La Veillée: La reine Elizabeth II reçoit l’hommage final.

Sa Majesté la reine Elizabeth est décédée jeudi 8 septembre à son domicile des Highlands d’Écosse, au château de Balmoral. Dans le passé, la reine avait parlé avec d’autres, y compris sa fille Anne, la princesse royale, des plans à mettre en place si elle venait à mourir en Écosse (où elle a passé jusqu’à dix semaines de l’année). L’opération a été appelée “Operation Unicorn” (Opération Licorne) car la Licorne est un symbole de pureté pour les Écossais. Aussi, la licorne apparaît également sur les armoiries du souverain comme symbole de fierté et de force.

Dans le cadre de cette opération, à Édimbourg, dans la soirée de lundi jusqu’à trois heures de l’après-midi de mardi, plus de 26 000 personnes sont passées devant la dépouille mortelle de Sa Majesté dans la cathédrale St Giles pour rendre hommage à la souveraine dont on se souvient en Écosse comme “Queen of Scots” (la reine des Écossais). Le cercueil de la reine reposait sur un catafalque en chêne écossais spécialement fabriqué dans un atelier près du palais de Holyroodhouse. Au sommet du cercueil se trouvait la Couronne d’Écosse, qui fait partie des honneurs de l’Écosse (“The Honours of Scotland”), car les joyaux de la Couronne sont désignés en Écosse. Ce sont les plus anciens joyaux de la couronne au Royaume-Uni. Le cercueil était gardé par le garde du corps des souverains en Écosse connu sous le nom de “Royal Company of Archers”. Ils sont facilement reconnaissables à leur uniforme vert foncé distinctif et leur capot à plumes. Les enfants de la reine étaient tous présents à St Giles et, lundi soir, ils ont monté la garde sur le cercueil de leur mère pendant dix minutes alors que les personnes en deuil passaient.

Puis, mardi soir, la dépouille mortelle de Sa Majesté a été transportée d’Édimbourg à Londres par la Royal Air Force pour le début de la période de deuil là-bas. Le cercueil de la reine gisait, pour une nuit seulement, dans la “Bow Room” du palais de Buckingham, ce qui a permis à d’autres membres de la famille royale, qui ne l’avaient pas encore fait, de lui rendre hommage.

Aujourd’hui, 14 Septembre, à Londres, la foule a commencé à faire la queue pour le mensonge dans l’état de Sa Majesté la reine Elizabeth II à Westminster Hall. On s’attend à ce que des centaines de milliers de personnes assistent à ces événements émouvants. Le cercueil a quitté le palais de buckingham peu après 2 heures de l’après-midi et a été suivi par le nouveau roi, Charles III et ses fils, le prince de Galles (William) et le duc de Sussex (Harry). Également dans la procession se trouvaient les autres enfants du défunt souverain: la princesse royale (Anne), the le duc d’York (Andrew) and le comte de Wessex (Edward). Le neveu de la reine, le comte de Snowdon (fils de la défunte princesse Margaret) ainsi que le duc de Gloucester, cousin de la reine, faisaient également partie du groupe royal. Pendant ce temps, marchant devant le cercueil se trouvaient des membres de la maison personnelle de Sa Majesté. Les Grenadier Guards et la King’s Troop assurèrent l’escorte. Mais immédiatement à droite et à gauche du cercueil se trouvaient d’anciens écuyers de Sa Majesté accomplissant un dernier devoir envers leur défunt souverain.

Au-dessus du cercueil de la reine, qui reposait sur un chariot de canon, se trouvaient la couronne impériale d’État et l’étendard royal. On dit que la couronne contient les quatre perles appartenant à Marie reine d’Écosse qui était mariée à François II, roi de France. À l’avant se trouve l’énorme diamant Cullinan II qui pèse 317 carats (63 grammes).

