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since Jan. 25, 2005

BIOGRAPHY OF PRINCE MIHAJLO PETROVIC NJEGOS

(ºPodgorica 1.IX.1908o.s., †Paris, France 24.III.1986)

By PIERRE OLIVIER LEROY, The Njegoskij Fund Public Project

Photograph credit: © The Njegoskij Fund archives 2005

[Based on POLN, CHRONIQUES MONTENEGRINES — Catalogue Raisonné du Fond Njegoskij, TNF, 1996]

Received: December 16, 2005; published: December 17, 2005

Updated: March 5, 2007

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“My father died a penniless old man. I was amazed to see smart royals show up at his funeral. Where had they been three weeks earlier when he needed help?” — H.R.H. Prince Nicolas Petrovic Njegos, Podgorica, April 12, 1999
[Reuters/Crispian Balmer 06:52am ET, “The man who wouldn't be king in Montenegro”]

Third child of H.R.H. Prince Mirko Dimitri Petrovic Njegos (º1879, †1918) and Natalija Constantinovic (º1882, †1950) [1], young Prince Mihajlo leaves Montenegro for exile at the age of five with the Royal Family on January 21, 1916, when his father decides to stay in the country to continue peace pourparlers with Austria-Hungary [2].
He is first entrusted to a private school in Naples, Italy, before rejoining his mother settled in Eastbourne, Sussex, England [3] where he receives a primary education.
On March 7, 1921, after the renouncement of his uncle Danilo Aleksandar (º1871, †1939), too marked by his German and Austrian friendships to have a chance to restore the Dynasty in the post-war anti-German general feeling, on the advices of both Queen Milena (º1847, †1923) and Princess Xenia (º1881, †1960), Mihajlo is proclaimed by the Government-in-exile, King de jure Mihajlo I of Montenegro under the co-Regency of his Grandmother and General Dr. Anto Gvozdenovic (º1853, †1935) .
This political decision is without effect on his life of teenager, and he normally completes his studies in France, at the Lakanal High School of Sceaux (Hauts de Seine), before entering Sciences Po Paris.
From his civil majority as Yugoslav citizen, at the age of twenty-one, Prince Mihajlo as Head of the Royal House of Montenegro renounces any political role for him and his Dynasty, recognises the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and makes allegiance to his cousins Karadjordjevic — de facto putting end to the active claims of the Dynasty after ceased the Regency by General Gvozdenovic (assumed alone after the death of Queen Milena) on September 14, 1929. From this moment, Mihajlo receives a civil list from the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, as member of an old reigning family.
Tubercular, on the advices of his Parisian doctor, Prince Mihajlo makes regular stays in spas of Bretagne, France, and it's in the train from Paris to Saint Brieuc (Côtes-d'Armor, France) [4], that he meets his future spouse. On January 27, 1941, he marries in Paris (XIVth) Geneviève Prigent, daughter of François Prigent (º1883, †1947), surgeon in Saint Brieuc, and Blanche Bitte (º1883, †1958) .
Few months after their marriage, when Yugoslavia declares war on Germany and takes all German personalities in the country as hostage, the young couple who lives in Paris, is arrested as reprisal by the Gestapo and transferred by train to Germany in April 1941. As “guest” of the IIIrd Reich, from May, they are kept by Germans during 6 months in a castel situated on the Lake of Constance, on the border of Germany, Austria, and Switzerland; it's there that Prince Mihajlo and Princess Geneviève are visited by the representatives of the Italian and German Governments — Count Galeazzo Ciano of Cortellazzo (º1903, †executed 1944), Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Joachim von Ribbentrop (º1893, †hanged 1946), Reich Minister for Foreign Affairs — who offer Prince Mihajlo the Crown of Montenegro, restored as an independent state in the form of a constitutional monarchy on July 12, 1941 , after the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.
Mihajlo, agreed with his wife (read footnote [7] of Princess Geneviève's biography), refuses a Kingdom under wing of the IIIrd Reich and the Fascist Italy of Mussolini, and reaffirms his trust in a unified Yugoslavia. As a result, the princely couple is then put under house arrest in a villa of Bad Homburg near Frankfurt, Germany. Liberated on parole during the autumn 1943 after the mediation of his aunt, Queen Helena of Italy, Prince Mihajlo is arrested again by Germans at Saint-Nicolas-du- Pelem (Côtes-d'Armor, France) and imprisoned in a concentration camp from June 1944 to April 1945.
While he is prisoner in Germany, on July 7, 1944 in Saint-Nicolas-du- Pelem, was born his only son, Nicolas .
In 1947, with the agreement of Yugoslav Prime Minister Josip Broz “Tito” (º1892, †1980) who was appreciating the Prince's loyalty to a unified Yugoslavia, Mihajlo and his wife decide to go and live in Yugoslavia. They stay in Belgrade, and Mihajlo holds a job of Head of the Protocol at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs. Prince Mihajlo visits Montenegro which he did not see since 1916, and realizes that the memory of his dysnasty is still alive in the population, which could have displeased Tito. But, disappointed by the Titoism, the princely family comes back to France after one year, just before the break between Tito and Joseph Stalin (º1879, †1953) on June 29, 1948; it will only remain from this Yugoslav experience, the nicknames given to Geneviève Prigent: “The Red Princess” and “Comrade Princess”.
In 1948, the civil list given to him by Yugoslavia — already suspended in 1940 by the Kingdom of Yugoslavia — is definitively suppressed by the new Communist Government.
On August 11, 1949 in Paris, his marriage with Geneviève Prigent is dissolved. After the divorce, she settles with Nicolas first in Paris where she holds a job of orthoptist (the first in Paris to do this job), then because of a poor health in Trébeurden (Côtes-d'Armor, France). From that date, Prince Mihajlo will only see his son some times per year.
Back to France, Prince Mihajlo finds a job of commercial agent, and occasionally of translator for the Headquarters of the Paris Police — which knew him for a long time to have delivered him a card of privileged resident renewable every 10 years, and which (intelligence branch) found through this job an easy way to control the relationships of the Prince; his official activities as Prince of Montenegro are then reduced to almost nothing: Few participations in family events such as the marriage of H.R.H. Princess Maria Luisa of Bulgaria with H.S.H. Prince Karl Wladimir zu Leiningen on February 20, 1957 in Cannes, France; a long trip in the United States to visit Yugoslav refugees in August 1961; and the presidence of few royalist ceremonies.

