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This is exactly right. I'm Kate Winkler Dawson, a journalist, author and podcast host.


And I'm Paul Holes, a retired investigator with experience solving some of America's most notorious cold cases.


Together, we host buried Bones, a historical true crime podcast on the exactly right network.


Each week we examine a different case from history and use our years of experience and 21st century forensics to bring new insights into these very old tragedies.


Like the time the sausage king of Chicago's wife went missing in 1897.


Don't miss new episodes every Wednesday.


Follow buried bones wherever you get your podcasts. Europe, August 1943. Location classified. Across the globe, the Second World War, the deadliest war in history, is raging. This summer is a crucial turning point in the southwest Pacific. The US has just overcome the Japanese on the eastern front. The Soviets have inflicted huge losses on Nazi Germany. Mussolini has fallen, and Italy is about to defect to the allies. The balance of power is wavering. Could we possibly cut the typewriter effects, please? Thanks. I think it's just a bit of a cliche. So as I was saying, this location's classified. It's a military complex. But what I can tell you is there's a plane coming into land on a narrow airstrip. A military plane in the middle of dense woodland. It's baking hot. The grass is scorched. There's a pungent smell of pine. And this place is top secret. Almost no one knows it exists. The bunker walls are 7 meters thick. They're surrounded by 10 mines. I'm Becky Milligan, and I reported and broke stories for the BBC for almost 30 years. You can trust me to report the facts. The truth is what I do. But I warn you to be on your guard, because where I'm about to take you, the truth is extremely hard to find.


War is a terrible thing. You never know who your enemy or your friend is. You just don't know who is who. Millions have already died in this war, and millions more lives are now at stake. Trust is fraying between the conflict's key players as countries uturn and switch sides. The passenger in the plane has just landed. In the midst of it, he knows this place. He's been here before. He's sweating, but not just because of the heat. He's nervous, really nervous. Tomorrow morning, he has the most crucial meeting of his life for him. Pretty much everything's riding on it. Could you imagine what kind of pressure during a war and you are alone on the top of the power pyramid. What kind of pressure you have? The man is His Majesty King Boris II of Bulgaria. Look on the map and you'll see. Bulgaria's a small country in southeastern Europe, in the Balkans, squashed between Romania to the north and Greece and Turkey to the south. And at this moment in the conflict, Bulgaria finds itself in a very tight spot. This meeting is crucial to the direction of the war. The reception seems cordial enough, but only a fool would take a man at his word.


Here. This is the last place on earth the king wants to be. That night, he sleeps in a concrete bunker. It's airless, stifling. The king tosses and turns. Next morning, the meeting takes place. It lasts 8 hours, eight long and very difficult hours. And it all takes place behind closed doors with no witnesses. There are just two men in that room. The bulgarian king. And actually, no, let's not go into that room quite yet, because that meeting was ugly. The king returns home to Bulgaria. But after a day or so, he starts to feel a bit unwell. He's usually fit and sporty, but soon he's so sick he has to take to his bed. He goes seriously downhill until after six days of agonyanascrup. So stammers a conscious the 49 year old monarch is dead. The news reports tell us he died suddenly of a heart attack. That was the official line, and it's been the official line ever since. But hang on a minute. This is where my journalistic instincts kick in suddenly. Since when does a sudden death span six days? And here's another thing that strikes me as OD. King Boris's skin was covered with spots.


Now, I'm no doctor, but that does not sound like a heart attack to me, and I'm not the only one. Plenty of people think the official cause of death was a complete lie. The blotches do sound like a hypersensitive reaction to me, to something they do. Maybe a poison.




The kink was poisoned.


I think it's a poisoning.


Poison, the cocktail of toxins.


I'm convinced that something was put into his soup.


This blameless king has fallen victim to the most vulgar murder in the middle.


Of a global war. And with Bulgaria's future hanging in the balance, the king is dead. Who killed him and why? From Blanchard House and exactly right. Media. This is the butterfly king. I'm Becky Milligan.