À l’arrivée à Westminster Hall, le cercueil de la reine a été pris du chariot de canon et transporté par un groupe de Grenadier Guards et placé sur un cafalque, drapé de pourpre royal, au centre de ce grand bâtiment. Les chorales des chapelles royales de Londres chantaient des hymnes et l’archevêque de Cantorbéry dirigeait des prières pour Sa Majesté. Après le départ du roi avec d’autres membres de la famille royale élargie, les membres du parlement britannique ont rendu un dernier hommage à la défunte reine. Enfin, à cinq heures cet après-midi, les portes du Westminster Hall ont été ouvertes au grand public. La salle sera ouverte en continu à partir de ce moment jusqu’à 6h30 le matin du 19 septembre (jour des funérailles).

Robert Prentice est biographe (il a récemment terminé une biographie de la princesse Olga Yougoslavie et de Grèce et du Danemark intitulé “Princess Olga of Yugoslavia: Her Life and Times) et contribue régulièrement au magazine Majesty au Royaume-Uni.

Robert Prentice is biographer and regular contributor to Majesty magazine in the United Kingdom.

A Queen Without Equal.

Here in Scotland, as in the rest of the United Kingdom (and beyond), we mourn the death of our late Queen at her highland estate on Royal Deeside. In these parts, she was invariably referred to as the Queen of Scots, for the title of Elizabeth II did not sit well with many in Scotland, as-unlike in England (prior to the Union of the Crowns in 1603)-Scotland has never had a Queen Elizabeth I. This is why in Scotland the distinctive red post (pillar) boxes do not bear the EIIR insignia that is a common sight over the border in England, but instead carry an image of the Crown of Scotland in relief.

Scotland too had a different sort of relationship with the Queen to that of England. There was a little less overt deference; less curtseying and bowing perhaps. Nonetheless, this should not be confused with a lack of respect, for the Queen was highly regarded by Scots, who loved her work ethic and sense of duty. They also appreciated her deep love of Scotland and its people. Holyrood Week was a regular fixture in her diary, in early July, when the Queen and the Court went into residence at the Sovereign’s Official Residence in Scotland, the Palace of Holyroodhouse, in order to allow Her Majesty to undertake a busy schedule of engagements, not just in the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, but throughout her northern realm. On occasion, Her Majesty worshipped on a Sunday at the Canongate Kirk (church) just a few hundred yards up the Royal Mile (a mile-long street stretching down through the Old Town from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace). A highlight of the week was the annual royal garden party on the lawns of the Palace; while on alternate years there was a service in the Thistle Chapel of St Giles Cathedral for the Order of the Thistle, the great order of chivalry in Scotland, at which Her Majesty presided as Sovereign of the Order. This was usually followed by a lunch for the Knights and Ladies of the Thistle at the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

However, the late Queen is probably more identified with Balmoral Castle than Holyroodhouse. This is unsurprising as she spent far more time there (usually from late July until early October). In past years, she was sometimes seen walking on her estate or in the nearby village of Ballater, invariably wearing a headscarf. In the days when she sailed into Aberdeen Harbour aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia (which was decommissioned in 1997), at the end of her traditional cruise up the west coast of Scotland, small clusters of local residents would line the fifty-mile route to Balmoral in order to wave to the Queen, as she passed by in her Rolls Royce car.

Each week when in residence (pre-pandemic), Her Majesty travelled across the little bridge over the River Dee from the Castle (hence the name Royal Deeside) to attend the Sunday morning service at Crathie Church. Interestingly, on the last weekend of her long life, although she was no longer able to attend the service in person, the Queen entertained the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, The Right Rev Dr Iain Greenshields, who was preaching at Crathie, to dine at Balmoral on the Saturday evening and, after an overnight stay, to partake of Sunday lunch at the Castle the following day. Dr Greenshields remembers that ‘It was a fantastic visit. Her memory was absolutely amazing and she was really full of fun’.

