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61

Wednesday, March 28th 2018, 3:38am

Berlin, Lehrter Stadtbahnhof, Saturday, 28 August 1948

As the Royal Train began to pull out of the city’s main railway station Nikola Karasec contemplated the conundrum facing him. King Petar was willing enough to do his duty to the dynasty and the nation but none of the noble ladies to whom he had been introduced since arriving in Berlin had struck his fancy; he had been polite, charming even, but nothing had sparked within him – and the king had refused outright to simply marry to begin an heir.

Thankfully, among all the conversation Karasec had carried on with his contacts in Germany he had met Michael Alexandrovich Romanov, more formally Grand Duke Michael Alexandrovich of Russia – the youngest brother of Nicholas II, the last emperor of all the Russias. The Grand Duke, in his seventies, had no children in his own right, but though him Karasec had obtained a letter of introduction to Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, his sister, who was then living in Denmark. Having married outside the Romanov clan Olga had settled there with her family at Ballerup, near Copenhagen, which was, so Grand Duke Michael had informed him, a favourite summer retreat of the extended, if exiled, Romanov family.

Karasec was confident that with the right approach, a meeting might be arranged. However, from what he knew of the younger Romanovs, their preference was to shun nobility. This would complicate all his plans, though he hoped (and prayed) that by some miracle the proper match might be made. For the moment, he gave thought to what he could arrange once the train reached Copenhagen.

62

Tuesday, April 3rd 2018, 8:57pm

Yugoslav News and Events, September 1948

Ballerup, Denmark, Wednesday, 1 September 1948

King Petar considered the situation in which he found himself enmeshed with a combination of distaste and fascination. The days after their arrival in Copenhagen on the previous Sunday had been filled with the expected rounds of official receptions and meetings – mere formalities in his own mind – but now he found himself in a limousine, venturing into the Danish countryside, all thanks to the intrigues of his prime minister.

“Your Majesty seems indifferent to this part of our journey?” It was his chief equerry, Adem Čejvan, who sat across from him, alongside Sven Lasta, page and bodyguard. When he had heard Karasec’s ideas for an informal visit to the home of Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna he had insisted that the visit be informal. Besides the driver, there was but the three of them.

Petar sighed. “Not indifferent, merely wondering what our hosts must be thinking; I suppose that our hosts could not refuse outright, but I am certain that Grand Duchess Olga will not appreciate us overstaying any welcome.”

They drove on, and at last came to the farmstead that was the home to the daughter of the Emperor Alexander III; the formalities of reception were carried out, though with little pomp and less ceremony. In effect, Petar was incognito for the visit, which helped to thaw its chilliness. As Karasec had no doubt hoped, several of the younger Romanovs were present, spending their summer vacations with their aunt.

There was Grigoriy Vasiliyev Smirnov, son of Grand Duchess Maria Nikolaevna; a subaltern in the French Foreign Legion, he had in tow two of his cousins, the young eighteen-year old Pavel Alexeiv and even younger Natasha Alexeva, children of the Tsarevitch Alexei Nikolaevich. He also was chaperoning the daughter of his aunt Olga Nikolaevna, the twenty-year old Xenia Petrova Baranova.

Upon their introduction Petar felt intrigued by her intelligent, bright blue eyes, and the clarity of her expression; here was no pampered princess but someone whose outlook seemed to match his own. He firmly kept his thoughts in check, as first impressions can often be mistaken – and their visit to Ballerup would last but a few hours. Nevertheless, by the end of it, Čejvan noted that the king’s mood had improved perceptibly, and he no longer begrudged the mission that he had been sent upon.

63

Friday, April 6th 2018, 3:39pm

Novosti News Service, Bar, Saturday, 4 September 1948

Today, in the Adriatic Shipyards here, the fifth and sixth small landing ships for the Royal Yugoslav Navy were launched. Following their recently completed sisters Demicka and Grabovicka, Landing Ships E and F are due to be completed sometime in November. They are to be followed by at least a further pair, with construction expected to commence in October.

64

Friday, April 13th 2018, 1:00am

Novosti News Service, Belgrade, Monday, 6 September 1948

Officials of the Ikarus Aircraft Factory invited members of the aeronautical press to inspect the new IK-7 Pegaz twin engine regional airliner, which is now entering production for Jugoslovenska Aero Transport and the Royal Yugoslav Air Force. It was explained that the demonstration aircraft will soon embark on a tour of potential customers in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Turkey, Syria, and the Lebanon, in the hopes of garnering export contracts.