Thursday, January 16, 2020

Did J.F.K. Have A Lovechild With A Royal Balkan Princess? The Answer Depends On Who You Ask!

A Right Royal Conundrum.
Photograph (c) Marko Todorović, Tanjug/Tanja Valič, Wikipedia/White House Press Office
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Over the past week, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia (b.1936) and her youngest daughter Christina Oxenberg have been going back and forth through Balkan media outlets over a rather personal issue: who was Christina's *real* father? Christina has stated that when she was a teenager, her mother Elizabeth told Christina that Christina's biological dad was actually John Fitzgerald Kennedy (1917 - 1963), the 35th President of the United States of America. Elizabeth has stated that she never told her daughter any such thing. Christina insists that her mum did, indeed! So, let us look at the facts...

Mr. Howard Oxenberg in 1960.
The Oxenberg/Karageorgevich marriage license: riddled with errors.
On 21 January 1961, the attractive twenty-five year-old Elizabeth married Howard Oxenburg (1919 - 2010), who was seventeen years her senior, at Manassas, Virginia. The couple had been an item for over a year; indeed, the news rags had incorrectly reported that the couple had eloped in either June or July  of 1960. Needless to say, Elizabeth's parents Prince Regent Paul of Yugoslavia and Princess Olga (née Greece and Denmark) were not thrilled with the match; they had hoped that their daughter would find a nice royal man with whom to settle down. Furthermore, although Howard was well to do, being a successful clothes manufacturer, he had only recently divorced from his first wife, with whom he had children. Thus, the Yugoslav royal couple were rather let down at their daughter's (first) marriage.

Baby Oxenberg/Karageorgevich # 1 arrives in September 1961.
This article appeared in The Kansas City Times of Kansas City, Missouri, on 23 September 1961.
Almost eight months to the day after their wedding, Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and Howard Oxenberg welcomed the arrival of their first child, Catherine Oxenberg, who was born in New York City on 22 September 1961.

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Early in the following year, 1962, the following blurbs started appearing in the American press:

The Oxenbergs and the Kennedys hanging out in Palm Beach in early 1962.
This article appeared in the Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, on 18 February 1962.
The Oxenbergs dance the night away at White House dinner with Jackie and JFK.
This article appeared in the Pittsburgh Press of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on 18 February 1962. 
Articles reported that Howard and Elizabeth Oxenberg (née Yugoslavia) had spent a weekend with President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy at Palm Beach in early 1962. The Oxenbergs had also attended a dinner party hosted by the Kennedys at the White House, where Elizabeth was noted as "slim, sun-tanned, [and] brown-haired" and being "one of the most stunning" guests of the soirée. Aside from the trip to Palm Beach and the party at the White House, there are no other reports of the Oxenbergs and the Kennedys commingling at the beginning of 1962. However, this does not mean that there could not have been private social visits.

Baby Oxenberg/Karageorgevich # 2 is on the way!
This article appeared in The Salt Lake Tribune of Salt Lake City, Utah, on 29 May 1962.
Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia arrives back in N.Y.C. from Milan to prepare (again) for impending motherhood.
In 1962, Howard and Elizabeth Oxenberg were living at 983 Park Avenue in New York City. As was the norm, Elizabeth spent a fair part of that year traveling to the Caribbean and Europe on her Greek diplomatic passport. On 2 February, she arrived back in New York City after a vacation to Nassau, Bahamas. On 1 April, Elizabeth was back in the Big Apple after a hop over to London. On 7 May, the princess again returned to NYC from another trip to Nassau. On 29 May 1962, Howard and/or Elizabeth (via the media) let it be known that they were expecting their second child. On 16 August, Elizabeth came back to her Park Avenue apartment after flying in from Milan. She had been visiting her parents Prince Paul and Princess Olga at their villa in Florence. After her Italian interlude, the by-then quite pregnant princess stayed put in the States.

