World War 1 started because of the conflict between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. What would otherwise have been a small regional conflict, developed into a world wide bloodbath once the Great Powers aligned themselves with or against Serbia. At first the Serbs were completely over-matched and most of their country was occupied by the Central Powers. However in 1915, the King and the remnant of his army managed to retreat to Greece and Albania, where, supported by the French and British, they were able to hang on and eventually regroup.
In this vintage photo, the King of Peter I Serbia (11 July 1844 – 16 August 1921) is seen retreating from the front lines on a cart drawn by oxen, a far cry from normal regal pomp and circumstances, even for a small kingdom like Serbia. It was a humiliating debacle and decline in fortune for the Serbian King, who had been known as King Peter the Liberator because he had fought successfully for Serbia’s independence from the teetering Ottoman Empire. At the time of this photo, Peter I was 74 years old.
But this was not to be end of Peter I or the final wreck of his fortunes. After the Allied victory and the collapse of the AustroHungarian Empire, Peter I would be the first king of a united Yugoslavia, now comprising Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro. He would reign this newly created kingdom, built on a very shaky foundation by the victors of World War 1, until his death in 1921.
Only two decades later, World War 2 would once again bring misfortune and his country would once again be overrun and occupied by the enemy.