“Goethe in Weimar sleeps, and Greece,/Long since, saw Byron ‘s struggle cease.”*

*opening lines of “Memorial Verses April 1850”, by Matthew Arnold.

From: Rosebery – Statesman in Turmoil (2005), by Leo McKinstry:

“…Prince Alexander, despite being a nephew of the Tsar, proved himself a strong Bulgarian nationalist since coming to the throne, blighting hopes in St Petersburg that he would turn his country into a Russian vassal state. By 1885 Salisbury had come to regard him as a bulwark against Russian expansion in the Balkans.

Acting on the principle of continuity with Salisbury, Rosebery pursued the concept of Bulgarian unity. The great difficulty was that support for Prince Alexander also served to embolden other Balkan states to rise against Constantinople. Greece in particular mobilised on the Turkish border, seeking to gain from Turkey the territory she felt she had been unjustly denied by the Congress of Berlin. British Liberalism had always embodied a powerful Philhellenic strain, inspired by Lord Byron and upheld by Gladstone, but Rosebery, while sympathising with it to some extent, regarded any war between Greece and Turkey as disastrous because if Russia were to enter the fray on the side of Greece, there was a risk that the whole of the Balkans might be set ablaze. He feared moreover that the Greeks would be instantly obliterated by Turkey; about the only part of the rotting Ottoman Empire that still functioned efficiently was its barbarous army. If war occurred, he warned, ‘the Turks would be at Athens in four days, the King would be at Claridge’s hotel in a fortnight, and it would not be altogether a simple matter to get the Turks out of Athens again.’ “.

Owen Amos wrote on the BBC News website on 17 July 2016:

“It’s long been claimed that Winston Churchill temporarily gave a London hotel room to Yugoslavia so a prince could be born on Yugoslav territory. But finding evidence to support the story is hard, and perhaps impossible.

On 17 July 1945, the United Kingdom became a little smaller, and Yugoslavia a little bigger.

On the orders of Winston Churchill, suite 212 of Claridge’s Hotel in London became Yugoslav territory, for one day only.

This allowed Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia – part of the exiled royal family – to be born on home territory.

The front door became an international border. Room service was made in one country, and delivered in another.

The story of suite 212 is repeated on the Crown Prince’s website, in the official history of Claridge’s, and in countless books.

Just one problem. There is – it seems – no proof that it’s actually true…

…”There is no power of which I am aware for the prime minister, or anyone else, to designate any UK territory as even temporarily someone else’s – it would require an act of parliament,” says Dr Bob Morris, a constitutional expert at University College London, who spent almost 40 years as a civil servant at the Home Office.

“Somehow or other a romantic fiction took root with an overlay of imagined credibility based on Churchill’s reputation for impulsive generosity.”

What is certain is that the young Crown Prince received a Royal Yugoslav passport, rather than a British one.

But using it to travel – as Marshal Tito’s communists governed Yugoslavia – was “very difficult and eventually impossible”, according to Crown Prince Alexander’s office.

Having abolished the monarchy in late 1945, Tito’s government stripped the royal family of their Yugoslav citizenship on 8 March, 1947, confiscating their property in the same decree.

In Crown Prince Alexander’s teens, an 18th Century law was used to make him a British subject.

The Sophia Naturalization Act of 1705 was used to make Sophia – the granddaughter of James I, and the mother of George I – an Englishwoman.

It also allowed her descendants to become English subjects. One of them – her great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandson – is Crown Prince Alexander.

As a British citizen, the Crown Prince became an officer in the British Army, and later worked in finance in the United States. Meanwhile the fall of communism in Yugoslavia led to the Balkans Wars and the break-up of the country.

But after Slobodan Milosevic left office in 2000, the new government of Yugoslavia (by now consisting of only Serbia and Montenegro) reached out to the royal family and reinstated their Yugoslav citizenship. The ceremony took place on 12 March 2001, in – where else? – suite 212 of Claridge’s.

“I started my life as an emigre,” Crown Prince Alexander said at the time. “I’m very happy that as a family we can return home as citizens.”

Just over four months later, the family moved into the royal palace in Belgrade. The date was 17 July 2001.

Exactly 56 years after being born in London – in a hotel room that may, or may not, have been Yugoslav territory – Crown Prince Alexander was back in his homeland.”

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