Wednesday, April 17, 2019

On This Day In History: The Birth of Prince Mirko of Montenegro

Prince Mirko of Montenegro (1879-1918)

The second son and ninth child of Prince (eventual King) Nikola I and Princess (eventual Queen) Milena of Montenegro was born at St Petersburg on 17 April 1879. The Montenegrin prince was given the Mirko. Mirko had an older and younger brother: Crown Prince Danilo (1872-1939) and Prince Peter (1889-1932). Prince Mirko also had a deluge of sisters: Princess Zorka (1864-1890; wife of the future King Peter I of Serbia), Princess Milica (1866-1951; wife of Grand Duke Peter of Russia), Princess Anastasia (1868-1935; firstly wed to Duke George of Leuchtenberg, secondly wed to Grand Duke Nicholas of Russia), Princess Marica (1869-1885), Princess Elena (1871-1952; Queen consort of Italy as wife to King Vittorio Emanuele III of Italy), Princess Anna (1873-1971; wife of Prince Franz Joseph of Battenberg), Princess Sofia (born and died 1876), Princess Xenia (1881-1960), and Princess Vera (1887-1927). The couple who produced this large and well-connected brood became King and Queen of Montenegro in 1910, when the nation was upgraded from a principality to a kingdom. Due to the advantageous marriages of his children, King Nikola was known as the "Father-In-Law of Europe."

King Nikola and Queen Milena of Montenegro in 1910

Prince Mirko was somewhat of the family pet. Due to his charm and good looks, the young prince was forgiven many of the pranks that he pulled on those at the palace at Cetinje. Even his father, the stern Nikola, turned a blind eye. Mirko traveled extensively on the European Continent. As he did so, gossip columnists frequently wrote stories about this and that princess to whom the prince might attach himself. At one point in 1901, before his marriage, Princess Laetitia, Dowager Duchess of Aosta, tried her hand at playing matchmaker between the prince and one of her Bonaparte relatives.

Prince Mirko of Montenegro
Yet, when the time came, Mirko of Montenegro chose a bride with connections closer to home. While in Nice, around 1901, he met Natalija "Lili" Konstantinović (1882-1950), the daughter of Colonel Alexander Konstantinović, himself the son of Alexander Konstantinović and Princess Anka Obrenović (1821-1868). Princess Anka, Natalija's grandmother, was the aunt of King Milan of Serbia and the grand-aunt of the ill-fated King Alexander of Serbia. Mirko fell head over heels for this descendant of the Obrenović dynasty. Prince Mirko and Natalija Konstantinović were married at Cetinje on 25 July 1902. 

The engaged couple: Natalija Konstantinović and Prince Mirko of Montenegro
The wedding of Prince Mirko and Princess Natalija of Montenegro

The couple quickly set about establishing a family. In total, five sons were born to Mirko and Natalija; however, only one lived to adulthood. Their children were Prince Stephan (1903-1908), Prince Stanislav (1905-1908), Prince Mihailo (1908-1986), Prince Pavle (1910-1933), and Prince Emmanuel (1912-1928). When Princess Natalija was pregnant with her third son Mihailo in 1908, she and Mirko suffered the blow of the deaths of their two eldest sons, Stephan and Stanislav, within a period of two months. This loss greatly undermined the couple's relationship and fondness for one another. The later births of Princes Pavle and Emmanuel were not sufficient to bind their father and mother together. Shortly after the birth of Emmanuel in 1912, the couple separated, and Natalia returned to her parents. Some genealogies record that Prince Mirko and Natalija divorced in 1917, while others maintain that the couple were still separated at the time of Mirko's death.

The Lost Princes: Stephan (1903-1908) and Stanislav (1905-1908)

Mirko and Natalija of Montenegro with their three youngest sons: Mihailo, Pavle, and Emmanuel

Royal Cousins (left to right): Prince Pavle, Princess Giovanna of Savoy, Prince Mihailo, Princess Mafalda of Savoy, Prince Umberto of Savoy, and Princess Jolanda of Savoy

As World War I took its toll on Montenegro, the nation found itself under Austro-Hungarian occupation in 1916. Mirko was confined at Podgorica (the current capital of the country). The prince remained there until 1918, when, suffering from tuberculosis, he was sent to Vienna for treatment. Mirko succumbed to the disease and died on 2 March 1918, aged thirty-eight. Mirko was survived by his three youngest sons, by his father King Nikola I, and by both of his brothers, Crown Prince Danilo and Prince Peter. 

Prince Mirko's Palace at Podgorica

In 1921, after the death of King Nikola I, Crown Prince Danilo abdicated his rights to the throne several days later. Thus, for a period of some years, between 1921-1929, when the Regency of the Kingdom of Montenegro ended, Prince Mirko's only surviving son was considered as King Mihailo I of Montenegro. Mihailo married Geneviève Prigent (1919-1990) in 1941 and had one son, Nikola (b.1944), who is today recognised by the Montenegrin government as Head of the Royal House.


King Mihailo I of Montenegro

Crown Prince Nikola II of Montenegro
In 1920, Princess Natalija of Montenegro took as her second husband Count Gaston Errembault de Dudzeele (1877-1961), the son of Count Gaston Errembault de Dudzeele (1819-1888) and Countess Maria Helene von Abensperg und Traun (1824-1889). Natalija and Gaston had two daughters: Hélène (1921-2006) and Anne-Marie (1922-1984). Both daughters left issue.

Anne-Marie Errembault de Dudzeele, youngest child of Princess Natilja of Montenegro




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