Badass Ladies of History: Queen Draga of Serbia

Everyone knows the story of Marie Antoinette, the Queen who lost her head because of public uprising. But she is far from the only royal woman to suffer such a fate. Here is the far more obscure tale of Queen Draga.

Draga Lunjevica was born in 1861 to a wealthy and prominent Serbian family. Draga means “dear” in Serbian. She was married to a engineer named Svetozar MaÅ¡in at fifteen and widowed at eighteen. Draga served as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Natalia of Serbia. While working for Queen Natalia, Draga grew close to her son King Alexander. Rumor had it they met when she saved his life when he almost drowned in a fountain in the palace gardens.

Alexander had become King as a teenager when his father unexpectedly abdicated the throne for personal reasons. Alexander was guided by regents until he dismissed them and declared himself an adult at age seventeen. His father had sought the hand of a German or Austrian Princess for him to marry to secure the throne. But Alexander didn’t want to marry a Princess; he wanted Draga.

Draga was fifteen years his senior, had been married before, and though high ranking, was a commoner. Needless to say, she was unsuitable. It didn’t help that Draga’s family was known to be ambitious. She actually has a bit in common (in regards to background) with Elizabeth Woodville, another royal woman I’m researching for a post.

Draga was considered very intelligent. She spoke four languages, and was a member of the Serbian journalist society. She had edited and written for Serbian newspapers during her time as a lady-in-waiting. She was very well-read and interested in poetry.

Draga and Alexander were married in 1900. She was thirty-eight; he was twenty-three. The marriage was incredibly unpopular. There were protests and riots, and Draga was widely seen as unsuitable to be Queen. The Serbian people had also been hoping for a foreign marriage to a member of a royal dynasty. Alexander’s mother disapproved and refused to accept that there had been a marriage at all. Alexander had her banished for it. The public outcry was soothed slightly when Czar Nicholas II of Russia sent the couple congratulations, indicating he approved of the marriage.

Though rumors of a pregnancy were widespread, Draga was privately known to be infertile. Because of her family’s aspirations in place of a child of her own, Draga tried to have her younger brother named heir to the throne. Naturally, this was incredibly unpopular and the idea of a member of Draga’s family sitting on the throne made the people furious.

Alexander was also unpopular because he had disbanded the Serbian constitution twice and replaced it with whatever he wanted. Many of Alexander’s problems were blamed on Draga; popular opinion had him as a weak and delusional young man being controlled by an evil temptress. Draga was terrified her enemies would poison her and had all of her food tasted.

Draga and Alexander’s marriage began having problems only a year into it. His mother and other relatives were pressuring him to divorce Draga and marry someone more suitable. For her part, Draga thought Alexander was being corrupted by power and cared only for himself. But their marriage survived, partly out of Alexander’s problems with his parents’ separation when he was a child. Rumors were spread that Draga was trying to get her sister to have a baby and pass it off as her own. There was also a story that she had killed her first husband.

Things came to a head in March, 1903. There was widespread rioting around royal residences, and a growing anti-monarchist movement throughout Serbia. Draga and Alexander became increasingly paranoid as they found many of their friends and supporters abandoning them.

On June 10, 1903, Draga and Alexander dined with courtiers and members of Draga’s family at the Old Palace in Belgrade. That night, a riot formed and the crowd was lead by military leaders to the palace.

Draga and Alexander heard the crowd approaching and, terrified, hid in a cupboard in Draga’s bedroom. Draga’s sisters and most of the court were murdered as the mob stormed the palace. Draga and Alexander hid all night holding each other and trying to keep themselves quiet.

They were found in the early hours of the morning and murdered. First they were shot at, and then they were stabbed and mutilated. Their bodies were thrown out the windows onto a pile of manure, and much of the palace was looted.

A Royal Tragedy: Being The Story Of The Assassination Of King Alexander And Queen Draga Of Servia (1906)

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