Another ‘hardy annual’ in the calendar at Balmoral was the Queen’s attendance (as Patron) at the nearby Braemar Gathering. Although the royal party (which included the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Charles) usually remained for only an hour, their attendance at these highland games (with a busy mix of a tug o’ war, highland dancing, hill race and caber [log] tossing) helped to attract a turnout of tourists from around the world. The Queen loved the sound of the bagpipes (according to one of her personal Royal Pipers she had a finely tuned ear) as the pipers marched ahead of the royal cars as they processed towards the showground’s Royal Pavilion.

But of course, in addition to relaxation, the Queen was never off duty at Balmoral. The red boxes followed her from London each day, with official documents to be perused and signed. Her Majesty also invited her Prime Minister and his/her spouse each year for a weekend stay. Although there were elements of fun to the visit, such as an informal evening barbecue somewhere on the Balmoral estate, the Prime Minister also had an audience with the Queen. Indeed, given the royal work ethic, it is hardly surprising that the last image of our late Sovereign was of Her Majesty undertaking one of her main constitutional duties: the receiving of the Hon. Liss Truss MP, the newly elected leader of the Conservative Party, to invite her to form a government as Prime Minister.

The new King (Charles III) also has a deep love of Scotland, some of it thanks to the influence of his late grandmother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, a member of the aristocratic Bowes-Lyon family, with deep roots in Glamis and the county of Angus (Forfarshire of old). Previously, His Majesty was known here as the Duke of Rothesay and Lord of the Isles. As such, he has regularly toured the islands and mainland of Scotland, involving himself with many projects, such as a major restoration programme at Dumfries House, which has brought work to many locals. However, the late Queen Elizabeth II has set a very high benchmark: to many (indeed, the vast majority) she was a Queen Regnant without equal.

Robert Prentice is a biographer and regular contributor to ‘Majesty’ magazine in the United Kingdom. His biography, ‘Princess Olga of Yugoslavia: Her Life and Times’ is available to purchase in hardback or as an e-book through Amazon.

#QueenOfScots #thequeen #britishroyalfamily #queenelizabethii #balmoral #royaldeeside #crathie #braemargathering #orderofthethistle #KingCharlesIII #dumfrieshouse

Queen of Albania’s Wartime Escape from France.

After an attack on their rented home at Pontoise, Queen Geraldine and her husband, King Zog of Albania, decided to relocate to Paris’ Hôtel Plaza Athénée in early June 1940. The Albanian Queen was growing increasingly anxious: Geraldine rarely saw her husband who was always occupied with meetings, while hotel life was not at all to her liking. Furthermore, her fourteen-month-old child, Leka, exasperated at being constantly on the move, screamed loudly when anyone tried to pick him up. But even more disturbing was the sound of gunfire from advancing German troops, who were now literally on the outskirts of Paris. Why, the Queen demanded of her husband, were they still in Paris?

Perhaps to placate his wife, the King had rented a hotel-pension at Royan, near Bordeaux. Yet, still he prevaricated. Indeed, it was only at eight o’clock on the eve of German troops entering Paris, that Zog finally agreed to travel south, by which time the Diplomatic Corps and French Government had long departed for Tours. The Albanian convoy was composed 36 people travelling in six cars with a luggage lorry bringing up the rear. The King and Queen’s car was a large, scarlet Mercedes-Benz, which had been their wedding gift from Hitler.

Conditions on the road to their first stop at Orleans were hazardous. The cars were not permitted to use their headlights and were forced to edge their way in the darkness through a continual stream of refugees coming out of Paris. By the following morning, the Albanian party had only travelled twenty kilometres. However, they were at least thankful that they were still ahead of the Germans who had now entered Paris. Later in the day, the convoy was brought to an abrupt halt when it was discovered that the car carrying little Leka, his nurse and bodyguard (along with the Queen’s jewels and a box of gold Napoleon coins) had disappeared. Fortuitously, the vehicle soon re-joined the convoy: the Hungarian driver, being unsure of the roads, had taken a wrong turning amid the chaos of soldiers retreating from the front.