In spite of few inheritances from Italian and British parents, up to his death, on March 24, 1986 in Paris, Prince Mihajlo has led a lonesome and very modest life, but worthy and without compromition, never using his glorious family name to enter society circles, nor to obtain financial contributions that would certainly have improved his very difficult situation; having worked only a short period of time in France, when retired, his pension was very small, in fact just enough to live... Prince Mihajlo is buried at the Serbian Cemetery near Orly, Val de Marne, France.
[5] [7]

IN MEMORIAM

[1] Considering the prestigious marriages of his brother and sisters, the one of Prince Mirko Dimitri may appear modest as Natalija Constantinovic is “only” the daughter of a Serbian Colonel, Aleksandar Constantinovic (º1848, †1931). In fact, in Balkan countries, contrary to European usages, what must be considered is the lineage, male and female. In that case, Natalija is no longer only the daughter of Aleksandar, but the grand-daughter of Anka [Anna] Obrenovic (º1821, †1868), member of a reigning family. Thus, if the marriage of Serbian King Aleksandar Obrenovic (º1876, †1903) with Draga Mashin (º1867, †1903) had been childless, it was agreed with the Serbian Government that Prince Mirko Dimitri would be proclaimed Crown Prince of Serbia.
[2] At the beginning of 1916, when the defeat of Montenegro becomes evident, King Nikola I and his son are in favour of an armistice with Austria-Hungary. After the rupture of the pourparlers on January 20, 1916, Prince Mirko Dimitri, well known austrophile, with three Ministers of the Government (Radulovic, Popovic, General Vesovic) stay in Montenegro to continue peace negotiations.
[3] After the death of Prince Mirko Dimitri on March 2nd, 1918 in Vienna, Austria, Natalija Constantinovic marries as secondhusband Gaston Hugues Gabriel Hyacynthe Gontran Marie Gaëtan Count Errambault de Dudzeele at Eastbourne, Sussex, England on January 9, 1920. From this second marriage are born two children: Hélène (ºParis XVIth 24.II.1921) who will marry Phillipe Hiolle in 1949, and Anne-Marie (ºParis XVIth 6.IV.1922, †17.III.1984).
[4] Formerly known as Côtes-du-Nord before 1990.
[5] “La Descendance de Nicolas 1er, roi du Monténégro”, by Michel Sementéry, pp. 84-85, 1985 [with collaboration of T.R.H. the Prince and Princess Nicolas of Montenegro].
[6] “Michel de Monténégro: La disparition d'un prince oublié de l'histoire”, by Catherine Bosio, Point de vue-Images du monde, n° 1969, p. 22, April 25, 1986.
[7] “L'homme qui ne voulut pas être roi”, TV-interview by  Anne Georget and Frank Eskenazi, Interscoop/FRANCE 3 Channel, 1995.

