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Mihailo Obrenović III
Prince of Serbia
(1823-68)


Biographical

After the abdication of his father in 1839 and the death of his elder brother Milan Obrenović II in 1840, Mihailo ascended the throne of Serbia.  He wished to continue the work of his father in liberating all the Serbian people, and if possible all other Balkan Christians, from direct Turkish rule.  But while this programme made the Sultan hostile, it also failed to win the support of Austria, which did not wish the Eastern Question to be opened by the ambitious Serbian.  The support which his aspirations found in Russia increased Turkey’s and Austria’s suspicions of the prince’s activity.  At the same time the political situation at home was not favourable to his anti-Turkish policy.  The power was in the hands of men who had forced Obrenović I to abdicate, and feared that Mihailo Obrenović III might avenge his father.  They thought it safer for them to replace him on the throne by a man who was not an Obrenović, and who would be personally obliged to them for his elevation.  These motives were at the bottom of the revolt, started and led by Vuchić in August 1842, the outcome of which was that Prince Mihailo left the country and that his equerry, Alexander Karageorgević, was elected Prince of Serbia.  As an exile Prince Mihailo lived principally in Vienna, improving his education by studies and travels, and frequently visiting England.  He constantly refused to agree to suggestions for his restoration by forcible means.  His device was Tempus et meum jus, 'Time and my right'.  He supported Serbian authors and artists, and wrote himself a book in defence of his father Milosh against the attacks of Cyprian Robert.  He wrote poetry too, and some of his songs, set to beautiful music, were very popular amongst the Serbians.

In 1858 the Serbians, having dethroned Prince Karageorgević, recalled Mihailo’s father Milosh Obrenović I.  Mihailo returned to Serbia, and on his father's death in 1860 ascended the Serbian throne for the second time.  His proclamation 'that henceforth the law is the highest will in Serbia', opened a new era of strict legality and at the same time of entire emancipation from foreign influences, and more especially from Turkey’s interference with the internal affairs of Serbia.  The old constitution, granted to Serbia by the sultan as the suzerain and the tsar as the protector of Serbia as far back as 1839, was discarded and replaced by one which limited the power of the oligarchic senate and gave a certain share in legislation to the 'Narodna Skupshtina' (the National Assembly).  He established the Serbian national army and increased the regular army.  Reforms in all branches of public administration were introduced, and Serbia, until then a half-oriental and half-patriarchal state, was resolutely led to become a civilised country in a European sense.  When in 1862 the Turkish garrison bombarded the town of Belgrade from its citadel, Prince Mihailo, supported by the European diplomacy, succeeded in obtaining evacuation of some of the smaller forts in Serbia, but the strong fortress of Belgrade still remained garrisoned by the Turkish troops.  Prince Mihailo now made vigorous political and military preparations for war against Turkey.  He made secret arrangements with the Bulgarian, Bosnian and Albanian leaders, an alliance with Montenegro and an understanding with Greece, with the object that they all should rise if Serbia declared war on Turkey.  He even succeeded in obtaining Austria’s promise, that it would observe an attitude of friendly neutrality and would have nothing against an eventual annexation of the largest part of Bosnia to Serbia, and he secured to himself the sympathies of Napoleon III  and his government.  In the beginning of 1867 he formally asked the Porte to withdraw the Turkish garrisons from the fortress of Belgrade, as well as from other two fortresses of minor importance (Shabats and Smederevo).  For some time the chances were that a War would take place that spring 1867 between Serbia and Turkey, but peace was kept by the action of Great Britain, who advised the sultan to withdraw the Turkish garrisons from the Serbian fortresses; and this advice, backed by Russia, France and Austria, prevailed at last with the sultan.  On the 26th of April 1867 the fortresses were delivered over to Prince Mihailo, who shortly afterwards went to Constantinople to thank the sultan personally.

