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Milan Obrenovic IV
Milan Obrenović IV was born in exile in Manasija (Marasesci, Wallachia) during a period of Karađorđević rule in Serbia which began in 1842 with the deposition of Milan's cousin prince Michael . The son of Miloš (1829-1861) and Maria Katarđi from Moldavia. Milan's father Miloš was the son of Jevrem , the brother of the famous prince Miloš Obrenović. Milan was therefore prince Miloš's grand-nephew. At an early age Milan lost both his parents. He was subsequently adopted by his cousin, prince Michael .
After the expulsion of the Karađorđevićes in 1858, Michael Obrenović returned to Serbia. Michael became ruling prince of Serbia in 1861, when his father, Milosh, died. During the reign of Michael, young Milan was educated at the Lycée Louis le Grand in Paris. There he displayed considerable precocity.
In 1868, when Milan was only fourteen years of age, Michael Obrenovich was assassinated. Milan succeeded Michael to the throne under a regency. In 1872, Milan was declared of age, and he took government into his own hands. He soon manifested great intellectual power, coupled with a passionate headstrong character. Eugene Schuyler, who saw him about this time, found him a very remarkable, singularly intelligent and well-informed young man.
Milan carefully balanced the Austrian and Russian parties in Serbia, with a judicious leaning towards Austria-Hungary. At the end of the Turkish War in 1878, Prince Milan was enabled to induce the Porte to acknowledge his independence.
King Milan I
In 1882, he was proclaimed King of Serbia.
Acting under Austrian influence, King Milan devoted all his energies to the improvement of the means of communication and the development of natural resources. However, the cost of this, unduly increased by reckless extravagance, led to disproportionately heavy taxation. This, coupled with increased military service, rendered King Milan and the Austrian party unpopular.
Milan's political troubles were further increased by the defeat of the Serbians in the war against Bulgaria (1885-1886). In September 1885, the union of Rumelia and Bulgaria caused widespread agitation in Serbia. Milan precipitately declared war upon his kinsman Prince Alexander on the November 15th. After a short but decisive campaign, the Serbians were utterly routed at the battles of Slivinska and Pirot. Milan's throne was only saved by the direct intervention of Austria-Hungary. Domestic difficulties now arose which rapidly assumed a political significance.
In October 1875, King Milan had married Natalie, the sixteen-year old daughter of Peter Ivanovich Ketchko. Ketchko, a Moldavian Boyar, was a colonel in the Russian army. His wife, Pulcheria, was by birth Princess Sturdza. A son, Alexander, was born in 1876, but the king and queen showed signs of friction. Milan was anything but a faithful husband. Queen Natalie was greatly influenced by Russian sympathies. In 1886, the couple, ill-assorted both personally and politically, separated.
Natalie withdrew from the kingdom, taking with her the ten-year old prince Alexander (the later King Alexander). While she was residing at Wiesbaden in 1888, King Milan succeeded in recovering the crown prince, whom he undertook to educate. In reply to the queen's remonstrances, Milan exerted considerable pressure upon the metropolitan, and procured a divorce, which was afterwards annulled as illegal. King Milan now seemed master of the situation.
On January 3rd, 1889, Milan promulgated a new constitution much more liberal than the existing one of 1869. Two months later (on March 6th), Milan suddenly abdicated in favour of his son. No satisfactory reason was assigned for this step. Milan settled in Paris as a private individual.
In February 1891, a Radical ministry was formed. Queen Natalie and the ex-metropolitan Michael returned to Belgrade, and Austrian influence began to give way to Russian. Fear of a revolution and of King Milan's return led to a compromise, by which in May 1891 the queen was expelled, and Milan was allowed a million francs from the civil list, on condition of not returning to Serbia during his son's minority.
In March 1892, Milan renounced all his rights and even his Serbian nationality. The situation altered, however, after the young King Alexander had effected his coup d'etat and taken government into his own hands, in April 1893. Serbian politics began to grow more complicated, and Russian intrigue was rife. In January 1894, Milan suddenly appeared in Belgrade, and his son gladly availed himself of his experience and advice.
On April 29th, a royal decree reinstated Milan and Natalie, who in the meantime had become ostensibly reconciled, in their position as members of the royal family. On May 21st, the constitution of 1869 was restored, and Milan continued to exercise considerable influence over his son. The queen, who had been residing chiefly at Biarritz, returned to Belgrade in May 1895, after four years of absence, and was greeted by the populace with great enthusiasm.
In 1897, Milan was appointed commander-in-chief of the Serbian army. In this capacity he did some of the best work of his life, and his success in improving the Serbian military system was very marked. His relations with the young king also remained good, and for a time it seemed as though all Russian intrigues were being checked. The good relations between father and son were interrupted, however, by the latter's marriage in July 1900. Milan violently opposed the match, and resigned his post as commander-in-chief. Alexander subsequently banished Milan from Serbia and threw himself into the arms of Russia. Milan retired to Vienna.
On February 11, 1901, Milan unexpectedly died. Milan was an able, though headstrong man. In considering Milan's relations with his young son, it must be remembered that in the dynastic and political conditions of contemporary Serbia, natural feeling in Milan was inevitably subordinate to other considerations.
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