Chapter one the mender of broken dishes. Let me tell you a little bit about me. I'm Becky Milligan, and I covered stories all over the world for the BBC. Wars in Afghanistan, armed scandals in Sierra Leone. And I've uncovered a whole raft of abuse and misconduct in the british parliament. But I've never investigated a story quite like this one before, because regicide, the killing of a king, that's a big brief to take on. But once my curiosity is piqued, I just can't walk away. Because for years, people across Bulgaria, people in the know, have been saying that someone silenced Boris II of Bulgaria, the last crowned king of Bulgaria. And I'm determined to find out who that was. I start all my investigations by interviewing every witness I can find. And although this story has its roots in the 1940s, I've tracked down two people who lived through it. They're in their 80s now, but they're rather important leads in more ways than one, because they're actually members of the royal family. They're King Boris's children, his son and his daughter. And they've invited me and my producer, EJ, to visit them at their home.


It's just outside Sofia, Bulgaria's capital.


Good morning.


Are you okay to take us to Brana palace? Do you know, here it is on.


The map, Brana Palace.


Imagine jumping into a cab in London, telling the driver to take you to Buckingham palace, only to have him turn around and ask you for the address. Well, that's exactly what happens in, um, King Simeon, his home. To be fair, the whole royal thing here is a bit confusing these days. Bulgaria's a republic. It no longer has a monarchy. That was all scrapped under the communists who arrived at the end of the war. Except Bulgaria does still have a sort of king. And that sort of king is Simeon. Simeon was forced into exile after the war, but he never actually abdicated. So technically, he is still king, if only in name. But actually, let's save some of the more complex constitutional details for later, because if it's confusing for a Bulgarian. Do you see where it is? So this is like a big park. I'm clearly getting nowhere here, so I call for backup from the receptionist at our hotel. Okay, so he will drive you there? He'll drive us there. Yes. Brilliant. Thank you so much. Thank you for your help.


No problem.


Half an hour later and can't quite see the palace at the moment, but I think this is the park. It looks quite barren. Let's just say this is not the palace of Versailles. A bit like a scrap metal yard. In fact, it looks a bit like a dumping ground, in a way. Hope this is the right place. At the moment, it doesn't feel like it at all. But despite appearances, it is the right place. Vrana palace was where King Boris lived, too. It was his country. Pad? Yeah, the next one. So I think we go up here. This is more like it. Leaf didn't fancy getting out where that dog was, looking at us like that. It's still very desolate and dilapidated, though, isn't it? It really is. I think this is where we are.




Yes, I think so. I think we're being dumped. In its heyday, verana must have been idyllic. It's surrounded by mixed woodlands and long treelined avenues. Some of the trees were planted by Boris himself and by Ferdinand, Boris's father. They weren't just weekend gardeners, they were both serious botanists. Shut the gate quickly. So there are signposts here. It says in English as well as bulgarian palace. So we're going to set off up here. Vrana was really Boris's go to place. He was a country boy at heart and he loved the great outdoors to be in nature, peace and quiet.


And he liked mounting butterflies.


Yes, she said, mounting butterflies. She's Tessa Dunlop, a historian and an expert on both royal and eastern european history. You might find her a little blunt. She certainly likes to tell it how it is.


He caught them and he mounted them, and he spent hours working out which kind of butterfly they was. I mean, he was a geek.


Well, he certainly knew his insects back to front. Entomology was his great passion and his knowledge was second to none. He was well respected in the natural history world. Boris was at his happiest pottering around his grounds with his old floppy hat and butterfly nets. He was a gentle soul, the kind of king who wouldn't hurt a fly. Well, actually, he probably would hurt a fly if it was a rare one, and he wanted it for his scrapbook. But you can see where I'm coming from. He was inoffensive. All that pomp and splendor. It just wasn't him.


He found himself really pretty unexceptional. He got terribly anxious about sort of standing up in parliament, especially early on. He said, little do they know that I have to go to the loo five times before I confront them.


I think what she's trying to say is that King Boris was not at all what you might expect in a king.


You know, he was not a man who was imbued with huge amounts of confidence, and I expect part of that was his physical appearance and his size. It helps if you're a big man.


Why does history always demand handsome heroes? I'm starting to feel rather sorry for Boris.


He was small to look at, eminently unremarkable. You wouldn't notice him in a room. Diminutive, aggressive, balding early on, watery, gray eyes, the long, protruding Hapsburg nose. I mean, the only aphrodisiac attached to Boris was the fact he was a monarch. And that does some things for some women, doesn't it?


