A courageous and skilled shot; Montenegro’s photographer Princess Ksenia (1881 – 1960)

Elizabeth Gowing

Notice Period:
Emergency (maybe less than one week's notice)
29th December 2018
Montenegro | Royalty | Photography | Women

Princess Ksenia’s father, King Nikola, was nicknamed ‘The Father-in-Law of Europe’ having successfully married off his daughters to the royal houses of Italy, Bulgaria, Germany, Serbia and Russia. His eighth daughter – Ksenia - chose a different route, carving out a place for herself as secretary and valued advisor to her father, becoming the first woman in Montenegro to drive, and developing a particular talent for photography (though a contemporary also described her as ‘a courageous and skilled shot with a pistol’).

This lecture shares the photographs she took during her years in what contemporary British traveller William Le Queux described as ‘the little city in the sky’, the brand-new Montenegrin capital of Cetinje, where the royal family had their palace before they were exiled to France in 1916. Despite her privileged life of garden parties and tennis, Ksenia’s photographic record also shows how she drove out to take beautiful photographs celebrating ordinary life in Montenegro among its schools, soldiers, fishermen, cooks, horses and villages.

This lively lecture draws on my research in the archives of Ksenia’s correspondence, and on collaboration with the staff at the National Museum of Montenegro (to whom thanks for permission for use of the photograph reproduced here, and those used in the lecture). It gives a face and a human narrative to the history and culture of a part of the Balkans which is just beginning to be visited by British travellers.

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About Elizabeth Gowing

After working in primary education in inner London, Elizabeth Gowing moved to Kosovo in 2006. There she milked her first cow, smoked her first cigar and drank her first cup of proper coffee.

She is the co-founder of The Ideas Partnership charity working with the power of volunteers to tackle challenges in education, cultural heritage and the environment, and with a particular focus on the excluded Roma and Ashkali communities. She is the author of Travels in Blood and Honey; becoming a beekeeper in Kosovo (Signal Books, 2011), Edith and I; on the trail of an Edwardian traveller in Kosovo (Elbow Publishing, 2013), The Rubbish-Picker's Wife; an unlikely friendship in Kosovo (Elbow Publishing, 2015), The Silver Thread; a journey through Balkan craftsmanship (Elbow Publishing, 2017), and *Unlikely Positions in Unlikely Places: a yoga journey around Britain (Bradt Publishing, 2019).

She speaks fluent Albanian and is the translator of the biography of Yugoslavia's longest-held political prisoner, Adem Demaci, and of Hasan Prishtina's memoirs of the 1912 uprising. She is also a regular contributor to Radio 4's 'From Our Own Correspondent' programme.

In 2016 the President of Kosovo awarded her the Mother Teresa Medal for Humanitarian Work and in 2017 Prime Minister Theresa May gave her the 'Point of Light' award for volunteers around the world.

She is a frequent contributor to BBC Radio 4.

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