The Marseilles Murders, 1934

Stephen Clissold uncovers a brutal crime with its roots deep in the rank soil of Balkan politics.

On the afternoon of October 9th, 1934, King Alexander of Yugoslavia landed at Marseilles from the warship Dubrovnik to begin his state visit to the French republic. He was greeted by M. Louis Barthou, the elderly but active Foreign Minister with whom he had been collaborating to strengthen the Little Entente between Rumania, Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia and the more recently formed Balkan Pact between Greece, Yugoslavia, Rumania and Turkey, which both statesmen hoped would curb the revisionist ambitions harboured by Hungary and Bulgaria with the tacit encouragement of Fascist Italy.

As the cortege moved up the Canebiere and approached the Bourse, a man broke through the cheering crowd, jumped onto the running-board of their open car, and discharged his Mauser at its occupants. The King was killed instantly; the Foreign Minister died some hours later, as did the assassin, who was cut down by the escort and trampled under foot.

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