Friday, 27 June 2014

So What About This Serbia Anyway?

Interesting. Serbia is a country in the Balkan region of south-eastern Europe, a region that had been overrun by the Ottoman Turks during the Sixteenth Century and slowly relinquished in succeeding centuries. 

In the Nineteenth Century, Serbia emerged as a sovereign state. The Treaty of Berlin (1878), the one which gave Austria-Hungary its mandate to administer Bosnia, also proposed an independent principality of Serbia. This land-locked country with its capital at Belgrade would then become a kingdom in 1882, ruled by Milan I.

King Milan enjoyed close relations with Austria-Hungary and was happy to acknowledge the borders defined by the treaty. Milan abdicated suddenly in 1889, but he would not die until 1901. His young son, Alexander, became king. He was under his mother's regentship, until the age of sixteen, at which point he wrestled himself free, having decided he was old enough to take control.  

Now, it is never a good idea for a country to have a head of state who is sixteen years of age. Most sixteen year-olds think they know everything, when the truth is they don't usually know enough. In the case of sixteen year-old kings, this creates a situation in which a circle of power-hungry "advisors" cluster around the child and battle it out for influence and power.
In 1894, Alexander abolished the constitution. Soon afterwards, he dragged his father out of private life and installed him as Commander-in-Chief of Serbia's army. Then, in 1900, he decided he was going to marry, Draga, one of his mother's ladies-in-waiting, a woman twelve years his senior -- a very unpopular move.  Alexander's mother was not particularly amused either, so he banished her. More dismay was generated by Alexander, who made it clear that he was prepared to name his wife's brother as heir presumptive.

Unfortunately for the royal couple, an army coup in May 1903 led by one Dragutin Dimitrijevic, succeeded.

The head of the palace guard was forced to show the revolutionaries a large mirror behind which there existed a secret chamber. With the kind of overkill indicative of extreme disapproval, the assailants shot Alexander some thirty times. Draga, presumably out of some chivalric impulse, was shot only a mere eighteen times. The bodies were then mutilated with swords, disemboweled and defenestrated onto a convenient dung heap.

Having got rid of the previous lot, Dimitrijevic installed a new outfit. Henceforth, King Peter I would rule. His rule would be pro-Russian and anti-Austrian, and Serbia would become a right royal regional troublemaker.

I suppose, Noble Readers, that in light of previous blogs, you can probably see where all this was heading.

The Deadly Playground, 1914 is out now.  Why not click on this link and get yourself a copy?

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