Princess Natalija of Montenegro’s Passport Returns to Its Family

By Géraldine Cerf de Dudzeele, Paris – repost from 2013 Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro

The Passport From Princess Natalja Of Montenegro Is Back To It`s Family
Géraldine Cerf de Dudzeele

Natalija Konstantinović Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro

was born in Trieste (Italy) in 1882 as the daughter of Alexander Konstantinović and Milena Opuić. She was descended from the Obrenović dynasty, which had ruled Serbia for the most part of the 19th century. She became Princess of Montenegro as the wife of Prince Mirko Petrović-Njegoš. Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro

They married in 1902. The couple had five sons; however, two died in early childhood. They divorced in 1917, a year after the royal family was forced to flee the kingdom. Princess Natalija secondly married, in England, count Gaston Errembault de Dudzeele (1877-1961). They had two daughters, Hélène (1921-2006) and Anne-Marie (1922-1984). She was very close to the Italian Royal Family.

She spent many summers with Queen Elena of Italy and King Victor Emmanuel III., She was called Aunt Lily, and the sons were called MIKI, POLI, and Emmanuel, named after the King of Italy. In 1913 Natalia and sons arrived in Italy and stayed there until the end of 1914 with the Royal Family, after I don’t know where they went, but in 1917 they were again with the Queen in Piemont (Sant’Anna di Valdieri). Natalija died in Paris on 21 August 1950 at the age of 67. Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro

The Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro

The Italian passport (V.E. III) issued 1917 in Rome to Princess Natalja of Montenegro shows her journeys to France, Switzerland, Italy, England and Belgium, around 30 visas, including 7 diplomatic visas – e.g. from the Swiss Legation in Rome, 1919, format 45 x 45 cm, 2 times folded, small holes at the folded areas, also at the blind-stamped Italian seal but all in very good condition. 

Géraldine Cerf de Dudzeele is a relative of Princess Natalja and contacted me after she saw my article online. The passport went back to Géraldine, and she gave me further valuable information, which you can read below.

My grandmother was forced into her first marriage with Prince Mirko Petrovic-Njegos for the sake of political aims concerning Serbia and Montenegro. At that time, she was in love with her future second husband, my grandfather, Gaston Errembault de Dudzeele, who lived in Belgrade with his two sisters because his father was the Belgian ambassador to Serbia (1890-1898).

Her husband made her unhappy because he did not treat her well, and moreover, he had tuberculosis. Thus, her first two sons died of tuberculosis at 5 and 3 in 1908, just a few months before the birth in September of the same year of her third son Michel (called Micky).

Then, two other sons were born, Paul (Poli) in 1910, and Emmanuel in 1912. She married the Count Gaston Errembault de Dudzeele in 1920, and she gave birth to Hélène in 1921 and Anne-Marie, my mother, in 1922. They lived first in Paris, then in England. The three boys were in a boarding school in England, but they also had to go to the hospital because they all had tuberculosis. She came back to France at the beginning of WWII. Emmanuel died in March 1928 and Paul in June 1933. Paul died in the hospital Saint-Joseph in Paris, which is 50 meters from a psychiatric hospital where I work. Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro

Micky was the only one who survived his tuberculosis. He had one son, my cousin Nikola Petrovic-Njegos, Crown Prince Nicolas II of Montenegro. During WWII, Micky refused the offer of Mussolini to take back the throne of Montenegro, as he was a king in exile since his father’s death in 1917. My grandmother’s second husband finally made her unhappy also because he had a complicated character.

Princess Natalia of Montenegro

Nathalie was a beautiful woman with strong moral and democratic principles, and very courageous. She was very gifted. She always had a lot of burdens as she lived through exile, the loss of four children, etc… but still stood upright in her entire life. Furthermore, she always has been an icon for us because of all this mixing of private history and public history and because of so many misfortunes that are not without effects on the following generations.

I had always wanted to approach this past in a way permitting to get out of a sort of myth, of an untouchable, fixed history, which is the case mainly when a lot of traumatizes took place. I think acquiring this passport is related to that.

After having been the sister-in-law of the King of Italy who permitted the arrival of Mussolini, by her first marriage, by her second marriage, she became the sister-in-law of Count Carlo Sforza who had married Valentine Errembault de Dudzeele, one of my grandfather’s sisters. Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro

Count Carlo Sforza was the minister of the Foreign Affairs and Ambassador, but he resigned because of Mussolini and had to leave Italy for Belgium, the country of his wife. He became the leader of the Italian Anti Fascists during WWII. She died prematurely when I was a baby. I discovered your website with a photo of my grandmother because I was looking for stuff about my mother, who had been in the Résistance during WWII in the “Réseau Comète.