Well, I wouldn't know, Tessa. Anyway, back to Verana palace. These look as though they might be the sort of more modern quarters where Simeon lives, actually. Do you know what I mean? Oh, there's another guard dog. Let's go and find a doorbell somewhere. Goodness knows where you find a doorbell on a palace. Maybe it's up here. I suppose when most of us think of a palace, we'd think of something we see in the crown or Downton Abbey. Towering turrets, gothic windows, colonnades. Well, Vrana's a little more down at heel. The architecture's charming, a sort of hot potch of styles, but it could do with a lick of paint. Simeon's doing it up bit by bit, but he has to do that from his own pocket. As he's only a sort of king, he can't really ask the bulgarian taxpayers to foot the bill. So while parts of it are lovely, the rest is, let's say, shabby chic.




Hello. What a pleasure to meet you. We're early, I know, but. Yes, that's the king's aide, yarval, meeting us. And he's precisely how you'd imagine a king's aid. Sharpsuited, charming and perfectly poised, even when the palace guard dog gets a little frisky. Chica neck. I have a dog. Yes, but she's too lovely. Too lovely. Good dog she is, but sometimes not. Chica otivitam. Chica is too lovely. She's not your typical guard dog. Meeting a monarch is a nerve wracking experience. Luckily, Yarvo tells us we don't have to curtsy to Simeon. But there are certain royal protocols which we need to stick to, such as not touching the ornaments and royal bricabrack in the drawing room. But there are so many fascinating bits and pieces, it's really hard not to. Including a rather fine filigree box, which was a birthday gift to Simeon from a fellow king or something, and which I very nearly break. Yes, I love that sort of thing. That's really very good. That is very difficult to. Difficult, but not impossible.


Please don't break the palace, Becca.


Anyway, that's lovely. I'm sure he's insured. A king's insured. His Majesty's drawing room is light and airy. And is everything you'd imagine in a stately home. The herringbone wooden floor is scattered with plush persian rugs. The walls are plastered with icons and oil portraits. And the elegant chairs on which we're invited to sit are painted gold and bricaded in dusky pink silks. And just like in most people's houses, the mantelpiece is crowded with photos. This is someone I recognize, of course. Two years ago, the pope visited Bulgaria and he wants a private visit to the royal family. Simeon's family is not exactly ordinary. He's descended from the sax Coburg Gotha dynasty. That basically means he's connected to pretty much every royal clan in Europe, including the Windsors. King Charles is a kind of distant cousin. In fact, back in the days before the war, King Boris even used to take his holidays with the british royals shooting in Scotland. There's a huge portrait of Boris hanging on the drawing room wall, and looking at it, you get a strange sense of deja vu.


Yeah, they do all look like each other. I mean, you can see quite a strong trace of our current british royal family, I think, in Boris, in that strong, some would say aristocratic, others'inbred profile that he has. I won't name names, but take a look at him and then, well, yes, peruse the current royal. Don't you think Prince William a little bit? I mean, poor Prince William. It's not his fault. As Harry said, he does have aggressive, premature balding.


Well, it's true. There's definitely more William than Harry in Boris, anyway.


Moving slillion.


Yes, I think we probably should, because it's time to meet the king.


Lovely to meet you.


Thank you so much for making the time.


Not at all.


I'm Becky. This is Emma Jane, and we're delighted that we're able to talk to you and really appreciate it.


Thank you. Thank you.


King Simeon wears a dark suit and tie. He's got a thin, white mustache that's anchored by a chin strap beard and. Okay, yes, he's completely bald. He's one of those people who seem taller than they really are. He might be 86, but he still knows how to carry himself. He's very charming. He's also very much an old school sort of king.


I'm not the type of person who communicates easily and I like to keep my feelings to myself, so if you're.


Expecting him to get all confessional and Prince Harry on you, you might be disappointed. But having said that, once you get to know him, he's quite the tease.


Not to ram it in.


It's important to laugh where we can, because I'm afraid this story is a dark one for a child to lose. A parent is always desperately sad. And Simeon was just six years old when his father died so mysteriously. A mystery which still haunts him to this day.


