George, Crown Prince of Serbia
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|Crown Prince of Serbia|
27 August 1887|
|Died||17 October 1972
Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia
|Mother||Princess Zorka of Montenegro|
George, Crown Prince of Serbia (Serbian: kraljević Đorđe Karađorđević; 27 August 1887 – 17 October 1972) was the eldest son of King Peter I and Queen Ljubica (Zorka) of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. He was the older brother of King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.
In 1909, George inadvertently caused the death of his servant, and following a negative campaign in the press, he was compelled to give up his claim to the throne. He later served with distinction in the army, was severely wounded during the First World War, and thereby became popular in the country, which aroused the alarm of his younger brother. In 1925, his brother the King had him arrested, declared insane, and locked in an asylum. He remained confined there for nearly two decades, until released by the German occupying force during World War II. After that war ended, he was the only member of the royal family not to be sent into exile and declared an enemy of the state. He married in 1947, aged 60, and although he had no children, his last years were relatively happy and peaceful.
Early life and background
George was born a member of the House of Karađorđević. His grandfather, Alexander Karađorđević, had briefly ruled the Principality of Serbia during the period 1842-58, but he had been the first and only ruler from the family, which did not otherwise have a royal background. After being deposed in 1858, George's grandfather and his family had had to leave their homeland, and by the time of George's birth, they had been in exile for almost three decades.
George's father, Petar Karađorđević (the future King Peter I of Serbia), had made an advantageous marriage rather late in life with Ljubica (known as Zorka), the eldest daughter of King Nicholas I of Montenegro. After marrying the princess, he made his home in the Principality of Montenegro, and all his children were born there. Thus, George was born in Cetinje and spent the first few years of his life in the court of his maternal grandfather. He was one of five siblings, two of whom died in infancy; he therefore grew up with one older sister, Helen, and one younger brother, Alexander. In March 1890, when George was hardly two years old, his mother died in childbirth. Shortly afterwards, Petar moved his three motherless children first to Geneva (where he had lived in exile before his marriage) and then to Russia. In Russia, George studied at the Page Corps school of Tsar Alexander II.
In 1903, aged 17, George returned to Serbia along with his family, following a palace coup when a conspiracy of army officers overthrew the ruling Obrenović dynasty to proclaim his father as King of Serbia. As a result, George became Crown Prince.
As the eldest son, he was his father's heir-apparent, but he did not get to savour his role for long as he renounced his succession rights in 1909 after feeling guilty for an incident in which he kicked his servant in the stomach which resulted in the servant's death.
War service and arrest
Prince George participated in the Balkan wars as well as World War I, where he was severely wounded in the Battle of Mačkov Kamen near Krupanj in 1914. After his father's death and brother Alexandar's subsequent coronation, hostilities between the two brothers arose, which led to Prince George's arrest in 1925. He was proclaimed to be insane and locked in an asylum near the city of Niš. Following Alexander's assassination in 1934, George hoped he would be freed by the new regent Prince Paul, but he remained in jail until World War II when he was freed by the German occupiers.
Later life and marriage
After the war the royal Karađorđević family was declared enemy-of-the-state by Josip Broz Tito's communist regime. However, George was allowed to retire in Belgrade as the only member of the Royal family in the country. In 1947 at the age of 60, he married Radmila Radonjić (1907–1993). The couple did not have any children. He wrote his memoirs Istina o mom životu (Truth About my Life).
He died on 17 October 1972 in Belgrade and was buried in St. George's Church in Topola, SFR Yugoslavia. His death came the day after the tenth anniversary of the death of his sister, Princess Helen of Serbia.
Interest in mathematics
While he was crown prince, George developed a close friendship with the mathematician Mihailo Petrović, who had been retained to tutor him in mathematics. They went fishing together, established a fencing club in Belgrade. This friendship lasted through difficult times later in George's life. Influenced by Petrović, George in time became fascinated by the work of Henri Poincaré, and on 3 March 1911 he wrote to the great French mathematician:
- Dear Professor, ...... Please excuse the liberty I take in addressing myself directly to the Master to clarify the results of modern research on the question. The question is as follows: What is the least of the limiting values which a polynominal function F(z) may take when the variable z increases indefinitely along the different vectors in this plane? Begging you to excuse my importunities, I beg you, Monsieur, to accept this expression of my respectful regards. George
The reply arrived on 12 March 1911. The only (known) surviving answer to the question posed by George appears in a paper by Mihailo Petrović, which mentions Poincaré's solution to the problem (Petrović, 1929).
- Christopher Clark, The Sleepwalkers. How Europe went to War in 1914, London, Penguin Books, 2013, p. 15
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