The outskirts of Orleans were reached in the afternoon to the noise of an air raid overhead. While most people sheltered in the ditches, Queen Geraldine and her son took refuge in a nearby station building. King Zog remained resolutely in his car. The town was by now full of refugees and with no accommodation being available, the entourage moved on, eventually stopping for the night at a shooting lodge. The next few days were equally harrowing, with long delays caused by a shortage of petrol and nights spent together out of doors, huddling together for comfort.

It was fully a week before Royan was reached, a journey which would normally have taken a day. Unfortunately, the military commander of the town had requisitioned the property the King had leased but the local Mayor, taking pity on Queen Geraldine and her child, arranged for the duo to stay in a local hotel, while the others had the use of his summer residence nearby. Eventually, all were reunited in an abandoned convent only a few kilometres away.

The King, meanwhile, travelled into Bordeaux where he eventually made contact with the British Consul, Oliver Harvey, requesting visas and sea transport to England. Zog also backed this up with a telegram to King George VI. However, although the British were courteous, the Albanian King was required to prove that he had the financial wherewithal to support both himself, his family and an entourage of around thirty. Having satisfied the British as to his liquidity, the King and his party boarded the SS Ettrick (which was already full of returning wounded soldiers) at St Jean-de-Luz on the evening of 24 June. The boat was due to set sail for Liverpool next morning. However, just as the Queen was about to embark, some drunken soldiers snatched her personal jewellery case. This was later ‘rescued’ thanks to the efforts of Geraldine’s Hungarian chauffeur.

It was with a sense of relief that the Albanian royal party now sailed to England where, as I will reveal in a later article, they set up home in rural Buckinghamshire.

Queen Geraldine of Albania Escapes Mussolini’s Army…

In May 1940, as she looked out of the window of her recently acquired home, a rented château at Pontoise, north of Paris, Queen Geraldine of the Albanians was decidedly ill-at-ease. Indeed, Her Majesty had barely unpacked her suitcases when news came through that Germans troops had already entered France at Sedan and were pushing towards Paris and the English Channel coast.

The Queen’s apprehension was understandable: In the preceding thirteen months, she had given birth to a much-anticipated son, Leka, on 5 April 1939, and then been forced to flee the Royal Palace in Tirana, twenty-four hours later, in her night dress, to avoid capture by advancing Italian troops. Mussolini’s henchmen had invaded Albania following the refusal by Geraldine’s husband, King Zog, to sign a pact of protection with Italy. After a difficult car journey to the Greek border lying on a mattress with her baby alongside, the exhausted and emaciated Geraldine spent three long weeks in a musty Greek hotel room, in the market town of Florina, trying to recover her strength.

King Zog subsequently escaped Albania and decided that he, his immediate family and a large entourage (which included fearsome gun-toting guards) should spend time in Istanbul. Geraldine loved this city’s friendliness and thought this would be a splendid place to settle. However, when a delegation of French politicians offered the Albanian Royal Family sanctuary in France, King Zog agreed.

The journey to Paris was at times tortuous and involved a long detour through Romania (and a lunchtime encounter with King Carol), Poland and the Baltic countries to summery Sweden, where little Leka was found to be suffering from pneumonia. Following his recovery, the Albanian party sailed to Antwerp and then travelled on by car to the Château de la Maye in Versailles. Surely now, Geraldine thought, she might be able to settle after nearly five months on the move.

However, on 1 September 1939, German troops invaded Poland. Britain and France declared war on Germany two days later. King Zog became concerned that the château might be vulnerable to bombing should there be air-raids on nearby Paris, so he decided to relocate his family and retainers to a hotel at La Baule in Brittany. It was a pleasant interlude for Geraldine with long walks by the sea and romantic meals with her husband in nearby restaurants.

Nevertheless, King Zog soon found that he was too removed from political and military events in Paris. Suddenly, the couple’s ‘honeymoon’ was over and Queen Geraldine was on the move again, back to Versailles and the delights of the Hotel Trianon Palace. There was a further move-this time at the Queen’s insistence-to a house at Le Mesnil-Saint-Denis (which proved too hard to heat) before settling at the royal group’s current location, the Château de Méry at Pontoise.

