This Chapter V of the book Suitors and Suppliants - the Little Nations at Versailles (published in 1946) by Stephen Bonsal is on Serb Land of Montenegro with courtesy of
Dr. Don Mabry. Entire book is available on Dr. Mabry's impressive web site Historical Text Archive
King Nicholas of Montenegro and Essad Pasha of Albania: The Black Mountain Folk vs. the Sons of the Eagle
December 4, 1918
Of the many suitors and suppliants who, awaiting their critical hour at the bar of the
Great Assizes, are gathered here, King Nicholas of Montenegro and Essad Pasha, who
represents many of the Albanian tribes and perhaps all who are Moslems, while not the most
important, are certainly the most picturesque. I visited both their mountain fastnesses
years ago, and today I find them sympathetic and extremely interesting. They are both men
of magnificent thews and sinews, and of the visiting monarchs of the West, only the
gallant King Albert of Belgium need not fear physical confrontation with their stately
They come as suppliants, it is true, but not on bended knee. In fact they are quite
stiff-kneed, and perhaps that is why I like them so much. (Here are so many who crawl and
creep around, falling on all fours whenever obsequiousness would seem to further their
plans.) I do not play favorites as between these stalwart champions, but I must admit that
my Colonel has frequently chided me for the strong preference I show for their company a
preference I have never sought to conceal because I know by unfailing signs that my chief
shares my sentiments and would like to see more of them.
Nicholas has maintained his sovereignty over the Black Mountain country and fought for
the Cross in the benighted Balkans for six decades, although from his fresh appearance and
upstanding figure you would never suspect that he had passed the half-century mark. He is
well aware that he is in danger of being deposed by enemies assembled here more versed in
intrigue than in open battle in which they were always worsted. Essad too, under the
Crescent, has taken a leading part in many of the long and pitiless campaigns that have
been waged by the discordant races and the militant churches of the dark peninsula. He now
aspires to lord it legally, quite legally he insists - that is according to the Law of the
Mountains - over that gaunt pile of rocks that juts out from the east coast of the
Adriatic, the aerie nest of the sturdy Albanians who have defended it against all invaders
and would-be conquerors back to the days of the Greeks and the Romans.
Unfortunately today the Neo-Roman Imperialists regard this rock-bound coast as
necessary to the security of their homeland and their budding empire. In any event they
claim it as at least a token reward for their services to the Allies (services not held in
high esteem here) during the World War. [See Chapter IV.]
More recently these champions of ancient feuds faced each other in mortal combat under
the battlements of Scutari. Nicholas conquered and Essad capitulated, but not to the Black
Mountain men, at least that is his claim. "I surrendered," says Essad, "to
the great ships of the comity of nations that most unjustly were allied against me, and
they were more numerous than the gulls of the Adriatic. To them and to them only I
surrendered, so that I might live to fight another day. And that will be a dark day for
Almost suffocated by the miasmas of intrigue that flourish so rankly in Paris, and
confronted by the false faces that are seen here in every quarter, I find it refreshing
and most cleansing to note the fierce hatred which blazes in the eyes of these champions
whenever the name of the other is mentioned. This is real primeval stuff! These men fight
and hate each other in the old style, much as did the Homeric heroes on the "ringing
plains of windy Troy."
All those in attendance at the conference, whether delegates or observers, who are
totally ignorant of Balkan conditions (and their name is legion), are talking continually
of a confederation as the unfailing panacea for the situation in the Balkan Peninsula
which has provoked so many wars and promises more in the immediate future. The economic
advantages of a confederation and a customs union are obvious to everybody except the
people immediately concerned, who seem to delight in little wars that have the unfortunate
habit of spreading to other regions and setting Europe in flame. If argument on the
subject could be maintained, the economist would only have to say the word Sarajevo.
Of course, there are many circumstances and cogent reasons which explain the warlike
proclivities of these unfortunate people, some of which unwisely I voiced not knowing what
they would lead to. I explained didactically, as one will who has spent some years in the
disturbed and disturbing regions, that Balkan is an old Turkish word which means mountains
or very high land. Then getting into my stride I explained that a great geographer of the
Gotha School had asserted that the turbulence of peoples corresponds to, and is in
proportion to, what he termed the "rugosity," of the lands in which they dwelt.
The people in flat lands are peaceful by nature, while those who dwell in regions that are
"wrinkled or corrugated" are inclined to fight at the drop of a hat. I described
at some length the failures of many movements for confederation and a better understanding
among the people of Southeastern Europe, some of which I had witnessed. These admirable
plans had always failed, although they had been eloquently and very ably advocated by men
who should have been accepted as leaders.
"In the war-racked peninsula," I continued, "we are confronted with
racial and cultural differences and above all by religious animosities and rivalries, and
as Bacon said long ago in his book on the vicissitudes that afflict humanity: 'The
greatest of these is the vicissitude of sects. The Bulgars still dream of the day of the
great Czar Simeon, the Serbs hark back to the spacious empire of Stephen Dushan, and the
Albanians are quite confident that the blueprints of Scanderbeg are not outmoded.
Unfortunately also the churches are not very helpful to the peace-talker, although, of
course, their intentions are of the best. The members of the Greek Church look to the
Patriarch in Stamboul, the Bulgars are beholden to their Exarch, while the Croats and the
Slovenes look to Rome for spiritual guidance; and this, as it filters through to the
mountain folk, is not always of a conciliatory character."
Unfortunately for me, my expert knowledge proved impressive, and well before I knew it
I was given the unwelcome task of bringing some of the fiery chieftains together and of
talking to them convincingly. Reluctantly I began with the chieftains of the two smallest
warlike tribes: King Nicholas of the Black Mountain folk and Essad Pasha, representing a
number of the eagle clans who have been squabbling for years over the possession of a few
barren foothills that lie between their respective territories.
As I had visited both these Balkan chiefs on their native crags, I was urged to bring
them as near as possible to the spirit of conciliation which it was thought should prevail
at the Conference. I lunched them and I dined them - separately. My dream was, of course,
to bring them together, to have them break bread at my table, drink plum brandy, and smoke
the pipe of peace. My talking point was the frequent reunions in our happy land of the
gallant men who wore the blue and the gray, who had fought each other for four long years
and yet were now meeting so frequently on the very fields where the bloody battles had
been lost and won. "After four years of fratricidal war, today they meet as brothers
should. Why not you?"
"But we have been fighting those godless Albanians for four hundred years,"
demurred Nicholas. "That makes a difference." Indeed it does.
Then I tackled Essad. "Break bread with Nicholas? or any of the Black Mountain
folk? Impossible that would be against the law of the mountains which we are all pledged
Essad had the dangerous gift of picturesque language and not seldom he gave it loose
rein. Lie had served as minister of war to the Prince of Wied during the short and hectic
sojourn of that German princeling in Albania.
