Category Archives: Greek Royals

Princess Helen of Greece, Queen Mother of Romania

source: Wikipedia

Princess Helen of Greece, Queen Mother of Romania

Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark, Queen Mother of Romania, was the second wife of King Carol II of Romania, the eldest son of King Ferdinand of Romania and Princess Marie of Edinburgh. She was born on May 2, 1896 in Athens, the third of six children of King Constantine I of the Hellenes and Princess Sophie of Prussia. Her siblings were:

Helen (left) with her brothers and sister Irene (seated), 1904. source: Wikipedia

Helen was educated at home with tutors and governesses, and was particularly close with her brother, Alexander. Their family life was often disrupted by the political tension in Greece, and the family spent several years in exile. Following her grandfather’s assassination in 1913, Helen’s father became King of the Hellenes. However, he would be forced from the throne in 1917. The family settled in Switzerland, while Helen’s brother, Alexander, was chosen to replace his father.

Helen and Carol, 1921. source: Wikipedia

It was while in exile in 1920 that the Greek royal family were visited by Queen Marie of Romania and her daughters. This resulted in the engagement of Helen’s brother, the future King George II of the Hellenes, and Princess Elisabeta of Romania, Carol’s sister. The group were soon joined by Carol who was returning from a trip around the world, intended to separate him from his first (and former) wife, Zizi Lambrino. After traveling together to Romania for the engagement announcement, they returned together to Switzerland, and became closer on the journey. After returning, Carol asked Helen’s father for her hand in marriage, and their engagement was announced in November 1920. They married on March 10, 1921, at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, and following a honeymoon, returned to Romania. The couple had one son:

The couple had apartments at Cotroceni Palace, but lived at the château de Foisor on the grounds of Peleș Castle, and later moved to a house in Bucharest. The marriage was not a happy one. Helen was very proper and aristocratic, while Carol preferred spending his time partying with his friends, and in the company of other women. Within a few years, Carol began an affair with Magda Lupescu, and in 1925 he renounced his rights to the throne and left the country. Helen was given the title Princess of Romania.

In July 1927, King Ferdinand died, and Helen’s son Mihai ascended the throne at just five years old. Despite being the mother of the King, Helen had no official position, nor was she a member of the Regency Council. At the end of that year, Carol asked Helen for a divorce, which she initially refused. However, she later gave in to the advice of the government, and the couple were formally divorced on June 21, 1928.

In June 1930, Carol returned to Romania following a coup organized by Prime Minister Iuliu Maniu. The parliament voided his previous renunciation of the throne, and he was proclaimed King. Helen remained at their home in Bucharest with her son, which there was significant discussion, both publicly and within the government, about annulling the couple’s divorce. Helen was told that since the 1926 renunciation was voided, she had technically become Queen of Romania when her father-in-law died in 1927. However, when presented with a decree from the government to confirm Helen as Her Majesty The Queen of Romania, Carol refused, insisting that she should be styled Her Majesty Helen.

Helen and her son, Mihai, in London, 1932. source: Wikipedia

While Helen considered the annulment of their divorce, Carol was adamantly against it. Faced with harsh treatment from Carol – guards placed around her home, visitors harassed – Helen left Romania, and traveled to her mother’s home in Italy. After she returned in 1932, King Carol began a media campaign to damage her reputation. The government finally interceded, announcing that she would be permitted to live in Romania for six months each year, and take her son abroad for one month. They also confirmed her civil list payment. Despite all of this, she was expected to remain abroad. She purchased a home in Italy, and in 1934, moved into Villa Sparta – her mother’s former home – along with her brother Paul and two sisters. She remained there for ten years, only seeing her son for a month or two each year.

Villa Sparta. photo by By I, Sailko, source: Wikipedia

In 1940, Carol was forced to abdicate, and Mihai returned to the throne. Helen was called back to Romania, and given the formal title Her Majesty the Queen Mother of Romania. Helen served as a close advisor to her son, and encouraged him to stand up to Prime Minister Ion Antonescu who had established himself as dictator.

During World War II, she devoted herself to caring for the wounded, and in 1942 she played a major role in stopping Antonescu’s plans to deport the Jews. For this, she was later awarded the status Righteous Among the Nations (in 1993, nearly eleven years after her death). By 1947, Romania was under communist control, and Helen and King Mihai were treated very harshly. When the traveled to London for the wedding of Helen’s cousin, Philip Mountbatten, to Princess Elizabeth of the United Kingdom, many in the Romanian government hoped that they would not return. Despite being urged to remain in London, the two returned to Romania on December 21, 1947. Within days, King Mihai was forced to relinquish the throne, with threats of mass executions if he did not agree to abdicate. The country was proclaimed a republic and Mihai and Helen left Romania on January 3, 1948.