However, one evening, only a few days after the Queen had been gazing out of the chateau window, the village nearby was bombed and a house used by the King’s bodyguards in the chateau’s grounds also suffered damage. The local Mayor was convinced that the presence of Albanian Royal Family had been the reason for the attack and asked King Zog to leave. It was a bitter blow but as nothing compared to what awaited the family in the weeks ahead following the fall of Paris……

Greek Princesses in Wartime Europe.

The three daughters of the Russian-born, Romanov Grand Duchess Helen (Ellen) and her husband Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark were regarded as the most beautiful and sophisticated in Europe. Marina, Elizabeth and Olga were also extremely close, having been raised together by their beloved, brusque English nurse or ‘nurnie’, Miss Kate Fox, at the Nicholas Palace in Athens, as well as at the Greek royal family’s country retreat at Tatoi, in the wooded foothills of Mount Parnitha. The Princesses made frequent trips to England, where they spent the summer months living in simple hotels or Norland hostels at Westgate-on-Sea or Bognor. Yet, the trio were equally at home amongst the grandeur of the Imperial court in St Petersburg, where their powerful maternal grandmother, Grand Duchess Vladimir, showered them with exquisite gifts and instilled in them a deep understanding of their Imperial Romanov heritage.

The best-known (and youngest) of the trio was Princess Marina. In November 1934, she had made a highly desirable marriage to Prince George, Duke of Kent (the youngest son of Britain’s King George V). The middle sister, Princess Elizabeth, is a more obscure figure. She married a wealthy Bavarian aristocrat (and nephew of Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians), Count Carl Theodor of Toerring-Jettenbach and settled in Munich. However, it was the eldest sister, Princess Olga, who would hold the highest rank as the wife and Consort of the Prince Regent (Paul) of Yugoslavia.

Despite their impeccable royal credentials, the sisters were actually more interested in a ‘cosy’ life en famille, and whenever their individual official or domestic duties permitted, they would meet up in London, Munich, Belgrade or Slovenia for a grand family get- together. When all else failed, long and detailed letters (chiefly concerning domestic matters or news of extended family) flew between England, Bavaria and Yugoslavia on a weekly basis. Grand Duchess Helen encouraged these strong inter-family bonds from her homes in Paris and Athens.

In late 1935, Paul and Olga had purchased a large Slovenian castle at Brdo which was large enough to accommodate all of the extended family for visits throughout August and into late September. The emphasis was firmly on fun: Games of tennis were interspersed with riding, swimming, film shows, charades and fishing trips, as well as excursions to the Slovene capital, Ljubljana. On occasion, several members of the party might travel further afield to enjoy a relaxing cruise down Croatia’s Dalmatian coast. When all else failed, there was always the joy of the popular card game, Lexicon.

However, as early as September 1938, the shadow of war threatened this almost idyllic family existence. All the extended family happened to be staying at the Toerring’s country home, Frauenbuhl Castle at Winhöring when, during a rally in Nuremberg, the German leader, Hitler, denounced Czechoslovakia as a ‘fraudulent state’, focused on subduing the German-speaking minority in the Sudetenland. The Führer also encouraged the Sudeten Germans to demand union with Germany and even offered to provide them with military assistance. Anticipating a deterioration in the European political situation, the Duke and Duchess of Kent returned to England, with heavy hearts, on 14th September. Next day, the Prince Regent and Princess Olga journeyed home to Brdo. Meanwhile, Count Toerring, being of military age, joined the Gebirgsjäger (mountain troops) and was called up to the Czech frontier, leaving his anxious wife to mind their two young children. War was temporarily averted following peace negotiations which resulted in the Munich Agreement of 30 September signed by Hitler, Neville Chamberlain (the British Prime Minister), Mussolini and the French Premier Edouard Daladier. However, Czechoslovakia paid a heavy price as the accord permitted the annexation of the Sudetenland into the Third Reich. Gallingly, the Czechoslovak government was neither invited nor consulted over the matter.