[Prince William of Wied, cousin of the German Kaiser, was offered the crown of the
newly autonomous Albania by the Western Powers after the First Balkan War and the crisis
of 1913. Internal unrest and the outbreak of the World War forced him from his throne a
year later. At this time (1918) Albania was occupied mainly by the Italians, but also by
the French and the Yugoslavs. Its capital, Scutari, was under an interallied
"At the London Conference" , Essad related, "the machinery of the
new state was well set up, but the choice of the resident engineer was unfortunate. It
soon became evident that the real purpose of the Prince was to weaken our people so that
we might, without further resistance, drop into the lap of Austria and so cease blocking
the march of the Germans to the sea. Soon we drifted apart, our relations became much less
cordial, and I, though his minister of war, had to summon guards to protect my life
against the machinations of my sovereign.
"The Prince surrounded himself with Austrian engineers who had come ostensibly to
modernize the old palace on the coast where we, the members of the government, were
living. But they really came to 'remove Essad Pasha from the scene; of course, in such a
way that murder would not be suspected. This the Prince thought would be more easily
accomplished down on the coast far from the atmosphere of freedom on the hills which is
the birthright of my people. All day these alien intruders would be busy with their
ostensible occupation, but at night they would prowl about the palace, and I soon saw that
their sinister purpose was to learn where I and my wife were accustomed to sleep. When the
veil of friendship was cast aside and the Austrian fleet bombarded the palace, a shell,
which fortunately did not explode, landed in my official bedroom where, however, I was
most careful never to sleep."
Essad if possible was still more critical of the behavior of the Italians in the last
days of their first sojourn on the Albanian shore. [The Italians, et al., fled
before the Austro-Bulgarian seizure in 1916.] "I was out on the hills," he
related, "ostensibly shooting woodcock, but really I was getting in touch with my
mountain folk and seeking a plan by which we might escape the foul plottings of our
enemies. At home and abroad I told them: 'We Albanians number five million, all with
national consciousness, all hoping to retain our independence, yet we are given to tribal
warfare and family vendettas, and it would be wise to ask for a dual protectorate, say of
America and of England, until we have learned the difficult art of self-government and
also have acquired a taste for peace.
"This was my hope when suddenly the bombardment began and the Italian garrison in
Durazzo dropped their rifles and fell on their knees. 'Santa Madonna! Santa Madonna! they
implored, but as no help came from Heaven or elsewhere they ran away like hares, only
"There was a French colonel there heading the French Mission (Colardet), and I
said to him, 'Let me defend the bridge with my men and I can assure you the Austrians will
never get across!" But he said, 'No, I can better trust these battalions of rabbits
than your band of wolves.'
"You see, those Europeans were very unfriendly to one another, but most of all
they feared my gallant tribesmen. Then the cowardly Italians sneaked down to the port and
made for the boats; but before they went they had thought of their bellies and they cut
the throats of my two magnificent chargers which I had bought in England at a cost of
half-a-million francs. They were magnificent animals, completely war broken; and those
miserable rabbits took their noble carcasses along with them to serve as meat rations on
their ignominous flight."
December 5, 1918
At a lunch with him last week, to which he invited me in a formal manner, Essad honored
me with a commission that showed that he was broader-minded in religious matters than
many, including myself, had supposed. It was a strange repast. We were quite alone,
because, as he said, he had an important communication to make, one which if it prospered
would exert a benign influence upon the turbulent conditions that prevail in the Balkans.
Behind his chair and also behind mine stood heavily armed servingmen, their blue tunics
bulging out with pistols and their gorgeous belts bristling with yataghans. They stood to
guard us only, and the food was served by the Parisian waiters of the tourist hotel who
tried, not quite successfully, to ignore the strangeness of the scene in which they were
Now and again, vexed by a tough morsel on his plate, Essad would drop his ineffective
fork and, picking up the hunk with his fingers, would throw it disdainfully over his
shoulder. The servingman never failed to catch it in his mouth and seemed to enjoy his
share of the feast. The spectacle carried me back to experiences in Prisrend and Prishtina
and even in more civilized Usküb on the Vardar years ago.(1)
Then I too had in this manner thrown tidbits to my servingman; but today I was out of
practice, so when the repast was over I simply slipped a twenty-franc note to the guardian
behind my chair and he seemed to be perfectly satisfied. Evidently Paris had corrupted him
as it has so many others.
Over the coffee, which was brewed in the slow, deliberate Macedonian way, Essad
broached the subject that had evidently been on his mind for some time.
"An Albanian friend who has lived long in Boston brought me last week an item of
disquieting news," he began. "He says your honored President is an Elder of a
church which some consider, doubtless unfairly, as narrowly sectarian. Whether this be
true or false, this rumor has decided me to reveal what may be regarded as my religious
outlook. While my people are divided as to churches a division which the Tsar(2) in Stamboul, until I helped to dethrone him, and the
Emperor in Vienna always fostered you must have seen how very liberal and catholic my
people are when left to their own devices. You surely have noticed during your visits to
Albania that when our peasants prepare to sow their crops they not only ask the Moslem
mullah to bless their fields and their labors, but also the good will of the Christian
priest was asked and paid for by them if they could afford it. I think your President
should be advised of the situation in my land and of my personal attitude which, you can
assure him, I would never allow to become a barrier to the happiness of my people.
"To begin with, I want you to explain what happened in our country after Kossovo
 and the tragic battle that was fought there. The Turks with their green banners and
their horsetail standards overran our lands killing all who would not praise the one God
and his prophet Mahomet. We had always been Christians; in my family many had suffered
martyrdom, and my forbears would gladly have accepted the fate which the fortune of war
imposed if only their lives and their property had been at stake. But this was not the
case. The lives and the property of the Albanian people were in the balance, and my
ancestors did what I have always considered was the proper thing for them to do. They
bowed down before the green banners. They admitted the truth of the proverb, 'Where the
sword is there also is the Faith, and by so doing they saved their people and their land
from utter destruction."
In an aside Essad now drew a parallel which he thought was devastating to the forebears
of the hated Nicholas. "How stupid those Montenegrin bishops were," he
commented. "Instead of admitting that there are many roads to Heaven and that no
church has the exclusive control of the entrance gate, they fled to the mountains and took
refuge in the caves. They saved their faith, it is true, but they lost their civilization.
They sank to the lowest level of the human race. Even your Nicholas, who has been
presented at many courts, is under his gorgeous trappings but a boor."
And now came the definite proposition. "My fathers saved our people and we served
the Ottoman Turks faithfully until the moment came to overthrow their sultan, which we
gladly seized. Today if my religion, which was imposed or at least accepted only under
duress and to save our people, is an obstacle to our return to the Christian fold, I - we
- would all recant as did our forebears, and to save our people accept once again the
creed of long ago."
