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King Nikola I of Montenegro

Posted January 10th, 2016 at 04:28 AM by BadWolf
Updated September 30th, 2017 at 12:47 AM by BadWolf

King Nicholas I of Montenegro


King Nicholas I (Kralj Nikola I in Serbian) comes from most famous and well known Montenegrin dynasty, Petrovic - Njegos. His predecessor Prince Danilo I was assassinated in the year 1860, moth Avgust, his assassin was member of Bjelopavlici tribe. As Danilo had no children, role of successor fell upon young Nicholas, his nephew.
Childhood / Early Life:
Nicholas was born in small village near capital, called Njegusi on 7. October 1841. His father was Mirko Petrovic - Njegos, famous soldier and leader during rule of Prince Danilo I, commander during the battle of Grahovo where Montenegro won its independence from Ottoman Empire. From early age he was sent to Triest in order to be well educated. After growing older he moved to Paris, during this period he became involved in two groups, firstly in "United Serbia Youth" as a member, after this organization was banned he gather his friends from Cetinje and created group of his own - "Association for Serb Unification and Liberation". During his time of Paris, Nicholas, showed his talent in leadership and poetry. Death of Prince Danilo I took everyone by surprise, Nicholas was still in Paris and his succession was at certain points in danger as some clans were against someone educated in the West. His reactions were fast and people gathered around him, crowning him as second Prince of Montenegro on Avgust 13. 1860. In November of the same year he married daughter of voivoda (vojvoda was also a military rank in Montenegro, not just land lord) Petar Vukotic, Milena. Together they had six daughters and three sons, naming his first born son and Crown - Prince of Montenegro, Danilo, after his nephew.

Early Rule:
As his ancestors, Nicholas saw Montenegro as never conquered Serbian land, a place where new Serbian Empire will begin, with him dynasty as the ruling one. Once his rule was safe a letter came from Belgrade, carried by non other than Vuk Stefanovic Karadzic, creator of mondern Serbian language. Prince Milan of Serbia was offering his help in fighting Ottoman Empire, defensive agreement. During turmoil in Bosnia, Nicholas never hid his support for the rebels, led by his ambition and spirit he declared war on Ottoman Empire in 1862, putting liberation of Herzegovina (part of Bosnia on Montenegrin border) as his wargoal. Great Powers showeed him no support and Montenegro was easily pushed back and crushed, even capital, Cetinje was in danger, only Russian and French support in the last moment managed to halt Ottoman progress. Situation made Nicholas even more passionate about creating Second Serbian Empire, forcing him to accept political part of leadership, never again will he support a rebelion in such an open way, or declare a war without detailed preparations. On 23. September of 1866 Serbia and Montenegro once more made an agreement against Ottoman Empire, goal was support for Serb led rebelions in Ottoman borders, this document had even greater part, once the time was right, Montenegro and Serbia were supposed to unite but it never happened as Obrenovic dynasty was later on removed from power. In 1867 Nicholas made his first bigger poetic steps, writing anthem for his country called "There, there! (Onamo, 'namo)", after Great Powers heard the lyrics they decidet not to allow it, as it spoke about Serbian people returning to Kosovo and other lost lands (now in Ottoman territory), this moment showed how Nicholas grew as a politican, he evaded this restriction by declearing "There, there!" as "anthem of the people". Next few years were spent in traveling and gathering support for his future wars, in 1867. Nicholas traveled to Paris once more, visiting Emperor Napoleon III, year after he went to Russia, meeting with Emperor Alexander II, improving already existing alliance between two countries. Once he returned to Cetinje, young prince started making changes his nephew Danilo started, starting with military, administration and education, opening school and courts, developing first planned city, Danilovgrad ( City of Danilo).

