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Alexander I of Serbia

Alexander I or Alexander Obrenović (Serbian Cyrillic: Александар Обреновић) (August 14, 1876 - June 11, 1903) was king of Serbia from 1889 to 1903.

Accession

In 1889, his father, King Milan, unexpectedly abdicated and withdrew to private life, proclaiming Alexander king of Serbia under a regency until he should attain his majority at eighteen years of age. His mother Natalija Obrenović became his regent.

In 1893, King Alexander, aged seventeen, in a first coup d'état proclaimed himself of full age, dismissed the regents and their government, and took the royal authority into his own hands. His action was popular, and was rendered still more so by his appointment of a radical ministry.

In May 1894, King Alexander, by another coup, abolished the liberal constitution of 1889 and restored the conservative one of 1869. His attitude during the Greco-Turkish War (1897) was one of strict neutrality.

In the same year, the young King brought his father, Milan, back to Serbia and, in 1898, appointed him commander-in-chief of the Serbian army. During that time, Milan was regarded as the de facto ruler of the country.

Marriage

In the summer of 1900, King Alexander suddenly announced his engagement to the widowed Madame Draga Mašin, formerly a lady-in-waiting to his mother. The projected union initially aroused great opposition: he did not consult with his father, who had been on vacation in Carlsbad and making arrangements to secure the hand of a German princess for his son, or his prime minister Dr. Vladan Đorđević, who was visiting the Paris Universal Exhibition at the time of the announcement. Both immediately resigned from their respective offices and Alexander had difficulty in forming a new cabinet. Alexander's mother also opposed the marriage and was subsequently banished from the kingdom.

Opposition to the union seemed to subside somewhat for a time upon the publication of Tsar Nicholas II's congratulations to the king on his engagement and of his acceptance to act as the principal witness at the wedding. The marriage was duly celebrated in August 1900. Even so, the unpopularity of the union weakened the King's position in the eyes of the army and the country at large.

Political reconciliation

King Alexander tried to reconcile political parties by unveiling a liberal constitution of his own initiative, introducing for the first time in the constitutional history of Serbia the system of two chambers (skupshtina and senate). This reconciled the political parties but did not reconcile the army which, already dissatisfied with the king's marriage, became still more so at the rumors that one of the two unpopular brothers of Queen Draga, Lieutenant Nikodije, was to be proclaimed heir-presumptive to the throne.

Meanwhile, the independence of the senate and of the council of state caused increasing irritation to King Alexander. In yet another coup d'état, he suspended (March 1903) the constitution for half an hour, time enough to publish the decrees by which the old senators and councillors of state were dismissed and replaced by new ones. This arbitrary act naturally increased the dissatisfaction in the country.

Assassination

The general impression was that, as much as the senate was packed with men devoted to the royal couple and the government obtained a large majority at the general elections, King Alexander would not hesitate any longer to proclaim Queen Draga's brother as the heir to the throne. In spite of this, it had been agreed with the Serbian Government that Prince Mirko of Montenegro, who was married to Natalija Konstantinovic, the granddaughter of Princess Anka Obrenović, an aunt of King Milan, would be proclaimed Crown Prince of Serbia in the event that the marriage of King Alexander and Queen Draga was childless. Apparently to prevent Queen Draga's brother being named heir, but in reality to replace Alexander Obrenović with Peter Karageorgevic, a conspiracy was organised by the military. The royal couple's palace was invaded and they hid in a cupboard in the Queen's bedroom. There is another possibility, used in a Serbian history TV series "The End of the Obrenovic Dynasty", in which the royal couple was hidden behind the mirror in a common bedroom.

The conspirators searched the palace and eventually discovered the royal couple and murdered them in the early morning of June 11, 1903. King Alexander and Queen Draga were shot and their bodies mutilated and disemboweled and, according to eyewitnes accounts, thrown from a second floor window of the palace. The King was only 26 years old at the time of his death. King Alexander and Queen Draga were buried in the crypt of St. Mark's Church, Belgrade.

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