860H.001 Peter II/3–1946

The Former King of Yugoslavia (Peter II) to the Secretary of State30

Dear Mr. Byrnes: In consequence of the political processes which have been at work since my country entered the war against Germany in 1941, and as a result of financial dispositions made by my Father, King Alexander,31 and my guardian, Prince Paul,32 at a time when the prospects of a complete constitutional change in my country had not been envisaged, it has now become impossible, in the present circumstances adequately to maintain my family, household and dependents.

Accordingly, I set forth hereunder a brief expose of the conditions which have brought about this state of affairs, having in mind the hope that the Government of the United States might give sympathetic consideration to the possibility of releasing some small, but adequate part of the large funds held by them on behalf of Jugoslavia, perhaps in the form of a periodical increment to be paid against such securities as I have to offer in return for such a benefit.

You will doubtless recall that before the occupation of Jugoslavia the then Jugoslav Government, at my insistence, transferred the State funds to the United States, of which a portion, prior to the signing of the Tripartite Pact with Germany was transferred to Brazil. Another portion was supposed to be transferred from the United States to the Argentine, but this transference was happily stopped by the United States Government because at that time the Zvetkovich Government33 had signed the Pact with Germany.34 Shortly after March 27, 1941, all the Jugoslav funds lodged in the United States were freed, as a result of which the subsequent free Jugoslav Governments in London were able to make withdrawals for state purposes. The funds placed in Brazil remained frozen throughout the war.

As you are aware, after my Father’s death, and for seven years during my minority, I was under the guardianship of Prince Paul into whose hands was placed the responsibility for the administration of my Father’s estate. During this period no payment in money was made to me. No funds were placed at my disposal, or set aside for [Page 880] me for use at a later date. I have knowledge of the fact, however, that my Mother, Queen Marie, was made an allowance, and that Prince Paul himself benefited to some considerable extent. I have a strong impression that no small part of the funds available to Prince Paul for his administration was placed abroad, but I have no information how or where he invested it. He has failed, in response to a request by me, to furnish me with any such information.

In 1941, when I left Jugoslavia at the time of the German invasion,35 my appanage was paid directly to me. Upon arrival in England my Mother, Queen Marie, requested me to pay her the sum of three thousand five hundred pounds sterling each month as her portion of my appanage. I understood at the time that she would place the major portion of that sum in reserve for future needs of the family. This, in fact, has not been the case. In point of fact, between June, 1941, and July, 1944, I paid into her account a total of 139,960 pounds sterling. In addition to these regular payments to my Mother I made a monthly disbursement of 1,000 pounds sterling to each of my two brothers as a reserve fund for their benefit at a later date. Between June, 1941 and October, 1945 I paid a total of 88,500 pounds sterling into their account for this purpose. My personal share of the appanage has been disbursed in payments to members of my staff, pensions to relatives and former members of my household, so that a very small percentage remains for my personal savings.

It is unnecessary to point out that since the radical constitutional changes have been effected in Jugoslavia under conditions with which I am known profoundly to disagree, changes which are recognised and accepted by the Government of the United Kingdom, I no longer receive financial support from Jugoslav state funds. As a consequence of this, together with the circumstances related above, I am reduced to living on the interest from my attenuated capital, and am making extensive inroads upon the capital itself. Needless to observe, I have taken every possible step to reduce my expenditure to a minimum, but I have certain basic demands upon my purse made by close relations, and by those of my entourage who have remained loyal to me, which I feel bound to meet faithfully whatever my financial circumstances may be.

As I indicated earlier, I do not make this approach to the Government of the United States unmindful of the fact that security for such payments would be necessary. It is a matter of public knowledge that King Alexander possessed considerable property in Jugoslavia his title to which, of course, has never been disputed, and which is set forth in a judgment of the Belgrade District Court. I quote this [Page 881] judgment since it is the most complete inventory extant of his possessions, and is still in the archives of this court.

My title, as heir of King Alexander to these estates and properties is placed beyond doubt, in my view, by the relevant clause of the Agreement signed in Belgrade in December, 1944, between Marshal Tito, as head of the then Provisional Government on the one hand, and by Dr. Ivan Subasitch, the Prime Minister of my Government at that date on the other.36 The complete agreement is, without doubt, in the possession of the State Department, and I will accordingly content myself merely by quoting the relevant clause:

The relevant clause is:

Property of H.M. the King and the Regency Council.

1. H.M. King Peter II can dispose of his estates and property in the country during his absence. The superintendence of the Royal Estates will for that period be under the supervision of the Regency Council.

So far as I am concerned that Agreement still remains valid. I have made every effort to implement that Agreement, and am happy to leave you to judge if, on the evidence available to you at the hands of your Ambassador, an equally sincere effort has been made by the present ruler of my country. I will spare you, at this stage, a recapitulation of the history of the signing of the Agreement and the importance which its signature assumed in the minds of those directing the affairs of the Great Allies at the time.

I place this memorandum before you in the hope that you will take my circumstances into your sympathetic consideration, and will find that my request, both from the standpoint of the moral and political conditions prevailing throughout the entire period from the entry of Jugoslavia into the war to the present time, is actuarily sound.

I cannot pretend that this memorandum is by any means exhaustive, but if it serves to open up the possibility of further exchanges on the subject between myself and your Ambassador I shall be happy to give any further information that may be required. At all events, I will abide by your judgment in the matter.

Yours very sincerely

Peter II R.
  1. This letter was neither answered nor acknowledged by the Department. However, in a letter of April 3, 1946, Ambassador Patterson assured King Peter that the Department would give the matter careful study (Belgrade Embassy Files: 800.1 King Peter).
  2. Alexander I, King of Yugoslavia, 1921–1934.
  3. Prince Regent of Yugoslavia, 1934–1941.
  4. Dragiša Cvetković, Yugoslav Minister President, February 1939–March 1941.
  5. Yugoslavia adhered to the Tripartite Pact on March 25, 1941.
  6. Germany invaded Yugoslavia on April 6, 1941.
  7. For text of the agreement of December 7, 1944, between Ivan Šubašić, President of the Yugoslav Government in Exile, and Josip Broz Tito, President of the National Committee of Liberation of Yugoslavia, regarding the property of King Peter and the Regency Council, see Foreign Relations, The Conferences at Malta and Yalta, 1945, p. 253. For additional documentation regarding the interest of the United States in the internal developments in Yugoslavia, see Foreign Relations, 1944, vol. iv, pp. 1330 ff.