I told Essad I would not fail to advise Colonel House and other delegates of his
patriotic reasonableness, and I did so. But, doubtless wisely, our commission refused to
have anything to do with the Albanian settlement. Like so many other problems it is
allowed to drift along, and a deluge of blood will be the result.
[At this time, doubtless under instructions from Rome, Signor Nobile Chiesa, aviation
expert of the Italian delegation, made a terrific attack in the French and Italian papers
upon the stalwart Essad. He said that, while Essad was quite ignorant of any civilized
language, he was very familiar with all European currencies and would accept bribes in any
one of them. In the matter of language. at least, Chiesa is quite mistaken. Essad spoke a
baffling French although apparently he wrote it with distinction, but he had a good
knowledge of Italian, with which we eked out our conversation. Certainly it was not the lingua
Toscana, but his meaning was always unmistakable. How he hated the Italians and how
he loved to vilify them in their own language!
In his mountain tongue, though, Essad sums up with a song his feelings on this subject:
"What is it that sports feathers but is not a bird? That carries a rifle but is not a
soldier? That wears trousers but is not a man the Italian Bersagliere!"]
December 6, 1918
One of the dreams I cherished in the first hopeful days of the Conference (as mentioned
in a previous entry) was to bring Nicholas, the undoubted champion of Balkan Christendom,
and Essad, the Saladin of these modern crusades, together at my table; not, of course, at
the Crillon where we would be exposed to the Argus-eyed gaze of the press, but in some
remote restaurant, well out of the path of the conferees. The denouement of the plot was
to tip my Colonel off and have him drop in casually at the place of meeting in his rôle
of apostle of peace, and have him once again pronounce his familiar lines, so often
effective: "All men are brothers. There are but few points of friction between us,
and with but a little patience and good will, these can be ironed out."
However, the Colonel soon ruled out as unthinkable all thought of a formal meeting with
these champions of the Balkans. He said it was not permissible under the Protocol, but I
could see that he toyed with the idea of a chance or clandestine meeting.
Once he admitted: "I always get along best with mountain men. We seem to
understand each other right away. My anteroom is crowded with lowlanders talking about
dollars and cents, debts and trade privileges, and I confess they bore me. I envy you your
contacts with the highlanders. How I would enjoy sharing them with you! But of course it
is impossible. And you must not tempt me. From what you tell me I picture the hard-bitten
Nicholas as a John Sevier who with 'over-the-mountain men' walloped the Red Coats in the
Carolinas; and Essad I picture as a ringer for Big Foot Wallace of the Pecos country, who
would ride for a week in the tropical sun if only at the end of the journey there was a
chance of a gun battle. I should like to meet them, but, of course, it is impossible for
Clearly my Colonel was weakening.
Another reason why I was never able to pull off what might well have been a
confrontation of incalculable consequences io the Balkan situation was the increasing
reluctance of Essad to leave his comfortable quarters in a Champs Elysées tourist hotel
generally patronized by cosmopolitans. Adored and even idolized as he was by at least half
the Albanian tribesmen, the Pasha was cordially hated by many others. He went out as
little as possible, and when he did he was surrounded by heavily armed followers and he
himself carried with him quite a battery of Brownings.
[Despite these precautions, within a few months Essad Pasha was dead. In June, 1920,
the National Assembly, in which most of the Albanian clans were represented, recognized
the position of their delegate to the Conference in Paris and proclaimed him king. On the
thirteenth of that same month, as he was about to leave to be crowned in Tirana, he was
assassinated in front of the Hotel Continental in Paris by a certain Averni Rustam, a
fellow countryman whose clan had waged a blood feud with Essad's tribe for decades and who
could not tolerate Essad as his monarch.
In the person of his favorite nephew, Zog, however, Essad reached the uneasy throne of
the Albanian Eagles. In 1924 Zog became president of Albania and four years later, with a
Napoleonic gesture, crowned himself king in Tirana, the forty-fourth successor to
Scanderbeg, the legendary ruler of the Eagles.]
December 18, 1918
Today I feel that in all fairness I must put on record a more detailed account of my
relations with Nicholas, his Royal Highness, King of Montenegro, which has been long
withheld even from these confidential files. I must admit that these relations have not
escaped misrepresentation in some quarters. They go back twenty-five years, and perhaps a
few more, and I have for him such a deep admiration that when the problem which his future
presented to the Supreme War Council came up, I felt it was only right that I should
reveal to the Colonel, my chief, the ties of ancient friendship that bound us; and also to
confess that on this subject my judgment might be colored by the admiration I had long
felt for the "alone-standing, stalwart fighter" of the Balkans. This frank
confession earned me a compliment that I cherish. "That is just like you," said
the Colonel. "You have put your cards on the table. I shall of course be glad to
discuss with you the Montenegrin problem, but when it comes to a decision I shall have to
go it alone." And then the Colonel made the only ill-natured remark that I ever heard
fall from his lips. "You are different from X; whenever he tips away to lunch at the
Hotel Eduard VII where, as is well known, the Italians set a magnificent table, I feel in
my heart that the Yugoslavs will lose another island."
"I never broke bread with King Nicholas," I protested; but weakening under
the Colonel s scrutiny I confessed, "I had a few slivoviches with him, and once or
twice, after the heat of the day was over, we pledged our respective countries in
"That rules you out," decided the Colonel; "you must see that you cannot
sit as a member of the jury before which the King comes as a suppliant." As I was
excluded from the jury, I felt that I could go the limit as an advocate. "As a
passing stranger, I sat with the King as an assessor or coadjutor on his bed of justice in
Cetinje years ago, and what I saw justified me in maintaining that Nicholas is a great and
good man as well as a stalwart fighter. Yes, I sat with him and saw him, as did Ulysses of
old, 'deal unequal laws unto a savage race.' While it was certainly rough and ready
justice, strictly according to the Law of the Mountain, in only one instance can I recall
a verdict perhaps not in strict accordance with the evidence. The King did close an eye to
help an old soldier who had stood by his side in one of the many battles for the coveted
port of Scutari. A magnificent-looking fellow he was, who fed his flocks on the
mountaintops in summer, in the valleys in winter, and who was ready to fight the Turks, or
anyone else, whenever the signal fires on Lovcen blazed."
"In that I see no basis for your exclusion," said the Colonel. "We all
love the soldier, but I fear you are holding back the gravamen of the charge."
"Give me time," I stuttered. "It was this way. A lowlander, a villager,
a measly looking fellow who sat quite still in the days when brave men were arming, now
declared that this mountaineer soldier had herded into his flocks sheep and goats that did
not belong to him.
" 'Tis a lie an atrocious lie! answered the mountain man.' Had I been in want of
sheep or even goats, I had only to tell my Gospodar, my King, and he would have helped his
soldier in need.'
