European Royalty: Modern Greek Monarchy

Figure 1.-- King Paul (Pavlos) here reviews Greek Boy Scouts parading in Kozani during 1948. The Greek Civil War was going on at the time. Mot Scouts with middlke-class backgrounds supported the Monrchy.

The cause of Greek indepencence was championed by Lord Byron who even went to Greece during the War for Independence. With indeoendence came the question of a government. The Great Powers insisted on a monarchy. At the time, Europe was dominated by conservative mnonarchies that at the Congress of Vienna set out to turn back the clock. A republic was still tainted by the French Revolution. At the time, the United States was the only functioning democracy. The modern monarchy of an independent Greece was established in 1832. The first king of an indepedent Greece was a Bavarian prince--Otto I. He proved incapable of ruling a fractous country. The Greeks favored a British prince as a replacement, but in the end settled on a Danish prince--George I. The subsequent Greek monarchy was based on his line. When the British Prince of Wales (future Edward VII) married Princess Alexandria of Denmark, the Greek royal family became related to the British royal family. This tie was strengthened when Prince Philip (grandson of George I) married Britain's Queen Elizabeth.


Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg married English Princess Charlotte, heir to the throne. The Princess died in child birth. He was offered the Greek throne, but declined as it was such a small, poor kingdom. The instability and disorder in Greece was another factor. He did accept the Belgian crown as Lepold I in 1831. He also helped enginner his nephew, Prince Albert's mairrage to Queen Victoria.

Otto I (1833-62)

Otho, the second son of King Louis (Ludwig) I of Bavaria accepted the throne offered him by the European powers and was crowned King of the Hellenes in 1832. Otto was only 17 years of age so a Bavarian regency was destablished to rule the war-devestated county. The Bavarians ruled imperiously, imposing high taxes and attempted to set up a centarlized bureacracy. Some of the German influence in Greece, such as in Greek art and academia, probably originate with the Bavarian monarchy. A bloodleess revolt occurred in 1843. Otto was compeled to dismiss his Bavarian advisers and accept a democratic constitution. His unpopularity inceased when in 1854 supported France and England when war broke out in the Crimea. An army revolt and subsequent national assembly deposed Otto in 1862. The Great Powers acquised.

Prince Alfred

A Greek national plebecite chose Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria's second son as king. The British Government rejected the idea. Apparenntly Queen Victoria disapproved. The British, however, suggested Prince William George, the second son of King Christian IX of Denmark. His sister Princess Alexandra had just married the Prince of Wales. The British could also offer the seven Ionian Islands, including Corfu, which the Royal Navy had seized to the Greeks.

George I (1863-1913)

William George was born in 1845. He was the second son of King Christain IX and Queen Louise of Denmark, and this unlikely to inherit the Danish crown. Greek officials asked the young prince in 1863 to consider the Greek throne. For some arcane reason, the Greeks were unwilling to consider a monarch of Greek blood. Prince William George was acceptable to the Greeks after deposing Otto I and he was crowned George I in 1863. The British ceded the Ionian islands which they seized during the Napoleonic Wars to show their support for the reconstituted monarchy. A more democratic constitution was adopted in 1864. King George also had family ties to England as his older sister was Alexandra who married the Prince of Wales. Both heartily disliked the Prussians, who had seized Schleswig Holstein from their father, and in later years Wilhelm II who purchased a residence on Corfu in 1907. The Greeks desired to incorprate the Greeks population still under Turkish rule. war threats swept the Balkans, but the Great Powers attempted to prevent hostilities. Crete became another issue. War broke out with Turkey in 1896 and diasaster was only prevented by the intervention of the Great Powers. Prince George served as a time as Greek high commisioner on Crete. He had to resign, but in 1908, Crete was united with Greece. Greece was drawn into a series of Balkan wars. In the years leading to World War I, Macedonia became increasingly difficult. George's oldest son suceeded him as Constantine I. Another son, Prince Andrew's son Philip married Britain's future Queen Elzabeth. King George was assasinated in 1913 on the ever of World War I.

Constantine I (1913-17)

Crown Prince Constantine was born in 1868. He was the oldest son of George I and Russian Princess Olga Constantinovna Romanov (1851- ). He mairred Prussian Princess Sophie Dorothea Ulrica Hohenzollern, a sister of Wilhelm II and granddaughter of Queen Victoria, in 1889. Wilhelm was not close to his sister, considering part of his mother's (Victoria) "English colony". When Sophie decided to convert to Orthadoxy before the birth of her son, Wilhelm sent his wife Dona to forbid her. Dona reportedly told Sophie that she would "burn in hell". They had six children George II (1890- ), Alexander I (1893- ), Helen (1896- ), Paul I (1901), Irene (1904- ), Catherine (1913- ). King Constantine suceeded his father in 1913. When World War I (1914-18) broke out, Constantine was inclined toward the Germans, but refused to commit himself publically. The King, despite his personal feelings, did not want his country to enter the war. He especially resisted joining the Allied side. He had family tie to both sides. He was the Kaiser's brother-in-law. He was also a nephe of the English Queen Mother Alexandra. He fully expected the Central Powers to win the War. The British considered him a pro-German weakling and nicknamed him "tino". Prime Minister Venizelos felt differently. He thought that the Allies would win the war, and that Greek participation would yield benefits against Bulgaria and Turkey. Greeks on 1914 were divided about what they should do. When Bulgraia and Turkey joined the Central Powers, the potential stakes rose for Greece. It was likely that the end of the war would bring major border changes. If the Central Powers won, Bulgaria might claim land in Macedonia and Thrace, at the expense of Greece. On the other hand, if the Allies won, Bulgaria and especially Turkey would lose territory. There was thus considerable support for the Allies in Greece, especially after the Turks joined the Central Powers in the War. An oposition government was formed which was recognized by Britain and France. King Constantine was forced to abdicate in favor of his second son, Alexander.

