The assassination of Austrian Heir Presumptive Archduke Franz
Ferdinand in Sarajevo by Serbian terrorists precipitated World War I.
Austria blamed the Kingdom of Serbia, which had effectively doubled in
size in the First and Second Balkan Wars of 1912. Austria’s ultimatum
to Serbia after the assassination cited the secret society Black Hand
for arming and training terrorists inside the Austrian dominions.
This shadowy group had infiltrated the government, army, cabinet,
and even the Serbian royal family headed by the aged King Peter I
Karageorgević and his son, Crown Prince Alexander. The group’s
nationalists dreamed of even greater expansion, hoping to annex Bosnia
and Herzegovina and to detach Croatia and Slovenia from the Austrian Empire.
Collectors know of the flood of medals that greeted the world war in
Austria, Germany and France. Serbia was one of the first nations
involved, but had neither mint nor private facilities for medal
manufacture. The only medals on Serb subjects that collectors were
likely to find in 1914 were struck by the private firm of Huguenin
Fréres in Le Locle, Switzerland.
These were commercial issues with portrait obverses and a common
stereotype reverse showing an exploding bomb with a trophy of arms and
banners on a blank field. One is a 40-millimeter bronze piece
inscribed S.A.R. LE PRINCE HERITIER ALEXANDRE, His Royal Highness
Crown Prince Alexander.
It portrays, as a full-facing uniformed bust and wearing a sheepskin
shako with tall plume, one of the only Serb leaders likely to be
recognized in Western Europe. Born in 1888 to the exiled Karageorgević
family, this prince lived in exile until 1903, returning to Serbia
after the brutal murder of King Alexander Obrenović. His older brother
Prince George renounced rights to the throne in 1909, in a murky
intrigue involving the Black Hand.
After terrible sufferings of the Serbian people and army in the war,
Serbia became the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes in December
1918, rechristened Yugoslavia in 1929. Alexander became king in 1921,
and was assassinated in Marseilles during a state visit to France in
The Huguenin series also included a 50-millimeter portrait medal of
Minister of War Petar Bojović, shown in full uniform with titles in
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