Saturday, April 12, 2014

History Episode: The Wiesbaden Custody Case

It's a story which won't be told much around Wiesbaden because it reflects on some negative events.

Once upon a time.....the King of Serbia fell in love with some lusty gal, and got married.  Then, after having a kid....relations went sour.

The best we can that the King....Milan...of Serbia and his queenly wife....Natalija....ended up in a divorce hearing of sorts on the sixth of April of 1887.  Call it the start of a very messy divorce

We can skip all of the negative talk about affairs, other women, or bad nature.  What matter is this discussion of the divorce hearing....where the queen simply says that she's had enough in Serbia and wants to entertain leaving there....with her son.  Naturally, the kid is the future king of Serbia, and there's some inside frustrations about allowing this to happen.

Eventually, there is some agreement that because Wiesbaden is such an international city.....blessed with a Russian Orthodox Church (since 1850s), that it just plain makes sense to hide the divorced wife and the son there in plain view.  Being a casino and spa resort....probably helped too.

No one talks of money involved, but you have to imagine thousands sent each month to ensure the status and survival of the prince and the divorced queen.

By early summer of 1888 (a year into the divorce talk).....Queen Natalija had chosen a prime real estate location in Wiesbaden.....Villa Clementine.  It's a major five-star house down on the main street of Wiesbaden.

Back and forth....talks went over the status of the the divorce would be finalized, etc.

Over the course of three weeks.....communications went back and forth between the two at a hectic rate.  Yeah, the mother was holding the crown prince as part of the deal, and figured that was worth a bargaining chip in the whole matter.

Well....things went sour around the 20th of the June, 1888.

The Serbian Minister of War sent a message to prepare a train car for the prince's return to Serbia.  Somewhere in this mix of message traffic.....word went to the chief of Wiesbaden city government to prepare for this "return" to occur.

Naturally, you can imagine the mess about to occur.

Around the evening of the 13 July 1888, the chief of police for Wiesbaden came to Villa Clementine.  It was a stressful hour of discussion, I would imagine.  Basically, he laid the events about to occur, how the queen would best cooperate, and how this end peacefully.

The next morning....the Wiesbaden police chief returned with fourteen men, and took possession of the crown prince....returning him to Serbia.

The twelve-year old prince?'s an interesting twist on things.  He would arrive back in Serbia, and within roughly twelve months....the king had to abdicate.  The crown prince?  He became this tool with three regents over him, of which the former queen was allowed back into the circle of power.  History will record the crown prince (Alexander).....would eventually marry, have a testy and negative relationship with his mother, and she'd eventually end up as a nun in Paris.  Yeah, it's the stuff that legends are made of.

The villa in Wiesbaden?  Its still there....on Wilhelm Strasse.  In a curious footnote, there was this massive plan in 1965 to build a subway in Wiesbaden.  The main station was to be where the villa stood, and the villa would have been torn make way for the subway station.    All of this possible....because the city acquired the villa as city property in 1960.

By the early 1970s....this whole subway idea had fallen apart.  The villa? turned into a city-run a house of literature, and the center for Wiesbaden journalism.  How many locals know the connection of the villa to the Queen of Serbia and the biggest child custody case in German history?  Likely less than a dozen I would imagine.

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