The Time We Met a Real Live Princess

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My husband doesn’t get giddy very often, but that’s what he was when he talked about the tour of the Serbian Royal Palace he’d booked us into. Apparently, it’s just in recent months that the Royal Palace has been open for tours, and while Serbian language tours are conducted in large groups, we (Partner-in-Crime, Hushpuppy, my German friend V, and myself) were scheduled for a private tour, as there aren’t quite so many requests for English speaking tours. Partner-in-Crime is a bit of a history buff, and has a few distant family connections, so the chance to see this place for the first time was like candy for him.

The Serbian Royal family has a complicated history that I’m not going to try to explain here (mostly because I don’t entirely understand it, myself), but the main thing to know is that the current dynasty left Serbia at the onset at WWII and lived abroad for the next 50+ years; though – I like this story – the current Crown Prince Alexander was born in a hotel room in London that Winston Churchill declared Yugoslav territory, so he was technically born in Yugoslavia. Crown Prince Alexander and his wife Crown Princess Katherine came to Belgrade for the first time in 1991. There is currently a big dispute about returning the palaces and compound to the Royal family (their private property), as they were seized by the government in 1947.

Our tour guide, who works at the Palace, was a beautiful and bright young woman with an art history background. She told us we’d see the White Palace, the Royal Palace, and the Royal Chapel. Photography inside the buildings was not allowed, but the Royal Photographer (I know, right?) went along with us and took photos of us at our request.  Oh, and she mentioned that when we visited the Royal Palace, that Princess Katherine would try to say hello.

Uh, seriously?
First thought: “WHY didn’t I wash my hair for this?!?”

The palaces were, as you would expect, gorgeous and ornate. I won’t show you any of our indoor photos, as my husband will divorce me if I put his picture on the Internet, but pop over to the website for a look at some of the spectacle, particularly the wonderful art collection. No doubt, the best room in the palace is the basement. Our guide told us that the designers were both Russian, and were given full freedom on this space. The result is a lush, wildly ornate, mostly red and gold, Russian dream (really – here’s the Palace gallery, you should see it). And, I’d be remiss to mention the pool table right in the middle – the Prince has got to put his pool table somewhere!

In one of the beautiful main rooms, we were offered refreshments – water, juice, and chocolates especially made for the Palace. Hushpuppy loved this part of the tour, but was dismayed we’d only allow her one piece of chocolate (it was really good).

In the next room, as promised, we were asked to wait for Her Royal Highness. We were all a little agog. I was anxious about my toddler’s behaviour, but the staff all assured us that the Princess loves children.

A couple of minutes later, from an office, emerged the petite, gorgeous, and graceful Princess Katherine. She warmly greeted all of us, apologized that her husband (you know, the Prince) was travelling, and seemed to know a bit about us, at least where we were from. We tried to coax Hushpuppy into saying hello, but she was shy and turned away, getting more nervous the more we prompted her. The Princess, in true form of someone who actually does love and understand children, said to give her space, that she’d come around in her own time. And then, when Hushpuppy got a little squirmy, she assured us it was fine to put her down and let her wander, that the staff would keep an eye on her and, besides, she wasn’t tall enough to reach anything breakable (spoken like a mother!).

Hushpuppy, I should mention, kept a hawk’s eye on the chocolate plate next door the whole time. Princess-schmincess!

Princess Katherine must have spoken to us for 15 minutes, asking about us, and telling us about their foundations, as well as their problems with reclaiming the royal property from the government. She was particularly interested in sharing her work with children, as her foundation focuses on helping Serbian youth. She told us that they’d helped purchase equipment for the maternity hospitals because Serbia had, at one point, had one of the worst infant mortality rates in the world. She told us about an annual event where the student with the best grades at each school (600 in all) gets to come to the Palace with a parent or caregiver to receive special recognition. And, she talked about their work with orphans, recounting a story about their annual Easter egg hunt for Serbian orphans. One year, she told us, an 8 year old boy and 6 year old girl found each other – a brother and sister who had been separated by the war. Oh, my heart. I started crying. V started crying. The Princess started crying. (Hushpuppy just wanted more chocolate).

At one point, Hushpuppy was getting a little restless, and the Princess (in such regal fashion) gestured oh-so-gracefully to one of her staff members, who dashed off and returned with a small toy to occupy her. Here’s the beautiful Princess Katherine with my precious daughter (who I’m so happy I decided to put in a dress!). IMG_8457

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Princess Katherine said that sometimes children come to the Palace and ask where her crown is, if she really is a princess. She said that she tells them, “my crown is in my heart.” I do believe it is.

 

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11 thoughts on “The Time We Met a Real Live Princess

  1. Alexandra

    What an awesome experience! I was watching a show on TV just the other day and they showed the room Prince Alexander was born in and an interview with him – I really didn’t know anything about him before then. I hope your daughter is old enough that it will be a memory she’ll be able to keep with her for life – so cool!!

    1. Cristin Post author

      How funny that you just saw that. I didn’t know anything about them before this, either. It’s a pretty interesting story.

  2. Holly

    Wow, what an experience. That’s so lovely that she goes to such effort to greet visitors… and give gifts to children. Certainly a travel experience that will stay with you. Thank you for sharing.

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