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Aleksandar I
King of Serbia
(1876-1903)


Biographical

On the 6th of March 1889 Aleksandar's father, King Milan, abdicated and proclaimed him king of Serbia under a regency until he should attain his majority at eighteen years of age.  King Aleksandar, on the 13th of April 1893, being then in his seventeenth year, made his notable first coup d'жtat, proclaimed himself of full age, dismissed the regents and their government, and took the royal authority into his own hands.  His action was popular, and was rendered still more so by his appointment of a radical ministry.  In May 1894 King Aleksandar, by another coup d'жtat, abolished the liberal constitution of 1889 and restored the conservative one of 1869.  His attitude during the Turco-Greek war of 1897 was one of strict neutrality.  In 1898 he appointed his father commander-in-chief of the Serbian army, and from that time, or rather from his return to Serbia in 1894 until 1900, ex-king Milan was regarded as the de facto ruler of the country.  But while, during the summer of 1900, Milan was away from Serbia taking waters in Carlsbad, and making arrangements to secure the hand of a German princess for his son, and while the premier, Dr Vladan Dyorević, was visiting the Paris Universal Exhibition, King Aleksandar suddenly announced to the people of Serbia his engagement to Mme Draga Mashin, a widow, formerly a lady-in-waiting to Queen Natalie.  The projected union aroused great opposition at first.  Ex-King Milan resigned his post; so did the government; and King Aleksandar had great difficulty in forming a new cabinet.  But the opposition subsided somewhat on the publication of Tsar Nicholas's congratulations to the king on his engagement and of his acceptance to act as the principal witness at the wedding.  The marriage was then duly celebrated on the 5th of August 1900.  Still this union was unpopular and weakened the position of King Aleksandar in the army and the country.  He tried to reconcile political parties by granting from his own initiative a liberal constitution on the 6th of April 1901, introducing for the first time in the constitutional history of Serbia the system of two chambers (skupshtina and senate).  This did in a certain measure reconcile the political parties, but did not reconcile the army, which, already dissatisfied with the king's marriage, became still more so at the rumours that one of the two unpopular brothers of Queen Draga, Lieutenant Nicodiye, was to be proclaimed heir-apparent to the throne.  Meanwhile the independence of the senate and of the council of state caused growing irritation to King Aleksandar, which led him to another coup d'жtat.  In March 1903 he suspended the constitution for half an hour, time enough to publish the decrees by which the old senators and councillors of state were dismissed and replaced by new ones.  This arbitrary act naturally increased the dissatisfaction in the country.  The general impression was that inasmuch as the senate was packed with men devoted to the royal couple, and inasmuch as the government obtained a large majority at the general elections, King Aleksandar would not hesitate any longer to proclaim Queen Draga's brother as the heir to the throne.  Apparently to prevent this, but in reality to replace Aleksandar Obrenović by Peter Karageorgević, a military conspiracy was organised.  The conspirators penetrated into the palace and savagely murdered King Aleksandar and Queen Draga in the early morning of the 11th of June 1903.

Place of birth, marriage and death: Belgrade

 

 
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Sources

1. Encyclopaedia Britannica: A Dictionary of Arts, Sciences, Literature and General Information, 11th edn, vol. 18. New York: Encyclopaedia Britannica Co., 1911.
2. 
H.  Montgomery-Massingberd, ed.  Burke's Royal Families of the World.  Volume I: Europe & Latin America.  London: Burke’s Peerage Ltd., 1977.
 

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