Apologies if I scared you with the revelation of my grandfather’s mother who I don’t disparage for being an inadequate mother, at least she knew her limitations. Not all women are maternal, meanwhile they are vilified for lacking it. Fathers however are given a pass. If you think Aurora was a sorry excuse for a mother let me tell you about Paul’s father. A dreadful parent, yet fascinating.
HRH Prince Arsen of Serbia was born in 1859 on a bordertown with Romania, where Serbian exiles sit things out. His was a military family with monarchial ambitions. He was a warrior long before he entered the Military Academy. He fought in every war he could find. And in peacetime he enjoyed challenging opponents to duels and he always aimed for the his foes in the family jewels. He caroused in Paris and in Russia.
He married Princess Aurora after his friend the Tsar urged him to, hoping it might calm him down, besides she was a prize with her fortune and string of titles, she was a fairytale Princess and available. The marriage was over before Aurora gave birth to their only child, my grandfather Paul, in 1893, St Petersburg.
As Aurora shopped around her son, trying to find him a home, his father Arsen was gone, enlisted and earning medals. He fought for Serbia in the first and second Balkan Wars and his excessive ferocity was noted and he was expelled from the Serbian Army at the start of WWI. He was also permanently exiled from the country.
Arsen did not care. He fought for the Russians, he fought for the French, he fought in the East, he earned medals and praise in army circles. He liked a drink, enjoyed gambling and the pursuance of females. He saw his son Paul, his only child, almost never, and had no relationship with him.
My grandfather’s life was unusual and I never heard him complain. Paul was a gentleman.