As 1938 drew to a close, Princess Olga feared for her husband’s safety as it was no secret that the Prince Regent was a prime target for terrorists as he sought to thrash out an agreement between the Roman Catholic Croats and Orthodox Serbs. She was cheered by a visit from Marina in February 1939. However, within weeks of the Duchess of Kent’s return to England, German forces invaded the remainder of Czechoslovakia, in direct contravention of the Munich Agreement. Suddenly, it seemed to the British government that Hitler was intent on dominating Europe and Britain’s policy of appeasement was now abandoned. As it appeared likely that Poland would be the Fuhrer’s next target, on 31 March, Neville Chamberlain informed the House of Commons that ‘in the event of any action which clearly threatened Polish independence’ the British government would ‘feel bound.. to lend the Polish Government all support in their power’.

On Good Friday, 7 April, Italy invaded Yugoslavia’s southern neighbour of Albania. This troubled Olga greatly as it put extra pressure on the Prince Regent and served to underline that much of the weight of Yugoslavia’s uncertain future rested squarely on his shoulders. Princess Elizabeth and Count Toerring happened to be spending Easter in England with Marina and the Duke of Kent at their country home, Coppins. Prince George’s correspondence with Prince Paul indicates that there was a frank exchange of (often differing) views on the situation in Europe between the couples.

However, the Duke of Kent and Marina were mostly focused on preparing for their departure to Australia where Prince George was due to take up an appointment as the Dominion’s Governor-General. Elizabeth and Olga were both in despair at the thought of their youngest sibling moving to the other side of the world for a period of up to five years. Fortunately, Olga was distracted by her own official duties, as she and the Prince Regent were due to make State visits to Italy and Germany in May and June respectively. The visit to Berlin provided Olga and her sister Elizabeth with the chance of several brief reunions at the Bellevue Palace, amid a busy week of official engagements.

In early July, it was the turn of Marina and the Duke of Kent to greet Olga and Paul, when they arrived on a visit to London. The stay was a more relaxed family affair, despite the Yugoslav royals being quartered at Buckingham Palace. While the Prince Regent had talks with government ministers, Olga-keenly aware that her sister would be departing in only a few months for Canberra-spent quality time with Marina at the Kent’s home in Belgrave Square. She and Paul also managed a weekend trip down to Coppins.

In early August, Olga and Paul returned to Bled for what remained of the summer; Grand Duchess Helen was already in residence and the house party was soon completed by the arrival of the Kents and the Toerrings. It so happened that Prince Albrecht of Bavaria was a fellow guest. Albrecht was strongly opposed to Hitler and his National Socialist Party and was currently employed by Prince Paul to run his shoots at Petrovčić and Belje. Unsurprisingly, the atmosphere was somewhat strained for if Britain and Germany went to war, as seemed increasingly likely given Chamberlain’s guarantee, the Kents and Toerrings would, technically speaking, be enemies. Since Yugoslavia intended to remain neutral, Olga would be Marina and Elizabeth’s mutual point of contact.

Within a few weeks the situation deteriorated considerably: On 22 August, it was confirmed that Germany and Russia had signed a non-aggression pact. The Treaty had a secret protocol appended to it which divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence and signalled the green light for further German advances, including into Poland. Aware of the implications, both the Duke of Kent and Count Toerring left Brdo for their respective homelands as soon as they received the news. Marina remained in Slovenia until the end of August before departing by train for London.

On 1 September 1939 Germany invaded Poland and Elizabeth Toerring immediately left for Munich. On 3 September, in line with the guarantees it had earlier given to the Polish government, Great Britain declared war on Germany. Olga was ‘stunned’ by this development realising all too well the implications for Marina and Elizabeth. Count Toerring had already been called up to the western front and Prince George-his move to Australia now put on hold-was serving in the Royal Navy at the Admiralty in London. To exacerbate matters, Princess Olga’s sons Nicholas and Alexander were currently attending school in England, a place which now seemed increasingly far off as telephone communications with Yugoslavia were suspended.