" 'True, true,' said the King, 'that is the course I would have pursued.'
"Then the King argued with the accusing villager. 'May you not be mistaken?' he
suggested. 'Wise indeed is the shepherd who knows his own sheep. And then, of course, if
they are there, your sheep may have forced their way into Perko's flock without the least
inducement from him.'
"The King now lit a fat cigarette and with a dark look at the villager announced,
amid applause from the many who had gathered under the great tree where the bed of justice
was held: 'The case is dismissed. I cannot convict an old soldier on evidence as flimsy as
'But my sheep! my goats! screamed the villager. 'My brand marks on them are perfectly
" 'Well! well! said the King, 'it may be so. Yet perhaps your goats forced their
way into Petko's flocks of their own volition. Bring me the evidence on this point set out
in writing by the Elders of the village this day fortnight when, God willing, I shall once
again dispense justice.' "
The Colonel grew thoughtful. He was evidently interested now in the monarch of the
Black Mountain. "I must meet King Nicholas. Clearly that is my duty," he mused.
December 28, 1918
It had been a long week of economic discussions and plans for reparations and plump
indemnities that were no more substantial than fairy tales, as the Colonel sorrowfully
admitted. I had plagued him so constantly that at last he consented to visit the King of
Montenegro, who had now moved into town from his suburban residence and was residing so
conveniently down the rue de Rivoli at the Meurice.
"Let s take a car," the Colonel suddenly agreed. "I am bursting with
impatience." Then a shadow of care swept over his face which, in anticipation of the
long-desired but often postponed meeting, had been so sunny. "But you don t think he
will ask for a loan?"
"Not a chance," I reply gaily. "All he asks for is a passport to return
to Lovcen - for the rest he will manage himself."
I must say that on this occasion, so important from every point of view, the King did
not demonstrate the subtle qualities for which he has been long famous throughout the Near
East. The moment after bidding us welcome and ordering Danilo, his heir (with a sturdy
frame but a decidedly weak face), to go for coffee and sweets, he danced over to a lacquer
cabinet and produced a number of ribbons and rosettes and crosses with yellow metal
attachments that glittered and may have been gold.
"You are my true friends, or you would not be visiting a dethroned king. I beg of
you to honor me and our friendship by wearing these tokens of my high esteem and my
admiration." With that he tried to attach what was, I believe, the highest class of
the Order of Danilo the Great upon the Colonel s coat, and upon me he thrust an order
almost as high. The Colonel drew back and we both, gracefully I trust, waved away the
temptation. We had by this time a regular form refusal for compromising gifts or
decorations of any kind.
"We cannot accept," said the Colonel, with a pained expression on his face
which did honor to his Thespian ability, "because our government is not in a position
to reciprocate with a corresponding honor." And then the Colonel went on: "But
for this barrier, the temptation to accept these signal honors from your Majesty s hand
would be irresistible, but even so, would it be wise? Would not our desire to serve you be
handicapped? Would it not be said that, after having been showered with the highest
honors, is it possible for these American gentlemen to maintain the judicial attitude they
should when Balkan questions come before the Conference?"
King Nicholas was not slow to see the force of this remark, and soon the decorations
were safely housed again in the lacquer cabinet. After a few sips of most excellent
coffee, the real business of the meeting got under way.
"My Colonel," began the King, "it distresses me that the fate of my land
and that of my line is causing you anxiety. Permit me to say it should not. Lend me but
for a few weeks your commandant here as a symbol of American sympathy; secure for me the
passports so long denied which will permit me to reach the frontier of my native land,
which your commandant knows and also loves, and the Montenegrin problem will vanish as
does the snow on Lovcen when the sirocco blows. I am an exile and a man under an unholy
ban, but once I cross the border the soldiers of my son-in-law and of my grandson would
flee and I I would not deign to pursue them."
Having settled in this summary manner the diplomatic and military features of the
problem, the King now took a lighter and a more personal view of the situation.
"Let your commandant go with me as your plenipotentiary and as the representative
of liberty-loving America. What a time we shall have," and the King in anticipation
roared with laughter. "We shall go shooting in the mountains, in my beloved
mountains; we will bring down chamois and mountain goats and bear and wolves, particularly
the wolves which have become a pest to our peasants because the Swabs(3)
who have overrun the low land are afraid to follow them to their lairs as we do."
Then turning to me and rather leaving the Colonel out of the shooting symposium, the King
went on: "I promise you a great big bag of jarebica, the most beautiful bird
that flies. It is larger than the partridge, has red legs and a red bill, and I can tell
you we shall have to climb the highest peaks to get a crack at him."
"But what about your mission of pacification? " this from the Colonel, who,
it seemed to me, was not a little nettled at being left out of the shooting party.
"That will be accomplished in a moment," said Nicholas. "When my people
hear the crack of our rifles on the mountain peaks they will rejoice, and down in the
valleys there will be peace and joydancing..."
A few minutes later a change came over the spirit of our host; the sturdy old king who
had survived sixty years of constant warfare fell into a reminiscent and indeed a somewhat
"Our national life which we preserved from our enemies is now threatened by our
friends. All the battles we fought are forgotten. It is little remembered that we served
as the bulwark of Christendom against the infidel Horde for centuries, and little help
came to us from the people we shielded; only Russia helped us, and she, being far away,
could help but little. By persistent fighting we recovered the lands that belonged to us
and we liberated our Serb brothers of the plains who had been overrun and submerged. We
did not rest until we secured our seaboard towns our windows on the world of the West,
where men were happier because we had protected them and we raised the cross once again
over Antovari and Dulcigno. The world then hailed us publicly as gallant fighters for the
true Faith, but they whispered that we were savages and that indeed few of us could read
"And in a narrow sense that was true; I admit it. The school of the Montenegrin
boy, and girl too, had been from the day the Horde arrived in Europe unrelenting mountain
warfare. We had no need to write down the story of our race that our boys and girls
imbibed with their mother's milk, and they sang it as they defended the mountain crags
that were at once our home and our refuge. Yes, we did become illiterate because we had to
fight day and night for our creed, our independence, our faith, our man - and our
womanhood. But before the Horde came, mine had been an enlightened people loving the ways
of peace. In those days Obod, today a battle-scarred village, was the Athens of
Southeastern Europe and from there the records of our faith and our civilization were
communicated m our tongue to the outside world still in darkness." (4)
Suddenly the old King sobbed aloud. "It is forgotten now," he said,
"even by our own people, but it is God's truth that those leaden types of Obod were
melted down to make bullets with which we stopped the enemies of our creed, and the
precious manuscripts which revealed the glories of our race were used as wadding for the
guns that saved Christendom. Had we not made those sacrifices, there might well have been
no printing in Western Europe today. It might have become there a lost art, as it has with
us; and the spoken language in the West might well have become Turkish. History reveals
that some nations have short memories, but today in our hour of need it seems incredible
that these services should be completely forgotten."
