The remains of Yugoslavia’s last king were returned to Serbia in a solemn ceremony on Tuesday amid protests by Serb royalists in America.
The former king, Peter II Karadjordjevic, fled the Nazi occupation of Yugoslavia at the beginning of World War II and died in the US in 1970.
Yahoo! News reports that King Peter II never returned to his home country because Communism took over when the war ended. Instead, the former king died in exile when he was just 47.
He was buried in a Serbian Orthodox Church monastery in Libertyville, Illinois and was the only European monarch to be buried on US soil. His son, Crown Prince Alexander, asked that his father’s remains be returned to Serbia.
The request led to an outcry from some Serbian-American groups who believe that the king asked to remain buried in the United States. They also believed that his remains were being exhumed in secret.
ABC News notes that Alexander spoke at the Royal Palace in Belgrade on Tuesday, saying that his father wanted to return to his homeland as well as his people, “whom he loved more than anything else.”
Alexander watched as the king’s remains were brought into the palace’s chapel. He stated later, “We brought the king back to his land. Welcome back, father!”
King Peter’s life was a tragic one in which he only actually ruled the country on his own for a month before Germany invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941. He was forced to flee and headed the government-in-exile in Britain before eventually settling in the United States.
Serbian officials heralded the return of the king’s remains as a way to help unify the country. Oliver Antic, an adviser to nationalist Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic, stated:
“Serbia has a long tradition and history. Now, even the countries that have no sympathy for us will see how strong is the tradition of this nation.”
While the king’s remains have returned to Serbia, a formal burial ceremony for him is planned for later this year.