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Sunday, 2 August 2015

Who will write our history a hundred years from now?

The 29th April 2011 was a public holiday in Ruritania. Ruritanian public holidays were not quite the same as public holidays in other countries. For one thing, they were called Bank Holidays. For another, the government merely advised employers to lock out their workers; it did not compel them. 

Of course, the government closed its own offices and the rest of the public sector did the same. But shops and restaurants and so on remained open to give locked-out public sector workers something to do. But it was a struggle: the dates of  public holidays were carefully chosen to coincide with cold and wet weather. You got an awful lot of Hits if you Googled,  “Bank Holiday Washout”.

From time to time, the government added extra days to the annual list of public holidays – there had to be an annual list because some of the dates were changeable and moved each year on the advice of the astrologers of the Church of England.

The 29th April 2011 was added to the list by Mr Cameron, then Prime Minister, so that everyone (minus the shop and restaurant workers and so on) could stay at home and watch TV.

The Monarchy was mounting a big TV spectacular, the wedding of its Prince William of Wales - second in line to the throne - to a commoner, Miss Middleton, who had been deemed acceptable as a baby maker. (The assessment proved correct; she produced two healthy babies thus securing - had all gone to plan - the Ruritanian Royal Line for the next hundred years).

The youngish couple, who had met at University while studying Art History, drew up a very large Guest List for their televised wedding or, more accurately, had it drawn up for them by the department of Royal protocol. Included were:

"Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Yugoslavia; The Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia".

In 1941, the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was occupied by German, Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian forces who divided up the country among themselves, with Croatia ruled by a particularly unpleasant Catholic– Fascist regime headed by Ante Pavelic.

Opposed to the Occupation, King Peter II of Yugoslavia and his government went into exile, the King arriving in London in June 1941, joining several other exiled governments based there. And as with other governments-in-exile, it was supposed to direct anti-Nazi and anti-fascist resistance in the occupied homeland.

But by 1943, ULTRA intercepts of German radio traffic were showing fairly unambiguously that Yugoslav Royalist forces (the Chetniks), supposedly opposed to the occupiers,  had for the most part allied themselves with the Germans and Italians and that they were more or less exclusively engaged in attacks on the occupiers’ main enemies, Tito's anti-fascist and anti-Nazi Partisans.

It wasn’t really King Peter’s fault; he was a very young man and in exile. The Royalists had been divided in their attitudes towards Nazism and fascism even before the Axis powers invaded, with some of them wanting to welcome them.

But as a result of the Intelligence information he was receiving, Churchill withdrew support from the Royalist Chetniks and thenceforth gave exclusive support to the Partisans. Tito's headquarters became home to distinguished Allied agents like the Special Operations Executive’s Fitzroy Maclean, personally selected for the job by Churchill in a famous Memo of July 1943.

Maclean did raise with Churchill the likelihood that this support would mean that, after the war, Yugoslavia would become a Communist country. Maclean writes in his Memoirs:

The Prime Minister’s reply resolved my doubts.
‘Do you intend’, he asked, ‘to make Yugoslavia your home after the war?’
‘No, Sir’ I replied.
‘Neither do I’ 

Nonetheless, as an act of some generosity, the government two years later in July 1945 temporarily ceded national sovereignty over Suite 212 in Claridge’s Hotel, London to Yugoslavia so that the heir to the Yugoslav throne – the Crown Prince Alexander invited to the 2011 wedding – could be born on Yugoslav territory (as required by the pre-war Yugoslav constitution). Princess Elizabeth, later Queen Elizabeth II, was one of his godparents.

After end-of-war elections, Yugoslavia's Constituent Assembly deposed King Peter II on 29 November 1945 and declared a Republic. The Western Allies were happy to recognise it and for most of the next thirty five years enjoyed at least reasonable relations with Tito's communist Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia became a popular holiday destination for Ruritanian tourists.

Then under the nationalist Slobodan Milosevic, things went from bad to worse.

With the secession of Montenegro in 2006, Yugoslavia finally ceased to exist. Instead - as Ruritania’s citizens discovered from Eurovision song contests – it disintegrated into Bosnia-Herzgovina, Croatia, the Former-Yugoslav-Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and – finally - Kosovo.

None of this - literally none of this - had been noticed in Ruritania's royal palaces. Nothing that had happened in the last seventy years impinged on its conviction that the Kingdom of Yugoslavia still existed with Alexander its Crown Prince

1 comment:

  1. In continuing to recognise the kingship of deposed royals, the House of Windsor probably has one eye on the future. It would only take a downturn in the monarch’s popularity (as was the case when Diana died), coupled with the election of an avowedly socialist government (think Jeremy Corbyn), for the possibility of a UK republic to become a reality. If a socialist government seems unlikely, consider what the UK (or what will be left of it) will look like in a hundred years time. Most people will be in low paid service sector jobs, with the real work having been automated, whilst a minority of super rich employers will be interested only in themselves. That’s a recipe for the resurgence of left wing politics. A deposed monarch would not want to disappear from society, but to retain the title of kingship of a kingdom.