German Reichbank.

A vegetarian who did not drink alcohol.

Worked closely with Hitler and Goering to advance trade agreements with neighboring countries.

Brigadier-General Mirkovic

One of the main organizers of the coup. Frightfully muscular, vain and greedy. He proudly displayed a signed photo of Goering in his office.

General Simovic

Formely a Chief of Staff under Paul’s regime, Paul had to fire him. Simovic vowed revenge. He was sworn in as the new President after the coup. After denouncing the Regency as a Nazi puppet regime, he attempted to re-open negotiations with the Germans and asked them to uphold the original treaty when he realized that Paul’s stand was the only sane choice. But it was too late...

Vlado Chernozemski

Was a Bulgarian revolutionary. He joined the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization (IMRO) in 1922. He cooperated with the Croatian revolutionary movement Ustaše.

He was one of the finest marksmen in the IMRO.

He assassinated Alexander I of Yugoslavia in the port ofMarseille, France on October 9, 1934, and was himself killed immediately afterwards.

Co- Regent Perovic

50’s – Named Regent by Alexander. He was a Serb and had been Governor of Croatia. He was a good administrator but was not a popular man. He was never was very involved in helping Paul. In the end, he turned against Paul in an attempt to save himself.

Co- Regent Stankovic

50’s – he was an odd choice by Alexander. He had been the Minister of Education, but Alexander had fired him. He too was little help to Paul.

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