by Emily McMahon
Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark
Born in Pavlosk, near St. Petersburg, Russia, Prince Christopher was the eighth child and fifth son of King George I of the Hellenes and the former Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. Christopher was six years younger than his next sibling and the only one of George’s and Olga’s children born outside of Greece. Christopher’s birth was a surprise, as his eldest sibling (the future Constantine I) was 20 years old at the time of Christopher’s birth. Among Christopher’s nieces and nephews were three Greek kings (Alexander, George II, and Paul), Marina of Kent, and Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
Christopher had an excellent education, and became fluent in English, Italian, Danish, Greek, French, and Russian. He entered the Hellenic Army at age 18, fighting in the 1912-13 Balkan Wars.
Christopher was noted to have an excellent sense of humor and talent with mimicry, earning his great affection within his family. He was also a talented musician, studying piano for many years. He was also offered the thrones of Lithuania, Albania, and Portugal, all of which he refused. Christopher believed a throne should be accepted only when the prospective ruler was seriously dedicated to the idea of leading a country. Christopher did not believe himself to be sufficiently up to the challenge.
Christopher had a romance with his distant cousin, Alexandra of Fife (later the Duchess of Fife in her own right) in about 1910. The couple may have become unofficially engaged, although their parents did not approve of the union. Whatever the case, the two broke off their union. Alexandra later married another cousin, Arthur of Connaught, in 1913.
In January 1920, Christopher married Nancy Stewart Worthington Leeds, an American widow of a Cleveland tin manufacturer in Vevey, Switzerland. The two had become engaged in 1914, but the wedding was delayed due to the outbreak of World War I. However, it was Nancy’s fortune that supported the Greek royal family during their war exile. The bride, who was a divorcee as well as a widow, was fifteen years older than her prince. During her marriage to Christopher, Nancy was known as Princess Anastasia after she joined the Greek Orthodox Church.
Obscure to the American press prior to his marriage, Christopher was immediately the focus of significant media attention following the wedding. William Leeds, Nancy’s son from her first marriage, later married Xenia Georgievna of Russia, Christopher’s niece. Sadly Anastasia was diagnosed with cancer not long after the wedding and died in London in 1923.
Six years later, Christopher made a more acceptable dynastic marriage to French Princess Francoise of Orleans. Francoise was previously linked to Boris of Bulgaria, who later married Giovanna of Italy. Christopher and Francoise were married at Palermo in February 1929. The couple may have met and begun their courtship in 1927 at the wedding of her sister Anne to the Duke of Apulia. The union was unique in that the bride kept her Catholic faith upon the marriage, whereas Christopher remained Greek Orthodox.
Christopher and Francoise lived quietly in Greece for ten years before becoming parents to a son, Michael. Michael has since become and author of multiple historical novels. Michael’s daughter Olga is the wife of Aimone, current Duke of Apulia.
Christopher died on January 21, 1940, after suffering several weeks with a lung abscess. His wife Francoise was by his side and their son Michael had just celebrated his first birthday. A memorial service was held in New York City for the prince at Holy Trinity Cathedral, commemorating his following among Greek Americans. Funeral services were held at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, led by Christopher’s nephew, King George II. Flags were flown at half-mast and shops in Athens were closed on the day of the funeral in Christopher’s honor. Christopher was buried with full military honors in the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi Palace.