860h.01/1–1145: Telegram

The Ambassador to the Yugoslav Government in Exile (Patterson) to the Secretary of State

Yugos 6. Yesterday King Peter talked to me at length about his conversation January 9 with Churchill, and later Stevenson6 called to inform me about this and Churchill’s previous talk with Subasic. Eden7 and Stevenson were with Churchill on both occasions. Principal points of interest made by King and/or Stevenson are as follows:

At Monday’s meeting, Churchill showed Subasic the King’s letters regarding unconstitutionality of proposed regency8 and interim legislative power for Avnoj.9 Eden had studied latter question and was impressed by King’s views. Subasic replied that King under the constitution10 would appoint regents under article 116, second paragraph of which required all acts done under the article to be validated later; and it was clear that acts of Avnoj were subject to confirmation by the duly elected legislative body. Churchill remarked it was pity Subasic had not made this clear in the agreement nor to the King. Subasic replied he had not seen King in 3 weeks. He said that on his return to Yugoslavia he would try to broaden Avnoj by including in it some members of the pre-war Parliament.

British Cabinet discussed Yugoslav problem Monday evening and decided Churchill should advise King to sign agreement.

King Peter was pleased at his friendly reception by Churchill and Eden on Tuesday. Churchill earnestly advised King to sign agreement adding: “But I am not a Yugoslav. You know your people best. It is for you to decide.” When King raised his objection to legislative power for Avnoj, Eden brought up proposal to add to Avnoj some members of old Parliament and said he thought agreement should be changed to this effect.

King then said he wanted to choose his regents at which Churchill barked: “You cannot choose them yourself. As a constitutional monarch you must always take the advice of your Ministers” and proceeded to give King a short lecture on constitutional monarchy.

Churchill added emphatically: “The three great powers will not lift one finger nor sacrifice one man to put any King back on any [Page 1176] throne in Europe.” He said that if Peter went back to Yugoslavia Tito would ask him to sign many death warrants. If he refused his life would be in danger.

Churchill then spoke of his desire that liberated peoples have full and fair chance to choose their own Government. He was thinking of making proposals to Stalin and Roosevelt regarding methods of ensuring honest plebiscites—perhaps along lines of an international trust which he mentioned in Athens. But he thought King Peter might have a better chance of returning if decision were made by assembly rather than plebiscite. He also said that Tito would need King’s help in many ways and want him for the peace conference. If the King signed he would retain his constitutional position. If he refused he would be by-passed and left “isolated and impotent.”

Churchill asked King to give him prompt decision—a yes or no, or else state he could not make up his mind.

After conference with Churchill Eden offered to give King friendly help. He said he thought the King had too many incompetent advisers living in London on Yugoslav pensions. If they wanted to engage in politics they should go back to Yugoslavia.

Stevenson saw Subasic yesterday and asked him what he would do if King does not sign. Subasic replied that it depended on how King expressed his refusal; that he would either go back to Belgrade as Premier and try to effect changes or else resign.

Repeated to Caserta as my 6 and Moscow as my 6.

  1. Ralph C. Skrine Stevenson, British Ambassador to Yugoslavia.
  2. Anthony Eden, British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
  3. The letters referred to were written by King Peter to Prime Minister Churchill on December 29, 1944, and January 4, 1945. Copies of them were sent to the Department at King Peter’s request under cover of despatch 13, January 2, 1945, and despatch 14, January 6, 1945, from the Ambassador to the Yugoslav Government in Exile at London; neither printed.
  4. The Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia.
  5. Presumably the Constitution of September 3, 1931, is intended.