Peter II


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(b. Belgrade, 1923; d. Los Angeles, 5 Nov. 1970)

Yugoslav; King of Yugoslavia 1941–5 Peter was 11 years old when his father Alexander was assassinated in 1934. For the next six years his powers were exercised by a three-man regency headed by his uncle, Prince Paul. On 27 March 1941 Paul was overthrown by a military coup the day after signing the Tripartite Pact, and Peter, though still a minor, was made King; Prince Paul left the country. The coup was greeted with popular enthusiasm as a demonstration of anti-Fascism and Yugoslav patriotism. A broadly based government was formed, but it was in a very weak position. The Germans invaded on 6 April and Peter was forced to flee the country, first to Greece, then to Britain in June, where he became titular head of the government-in-exile and Mihailovic's Home Army, and a symbol of Serbian nationalism, anti-Fascism, and anti-Communism. But the young King was out of his depth in power politics. Churchill's sympathies moved from Mihailovic to Tito as the basis for resistance and after Tito formed a provisional government in November 1943 Peter was pressured by the British to sack Mihailovic, which he reluctantly did in June 1944, calling on Subasic to form a government and even broadcasting an appeal to his subjects to rally round Tito's Partisans. In November Tito reached an agreement with Subasic on a joint provisional government, whereby Peter would remain abroad but delegate his authority to an agreed regency. In February 1945 the government was formed despite Peter's objections. In August Peter withdrew his authority from the regents, claiming they could not exercise their powers. But by November the Communists were fully in control and the first act of the Constituent Assembly on 29 November was to abolish the monarchy. Peter was a sad figure: he tried to play a role beyond his skills or power, and remained a dupe of the politicians. He eked out his days in France and later the USA in declining fortunes and health.

Subjects: Politics.

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