War Against Ottoman Empire:
In 1876. Montenegro once more declared war on Ottoman Empire, for "Unification and Liberation of Serbs", part of his speech states: "Guided by God, call of my own and of small, but free and brave Montenegro, guided by brotherly love towards you and with a dream of united and liberated Serbian nation... I came into Herzegovina to cut chains of slavery". Few swifts victories, most famous one being Battle of Vuciji Do, earned Montenegro great advantages, territory was increased three times, population two times, this was cut down only by intervention of bigger players. In the end size of his country was two times bigger than before the war. Capture of Bar and Ulcinj led Montenegro to its first ports and sea access. Nicholas famously said during his speech before capturing Bar: "Follow me Montenegrins - on to Bar, on to our Serb Bar, on to Serb sea!". Austria was loudest power to speak against latest expansion, limiting city of Bar to only few trading ships and no war ships, in order to build roads or expands port Austria permit was needed. Worst of all Austria occupied all of Bosnia, destroying ambition and goal Nicholas had from early on, addition of Herzegovina to his country. This made him look East, to Ottoman Empire. In 1879. Nicholas dissolved Senate and created Great Court, State Council and Minister Council. Country was divided into 12. regions, those were further divided into smaller administrative units. In 1888. first Property Law was made and Montenegro became open to foreign investments, coming mostly from Italy. Prince brough people from all over the Europe in order to improve culture among his citizens, being a poet gave him advantage. Army was greatly improved during his rule, it was finally armed to modern standards, also gaining clothing and uniforms, Russian financial support payed for this.

Period of Peace:
By marrying his daughters Nicholas gained a lot of allies, two daughters presented Montenegro on Russian court, one was Queen of Italy. Once Milan Obrenovic declered himself King of Serbia, and his country a kingdom, relations between the two became cold, Nicholas even married one of his daughters to rival dynasy of Obrenovic, Karadjordjevic. He used turmoil in Serbia to present himself as true representative of Serbian people. During this period he visited United Kingdom and Queen Victoria, increasing his personal and prestige of Montenegro greatly. On December 6. 1905. Nicholas created first constitution of Montenegro, this document was used only for show as prince still kept power in his hands, once again playing political game of pleasing Great Powers.

Balkan Wars:
On October 6. 1908. Austro - Hungarian Empire officially annexed Bosnia, this situation made relations between Viena and Cetinje tense but Nicholas smartly avoided conflict and used this situation to further push his role as leader of South Slavs, declering Montenegro and Serbia as "First son of the Same Family". Serdar (title, land owner and military leader) Janko Vukotic, nephew of prince himself, was sent on important mission to Belgrade in order to create an agreement with Serbia, some time after it was found out that Janko did this so well, that the document was a strong bond that would involve both countries in a war, no matter what starts it, being a defensive - offensive agreement against any potential enemy. On 28. Avgust 1908. Montenegro became a Kingdom, making Nicholas first King of Montenegro, one step closer to future he wished for, an empire to streach over long lost lands of Serbian Emperor Dusan the Mighty. Part of the speech from ceremony, King Nicholas I: "...Declaring this to my dear people, I call for God to bless our land and our deeds, so all of this leads to happiness, glory and greatness of Montenegro!". In 1912. Montenegro entered Balkan League, alliance against Ottoman Empire, being smallest member of the league, but first to declare war against the empire, again using his political knowladge, Nicholas presented this as sturgle of his small country, others joined the war after some time, using "helping our Slav borthers" as a cause for involvment. Serdar Janko Vukotic swiftly took Sandzak and proceeded deeper into Kosovo, joining Serbian army. King Nicholas and Crown - Prince Danilo led armies to Skadar, Northern Albania, conquering teritory around the town itself, this town played an important role in future plans, as it was a capital of Zeta at certain points, 10.000 soldiers died capturing it. In the end Austro - Hungarian Empire once again used its power and threatened Montenegro and Serbia, pushing them out of Albania and taking all of their gains, this situation was first greater blow to Nicholas and his rule. In Second Balkan War Montenegro once again played important role, sending its army to Serbia in order to help against invading Bulgarian troops, Montenegro was not threatened by Bulgaria in any way, but agreement Janko Vukotic made was as strong as ever, wish for union was at its peek at this point, as two countries bordered each other.

World War I:
Once The Great War broke out Austro - Hungarian Empire had no goal of taking any Montenegrin teritory but King Nicholas I stayed loyal to his allie from Belgrade, being the first one to offer help and declare war on Viena, joing Serbian plans for defense of both countries. Part of his proclamation calling Montenegrins to war:

"...if you are heroes, take up arms! If you are heroes, follow in steps of Two Old Serbian Kings - to die and spill our blood for unity and golden freedom!

