BELGRADE The remains of the last king of Yugoslavia were repatriated to Serbia on Tuesday, four decades after he died in exile after fleeing to the West during World War Two.
Petar II Karadjordjevic, whose body was exhumed from a Serbian Orthodox cemetery in Libertyville, Illinois will be re-interred at a state funeral in May, along with other members of the royal family whose remains are also being repatriated.
Many Serbs cherish the Karadjordjevic dynasty as the creators of an independent Serbia following an uprising against Ottoman Turks in 1804 and for their opposition to the Austro-Hungarian empire, Germany and Turkey in World War One.
Petar II fled in April 1941 after the Nazis invaded what was then the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He spent the rest of his life in Britain and the United States, where he died in 1970 aged 47.
After the war, the entire Karadjordjevic dynasty was declared traitors by the communist government, which also abolished the monarchy and confiscated its property.
The Karadjordjevic family was finally allowed to return to Serbia in the mid-1990s, under late Serb strongman Slobodan Milosevic.
Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej and government officials escorted the coffin draped in the national flag from the airport to a chapel in Belgrade's royal court in the hilltop neighborhood of Dedinje.
"There he will lay in state and people will have an opportunity to pay their respects," said Oliver Antic, an advisor to Serbian president Tomislav Nikolic.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)