Alexander I (1917-20)

Alexander with the support of Greek nationalists joined the Allies in the War. In the post-war settlement, Greece was given eastern Thrace from the Turks and the Aegean Islands that had been occupied by Italy. Alexander died in 1920 as a result, of all things, a monkey bite. His younger brother Paul refused the throne.

Constantine I (1920-22)

A national plebecite returned Constantine I to the throne by a huge margin, although the Allies disapproved. The previous regime had launched a new war with Turkey. A military disaster in Smyrna occured after the Allies withdrew support. An attempt to demobalize the Army resulted in a miltary dictatorship. Constantine was deposed again and forced into exile.

George II (1922-24)

Constantine's younger brother was crowned king in 1922, but was a pupet ruler under the military government. In 1923 large numbers of Greek and Turkish nationals were removed from their homes and repatriated. These refugees as well as the army were strongly anti-royalist and in 1924 a republic was proclaimed. King George had to leave the country.

Second Hellenic Republic (1924-35)

A Republic was proclaimed in 1924 and a democratic constition approved in 1927. Political instability followed, however, especially after the omset of the Great Depressiion in 1929.

George II (1935-47)

George II was restored to the throne in 1935. The king tried to restore national unity, but Greeks were greatly divided on the future of their country. Another military dictaorship took power in 1936, intalling Fascist regime. Even som Italy invaded by Italy in 1939, but by 1940 the outnumbered Greks had driven the Italians back into Albania. Finally the Germans came to the aid of the Italians and invaded and occupied Yugoslavia and Greece in 1941 in the months leading up to the invasdion of Russia. King George fled to Crete and after the Germans seized Crete to Cairo and then London where he set up a Government in exile. Guerilla warfare was conducted by several resistance groups and were brutally supressed by the Germans. The Germans began withdrawing from Greece in September 1944 and the British landed in 1944, preventing a communist takeover. Elections were held in March 1946, and a George was returned to power by a plebecite in September 1946 and George II returned to the throne. A few months later, however, in 1947 he died.

Paul I (1947-64)

Prince Paul was the third son of King Constantine. He was born in Atlens during 1901. His mother was Princess Sophia of Germany. He trained to be a naval officer. He married Princess Frederika of Hannover (1938). He with the rest of the royal family fled Greece with the British after the Germans invaded the country (1941). He succeed his brother as king in 1947. Greece acquired the Dodecanese Islands under a 1947 peace treaty with Italy. Communist-led rebels revolted against the governement at the end of 1946. Great Britain supported the government by giving Greece exonomic support and military aid against the rebels, but could not longer afford to continue doing so. Under the Truman Doctrine, announced in March 1947, the United States took over the British support of Greece. A long, bitter civil war followed. The Communists were finally defeated by October 1949, after the United States provided the Government with massive military aid. George Papandreou of the Center Union party became prime minister of Greece in November 1963. Earlier, he had charged that the elections of 1961 were rigged and suggested that the army, with support from the monarchy, stood in the way of democracy. King Paul died in 1964.

Constantine II (1964-67)

Constantine was born in 1940 during World war II. He was crowned in 1964 as Constantine II. King Constantine clashed with Papandreou over the king's political powers and control of the armed forces. Constantine dismissed Papandreou in 1965. Political confusion developed, and the government remained shaky. In an effort to achieve a stable government, Parliament was dissolved on April 14, 1967, and new elections were called for May 28. But these elections were never allowed to take place. Greek army units on April 21, 1967, equipped with tanks and armored cars seized the royal palace, government offices and leaders, and radio stations. Three army officers then set up a military dictatorship. The junta suspended important liberties guaranteed by the constitution. It prohibited all political activity, and made mass arrests. It replaced the leader of the Greek Orthodox Church, imposed harsh controls on newspapers, and dissolved hundreds of private organizations of which it disapproved. Constantine remained head of state, though powerless. The King on December 13, 1967, he tried to overthrow the junta. He failed, and he and his family then fled to Italy. The junta named a regent to substitute for the king. A group of naval officers in May 1973 led an unsuccessful mutiny aboard a Greek destroyer. The Junta claimed the mutiny was part of an attempted coup supported by King Constantine. The Junta in June announced the end of the monarchy and proclaimed Greece a republic. The Greek monarchy was officially abolished after a referendum in 1973. The crisis in Cyprus and economic recession paralyzed Greece's military government. Shortly after the cease-fire was signed, the military government collapsed. Military leaders invited Constantine Caramanlis, who had opposed Greece's military government, to become prime minister again. Caramanlis was sworn in on July 24, 1974, as prime minister of a civilian government. The country in November held its first free elections in more than 10 years. Caramanlis was then head of the New Democratic Party. The party won the elections by a wide margin. In December, Greek voters chose to make the country a republic rather than a monarchy. Parliament adopted a new constitution in 1975. Constantine has lived in exile in London since he was deposed by a military junta in 1967. He filed a claim along with two other relatives (his sister Princess Irene, who now lives in Madrid, and his aunt, Princess Ekaterini, who lives in Buckinghamshire, north of London) for the palaces and other possesions siezed when he went into exile.

Third Hellenic Republic (1975)

The current Greek constitution went into effect in 1975. This constitution made Greece a republic led by a president and eliminated the Greek monarchy.


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Created: 7:58 PM 12/29/2008
Last updated: 8:22 AM 8/24/2012