L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e ~ D o s t o ï e v s k i

L a - b e a u t é - s a u v e r a - l e - m o n d e  ~  D o s t o ï e v s k i

Friday, June 11, 2021

Une reine exilée à Paris - Queen Natalia of Serbia in Paris, by Uroš Predić, 1890


Natalija Obrenović (Serbian Cyrillic: Наталија Обреновић; 15 May 1859, Florence – 8 May 1941, Saint-Denis in German-occupied France), the Princess of Serbia from 1875 to 1882 and then Queen of Serbia from 1882 to 1889 as the wife of Milan I of Serbia. Of ethnic Romanian origin, she was the daughter of Russian colonel Petre Keşco and Romanian noblewoman Princess Pulcheria Sturdza. In 1875, at the age of sixteen, she married her second cousin Prince Milan Obrenović IV of Serbia. They had two sons, Alexander, later king, and Sergei, who died a few days after his birth in 1878. After securing international recognition, Milan was proclaimed king of Serbia in 1882, with Natalia as queen. But the couple's relationship had fully deteriorated by 1887, due to their intense political differences and the King's constant infidelities. Public scandal commenced that year, when the Queen left the country, taking the eleven-year-old Crown Prince with her. The next two years saw separation and reconciliation, arguments about the custody of their son, with the Queen frequently returning to Belgrade and, just as frequently, leaving again. Milan eventually instigated divorce proceedings - which his wife refused to acknowledge - and then abdicated in 1889. 

Their son, the now twelve-year-old Alexander, was proclaimed king under a parliamentary regency, while both parents battled to retain influence over him. The following year the Synod of the Serbian Orthodox church officially declared that the divorce between Milan and Natalia was legal. The year after that, the government, angered by the political interference of both parents, asked them to leave the country; the Queen refused and was forced to go. And then... the next year, the couple reconciled, asking the church to revoke their divorce decree, which it did. In April of that same year, 1893, their son declarer his majority, dismissed the regency council, and soon welcomed his parents back to Belgrade. 

Familial harmony only lasted about six years, though. Both parents were outraged when Alexander became engaged to and then married Draga Mašin, a former lady-in-waiting to Queen Natalia, and a widow, ten years his senior. Ex-king Milan left Serbia and died in Vienna a year later, in 1901. And, her opposition to the marriage the marriage so vocal, Alexander banished his mother from Serbia. Less than three years after their marriage, Alexander and Queen Draga were murdered in a military coup. Natalia converted to Roman Catholicism, becoming a nun, and spent the remaining years of her exile in France.


Uroš Predić (7 December 1857, Orlovat, Austrian Empire – 12 February 1953, Belgrade), Serbian painter, best known for his early works depicting ordinary people, as well as his many portraits. He studied in Vienna and worked there for some years. Thereafter, he lived either in his home town or Belgrade. He died in the latter at the age of ninety-five.


While I'm at it, here are two portraits of Queen Natalia by Vlaho Bukovac, both from 1882.


Vlaho Bukovac (4 July 1855, Cavtat, Austrian Empire – 23 April 1922, Prague), Croatian painter and academic. He pursued his career in a variety of locales and his style changed greatly over the course of that career. He was court painter to the Obrenović, Karađorđević, and Petrović-Njegoš dynasties.

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