Still, we cannot really either blame anybody or point our fingers at anybody. And yet we have this, I would say, ghastly suspicion that something was wrong.


Now, remember that military plane which Boris had taken to his secret meeting? Simeon got taken to see it after it landed back in Bulgaria.


We went to the airport to greet my father. When he came back from this meeting, we were fascinated. My mother drove us to the airport to see this huge plane that had landed there.


Little did Simeon know that his father had just flown home to meet his death. It all seemed like harmless fun to a little boy. Poor King Boris had a very difficult relationship with his father. Ferdinand was fiery and Boris was frightened of him. Boris had lost his mother as a very young boy, and that meant he lost her gentle protection, too. He felt he never quite measured up to his father's exacting expectations. Ferdinand was certainly a force to be reckoned with. Boris was determined not to make the same mistakes with his own children. So he was a hands on dad. Whenever he got a day off, he'd head to the hills with the family. Oh.


On the hike, it was always fun because he would teach us all sorts of things on botany or on nature or on wildlife and so forth. So to us, this was a great treat, I would say.


Now, I'm not just here to speak to Simeon, because behind every great king is a bossy big sister.


Simeon, how do I get in touch with you in half an hour? Tell me.


Her Royal Highness Maria Louisa is four years senior. To Simeon. She's a plain speaking kind of princess.


That was a lot of Bs. Excuse me.


If Simeon's wary about speaking his mind, Maria Louisa gives it to you straight, no matter who you are. Just before the war, King Boris invited British King Edward VI to the palace. He's the king who abdicated so he could marry American divorcee Wallace Simpson. Boris proudly presented his little daughter to Edward, but Maria Louisa refused to perform.


I was, I think, four or what, and I got bored and I said, now I have to go and play. And King Edward answered, so do I.


In her black trousers and trainers, her Royal Highness is more casual than her brother, but still stylish. She broke her leg last year, so she's walking with a stick. It's a glittery burgundy red one, and it matches her polar neck sweater. Occasionally she flashes her cane, a look of contempt. You can see she hates being dependent. She's as sharp as attack, basically the kind of 90 year old we all hope to be. Maria Louisa was exceptionally close to her father, King Boris. In the next room, there's a tear jerkingly beautiful black and white photo of them together. She's wearing a string of pearls and she's drawing or coloring something, while Boris looks on dotingly in the photo, she's about eight, maybe nine years old. She's concentrating hard, but her free arm is sloped around her father's neck, just keeping him with her. She was ten when he died.


He was always there for us and it was always a treat when he came and told us stories. And he would take us sometimes for a little walk in the forest and tell us stories about gnomes that lived under mushrooms and came out at night. Know wonderful children's stories that we cherished enormously.


When Maria Louisa and Simeon talk about King Boris, they both often look away or stare at the floor for a second or two while they compose.


You know, very difficult to sort of empty one's soul. A very loving father who had time for his children, definitely for us, he was just loving papa.


And there wasn't even a proper goodbye. He disappeared so suddenly.


And the Monday morning, he came into a room where Simeon and I were playing and he just said, I'm going to Sofia, for know, kissed us and said, I'll see you tonight. And we never saw him again.


They were such a close knit family. But someone out there clearly didn't care for King Boris at all. Once on his deathbed, the king didn't just slip peacefully away. As we know, his so called cardiac arrest spanned six long days and nights he fought to stay alive. That summer. He really battled against his failing, heart crushing chest pain. As if there's a metal band around your chest. Feelings of sweatiness and nausea. The feeling of impending doom. That's Dr. Stuart Hamilton. More from him later, but he's bang on the money with the prediction of doom. Simeon's seen the medical reports from his father's doctors.


He was feeling sick then. His liver eventually didn't function, and there was also pneumonia. And he lasted for so long, from Monday to Saturday, he lost his conscience.


The king wasn't short of doctors in that sick room. The palace was crawling with them. But it was 1943. What did they have to offer poor Boris, except a bit of oxygen and sedation? Well, here's one thing they didn't offer him the comfort of his wife. The queen was on holiday in the mountains with the royal children. She wasn't even told her husband was ill until it was pretty much over. Now, that seems deeply odd, and not just to me.


My mother was. She was convinced he was done in by somebody.


