“This collaboration between the Museum of King Nikola and Leppi Publications is an important milestone in the royal history of Montenegro. Through these family photographs, personal diaries and letters the public will experience the joys and sadnesses, triumphs and, indeed, tragedies of a most remarkable family history.
It is a great pleasure to be able to shed new light and discover new perspectives on our royal history. This remarkable book will be a major contribution in both the appreciation and the re-evaluation of Montenegro’s royal past.”
Ande Kapicic, Director of the Musuem of King Nikola, Cetinje, Montenegro
In 1915, as Austrian troops approached the capital Cetinje, King Nikola Petrovic-Njegos I of Montenegro fled to the Dalmatian coast and exile, closing a chapter of history that had lasted half a millennia. In the years that followed, the upheaval of world wars, the communist era and the bloody collapse of the Yugoslav Federation, Montenegro’s royal history lay dormant, forgotten.
When the Museum of King Nikola I in Cetinje invited Leppi Publications to consider a collaboration using material from the royal archives we were taken aback by the remarkable historic material that had been collected and preserved. A personal record of the family that spans some seventy years, the diaries and letters of King Nikola, Queen Milena and their many sons and daughters allow the story of Montenegro and its royal family to be told as never before.
The bravery of the tiny mountain kingdom and its race of hardy mountaineers has struck many observers over the centuries but its unique history is still little known. The only Balkan nation to have maintained its independence after the Ottoman Turk invasions of the late Middle Ages, Montenegro stood alone as a bastion of freedom and resistance, where – legend has it – the remnants of the Serbian nobility fled to escape the Islamic conquest and await the day of liberation from the Turkish yoke.
Ruled by the Orthodox Christian Bishops of Cetinje, it was not until the nineteenth century that Montenegro became a principality and its independence recognised, in the reign of King Nikola I, who assumed the title in 1910 after fifty years on the throne. It was in the reign of King Nikola that Montenegro stepped out of the shadows of history and onto the world’s stage. Through a series of brilliant marriages for his many daughters that connected the family to all the major royal houses of Europe, his domestic reforms and his pivotal role in emancipating the South Slavs from foreign rule, King Nikola became the doyen of Balkan monarchs.
The last years of his reign were a desperate struggle to preserve the Petrovic-Njegos dynasty during which political crises, assassination attempts and revolution threatened the monarchy. The troubled times were reflected in the fates of the king’s children and grandchildren, whose lives were threatened by revolution in Russia and upheaval in the Balkans. In vain he looked to the allies to preserve the throne and Montenegrin independence as his family was forced into exile.
With the demise of the Petrovic-Njegos dynasty a romantic era came to an end as Montenegro was controversially incorporated into the Kingdom of Yugoslavia ruled by King Nikola’s grandson Aleksander Karadjordjevic; but the memory of an extraordinary country, an exceptional ruler and his family has been remarkably preserved and is now brought to life for Leppi Publications by Royalty Magazine editor Marco Houston.
Nikola & Milena, King & Queen of the Black Mountain, is the culmination of years of research into the royal family of Montenegro and its role in European history. The focus is on the life and times of King Nikola I of Montenegro (1841-1921), an era during which he played a vital role in European dynastic and political affairs.
Drawing on a wealth of material from the archives held by the Museum of King Nikola I in Cetinje, the story of Montenegro’s last ruler and his family is told as never before – the remarkable marriages, political triumphs and disasters, their pivotal role in WWI and their lives in exile. There is also a wealth of material, photographic and documentary, on related topics – Montenegrin and Balkan history, Serbia’s royal family, and international relations.