”I didn’t find her, but I found your site. Last funny thing … Many historians think that my grand grandfather was the unofficial father of Hergé’s father and uncle, and it would be the reason why Tintin has a lot of adventures in the Balkans.

Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro
Italian passport (V.E. III) issued 1917 in Rome to Princess Natalja of Montenegro

Dear Géraldine,
Thank you so much for sharing this story with me. After “just” 100 years, the document comes back where it belongs to – to your family. Congratulation and all the best. This passport belonged to a fellow collector, who found it once in Paris.

A travel document for an Egyptian princess…

Passport Princess Natalija Montenegro

FAQ Passport History
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1. What are the earliest known examples of passports, and how have they evolved?

The word "passport" came up only in the mid 15th Century. Before that, such documents were safe conducts, recommendations or protection letters. On a practical aspect, the earliest passport I have seen was from the mid 16th Century. Read more...

2. Are there any notable historical figures or personalities whose passports are highly sought after by collectors?

Every collector is doing well to define his collection focus, and yes, there are collectors looking for Celebrity passports and travel documents of historical figures like Winston Churchill, Brothers Grimm, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Read more...

3. How did passport designs and security features change throughout different periods in history, and what impact did these changes have on forgery prevention?

"Passports" before the 18th Century had a pure functional character. Security features were, in the best case, a watermark and a wax seal. Forgery, back then, was not an issue like it is nowadays. Only from the 1980s on, security features became a thing. A state-of-the-art passport nowadays has dozens of security features - visible and invisible. Some are known only by the security document printer itself. Read more...

4. What are some of the rarest and most valuable historical passports that have ever been sold or auctioned?

Lou Gehrig, Victor Tsoi, Marilyn Monroe, James Joyce, and Albert Einstein when it comes to the most expensive ones. Read more...

5. How do diplomatic passports differ from regular passports, and what makes them significant to collectors?

Such documents were often held by officials in high ranks, like ambassadors, consuls or special envoys. Furthermore, these travel documents are often frequently traveled. Hence, they hold a tapestry of stamps or visas. Partly from unusual places.

6. Can you provide insights into the stories behind specific historical passports that offer unique insights into past travel and migration trends?

A passport tells the story of its bearer and these stories can be everything - surprising, sad, vivid. Isabella Bird and her travels (1831-1904) or Mary Kingsley, a fearless Lady explorer.

7. What role did passports play during significant historical events, such as wartime travel restrictions or international treaties?

During war, a passport could have been a matter of life or death. Especially, when we are looking into WWII and the Holocaust. And yes, during that time, passports and similar documents were often forged to escape and save lives. Example...

8. How has the emergence of digital passports and biometric identification impacted the world of passport collecting?

Current modern passports having now often a sparkling, flashy design. This has mainly two reasons. 1. Improved security and 2. Displaying a countries' heritage, icons, and important figures or achievements. I can fully understand that those modern documents are wanted, especially by younger collectors.

9. Are there any specialized collections of passports, such as those from a specific country, era, or distinguished individuals?

Yes, the University of Western Sidney Library has e.g. a passport collection of the former prime minister Hon Edward Gough Whitlam and his wife Margaret. They are all diplomatic passports and I had the pleasure to apprise them. I hold e.g. a collection of almost all types of the German Empire passports (only 2 types are still missing). Also, my East German passport collection is quite extensive with pretty rare passport types.

10. Where can passport collectors find reliable resources and reputable sellers to expand their collection and learn more about passport history?

A good start is eBay, Delcampe, flea markets, garage or estate sales. The more significant travel documents you probably find at the classic auction houses. Sometimes I also offer documents from my archive/collection. See offers... As you are already here, you surely found a great source on the topic 😉

Other great sources are: Scottish Passports, The Nansen passport, The secret lives of diplomatic couriers

11. Is vintage passport collecting legal? What are the regulations and considerations collectors should know when acquiring historical passports?

First, it's important to stress that each country has its own laws when it comes to passports. Collecting old vintage passports for historical or educational reasons is safe and legal, or at least tolerated. More details on the legal aspects are here...

Does this article spark your curiosity about passport collecting and the history of passports? With this valuable information, you have a good basis to start your own passport collection.

Question? Contact me...