Formerly tributary to the Byzantine Empire and the later medieval Serbian kingdom, the independent principality of Zeta (now Montenegro) asserted itself towards 1360. Never fully conquered by the Ottoman Empire which controlled the lands to the south and east since the 15th century, Montenegro in 1516 came under the rule of the prince-bishop (vladika) of Cetinje, a position held from 1697 by the Petrović-Njeguš family of the Riđani clan.

The reign of Nicholas I (1860 - 1918) saw the doubling of Montenegro's territory and international recognition of her independence (1878), the country's first constitution (1905), the ruler's elevation to the rank of King (1910), and further territorial gains following the Balkan Wars (1913), though the newly-captured city of Skadar had to be given up to the new state of Albania at the insistence of the Great Powers despite the Montenegrins having invested 10,000 lives into the liberation of the town from the Turkish forces of Esad-pasha.

After Montenegro's entry into World War I on the side of Serbia (August 1914), her occupation by German and Austro-Hungarian forces (January 1916) foreshadowed the end of independence: accused of seeking a separate peace with the enemy, Nicholas was deposed by the National Assembly after the country's liberation and union with Serbia proclaimed (November 29, 1918).

As a matter of trivia, the term Montenegro derives from the Venetian "black mountain", the black appearance of Mount Lovcen's pine forests inspiring early Venetian conquerors. Crna Gora calques Monte negro in Serbian. The earlier term "Zeta" is the name of a river flowing south-eastwards and etymologically having for its root in the Old-Slavonic word for harvest.

See also Rulers of Montenegro

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