"That shall never be," said the Colonel, who was deeply moved. "In some
way which we do not see plainly at present Montenegro will be restored to her ancient
Back at the Crillon I slipped to the Colonel Tennyson s great sonnet and he read it and
read it again.
0! smallest among people, rough rock throne
Of Freedom, warriors beating back the swarm
Of Turkish Islam for five hundred years,
Great Tzernagora, never since thine own
Black ridges drew the clouds and broke the storm
Has breathed a mightier race of mountaineers.
"We must leave nothing undone to help these gallant people and their noble king.
If the Powers fail us, I shall ask Texas to take Montenegro under her wing,"
concluded the Colonel.
December 21, 1918
Today Andrew Radovich, the former prime minister of Montenegro and at present the
bitter enemy of King Nicholas, tracked me down to a restaurant in the Passage des Princes
where I often take refuge from my ethnic factors. He brought with him a young fellow
countryman just liberated from an internment camp through the intercession of King Alfonso
of Spain. This hard-bitten youngster is a nephew of King Nicholas queen and so by marriage
is related to the House of Savoy. The royalties are evidently standing by each other, and
unless I misread the signs of the times it is none too soon for them to be doing so.
Radovich had often delighted me with his stories of the Black Mountain boys who had
taken to the high hills and harassed the Austrians, but his obvious purpose today was to
convince me that King Nicholas had during the World War abandoned organized resistance
much too soon and that for all his stalwart appearance he is really a tricky fellow who
would bear watching. In the course of one of their disagreements, the King, according to
Radovich, had yanked him from the premiership and with shackles on his limbs had thrown
him into prison.
"The shameless fellow then visited me and with no idle purpose," said
Radovich dramatically. "He had tears in his eyes, and he added he would not be happy
as long as I was in chains and I well, I told him: 'Bishop-King, my arms and legs are in
chains but my soul goes free, as it never did in the days when I served you and tried to
follow your serpentine path. "
Apparently the Serbians when they rushed into the Black Mountain country liberated the
former premier and, as some maintain, sent him to Paris to make all the trouble he could
for King Nicholas. One of his talking points is to the effect that Montenegro could have
held back the Austro-German armies for years, as they had held back the Turkish horde for
centuries, but for the perfidy of the King.
"If we had only fought shoulder to shoulder with the Serbians, the Germans would
never have been able to pollute our soil or devastate our fields and villages. For fifty
years he kept the Serbs and our Black Mountain folk apart, and now you see the result: no
railroads, no communications, no modern weapons; only our stout hearts against modern
artillery, and, inevitably, the result was defeat." So runs the story of Radovich.
I turned from politics and listened to young Djourovitch, who had an interesting tale
to tell. He was a law student, and when the Austrian invasion came he went to the hills
where he was soon joined by many other fearless spirits. At least half of them, he said,
were Montenegrins from America who had worked in the mines and the lumber camps of our
Northwest until the tocsin sounded that brought them home.
"We were splendidly equipped," he maintained, "in very short order. We
drew our rations and our guns from the Austrian transport trains. Soon wandering Polaks
and Czechs joined us and we led a merry life. Often in Austrian uniforms we would descend
into the garrisoned villages and, with false information, send the invaders into the
mountains on wild-goose chases. Then we would kill the officers and men who remained
behind and we would also kill the very few of our countrymen who were so traitorous as to
do business with the invaders and make profits out of our misfortunes. Not many, but some
of the women had been so shameless as to consort with the Austrians; in one village we
found nine of these. These we marked for life, that is, we cut off their noses."
The young bloodhound was particularly bitter against Serbs; indeed, he thought well of
the Albanians who had harassed the retreat of the shattered Serbian forces on their march
to the sea. "The worst of it is," he continued, "the fact that many of them
[Serbs] are our blood brothers. Take the Mirdites, for instance, that infamous Albanian
clan; they are really Serbs or Bosniaks who flinched and fled to the highlands while we
held our ground against the Turks.
"When I return home I shall devote my life to exterminating these robbers and
murderers who disgrace the Serb blood that flows in their veins. They are men who will
kill their blood brothers for a pair of shoes."
I left the young barbarian with gloomy forebodings as to the nature of the peace we are
bringing to the Balkans. There the melting pot will boil over with gore before the hostile
tribesmen settle down again to the workaday world that awaits them if any of them survive.
January 6, 1919
King Nicholas has filed with the Secretary General of the Conference his protest
against the situation in Montenegro for which he holds, with some justification, the
Allied Powers responsible. It is but little toned down from the advance copy he gave me
some days ago. It is a sweeping indictment of the Serbian authorities and their armies
that surged into the Black Mountain country to replace the occupying Austrians during the
last days of October, 1918. He says that at least four thousand of his men and several
hundred women are now in prison and have been or are shortly to be brought before military
courts, "because they oppose the annexation of their country to Serbia." [King
Nicholas himself had bitterly opposed annexation with Serbia (his son-in-law, Peter, was
King of Serbia) during most of his reign (1860 - 1918).]
"All of these men are patriots," the King insists, "and at least eight
of them were ministers in my government when, without a moment's delay and without asking
for guarantees of any kind, we threw down the gage of battle to the Central Empires,
although we well knew that owing to our geographical position immediate help from the
Western Allies was impossible.
"Furthermore, among these men arbitrarily held under most uncivilized and
unsanitary conditions there are many priests and civilians who at great risk to their
lives and property opposed and greatly harassed the Austrian invaders. As a matter of
fact, to these gallant men and women the Serbian army of today owes its very existence.
These are the people who in 1915 saved the Serbian forces from annihilation or ignominious
captivity when, driven from their own territory by overpowering numbers, they undertook
the march over the mountains to the sea.
"The only charge that can be brought against these patriotic people is that they
have protested against the annexation of their homeland, secretly ordered by the Belgrade
government, and that they have opposed, sometimes with arms, the way in which the invaders
who claim to be 'blood brothers take possession of their villages, devastate
their fields, and steal their flocks. It is said that some of these bandits have been
murdered. This charge is true; my people admit it; but such acts are not reprehensible.
This is the attitude my gallant people have always maintained against those who sought to
despoil our country. Not a few of my people, with the recklessness characteristic of men
who have always been free and are determined to remain so, have refused to submit to this
treatment and many, very many have been shot down lightheartedly as though they were
rabbits when they attempted to escape from the wired concentration camps.
