Milan I of Serbia
|This article relies largely or entirely upon a single source. (February 2012)|
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|Reign||6 March 1882 – 6 March 1889|
|Predecessor||Himself as Prince|
|Reign||10 June 1868 – 6 March 1882|
|Predecessor||Mihailo Obrenović III|
|Successor||Himself as King|
George Obrenovic (illegitimate)
|House||House of Obrenović|
22 August 1854|
|Died||11 February 1901
|Burial||Krušedol monastery, Serbia|
|Monarchical styles of
Milan I of Serbia
|Reference style||His Majesty|
|Spoken style||Your Majesty|
Milan was the son of Miloš Obrenović (1829–1861) and Elena Maria Catargiu from Moldavia (known in Serbia as Marija Obrenović). Milan's paternal grandfather (Miloš's father) was Jevrem Obrenović (1790–1881), the brother of famous Serb Prince - Miloš Obrenović. Milan was therefore Prince Miloš's grandnephew. Milan had only one sibling - sister Tomanija.
Shortly after Milan's birth, his parents divorced. Couple of years later, at the tender age of seven, Milan lost his father Miloš who died fighting the Turks near Bucharest as a foreign mercenary in the Romanian Army, meaning that mother Marija got a legal custody. Marija, however, lived a lavish aristocratic lifestyle, soon becoming Romanian ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza's mistress and bearing him two children. As a result she showed little interest in her children from the previous marriage with Miloš so an agreement was reached for young Milan to get legally adopted by his cousin Mihailo Obrenović III who in the meantime, following the 1858 expulsion of the Karađorđevićs, returned to Serbia where he became the ruling prince in 1860. Milan was brought to Kragujevac by Mihailo Obrenović III who also arranged for a governess to raise the youngster.
Prince of Serbia (1868–1882)
In 1868, when Milan was only fourteen years of age, Mihailo Obrenović III was assassinated. On suggestion from cabinet minister Milivoje Petrović Blaznavac, underage Milan succeeded Mihailo to the throne under a regency. The regency was a three-man council consisting of Blaznavac, statesman and historian Jovan Ristić, and Gavrilović. Furthermore, prominent Serb nobleman from Dubrovnik, Medo Pucić, was brought to Belgrade to serve as teacher and adviser to the underage prince. On 2 January 1869, the third Serbian constitution, mostly Ristić's creation, was promulgated.
In 1872, Milan was declared of age, and he took government into his own hands. He soon manifested great intellectual capacity, coupled with a passionate headstrong character. Eugene Schuyler, who saw him about this time, found him a very remarkable, singularly intelligent, and well-informed young man.
Milan carefully balanced the Austrian and Russian parties in Serbia, with a judicious leaning towards Austria-Hungary. At the end of the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878, Prince Milan induced the Porte to acknowledge his independence at the Treaty of Berlin.
King of Serbia (1882–1889)
In 1882, Milan was proclaimed King of Serbia.
Acting under Austrian influence, King Milan devoted all his energies to the improvement of the means of communication and the development of natural resources. However, the cost of this, unduly increased by reckless extravagance, led to disproportionately heavy taxation. This, coupled with increased military service, rendered King Milan and the Austrian party unpopular.
Milan's political troubles were further increased by the defeat of the Serbians in the war against Bulgaria from 1885–1886. In September 1885, the union of Eastern Rumelia and Bulgaria caused widespread agitation in Serbia. Milan promptly declared war upon the new Bulgarian state on 15 November. After a short, decisive campaign, the Serbs were utterly routed at the Battle of Slivnitsa and at the Battle of Pirot. Milan's throne was only saved by the direct intervention of Austria-Hungary. Domestic difficulties now arose which rapidly assumed political significance.
In October 1875, Milan had married Natalija Keşco, the sixteen-year old daughter of Piotrj (Petre) Ivanović Keşco. Keşco (Keshko), a Moldavian boyar, was also a colonel in the Russian army. Keşco's wife, Pulcheria, was by birth a Sturdza (of the princely Sturdza family). A son, Alexander, was born to Natalija and Milan in 1876, but the king and queen's relationship showed signs of friction. Milan was anything but a faithful husband, having an affair with most notably Jennie Jerome (wife of Lord Randolph Churchill and mother to Winston Churchill) among others, while Queen Natalija was greatly influenced by Russian sympathies. In 1886, the couple, mismatched both personally and politically, separated.
Natalija withdrew from the kingdom, taking with her the ten-year old Prince Alexander (later King Alexander I). While she was residing at Wiesbaden in 1888, King Milan succeeded in recovering the crown prince, whom he undertook to educate. In reply to the queen's remonstrances, Milan exerted considerable pressure upon the metropolitan, and procured a divorce, which was afterwards annulled as illegal. King Milan now seemed master of the situation.
On 3 January 1889, Milan adopted a new constitution much more liberal than the existing one of 1869. Two months later, on 6 March, Milan suddenly abdicated the throne in favor of his son. No satisfactory reason was assigned for this step. Milan settled in Paris as a private individual.
In February 1891, a Radical ministry was formed. Queen Natalija and the ex-Metropolitan Mihailo returned to Belgrade, and Austrian influence began to give way to Russian. Fear of a revolution and of King Milan's return led to a compromise, by which, in May 1891, the queen was expelled, and Milan was allowed a million francs from the civil list, on condition of not returning to Serbia during his son's minority.
In March 1892, Milan renounced all his rights and even his Serbian nationality. The situation altered dramatically, however, after the young Alexander I had effected his coup d'etat and taken government into his own hands in April 1893. Serbian politics began to grow more complicated, and Russian influence was rife. In January 1894, Milan suddenly appeared in Belgrade, and his son gladly welcomed his experience and advice.
On 29 April, a royal decree reinstated Milan and Natalija, who in the meantime had become ostensibly reconciled, in their position as members of the royal family. On 21 May, the constitution of 1869 was restored, and Milan continued to exercise considerable influence over his son. The queen, who had been residing chiefly at Biarritz, returned to Belgrade in May 1895, after four years of absence, and was greeted by the populace with great enthusiasm. The ex-king, again left the county because of this.
After reconciliation with son, Milan returned to Serbia in 1897, to be appointed as commander-in-chief of the Serbian army. In this capacity he did some of the best work of his life, and his success in improving the Serbian military system was very marked. His relations with the young king also remained good for a time. The Serbian pro-Democratic opposition was blamed him for the increasingly authoritarian rule of the young King, and a member of Radical Party, attempted to kill him on 6 July 1899, (24 June OS), on the Orthodox holiday of Ivanjdan (Birth of St. John the Baptist).
The good relations between father and son were interrupted, however, by the latter's marriage to Draga Mašin in July 1900. Milan opposed the match to the point that he resigned his post as commander-in-chief. Alexander subsequently banished Milan from Serbia. Milan left Serbia to Karlsbad, then to Timișoara and finally retired to Vienna. On 11 February 1901, Milan died unexpectedly. He was buried in Krušedol monastery, next to his grandaunt Princess Ljubica, Prince Miloš's wife.
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- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
Milan I of SerbiaBorn: 22 August 1854 Died: 11 February 1901
as Prince of Serbia
|King of Serbia
(as Milan I)
6 March 1882 – 6 March 1889
Mihailo Obrenović III
|Prince of Serbia
(as Milan IV)
10 June 1868 – 6 March 1882
as King of Serbia