  Linked articles:
1.— Michel de Monténégro et Conrad Kickert (º1882, †1965), Peintre Hollandais de Montparnasse
2.— Biography of Geneviève Prigent, Militant Princess and French Resistant (º1919, †1990)
3.— The modern Royal Family of Montenegro
4.— Biography of General Dr. Anto Gvozdenovic (º1853, †1935)

Recent headlines on Njegoskij.org :: Montenegro history

Funeral service on April 1st, 1986 for Prince Mihajlo Petrovic Njegos. About two hundred persons attended the Church service in the small Serbian Orthodox Church St. Sava of Paris, France. After the religious ceremony, the Archbishop of the Serbian Church of Germany made a speech evoking the life of Prince Mihajlo [6].

In the center, Prince Nicolas; on his right, Hélène Hiolle [3]; on his left, Baron Foran, Duke of St. Bar, Official Representative of H.R.H. Crown Prince Aleksandar of Yugoslavia; behind Prince Nicolas, his spouse, Princess Francine; Princess Altinaï and Prince Boris were absent [6].

Obituary for H.R.H. Mihajlo PETROVITCH NIÉGOCHE, Prince of Montenegro, published in the French daily Le Figaro on Thursday, March 27, 1986, n° 12.930, p. 30.

UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, SUNDAY, MARCH 30, 1986 — Prince Michael Petrovitch-Niegoche, who refused Mussolini's offer during World War II that he reclaim the family throne in the Balkan state of Montenegro, died Monday in Paris, officials said. He was 77 years old. After the division of the Balkan region by the Axis powers, Mussolini in 1941 offered the Prince the throne that his grandfather gave up when Montenegro was annexed to Serbia in 1918. The Prince rejected the offer to rule the state on the Adriatic Sea. He was arrested in 1944 by the Gestapo and deported to Germany, where he remained until the end of the war.
[United Press International, “Prince of Montenegro dies; turned down Mussolini offer”]

THE GETTYSBURG TIMES (USA), MONDAY, MARCH 31, 1986 — A memorial service is scheduled for Tuesday for Prince Michael Petrovitch-Njegosh of Montenegro who died Monday in Paris. He was 77. Prince Michael was a grandson of Nicolas I, the last monarch of the Balkan state of Montenegro who was deposed in 1918 and the kingdom united with Serbia. In 1941, after the Axis forces of Nazi Germany and Italy had divided Yugoslavia, Prince Michael declined an offer by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini to take the crown of Montenegro. The prince was arrested by the German Gestapo in June 1944 and deported to Germany, where he remained until the end of World War II. Prince Michael had lived in Paris for many years. An obituary notice said he was survived by his son, Nicolas, his daughter-in-law, France, and their children, Altinai and Boris, as well as a sister, Helene Hiolle, and several nieces and nephews. The memorial service is to be held in the St. Sava Serbian Church here.

 [14.09.2006]  Anne | 193.249.83.hidden |

 Nous sommes heureux que le souvenir du Prince Michel soit si bien entretenu. Avec nos meilleures pensées. Anne 

 [22.12.2005]  Zoran | 24.42.92.hidden |  montenegro-canada.com |

 Dear Pierre Olivier, I have been discovered so many things throught this article. Your job and knowledge are fabulous. Sincere congratulations 

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