"Last month when the French government, speaking for the Allies and the Supreme
War Council, requested me not to return to my beloved country until conditions were more
stable, I acceded to this most unwelcome delay because the government of the republic gave
to me and to my people the most solemn assurance that the 'Allied troops would respect the
sovereignty of our state and the liberties of my children. 'Allied troops, as it developed
later, were only Serbian bandits and marauders. While at first these assurances were only
given verbally (to save time, I was told) they were formally confirmed by M. Pichon, the
French Minister of Foreign Affairs, in a letter dated November 4, and later, if possible
even more authoritatively, in a letter from His Excellency, M. Poincaré, the President of
the French Republic." The King then showed me both the letters, and they are
textually exactly as he has represented them to be.
"Despite these solemn promises," continued the King, "the Serbs, in the
name of and apparently with the authority of the Allies, continued to dragoon my people
and enforce their authority by what is called by some observers an 'Asiatic terror,
although we are bound to admit that the outrages of the Turks in the old days were
milk-and-water affairs in comparison to what we are now undergoing at the hands of our
January 22, 1919
My repeated arguments to the effect that the Serb, Pasitch,(5)
and the Belgrade government are ignoring Point II of the famous Fourteen [freedom of the
seas], and that the present actual invasion of the Black Mountain country by the Serbians
is even less defensible than the former onslaught of the Austro-German forces, at last
carried conviction, and when the matter was brought before him President Wilson took his
first affirmative action since his arrival in France. He approved of the memorandum 'which
I had drawn up, and what was more, he secured for it the approval of all the great men
assembled in the second session of the World Assizes. It declared that all the Serbian
troops, irregulars as well as regulars, who were overrunning Montenegro and dragooning its
people must be immediately withdrawn. If an army of occupation proved necessary to
maintain law and order and to prepare the country for the American panacea of a "free
and fair election," the troops of a neutral power should be substituted for the
To accompany this decision, I had drawn up for King Nicholas to sign an appeal to his
people which I was quite hopeful would aid in the pacification of the disturbed districts.
In it, the King called upon all loyal Montenegrins to refrain from hostilities and return
to their homes to avoid armed conflicts whatever the provocation; and it concluded with
his hope expressed in these words: "I am confident that in accordance with President
Wilson s noble program, now ratified by all the powers, the people of Montenegro will be
given a full and early opportunity to decide upon the form of government they may
I had great difficulty in inducing the King to sign this appeal, but as this was a part
and a most important part of the bargain, I had to insist upon it.
It is difficult to say exactly what happened to this manifesto of the Powers and the
appeal of the King that went with it. Both were radioed from the American, the British,
and other naval vessels that were patrolling the Adriatic, but the French and the Italian
ships, which were far more numerous in these waters than ours, showed little zeal in
bringing the news of the peace policy to the distracted country. Even the English,
apparently out of homage to Belgrade, showed little energy in passing on the good news. At
least this was the information that reached us through American naval channels. However,
some steps toward pacification were taken. Several brigades of Serbian troops were
withdrawn and the assembly at Podgoritza which had been upheld by Serbian bayonets and
which had declared the deposition of King Nicholas collapsed. The call of the King
addressed to his people to return to their homes and refrain from active hostilities
secured in some mysterious way a much wider circulation than did the assurance of the
Powers that the harassed mountaineers would be given an early opportunity to decide for
themselves what form of government they preferred and that was most unfortunate.
I am compelled to admit that my plan was not a great success and that, while crediting
me with the best possible motives, the King regretted he had followed my advice .A few
days later he told me (he was in "grape-vine" communication with his partisans
at home throughout the Conference) that many misleading versions of his appeal had been
placed in circulation and that by not a few it was considered a complete surrender and
even a suggestion that the people should make the best possible terms with Belgrade.
"And of course that was the very last thing I wanted them to do," protested
the King. "The very last thing I wanted them to do was to lay down their arms. I am a
fighter, they are fighters. I wanted them to fight for the freedom of the Black Mountain
to the last man."
March 12, 1919
Today I must note in my locked diary one of the most "hush-hush" of the many
graveyard secrets, to use the Colonel's expression, that it contains. Ten days ago King
Nicholas showed me the original of a cable which he received from President Wilson in the
summer of 1918. It appears that his agent in Washington at this time had approached the
White House with the request that recognition and encouragement be afforded the struggling
Black Mountain folk who, by their guerilla tactics, were harassing the Austrian forces of
occupation quite as effectively as have the Poles and the Czechs indeed all the oppressed
and overrun peoples in their respective territories. The cable apparently resulting from
this démarche is dated July 12, 1918, and on the face of it certainly confirms
the position which the President took in enunciating the eleventh of the Fourteen Points
[guaranteeing Balkan states free access to the sea], the world-wide Magna Charta of all
the at-present submerged peoples. The cable reads:
I am confident that neither you nor the noble people of Montenegro will allow
yourselves to be cast down by the present untoward situation but that on the contrary you
will have implicit confidence in the firm determination of the United States government
and people that in the final, certain and assured victory, the integrity and the rights of
Montenegro will be recognized and safeguarded.
Of course the cable may be a forgery; if it is, I am confident that the King is its
victim and not the perpetrator of it. My Colonel has of course tried to elucidate the
matter, but down to the present without success. In the files that the President brought
with him from Washington there is no copy of the cable, much less the original record, and
the King frankly admits that a confirmation of the cable by mail, as would have been the
usual practice, never reached him. President Wilson recalls an interview with the
Montenegrin envoy at about this time and also that he spoke encouraging words to him; but
he has no recollection of having sent the cable, although he is not willing to deny that
he sent it. This may be another instance of a typewriter near at hand and a dislike of
secretarial assistance having resulted in embarrassment for our chief magistrate. The
failure of a mail copy to authenticate the cable is not remarkable. At this time King
Nicholas had taken refuge in Italy, and mail to the Allies, owing to the activities of the
U-boats, was most uncertain and precarious.
The King is determined to show the cable to President Wilson and is insistently
demanding an opportunity to do so. And nothing could be more understandable. The Italians
are withdrawing the slender support they at first gave to the father of their Queen, and
unless help, indeed real assistance, comes from Wilson, the King s chance of returning to
his battle-scarred kingdom is slight indeed.
This change of policy in Rome is not an enigma to those who believe that the teachings
of Machiavelli are still honored and practiced at the Consulta. To them it is clear that
Italy wishes to further weaken the by-no-means harmonious confederation of the Serbs,
Croats, and Slovenes by the addition of the Montenegrins who, they are confident, will
soon be in chronic insurrection and so, indirectly at least, will aid Rome to control the
Adriatic sphere. This I believe is a correct assumption. I am confident that a great
majority of the Black Mountain people want to maintain their political independence of
Belgrade whatever the economic disadvantages may be, and that they are willing and eager
to fight for it.
March 24, 1919
My admiration for King Nicholas (which some denounce as blind partiality) has caused
many of the Serbs to make statements which in my judgment do not tally with the facts;
some indeed are laughable. This morning de Giulli and two of the other Belgrade
propagandists came into my room and announced that in examining the Holy Scriptures of St.