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Howard and Elizabeth Oxenberg
Elizabeth and Howard Oxenberg spent the first weekend of November 1962 at Templeton, the Long Island home of Winston and C. Z. Guest. At this point, Elizabeth was expecting to give birth in about six weeks ( - she had to wait eight). Among the nearly sixty guests of the Guests were the following: Elsa Maxwell (who wrote all about it later), British film director Peter Glenville, British actress Margaret Leighton, American actor/painter/writer/jack-of-all-trades Anthony Quinn, and Reed Vreeland (Diana's husband). In her column of 8 November, Elsa Maxwell recalled that Elizabeth was the most attractive girl at the party - "without question." Howard Oxenberg was "a handsome, charming, and romantic man." Elsa and Elizabeth chatted about Elizabeth's only surviving brother, Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia, whom Elsa had seen in France the previous month. Alexander had asked Elsa, "Do you see much of my sister Elizabeth, or doesn't she go anywhere?" Elsa replied: "What do you mean by asking if Elizabeth goes anywhere? Do you mean is she bienvenue, is she well-received in New York because she married a clothing manufacturer?" When Elsa told Elizabeth of this conversation, Elizabeth remarked that her brother was "a terrible snob." Elsa went on to gently chide Elizabeth about the fact that Elizabeth's sister-in-law and Alexander's wife, Maria Pia of Savoy, had not attended the April in Paris Ball. Elsa had been expecting to see Pia there. Elizabeth responded with a droll: "I can't be responsible for what a sister-in-law does. I am only responsible for myself." The last remark of Elizabeth is rather telling, in hindsight. She could not possibly know that her sister-in-law Pia of Savoy would give birth in just five months time to a second set of twins; the father of these twins was not Elizabeth's brother/Pia's husband Prince Alexander. Alas, that is another story of complicated paternity.

Christina Oxenberg is born.
This article appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 9 January 1963.
On 27 December 1962, Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia, Mrs. Howard Oxenberg, gave birth to her second daughter, Christina, in New York City. Princess Olga of Yugoslavia had flown in from Europe to be with her daughter and to be present at her granddaughter's birth. Queen Mother Helen of Romania (née Greece and Denmark) was Christina's godmother: Queen Mother Helen and Christina's grandmother Princess Olga were first cousins.

Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia with daughters Catherine and Christina.
Marriage on the rocks: Howard Oxenberg and Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia divorce.
This article appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 29 May 1966.
Elizabeth Balfour (née Yugoslavia; formerly Oxenberg) with daughters Catherine and Christina in 1969.
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By 1966, the Oxenberg/Yugoslavia marriage had run its course. Over the years, gossip had it that the couple was frequently on the verge of divorce. Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia and Mr. Howard Oxenberg went their separate ways: she moved to Chelsea with her daughters, and he remained in New York. Both Elizabeth and Howard remarried and divorced...several times.

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Now, we will fast forward to the present day. Christina Oxenberg is an author who lives in the United States. She has written several books: Taxi (1986), the novel Royal Blue (1998; republished in 2014), a compilation of short stories entitled When In Doubt...Double The Dosage (2014; after its publication, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. remarked: "A laugh on every page, Christina Oxenberg is one of the most lethal wits of the western world."), Princess Margaret's Coat (2017), and a history of her royal Serbian relations titled Dynasty: A True Story (2018). Her mother Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia resides in Belgrade; the princess was able to get the Serbian government to retain to her the ownership of a small villa that belonged to her mother Princess Olga. The princess has worked successfully to rehabilitate the reputation and legal status in Serbia of her father Prince Regent Paul, who had been declared an enemy of the state during the long Communist rule in the country. Both women are accomplished in their own right.

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The crux of the issue between the two now is the issue of Christina's paternity. Last year, Christina wrote that Princess Elizabeth had told her daughter that Christina's actual father was U.S. President John F. Kennedy...not Howard Oxenberg, to whom Elizabeth was married at the time. Last week, Princess Elizabeth gave a statement that was picked up by several Balkan news organisations saying that her daughter is a liar and that she [Elizabeth] never told her daughter that J.F.K. was her biological dad. In response, via a statement given to other news organisations, Christina responded to her mother's statement by affirming that her mum did, indeed, tell her that John F. Kennedy was her biological father. Obviously, mother and daughter are not on speaking terms...unless you count communicating with one another through interviews in the press. Further, the final answer to this question of paternity can only be definitively answered by a DNA test. In the meantime, if one wonders whether Christina Oxenberg is the daughter of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, it will depend on how one looks at it. If you ask Christina, she will tell you that she is J.F.K.'s daughter because her mother told her so. Yet, if you ask Elizabeth, she will tell you that she never said anything of the sort. Regardless, one thing is a fact: Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia did meet President John Kennedy several times in the early months of 1962.

Oy vey!

Sources:
Princess Elizabeth's daughter exclusively for Telegraf: My mom told me I was Kennedy's daughter

Ćerka princeze Jelisavete šokira novim detaljima: "Mama je htela da ubije trećeg muža"
Čerka Jelisavete Karađorđević tvrdi da joj je otac Džon Kenedi

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