Suddenly, the sisters’ life of privilege was gone. In Bavaria, Princess Elizabeth had taken to riding a bike as petrol was rationed, while Princess Olga had been appointed President of the Yugoslav Red Cross. Olga and Elizabeth had originally been able to communicate by telephone (with a German censor listening in), but this facility was withdrawn in late October. Although letters could still be sent (in Olga and Marina’s case via the official diplomatic bag) the process was slow and tedious; there were also limits as to what could safely be committed to paper. In England, Marina had joined the Navy as Commandant of the Women’s Royal Naval Service-‘the Wrens’-and was soon undertaking tours of inspection throughout England. On occasion, she travelled to Scotland to join the Duke of Kent who had been transferred to Admiralty House in North Queensferry. This meant that she was sometimes separated from her young children, Edward and Alexandra, who, with Coppins closed-up and the London house vacated, often spent time staying with their paternal grandmother, Queen Mary, at Badminton.

In early November, Princess Elizabeth and her children Hans Veit and Helen arrived in Belgrade. The main reason for her visit was that food was increasingly scarce in Bavaria. However, the erratic political climate must have been another factor. Countess Toerring feared for her husband’s welfare, particularly when she learned that there were random, ‘new wholesale arrests’ following an assassination attempt on Hitler’s life in Munich’s Bürgerbräukelle. Yet, as 1939 drew to close, the sister’s remained resolute. Elizabeth and her children returned to Bavaria, in early December, to be with Count Toerring (who had now been released from active duty), while Olga sought to try and provide some Festive cheer in Belgrade for King Peter (whose mother, Queen Dowager Marie, now lived in England with her younger sons Andy and Tommy), her three-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, and the Prince Regent. Meanwhile, Marina busied herself with organising accommodation for the Christmas school holiday period, in Cambridge, for Olga’s sons and Miss Fox. She later visited the trio to help them celebrate the Festive Season.

As 1940 dawned, Olga noted that, ‘The future looks dark I must admit- but I know the light is there behind it all the time.’ Yet, in the years ahead, all of the sisters would face terrible challenges, which would test them-and their close bond-to the limit.




Yugoslav Royals’ ‘Private’ Visit to London 1939.

As the volatile political situation in Europe throughout the spring and early summer of 1939 threatened to escalate into war, Prince Regent Paul of Yugoslavia, whose Balkan Kingdom was already under threat both from Italian expansionist desires and an increasing economic dependence on Germany, was feeling decidedly unsettled. A recent State Visit to Berlin, which included a massive military display, had only served to increase his disquiet. Worryingly, he also confided to his old friend, Infante Alfonso, Duke of Galliera, that Hitler was ‘mad’.

It must have been somewhat of a relief to receive a telegram from his friend, King George VI (‘Bertie’) asking him to pay a visit to London for ‘important, though informal, discussions with British Ministers’. Paul was the supreme anglophile: he had been educated at Christ Church, Oxford and counted the British aristocrats (and fellow Oxford graduates) Walter, the 8th Duke of Buccleuch and Robert, Viscount Cranborne (‘Bobbety’) as close friends. Furthermore, the British Queen Consort (formerly Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon) had often entertained Prince Paul at her childhood home, Glamis Castle, near Forfar and counted him as a member of her ‘inner circle’. However, the Prince’s most recent link with England was through his wife, Princess Olga. The latter’s youngest sister, Marina, had married Britain’s Prince George, the Duke of Kent, less than five years previously. It also happened that King George VI was godfather to both fifteen-year-old King Peter of Yugoslavia and to Paul and Olga’s (British-born) eldest child, Alexander.