Prince Mihailo’s policy had triumphed, but his success was short-lived.  A group of young men, mostly educated in France and Germany, now started a liberal movement under the leadership of Yovan Ristić.  They wanted a more liberal constitution than that which Prince Mihailo had given; and this movement tended to qualify his popularity.  Meanwhile the prince contemplated divorce from his wife Princess Julia, by whom he had no children, and marriage with the daughter of his cousin Madame Anka Konstanitinović; and the adherents of the exiled Karageorgević dynasty were alarmed at the prospect of his eventually having legal heirs to the throne.  A former private secretary to Prince Alexander Karageorgević, and two of the same prince’s brothers-in-law, formed a conspiracy, which resulted in the brutal assassination of Prince Mihailo on the 29th of May 1868, whilst he was walking in the park of Koshutnyak, a few miles distant from Belgrade.

The Murder of Prince Mihailo Obrenović.

On the tenth of June, 1868, Mihailo Obrenovich III, with whom his aunt and cousin, Anka and Katrina, had been dining, strolled out at about 4 PM with the two ladies and his personal aide-de-camp, young Garashianin, the eldest son of the renowned Minister-President, Mihailo's most faithful counsellor and trusted friend.  The small party, followed by the Prince's body-servant, Mita, entered the park from the Eondeau, and walked slowly towards the preserves.  As they approached the boundary fence, three men emerged from some brushwood to the left of the path, and advanced towards the Prince, bowing profoundly.  His Highness, who was unarmed, though in undress uniform, turned deadly pale as he returned their salute and muttered 'Gospodar pamiloi!' (God have mercy on me) under his breath.  Swerving aside, cap in hand, a little to the left to make room for him to pass, the three men waited till his back was turned to them, when one of them, exclaiming, 'Knowest thou Eadavanovich?' drew a revolver from the breast of his jacket, and fired point-blank at the Prince, who cried out to Captain Garashianin, 'Save me, brother!' and fell backwards, shot through the neck.  Almost simultaneously with his fall the other two assassins discharged their pistols into the Prince's head, and then turned like tigers upon the remaining members of the august group.  Anka Obrenovich, a woman of uncommon spirit and courage, sprang upon Joko Eadavanovich, with a shriek of fury, and seizing him by the hair with both hands, strove with the strength of despair to throw him to the ground; but he deliberately discharged two bullets into her head and left breast, and she dropped stone-dead upon the body of her murdered nephew. Meanwhile young Garashianin, whilst in the act of drawing his sabre, was shot down by Lazar Marich, the second conspirator; and Katrina Obrenovich, who upon seeing her mother fall had taken to flight, screaming at the top of her voice for mercy, was picked off, as though she had been a running hare, by the third, Costa Radavanovich, Joko's brother, who fired three shots in rapid succession at the panic-stricken girl, all of which took effect.  Mita, the lackey, who stood still as though paralysed by sheer terror, was dealt with by a fourth ruffian, named Stance Eogich, who appears to have acted as a reserve to his fellow murderers, and who, as soon as he appeared on the scene of action, promptly smote poor Mita to the earth.  As soon as they had secured themselves from interruption in their bloody enterprise, Joko Radavanovich and Marich drew their kandjars and set to work to mangle the Prince's remains, which they did to such gruesome purpose that only his right arm was subsequently found to be free from gashes or fractures.  So numerous, indeed, were his wounds that, when his body was afterwards being prepared for embalming and exposure to public view on a bier, according to Serbian custom, two skilled surgeons were occupied during some thirty hours in patching it up so as to render it presentable; and, after they had finished their melancholy task, the dead Prince's face had to be thickly painted in order to conceal its scars from the illustrious personages deputed by foreign sovereigns to attend his funeral.

Place of birth: Kragujevac
Place of death: Košutnjak, near 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. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2018.
3. W. Beatty-Kingston. Music and Manners. Personal Reminiscences and Sketches of Character.  London: Chapman and Hall, Limited, 1887.

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