Cyril and St. Methodius they find that the deposition of Nicholas was therein decreed and
sanctioned by these good men centuries ago. Their attitude induces me to think that the
world is going mad and perhaps that I am getting "nutty" myself. They brought
with them a Bible in Old Slavonic and began to read from it.
"In these holy writings," they insisted, "we find authority and
justification for the course we are determined to pursue. Here is a sign and a portent
which must be heeded if our people are to be saved. The Armistice came into effect at the
eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Clearly that is not an accident;
it is an indication for our guidance, and following it what do we find? Listen, in the
eleventh verse of the eleventh chapter of the eleventh book of the Old Testament we find
these words: And because he was a bad king his kingdom shall be taken away from him
and he shall be despoiled.
For a moment I was tongue-tied, but soon I rallied. "You quote from a schismatic
bible," I answered, "and from a text which I cannot accept. If the Conference is
to be guided by the Scriptures, and as yet there is no agreement on that point, we shall
insist on the King James version." They left me very much disgruntled but announced
the coming visit of Ante Trumbitch, their leading delegate, with data greatly to the
disadvantage of King Nicholas - and much more up to date.
There are, of course, many stories in circulation very unfavorable to the course the
Black Mountain monarch has pursued in the years of confusion and tumult. They carry weight
with those who unlike myself have not been immersed in Balkan miasmas for years and are,
as I am, consequently inclined to disbelieve any story that comes from that quarter,
especially if it is plausible. Many of the lesser Belgrade people assert that Nicholas, so
far from having been, as I and many others claim he was, "an alone-standing, stalwart
fighter for freedom," from the very beginning of the World War was at pains to be on
friendly, indeed intriguing, terms with both camps. "And then he was always a
subsidized mercenary of the Tsar," they assert.
I confess this last blow below the belt robbed me of my diplomatic composure and I
answered it in a wholly unseemly manner. "Just as you are, no more and no less, the
mercenaries of Uncle Sam. He provides the money, the food, and the ammunition. And you?
You provide the secret treaties which make the world unsafe for democracy!"
After explosions such as this, we disarm and shake hands and try to talk sensibly. I
must say, however, that old Pasitch, knowing as he does better than anyone else how
vulnerable is his own record, lends little or no official countenance to these scandalous
stories. He bases his demand for the deposition of the King and the union of the two Serb
states upon higher ground. "Montenegro is too small and too poor to survive in this
troubled world. For the last three decades she only made both ends meet by the subsidies
which came from Russia." He then added: "I do not suggest there was anything
dishonoring in the acceptance of this assistance. Far from it. That money was earned by
the brave Black Mountain boys on many a bloody battlefield with the Turks. But today
Russia has vanished from the scene and the great White Tsar is no more. We must welcome
back into the Serbian fold our brave brothers of the Black Mountain"; so says
But to avoid the charge of partisanship, if that is possible, I must not entirely
ignore the other accusations against the King that are in circulation here, even if that
circulation is due, as it is almost entirely, to high-powered propaganda. You hear in many
quarters that the King quit fighting too soon and that before he sought refuge in Italy
under the wing of his daughter, the Queen, he was not as helpful as he might have been to
the Serbians, greatly harassed as they were by Albanian bandits on their desperate retreat
to the sea. Judgment on these and kindred matters, to be worthy of consideration, requires
intimate knowledge of conditions in this sector of the Balkans at this time, which few of
the King s critics possess.
It should be recalled that for years a party had existed in Old Serbia, a by-no-means
insignificant party, strongly in favor of the annexation of the Black Mountain
principality to the kingdom. While the plan was often sugar-coated under the slogan of
"union of all the Serbs," it always aimed at the deposition of the hard-fighting
Nicholas. The result of this agitation was unfortunate. The brotherly feeling that should
have existed between the two branches of the Serb family was seriously impaired. When
Belgrade was bombarded by the Austrians, and the politicians who had for years plotted his
downfall were in flight, I rather think that Nicholas accepted this with Christian
resignation. But it is quite certain that he never joined with the hired bands of the
Central Empire and the local Albanian bandits in harassing the heroic retreat of the Serbs
across the snow mountains to the sea. Indeed, he helped them all he could.
Those who are determined to place the more unfavorable construction upon the King's
activities throughout the war, and particularly during the darkest moments of it, exhibit
what purports to be a letter from the King to the Emperor Francis Joseph offering peace
and the assistance that Montenegro could still furnish, if he were assured the possession
of whatever Serbian lands might remain after Austria had appropriated what she might
consider necessary to safeguard her road to the Aegean. I never saw the original of this
letter (although I asked for it, it was never forthcoming), but how any Serbians, after
their quite recent experience with the Viennese forgery factory, as disclosed in the
Friedjung treason trial,(6) could credit its authenticity
for a moment passes my comprehension. And of course they did not; it was merely another
bit of mud with which they hoped to plaster the heroic figure of the man who stood and
still stands in the way of their selfish plans. Perhaps the letter should only be taken
into consideration as indicating the low level to which the war psychosis had reduced some
members of the Belgrade gang of character assassins.
It is, however, an awkward fact that throughout the war and down to his death in
October, 1918, Prince Mirko, the second son of the King, was in Vienna. Upon this fact the
accusation that King Nicholas maintained a footing in both camps is based. It is further
alleged that Mirko was authorized by his father to make proposals to the Central Powers
whenever a favorable moment presented, and that these proposals were far from being in
accord with the public pledges of the Montenegrin government. I took this charge up with
the King and, far from being offended at my frankness, he seemed to welcome the
opportunity to deny the accusation.
"My boy, Mirko," he said, "on the urgent advice of his doctor, took his
wife to Vienna for treatment in June, 1914, and unfortunately was there when war came. The
Austrians immediately placed them under guard, but I must say that at first and for many
months they were both treated with some consideration, and that fact is the foundation for
the story that they were on friendly terms with the enemies of our country and of the
Entente Powers. Of course the Austrians later, under threat of placing the unfortunate
young couple in a concentration camp, did try to make Mirko pronounce in favor of the
Austrian Balkan policy, but he remained steadfast. Toward the end of the war the attitude
of the authorities was much less considerate, and this circumstance, and the anxiety which
he suffered because of the health of his wife and the uncertain future of our country,
brought about his untimely end.
"But if my boy made any mistakes it was because he heeded my advice. I soon
established a secret channel of communication with him and I made it quite plain that his
duty now was above all else to survive. I urged him to listen to whatever propositions the
Ball-Platz would care to make to him, and this he did. In this way very valuable
information reached me, and through the Rome foreign office I passed it on to the Allies
who found it useful. I even told Mirko, and I am not ashamed of it, in the last analysis
to consent to any steps, to any change of attitude the Austrians might insist upon. 'Once
again in freedom you cannot be held to engagements you were forced to make while in
captivity but I am bound to say it never came to that, and it may be said that on the
whole my children were treated fairly well by the Austrians. Through Mirko they thought to
exert considerable influence upon me. But the death of my boy thwarted whatever hopes they
had in this direction."