On 17 July, the Prince Regent and Princess Olga arrived at Victoria Station for a two-week visit. The Kent’s were waiting to greet them, as was Alexander, who was currently attending Eton. Although the visit was not a ‘State’ but a ‘private’ event, the royal couple’s strong links to the British monarchy ensured that they were quartered in great comfort in Buckingham Palace’s ground-floor Belgian Suite. The British press were suitably kind to the Regent noting that in Yugoslavia, ‘Prince Paul is bearing a burden a heavy burden and bearing it exceedingly well.’ Furthermore, as the senior ‘trustee’ of the Yugoslav crown, they observed that, ‘his policy is that nothing should be done which will jeopardise the position of King Peter when he attains his majority in two years’ time and will then take over the responsibilities of government.’ The press, nevertheless, praised Paul for ‘striving for peace within and without the country’ and acknowledged it had been ‘an exceedingly difficult task to hold the balance evenly between the [Orthodox] Serbs and the [Roman Catholic] Croats’ whilst also having to ‘resist the overtures’ of Italy and Germany.

On 18 July, Paul and Olga joined the King and Queen on the front stalls of the Little Theatre to watch the musical revue “Nine Sharp” starring the Australian actor, Cyril Ritchard. Next day, the Prince lunched and held talks with the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain at his residence, 10 Downing Street. Lord Halifax, the Foreign Minister was also present, as were various British military chiefs and the President of the Board of Trade. Paul was at pains to point out that Germany and Russia were in talks with a view to signing a non-aggression pact. If Britain did not consummate a deal with the Russians then Germany would. Later, the King invested Prince Paul as a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Britain’s oldest (and most prestigious) order of chivalry. In the evening, Bertie and Elizabeth hosted a ball attended by 800 at which the Prince Regent and Princess Olga were the guests of honour. This would be the last major event to be held at the Palace until after the Second World War.

Yet, despite this lavish display of royal hospitality, the British press later seemed surprised that the Yugoslavs maintained such a ‘living sentiment’ for all things British which went beyond simple royal family ties, even although Britain had failed to offer Yugoslavia similar aid or guarantees as those offered to its neighbour Greece. Indeed, Lord Halifax, appeared slow to appreciate Dr Ivan Subbotic’s, [the Yugoslav Minister in London] recent entreaties for armaments and improved trade terms. This situation had continued despite the fact that the British Minister in Belgrade, Sir Ronald Campbell, had pressed his Foreign Office masters in London, prior to Prince Paul’s visit, for ‘more substantial assistance to this country.’ Campbell’s intervention was driven by a sense of embarrassment exacerbated by the Prince Regent’s oft expressed ‘surprise that we do nothing practically to help [Yugoslavia].’ Campbell was also aware that despite the lack of British military aid, Halifax had tried to press the Regent into making some sort of declaration as to what Yugoslavia intended to do should Germany invade Romania. Paul was furious at such a crass display of diplomacy, fearing that such a declaration would antagonise the Germans at a time when his country was short of arms and unprepared militarily. Furthermore, it remained a delicate time in Yugoslav internal politics, as the Prince was involved in trying to obtain an agreement (Sporazum) between the Serbs and the Croats. (This would eventually be achieved in late August.)

Meanwhile, in late July, following a weekend stay at the Duke and Duchess of Kent’s home at Coppins, near Iver, the Prince Regent entered a London nursing home for three days for an operation by orthodontist Mr Bowdler Henry on a wisdom tooth. He and Princess Olga departed for their summer home in Slovenia on 2 August. The couple’s loyal friend, Henry ‘Chips’ Channon waved them off at Victoria Station. However, the presence of 100 policemen, who formed a tight security ring around the Prince Regent (there had been numerous death threats against Paul over the years), somewhat unsettled Chips and caused him to take ‘a gulp of misery’ while wondering what the future held for his friends. Prince Paul, for his part, was left with the distinct impression that Britain had little interest in coming to Yugoslavia’s aid.

On 22 August it was announced-as Prince Paul had predicted to British officials in London-that Germany and Russia had signed a Treaty of Non-Aggression. The British press succinctly noted that ‘Nazi-ism and Bolshevism… are now shaking hands’. Worryingly, the Treaty had a secret protocol appended to it which divided eastern Europe into German and Soviet spheres of influence and gave the green light for further German advances, particularly into Poland. Indeed, within weeks, Germany would be at war with both Great Britain and France.


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