God is on our side, justice is on our side. We wanted piece, they wanted war. Take it as you always did, take it as Serbs and as heroes. Blessing of your Old King will follow you in every battle.

Long live my dear Montenegrins!
Long live our dear Serbdom!"
Montenegrin and Serbian forces had same plan of operations and same Chief of Staff. Together they made an offensive into Bosnia, stopping in front of Sarajevo. When declaration about further Union was made in Nis, King Nikola wanted to join, but he had a condition, special status of Montenegro in that joined country, similar to Bavaria in Germany. When discussing this with Pasic, King said that Union can be achieved, but only after his death and if Petrovic dynasty will be an equal of Karadjordjevic dynasty. At the same time as Austrian-German-Bulgarian invasion of Serbia happened, Austria invaded Montenegro. At this point influence of King Nikola was downgraded as most people in the country wanted Union and to keep fighting. Serdar Janko Vukotic went to defend Serbian retreat, instead of protecting Lovcen or Cetinje. King was advised to to same as Serbian government, leave the country with what is left of his army at his back, but he refused and tried to negotiate seperate peace with Austria, this destroyed his reputation. Serdar Janko Vukotic was advising King Nicholas for a long time, to retreat with Serbs into Albania while they still have chance, but King didn't listen and Austrians conquered Podgorica, cutting possibility of retreat. On 19. January 1916. King left the country, military capitulated on 25. January, with Serdar Janko Vukotic signing the document. King left for Italy and then France, where he made his "base". He still officially presented Montenegro, but unlike Serbia, he had no army. Most of his time in France was spent on trying to create support for his goals, but with every passing day it was harder and harder to do so, as big majority of Montenegrins, in and out of the country supported Union with Serbia. Until the end of the war relations between Montenegro (official government) and Serbian government were worse and worse, with lies about high treason being thrown. King Nikola was losing more and more of his allies with every year, in the end only Italy was left as his supporter, even France supported Union. War was coming to an end and Serbia entered Montenegro, together with France and United Kingdom. Elections were held and union with Serbia won in all regions except Cetinje (where list for Union of other kind won). Italy tried capturing Cetinje and re-establishing Montenegro, they invaded Bay of Kotor but retreated in fear of war with Serbia and under pressure from United Kingdom and France. On 26. November 1918 in Podgorica, throne was taken from Petrovic - Njegos dynasty and King Nikola couldn't return to Montenegro. On the same day, Union with Serbia was made official. On Christmas of 1919, with Italian support rebellion led by Kings supporters was sparked, but Great Powers didn't support it and Serbian army soon destroyed them, with many figures being pardoned.

King Nikola died in 1921 and was buried in Russian church of Sanremo. In 1989 remains were moved back to Montenegro and were buried in Cetinje, with highest honors.
Nikola I, gospodar i pjesnik (2010).
Dva Petrovica - Njegosa, Danilo Petrovic i Nikola Petrovic (1896).
Kralj Nikola kao pjesnik (1910).
Kralj Nikola - Licnost (1998).
Politicki odnosi Srbije i Crne Gore (1977).
Posted in General History
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  1. Old Comment
    Kotromanic's Avatar
    Very thorough work, BW, and your point of view on the 1918 dissolution of the monarchy is helpful. Very little is available in English about the identity of the 'greens' in that showdown.

    Hopefully it won't be too many more years before I have the chance to see Crna Gora.
    Posted May 3rd, 2016 at 04:10 AM by Kotromanic Kotromanic is online now
  2. Old Comment
    Thank you for the information about King Nikola. I am currently helping my father write a book about his time growing up in Crna Gora many years ago. Even though he was not alive during the reign of the King, his father and grandfather told him stories about the monarchy. We have a small chapter on King Nikola in the book and I found there were informational inconsistencies regarding his life on other websites such as Wikipedia. However, your research seems much more accurate and concise.
    Posted June 5th, 2018 at 12:44 PM by Crmnica Crmnica is offline

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