Living like a king, Serbian heir finds flaws

Fri Oct 8, 2010 9:54am EDT
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By Adam Tanner

BELGRADE (Reuters Life!) - Showing visitors the extensive gardens at his 333-acre estate, Alexander Karadjordjevic gestures to a bed of flowers and comments on the burden of maintaining such large grounds.

"We've had to reduce the gardeners to six. These guys are really stretched out," said Karadjordjevic, son of Yugoslavia's last king and heir to the throne. "Tito had 40 -- but he lived like an emperor."

Serbia's monarchy ended during World War Two, after which Communist leader Josip Broz Tito took power, using the royal palaces in Belgrade to host dignitaries and receptions.

Crown Prince Alexander II, son of the late King Peter II who fled to Britain during the 1941 Nazi invasion, returned to live in the palace in 2001 after strongman Slobodan Milosevic fell.

The government still holds title to the royal Dedinje compound, including the six-bedroom 1920s Stari Dvor (Old Palace) where Karadjordjevic lives with his wife, and Beli Dvor (White Palace) used for receptions. Belgrade budgets a million euros a year for upkeep -- far too little, the prince says.

"It's a big responsibility to maintain a place like this," said Karadjordjevic, who wore a doubled-breasted suit and speaks far better English than Serbian. "You have a list of repairs. Number one is the roof. Number 50 is the swimming pool."

Among the areas that are well preserved are the movie theater, billiard room and other ornate basement rooms, ground floor dining room with a massive fireplace and long wooden table, and library stocked with thousands of books.

After World War Two, Communism ended monarchy across the Balkans, although Tito maintained a regal tradition of entertaining top international leaders there.   Continued...

<p>Crown Prince Alexander II Karadjordjevic, son of Yugoslavia's last king and heir to the throne, gestures as he stands in the royal palace during an interview with Reuters in Belgrade October 5, 2010. REUTERS/Marko Djurica</p>