The Royal Compound in Dedinje: Residence of the Royal Family Karadjordjevic
As a great lover of art and architecture, HM King Alexander I, with his private funds, built the Royal Complex, a jewel of the historical heritage of Serbia, it consists of two Palaces – the Royal Palace and the White Palace, which are different in style and concept, as well as the Royal Park – a masterpiece of landscape architecture.
The Royal Palace, as the most dominant building in the Royal Compound, has been the home of the Royal Family since 1929, when the construction was completed. The idea of building a new Royal House and moving it from the center of the city to a more peaceful and intimate environment came personally from King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, just before his wedding with the Romanian Princess Maria in 1922. For the location of his family’s private home, the King chose the highest hill of Dedinje, which is at the same time isolated, but also dominant in the wider view of Belgrade.
The Royal Palace unites elements of Serbian-Byzantine architecture, Balkan town houses and European aristocratic villas. The chief architect was Zivojin Nikolic, with substantial help of his colleagues – Nikolay Krasnov and Viktor Lukomski – emigrants from Russia who found a safe haven in Serbia after October Revolution, with great support of King Alexander I.
The Blue Salon reveals the qualities associated with the Baroque, and the Golden Salon, dining room, and library belong to the Renaissance tradition.
Being a great admirer of art and supporter of artists, King Alexander I caringly engaged in the creation of the Royal art collection, for which he, with his own funds, purchased artworks by both domestic authors and old foreign masters. Today, in the Royal Complex, one can see the works of Paja Jovanovic, Toma Rosandic, Ivan Mestrovic, Jovan Bijelic, Palma Vecchio (Jacopo Negretty (Holy Family with St. John, St. Catherine, and Donor)), Ivan Aivazovsky, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Antonio Canaletto, Nicolas Poussin (Venus and Adonis), Sébastien Bourdon, and many others. Self-portrait and Miloš Obilić stand out from Meštrović’s works in the Royal Palace, as well as the Sphinx (the original sphinx, which stood on the complex during the of the Kingdom, was moved to Bukovicka Banja Park, near Arandjelovac, after the Second World War, and a copy was placed at the Palace, made according to Meštrović’s casting).
The Royal chapel is dedicated to Apostle Saint Andrew the First Called, the Patron Saint of the Royal Family. The construction of the chapel began in the same year as the Royal Palace and is connected to it by a corridor with a colonnade, which provides visitors with a beautiful panoramic view of the northern, western and southern part of Belgrade, but also the nurtured rose gardens below the terrace. The Royal chapel was built on the model of the medieval King’s Church from the Studenica Monastery, the endowment of King Milutin, and the Church of St. Andrew on the Treska River in Macedonia, the memorial church of King Vukasin’s son. The Royal Chapel was painted by Russian masters, who had previously travelled through Serbia to get acquainted with the superb examples of our medieval fresco painting and used those frescoes as a model to paint some of the most famous and beautiful frescoes in the Royal chapel.
In front of the main entrance to the King’s Palace there is a beautiful view of the pavilion which was made as an architectural frame for the famous sculpture of Ivan Mestrovic “History of the Croats” which is in the center of the pavilion. It is a sculpture that the King, with his own personal funds, bought from Mestrovic and which, at that time, had an exceptional price. It was his contribution to the idea of one nation made from three, visualization of his desire to unite South Slavs into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenians. The pool located in front of this pavilion is not built as a swimming pool, but as a water mirror, to reflect the image of this object.
The road to the Royal Palace leads past the so-called Thatched House, which is modeled as the village houses of Topola, a place in Serbia where the founder of the dynasty – the Supreme Leader Karadjordje Petrovic – came from. It was the first object that was built on this Compound, from which King Alexander I personally supervised the construction works. After the construction of the Royal Palace was completed, this house was used by Queen Maria, who had her art studio in it for some time, while later, the Thatched House served as a classroom for the King’s three sons, Crown Prince Peter and Princes Tomislav and Andrej.
Most part of the large scaled Royal Park is covered by carefully designed parks units in English-style of landscape architecture, where trees, shrubs and flowers grow as much as possible resembling nature. The contrast to this concept is provided by flower beds, rose gardens and lawns that surround the courtyards, decorated in the French style, which is characterized by a strict, symmetrical shapes. The credit for this beautiful face of the Royal Complex goes to Rene Eduardo Andre, who, together with his father, oversaw the garden architecture of the famous Versailles Palace and some of the main city parks of Paris.
Unlike the Royal Palace, which is raised on the highest peak of the hill and is visible from the surroundings, the White Palace, which is in the southern part of the Royal Compound, is tucked in and well hidden from view. King Alexander I wanted to build it as a residence for his three sons, Crown Prince Peter (the future King Peter II), and Princes Tomislav and Andrej, and the official competition for the construction was announced in the spring of 1934. The Belgrade architect Aleksandar Djordjevic won the competition with his project in the neoclassical style. However, just two months after the construction of the White Palace began, King Alexander I was assassinated in Marseilles during an official visit to France on October 9th, 1934. Nevertheless, the construction continued and the White Palace was completed in 1937.
The White Palace amazes visitors with its simplicity, noble elegance, balance and symmetrical precision of design. Its interior walls are richly decorated with masterpieces of fine art of European decoration. From the entrance to the hall, through the central hall, the Palace dining room, the Golden Salon, all the way to the Small Salon and the library, visitors are introduced to pieces of furniture and other interior elements in the style of Louis XV and Louis XVI, and a Chippendale dining room.
The White Palace is also adorned with sculptures by Ivan Mestrovic (“Petar Petrovic Njegos“), as well as sculptures by Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux (The Enslaved Negress). “Portrait of King Alexander I Karadjordjevic” is a masterpiece by Paja Jovanovic (1932), the “Three Monks” were painted by Nicolas Poussin, and the “Canal in Venice” by Giovanni Antonio Canaletto.
Crown Prince Alexander permanently returned to his homeland, after almost 60 years of living in exile, on his birthday, July 17, 2001, together with his wife, Crown Princess Katherine and his three sons, Princes Peter, Philip and Alexander.
After the return to Serbia of Crown Prince Alexander and Princess Katherine, numerous humanitarian and cultural events were organized in the Palace Complex: Christmas and Easter receptions for children without parental care, the Serbian Medical Diaspora Conferences, receptions for the best high school students from Serbia and Republic of Srpska, and many artistic and cultural events.
One of the first decisions of Crown Prince Alexander after his return to his homeland was to open the Palace complex to the public and to enable visitors to enjoy in this jewel of Serbian history. Their Royal Highnesses try to greet every group of visitors who come to the tours, because they enjoy meeting people from all over the world, with whom they talk about Serbian culture, the beauty of Serbia and its wonderful people.
Many famous people from our country and abroad have visited the Royal Compound: Prince Charles, King Carl Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Grand Duke of Luxembourg, Prince Albert of Monaco, King Constantine and Queen Anne Marie of Greece, King Michael of Romania, King Simeon of Bulgaria, Patriarch Pavle, Patriarch Irinej, Patriarch Porfirije and many others.