And here's another thing that makes me suspicious. Once the king was bedbound, no one was allowed to leave the palace. They were literally locked in. For the first few days, even boris'government was kept in the dark. Whatever happened in that sick room stayed in that sick room.


Finally, the doctors who came and all that kept everything very, I would say, confidential or secret. And that was also one of the reasons that people thought there was foul play.


In the final stage of his illness, King Boris developed a high fever. When the doctors couldn't control his temperature, he began convulsing. And on the 28 August over, the king's casket was carried to its final resting place by train drivers. His enthusiasm for engines and locomotives was legendary. The railway workers even made him an honorary member of their guild. He was a skilled engineer. He once joked that if ever things went badly for him and he lost his throne, he'd just head off to America and get a job as a mechanic.


He, I remember, once took us along a railroad because he was very fond of trains.


He was desperate to pass on his passion to his children. So he took little Simeon into a tunnel. A train appeared suddenly and roared past them in the dark.


The conductor reported next station that there were some lunatics who had been walking in the track just when the train came by and so forth. And of course, it was great fun afterwards, when they realized that it was my father who had induced us to take this walk.


Maria Louisa remembers other times when her father's enthusiasm almost got the better of him.


We would go horseback riding, and not too far from here was a railroad crossing, and we would stop because the barriers were down, the trains were coming. And since my father loved driving trains, we would stand with our horses there and the train would pass. And if the machine is recognized, my father, of course, he would blow the whistle. And that was catastrophic for the horses and for us.


Historian Tessa Dunlop, you know, the hours.


He spent pulling the levers of locomotives. So much so that the engine drivers of the Orient Express were told, watch out for Boris, because he literally will steal into your engine and drive off with it. That was the level of his obsession.


Boris was a royal who had the common touch. He fitted in everywhere. Think of the late Queen Elizabeth II, the second longest reigning monarch in history. Yet somehow, most Brits thought of her as their own granny. Think of Princess Diana, who instinctively knew how to charm a crowd. Unlike his father, Ferdinand, Boris was popular. And whatever you think about train Bores, being a committed railway enthusiast is hardly a motive for murder. And this is where some red flags are popping up for me, because I feel like I'm getting a somewhat filtered version of the truth here. So far, we've only really heard from Boris's children. And, I mean, is anyone objective about their own parents affectionate stories about Boris are threaded through bulgarian folklore. There are countless tales of the king picking up hitchhikers in his car, incognito. He'd drive them around for miles, chatting away. Simeon told me about one time when Boris pulled his bet. You can't guess who I am. Prank on a hapless young soldier.


My father thought it was hilarious, which it really was.


Would he roar with laughter?


Well, yes. And I suppose the soldier almost fainted. No, because then it says, it's the king. It's the king.


And some of the legends sound like they're straight out of a fairy tale. Like when King Boris was caught in a rainstorm when he was out butterfly hunting in the mountains. Apparently, he'd often pitch up at a villager's door in the hope of a hot bowl of broth and some shelter. Once home, he'd always thank the villager for their hospitality by sending on parcels as gifts.


Do we believe that? Do we actually believe that? I don't think so.


Well, Tessa, from what I've read, at least some of these accounts really are true. There's evidence to back them all up. But, like Tessa, the skeptical journalist in me is starting to smell a rat, because my research shows me that we're getting a very sanitized version of history here. This is not Disney. It's a real life story rooted in war, and war's always a dirty business. And if I dig around a bit in Boris's past, it's not hard to unearth a less polished reality without wishing.


To denigrate Bulgaria in any way.


I get the feeling she's about to denigrate Bulgaria in some way.


It was a nation of peasants.


Told you.


I mean, we love our peasants now. It's quite deregar to be a peasant, isn't it? But back then, less so. It's kind of weirdly lonely for Boris. He was known as the lonely king, actually, because who'd you hang out with if your new country doesn't have any proper posh landowners. There was not much between Boris and the peasants. So when we say, oh, Boris really got on with the peasants, I'm like, yeah, who else did he have to play with, really?