[Full corroboration of this sad story came to me in 1935 in a surprising way. Under the
guidance of "Steve" Stevovich, a Montenegrin guide with headquarters in Ragusa,
I had the good fortune to make a number of motor-car excursions into the Balkan countries
with which I had been familiar in the slow-moving horseback and Paietan riding days.
"Steve" had not the most remote idea of my interest in King Nicholas, and I only
advised him of my friendship after he had told me the following story.
"I was and had been for four years, ever since my return from America," he
related, "the personal chauffeur of the King. In June, 1914, he summoned me and told
me that the wife of Prince Mirko was very ill and that I was to take them to Vienna. In
view of the condition of the roads in those days, I thought he wished me to drive them to
railhead, to Skoplje, or to Nisch at farthest. But no, he meant exactly what he said, and
when we got under way I saw the reason of his injunction. After suffering from a nervous
breakdown, Princess Mirko was out of her mind more than half the time, and travel on the
railway would have attracted public attention to her unhappy condition. More than once we
had to place the unfortunate lady in a strait jacket with which the doctor had provided us
before we left Cetinje. After five anxious days I delivered the unfortunate couple at the
sanitarium in the city that poor Mirko was not to leave alive, and I only got back into
Serbia the day war was declared." So the old King told the plain unvarnished truth
although with natural delicacy he held back some of the more distressing details of the
April 26, 1919
Slowly but irrevocably, I fear, the Montenegro problem has faded from the picture.
Sympathy for King Nicholas is frequently expressed, and in some quarters it is sincere;
but the consensus is that nothing can be done about it or for the sturdy King, out of tune
with the times.
After Wilson's illness early in April(7) - and how
serious it was we are only beginning to appreciate - the President naturally, indeed
inevitably, concentrated his energies upon main objectives: the Peace Treaty with Germany;
the acceptance of the League and the Covenant by all nations. Strangely enough the active,
the very active influence exerted against the little principality came from the officials
of the foreign office of the land whose Queen [Elena] is the daughter of the king they
seek to depose.
April 28, 1920
Through other channels, when Queen Elena became passive, King Nicholas, her father,
continued his efforts to obtain authorization to return to the Black Mountain country. His
requests were never definitely refused; he was always put off with the plea that he must
wait still a little while, until the situation had "cleared up." Months later
and still in exile, the sturdy Nicholas died, and although it was one of the Fourteen
Points nearest to President Wilson's heart, the restoration of Montenegro to its former
independent status was never achieved.
But it can be said, nevertheless, that the fate of the Petrovich family was more
fortunate than that of the Romanoffs, their constant allies and unfailing protectors.
Alexander, the grandson of King Nicholas, ascended the throne of what was planned to be
the federated monarchy of the Serbs, the Croats, and the Slovenes [Yugoslavia], while
Nicholas the Second, the son of the great White Tsar who had proclaimed the lord of the
Black Mountain as "his only loyal friend," was butchered in the dark
Ekaterinburg cellar to make a Communist holiday. And with him died the little Tsarevitch I
had first seen on that memorable day in Tsarskoe Selo (1907) when, with pomp and
circumstance and much barbaric splendor, he was proclaimed Grand Hetman of all the
Cossacks and heir to the empire extending from the Baltic to the Pacific. And with him
perished his sisters, the charming grand duchesses I had so admired as I saw them tenderly
nursing the wounded soldiers in the overflowing hospitals of St. Petersburg in that war
winter of 1916 when the dark shadows began to lengthen over what was then still called
And this is by no means a complete list of the misfortunes that have overtaken the
"anointed" of the Lord, who until quite recently by some were considered immune
from the changes and chances of fortune that beset lesser folk. Kaiser "Bill" is
an unwelcome refugee in misty Holland, and Emperor Karl vegetates in Lausanne. The Sultan
of Turkey, whatever his name may be (no one bothers to recall it today), is a lonely
sojourner on an Aegean island. And Ferdinand "the felon," as he is rightly
called, who, by cunning and duplicity, from an intruder in Roumelia worked his way up to
become the Tsar of all the Bulgars, haunts the antique shops of Weimar and Coburg bent on
completing his collection of ancient Greek coins. And speaking of coin, yesterday a
Hungarian magnate, whom I knew in happier days, came in and touched me for five dollars.
"What a world it is," he soliloquized; "Until 1868 we, the E's, frappéd
our own money."
When you call the roll of those who in the last few months have suffered the
"slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," the lot of Nicholas Petrovich is not
a particularly unhappy one; but this, I am compelled to admit, he would never concede.
When on my last visit, I talked to the King in this strain, he nodded his great lion-like
head, but his words showed that he did not acquiesce in my philosophy.
"I shall write no more notes of remonstrance to the powers who are unworthy to
receive them," he said, "but I will write and rewrite the songs of my people,
and these songs will hearten and sustain them until once again the light of freedom and of
liberty shines down upon them from the summit of Lovcen."
January 3, 1924
King Nicholas, still in exile, died on March 1, 1921. Even at the last, when life was
ebbing, he refused to abdicate in favor of his grandson, Alexander, and it was because of
this that he was not allowed to return to his beloved Lovcen. I understand, however, that
his ashes have now been interred in the soil which he loved and so gallantly defended.
1. See Albanian chapter in the author's Heyday in a Vanished
World (W. W. Norton, New York and London, 1937)
2. The Albanians and many of the Balkan peoples often, to the
confusion of the Westerling, referred to the Sultan as Tsar.
3. A term the Montenegrins and other South Slavs use when they wish
to speak disrespectfully of the Germans - and that is generally their wish.
4. The British Museum possessed, before the Blitz at least, a book
from the Obod Press printed in 1495 - the year after the discovery of America! And there
are said to be many other books bearing this imprint in the monasteries of Ryllo, but I
have never seen them.
5. Nikola Pasitch, called "the Old Fox of the Balkans,"
was a wily, violent, ex-radical who, after a youth spent in being condemned to death and
banished for his anti-royalist plots, served as premier of Serbia and its successor state,
Yugoslavia, 1906 -1926.
6. Dr. Heinrich Friedjung was a historian of some standing in
Austria who in the Viennese press published a series of articles charging a number of
Serbo-Croat politicians with treasonable practices. He was sued for libel by fifty-two of
these aggrieved statesmen. In the course of the trial it was proved that the unfortunate
historian had received most of the documents upon which the charges were based from the
Austrian Foreign Office and also that two thirds of them were bare-faced forgeries.
7. See Chapter VII of the same book, "The Conference Runs
into Heavy Weather."