Montenegro emerged as a territorial unit around the 14th century. Although the Ottoman Turks conquered part of modern Montenegro, and Venice exerted considerable influence over the rest, the antecedents of the Montenegron state enjoyed at least nominal independence for most of the early modern era. In the early sixteenth century, an archbishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church took control from Montenegro’s secular rulers, and helped chart an independent course. In the late 17th century, the Petrovic-Njegos family assumed the title of Prince-Bishop, and continued to maintain Montenegro’s independence. Prince-Bishop Petar I defeated Ottoman invasions twice, and successfully resisted French incursions during the Napoleonic Wars. In 1852, Prince-Bishop Danilo II severed the connection between the Montenegron monarchy and the church, proclaiming himself Prince Danilo I. Further wars with the Turks would ensue, and in 1910 Nicholas, Danilo’s son, would be proclaimed the first (and last) King of Montenegro.
Montenegro participated in the Great War on the side of the Allies, although Austrian and German forces occupied the country in 1916. Serbs liberated Montenegro , and engineered the deposition of Nicholas, on charges that he had attempted to effect a separate peace treaty with the Central Powers. The veracity of these charges is uncertain, although the Serbs may well have been motivated by a desire to place their own monarch atop the new Kingdom of Croats, Serbs, and Slovenes. Nicholas refused to renounce the throne, however, and died in exile. After brief pretension of another Danilo, Prince Michael became heir to the throne, and after a period of regency renounced his claim on the throne of Montenegro. For this, he received a pension from the Yugoslav government.
Prince Michael and his wife were arrested by German authorities shortly after the Fall of France. In April 1941, Germany invaded and conquered Yugoslavia in an operation lasting two weeks. Looking for a convenient puppet, Italy and Germany offered Michael the throne of an “independent” Montenegro. To his credit Michael refused, and was eventually sent to a concentration camp. After the war, Michael was invited by Tito to return to Yugoslavia, but stayed only a year before moving back to France.
Michael’s son, Nicholas, was born in 1944 in a German concentration camp. Raised and schooled in France, Prince in pretense Nicholas decided to visit Montenegro incognito in 1967. Upon visiting his family’s former palace:
When standing in queue in front of the Royal Palace of Cetinje, he remarks that students have a right to a reduction. He holds his ID card to the ticket woman who turns it over and over in her hands, changes colour, calls the curator, the director, and the guards. All turn the ID card over and over in their hands, change color and bow together before Nicolas who is astonished by such an amount of civility. “Your Royal Highness, you are not going to pay to enter your home!”
Nicholas was arrested shortly thereafter, and dispatched back to France.
Montenegro regained its independence through referendum in 2006, a campaign in which Nicholas actively participated on the pro-independence side. Although Nicholas does not currently live in Montenegro, he has not disavowed a claim to the throne. Prospects for a return to the throne remain uncertain, however. The current government does not appear to favor a restoration, although Nicholas seems to remain popular in his homeland.
Trivia: What deposed monarch ascended to the throne at the age of six months and surrendered it at the age of 18 months?