Thursday, May 29, 2014
The Italian King of Croatia
In April of 1941 the Axis forces of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy invaded and conquered the Serbian dominated Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Of the many minority nationalities who had been handed over to Serbia after the Allied victory in World War I none were so eager for liberation as the Croatians and they quickly set up the Independent State of Croatia under the leadership of the Ustashe party of Head Man Ante Pavelic. A new government was quickly established under Italian supervision as southern Europe was considered by the Axis to be within the sphere of the Kingdom of Italy and the new Roman Empire Benito Mussolini dreamed of creating around the Mediterranean. The following month Ante Pavelic went to the Quirinal Palace in Rome to meet with His Majesty Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy, Albania and Emperor of Ethiopia, to request that he appoint a member of the House of Savoy to be the king over the new Croatian State recently established. On May 18, 1941 the ceremony was held in which the Italian monarch named his cousin Prince Aimone as the new King over Croatia, which also included what is now Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The enemies of Tomislav II and Croatia also like to point out that the reigning monarch never actually set foot in Croatia, trying to make the case that his reign was never more than a matter of titles which he nor anyone else gave the slightest thought to. This is an argument that is a lot like rat poison; mostly good food but just enough strychnine to kill you. It is true that Tomislav II never resided in Croatia yet it was specifically because he took his job so seriously and was committed to being a truly Croatian monarch for his people and not simply an Axis puppet for Italy. Everything was set up for him to be given a formal Catholic coronation in Duvansko Polje in Bosnia but he refused to do so out of protest to the seizure of certain coastal areas of Dalmatia by Italy. He refused on the grounds of the sovereignty and national integrity of the country over which he was king! Tomislav II stated that this land was never going to be able to be fully integrated into Italy and by the Italian seizure of the territory it only served as an obstacle to better Italian and Croatian friendship. His refusal to enter the country was well thought out and based on a principled stand of putting his new country first, even before Italy.
Enemies of the Croatian King also like to say that Tomislav II was simply a powerless figurehead who had nothing to do with Croatian life, cared nothing about it and was only a symbol of the Ustashe regime of Ante Pavelic which held the real power in the country (and which has the worst reputation). An easy response to that allegation is simple: Well So What?! Was King George VI of the UK and the British Empire no less a real monarch because he reigned while a government ruled in his name? What other monarch in any European country at the time actually ruled his country personally in an absolutist manner during World War II? He reigned but did not rule and this was the accepted practice of all monarchs of his time and still is today. He was, like any monarch then or now, a symbol of Croatian unity and tradition and was never meant to be a political administrator. However, that does not mean he did nothing or took no interest in his country. In the areas for which the monarchy was responsible he was quite active. For instance, while King he granted 60 titles of nobility such as duke, marquis, count, viscount and baron for Croatia; something he certainly would not have done if he considered his position purely honorary and nothing more than an additional title. He had enough of those anyway as one year after becoming King his full title was extended to: His Majesty Tomislav II (or Zvonimir II) King of Croatia, Prince of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Voivode of Dalmatia, Tuzla and Temun, Duke of Aosta, Prince of Cisterna and of Belriguardo, Marquess of Voghera and Count of Ponderano.