Boris's bloodline was undeniably blue, but it wasn't so undeniably bulgarian. Let me explain with a whistle stop tour of the country's history. Established in the 7th century, Bulgaria is one of the oldest countries in Europe. But at the end of the 14th century, it fell into the hands of the Turks of the Otoman Empire. And that's where it stayed until 1878, until Russia went to war with Turkey and liberated Bulgaria again. Delighted with their newfound independence, the Bulgarians set about reinstating the monarchy. The problem was, it had been so long since they'd had a king, they couldn't trace back the bloodline. They hadn't got a clue who their real royals were. The solution? Simple. Import a new royal family.


Where's the obvious place to import a royal from? Germany? It's got an abundance of slightly pointless little dukes and princes of the manner born without quite enough to do so. Ideally, you want someone who's been gifted to you with international approval.


Their first attempt at importing a royal was german prince Alexander Battenberg. But he proved so unpopular that they were soon back to the drawing board. The next bit sounds surreal, but I promise you it's true. The Bulgarians went shopping for a king. Three royal headhunters trailed around all the royal courts of Europe, but to no avail. They just couldn't find a suitable or willing candidate. Downcast, they decided to cheer themselves up with a trip to the opera in Vienna. And sitting right under their noses in the royal box was the perfect man for the job. They intercepted him at intermission. It's intermission. Anyway, he was a suave german prince by the name of Ferdinand. He had a way with the ladies and with the men. Actually, he lived for pleasure.


Yes, he did swing both ways, I think. All bisexual. And, of course, if you're a king, you can really do what the hell you like. He is a grand senior to the point of decadence. He loved fine clothes, he loved fine wine, he liked jewels. He wore many jewels on his fingers. He was not the most, quote, comfortable of husbands. No, I shouldn't think he was if he was boning the local. No, I mean, I can't say that on the radio, of course, he was.


Known as Foxy Ferdinand, and not in a good way. His cousin, the british queen Victoria, hated him. She described him as eccentric, effeminate and totally unfit. Other relatives wrote him off as weird and ridiculous, but he got the job anyway. There weren't really any other applicants. Bulgaria's love affair with Foxy didn't last long. He got a reputation for being sly and untrustworthy. And crucially, during the First World War, he joined the wrong side. The losing side. His alliance with Germany cost the lives of a hundred thousand bulgarian soldiers. And in the peace treaty that ended the war, Bulgaria was severely punished. The country lost huge swathes of territory, including the strategically important Thrace, a region bordering Greece and the Aegean Sea, and Macedonia, which was given to Yugoslavia. Do remember the names Thrace and Macedonia, as they're going to be quite important. A little further on in our story, Ferdinand had cost his country dearly. He was forced to abdicate and was exiled. And his throne, still warm, was handed to his son, 24 year old Boris. Was Boris's murder a simple case of payback for the sins of the father. Ferdinand might have made some bad choices, but they weren't Boris's choices.


In fact, the two could not have been more different. While Ferdinand loved a good row, King Boris hated conflict of any kind, especially war. He jokingly nicknamed himself the mender of broken dishes. That's perhaps a tiny bit lost in translation, but you get the sense Boris was a diplomat, the kind of king who picked up the pieces and glued them back together. Not the kind of king who threw tantrums and smashed things. And he never aspired to be on the throne. But unfortunately, that's precisely where he found himself as the world went to war again in 1939. And it was in the darkest part of the middle of that war that Boris died a brutal and baffling death. Why murder a peace lover?


It was wartime.


His daughter, Maria Louisa.


There were many, many people who would have been happy to get rid of him.


As I suspected, the king had several known enemies. But as far as the identity of his assassin goes, the clues are few and far between. Boris's son, Simeon, has tried to crack this case himself in the past, but his sleuthing has proved fruitless.


It's amazing. I mean, so many years, so many archives, investigations, questions, or what have you, and there still hasn't been any proof. And I must mean, as a son, it's disturbing.


And there's no nice way to put this. Time's running out for Simeon and Maria Louisa to find answers to the question that haunts them.


Never forget, you know, you go to a funeral and it all comes back.


Not that one looks for revenge or anything like it, but simply to know.


And I want to know too. So I'm going to pick up this case where Simeon left off. Time to recap and to fill you in on one of Boris's dirty little secrets. Remember, it's wartime and in war, difficult choices have to be made. We know Boris hated bloodshed. So at the start of the war, Bulgaria opted for neutrality. But Bulgaria has an unfortunate geographical position. Romania, on its northern border, had joined sides with Hitler. That meant very quickly there were german troops breathing right down Bulgaria's neck. Meanwhile, on Bulgaria's southern border, the italian army invaded Greece. They needed backup and Hitler was itching to help. Little Bulgaria was sandwiched between hostile players. She found herself backed into a corner. And when you're backed into a corner, you have to pick a side. And in 1941, King Boris did pick a side.


We know that Boris was a political survivor until he died, but he was and he had survived for a very long time. Now, what do you do if you're a survivor? You work out which way the wind's blowing and you travel with it.


So let's go back to that top secret bunker once again, the one where Boris is about to walk into the most important meeting of his life. It's now August 1943 in the stifling bunker. Boris has been trying to get his head straight, but he's played all his cards and he knows it.


This man is eminently reasonable relative to what's going on around him. And he's also got a very good political brain for Bulgaria. They need to survive. That's the game.


But the game's up. Boris is out of time. It's time to meet Adolf Hitler. Yes. Boris, the so called mender of broken dishes, is an ally of the most evil man in history. He has been for 18 months. And this military hideaway, it's the wolf's lair. The secret Nazi headquarters in what is now Poland. And just like Germany, King Boris II of Bulgaria has declared war on Britain and America. Now, so far in the time they've been allies with Germany, Bulgaria's involvement has been pretty passive. While thousands of men across Europe are losing their lives on the battlefields, not a single bulgarian soldier has been involved in active combat. And as yet, not a single bulgarian Jew has been deported. But now Hitler wants that to change. He wants to up the ante. He's demanding Boris's troops must help the Germans on the front line. And he's determined to send each one of Bulgaria's 50,000 Jews to the gas chambers. This is not what King Boris signed up for. And this is why he's here. He's about to disobey Hitler's orders. To tell him he won't do as Hitler commands. You don't need to know much about history to know what happens to people who anger Hitler.


Less than two weeks after leaving the Wolf slayer, King Boris will be dead.


Given the hand he was served, Boris did bloody well to squeeze almost half a century out of this planet.


So was it Hitler who personally ordered his murder? He had a motive, he had the opportunity. But I gave my word that I would tell this story objectively. And that means telling you all the facts I know, even those which don't quite fit the narrative. And there's something here that doesn't quite square with me, because things weren't shaping up well for Hitler. By the summer of 1943, with heavy losses on the eastern front and Italy on the verge of surrender, Hitler needed all the friends he could get. Would he really kill one of his odi allies? Or did his need for revenge overcome his reason? 80 years on from Boris's death, I'm determined to get to the truth.


Who would want to cover up after so many years?


Coming up this season in the butterfly.


King, everybody started suspecting everybody else. Arashan, special services. Stalin's special services killed King Boris.


I mean, it would make sense to be the Germans, right? Because it would be safer for the Germans if he was out of the picture. Could have painted Bulgarians. An inside job. It was a typical balkan death. What do you mean by a typical balkan death? I mean, in the Balkans, there were more political murders than in the rest of Europe for this period. This does not have the hallmarks of british or american intelligence, but these sort of things have happened in the past. It's a long list of suspects. There's just one other tricky problem I need to share with you. For Simeon and Maria Louisa, King Boris was just dear sweet Papa. But others, well, they saw him very differently.


I really don't care how he died.


For me, he's a criminal. The Butterfly King is a production of Blanchard House and exactly right media hosted by me, Becky Milligan. It's written and produced by Emma Jane Kirby. Original music is by Daniel Lloyd Evans, Louis Nankmannell and Toby Matamong. Sound design and engineering by Toby Matamong and Daniel Lloyd Evans. Artwork by Vanessa Lilac. The managing producer is Amika Shortino Nolan. The creative director of Blanchard House is Rosie PI. The executive producer and head of content at Blanchard House is Lawrence Grisell. For exactly right media the executive producers are Karen Kilgareth, Georgia Hardstock and Danielle Kramer, with consulting producer Kyle Ryan. The Butterfly King is inspired by the book Hitler and the King by John Hall Spencer. Follow the Butterfly King on Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you like to listen so you don't miss an episode. If you like what you hear, leave us a rating and a review.