They settled in Switzerland, where they found themselves in poor financial circumstances. They had most of their assets and properties seized by the Romanian government, and had been stripped of their citizenship. Helen’s biggest concern was the upcoming marriage of her son to Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma. Due to Anne’s Catholicism, most of her family refused to attend as the Pope would not sanction the marriage. Instead, Helen’s brother, King George II of the Hellenes, arranged for the couple to marry in Athens in June 1948.

Helen then returned to Villa Sparta in Italy, often hosting her son and his growing family, as well as her sister Irene and her son. She also traveled often to England and Greece to visit family, and participated in the Cruise of the Kings in 1954, hosted by her brother, King Paul of the Hellenes, and sister-in-law, Princess Frederica of Hanover. She also indulged her love of Renaissance painting and architecture, spending much of her time visiting museums and exhibits. Her love of gardening also led to a romance with the twice-widowed King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, who reportedly proposed marriage but Helen declined. Always struggling financially, Helen was forced to sell off many of her remaining assets, and eventually had to give up Villa Sparta.

Grave of Queen Mother Helen of Romania. Photo by krischnig, source: Wikipedia

In 1979, now facing the effects of age as well as finances, Helen left Italy and settled in a small apartment in Lausanne, Switzerland. She later moved in with her son and his family. On November 28, 1982, Princess Helen of Greece, Queen Mother of Romania, died in Lausanne. She is buried at the Bois-de-Vaux Cemetery in Lausanne.

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Princess Frederica of Hanover, Queen of the Hellenes

source: Wikipedia

Princess Frederica of Hanover, Queen of the Hellenes

Queen Frederica was the wife of King Paul of the Hellenes, and the mother of the last Greek king, Constantine II. She was born Princess Frederica Louisa Thyra Victoria Margareta Sophie Olga Cécilie Isabelle Christa of Hanover, on April 18, 1917 in Blankenburg am Harz, in the Duchy of Brunswick. She was the daughter of Ernst August (III) of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick, and Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, and had four brothers:

Although known as Princess Frederica of Hanover, this was merely by courtesy. The Kingdom of Hanover had ceased to exist after being annexed by Prussia in 1866. She was, however, a Duchess of Brunswick, as her father had been the reigning Duke of Brunswick since 1913. This title would also become merely courtesy after her father was forced to abdicate in 1918. And to confuse things further, at the time of her birth she was also a British princess! In 1914, King George V of the United Kingdom had issued Letters Patent granting the title of Prince/Princess of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, with the style of Highness, to any children born to The Duke and Duchess of Brunswick. (You can read the Letters Patent here.)

Wedding of Paul and Frederica, 1938.  source: Greek Royal Family

Wedding of Paul and Frederica, 1938. source: Greek Royal Family

While studying in Florence in 1935, Frederica began a romance with the future King Paul of the Hellenes. First cousins once removed, they had first met in 1927, and again in 1934 at the wedding of Princess Marina of Greece and Prince George, Duke of Kent. Paul soon asked her father for permission to marry, but the Duke of Brunswick refused, based on Frederica’s age. However, in 1936, while both were attending the Olympic Games in Berlin in 1936, Paul proposed again and this time the answer was yes. Their engagement was formally announced on September 28, 1937, and the couple married at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens on January 8, 1938. They soon settled at a villa in the Psychiko district of Athens, and went on to have three children:

In 1941, the Greek royal family were evacuated to Crete and then forced to flee the German invasion. She and her children eventually settled in South Africa and then Egypt. They returned to Greece in September 1946, following a referendum to restore King George II to the throne. Just seven months later, on April 1, 1947, King George died and Paul became King of the Hellenes. As the country was in the midst of civil war, Queen Frederica set up a group of camps around Greece, to provide shelter, food and education for orphans and needy children. Following the war, Frederica and her husband traveled extensively, building support for the monarchy as well as promoting Greece throughout the world. Despite this, there was always a faction who were against the monarchy, and The Queen in particular. Her membership, as a child, in the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls) – a branch of the Hitler Youth – made her a target of the anti-monarchists. In addition, she was known for publicly straying into politics, even campaigning against the election of Prime Minister Papagos in 1952. Many historians feel that Frederica’s forays into politics contributed to the instability of the monarchy. (In 1974 when her son was campaigning for a restoration of the monarchy, one of the things he promised was to keep his mother out of Greece and its politics).

On March 6, 1964, King Paul died of cancer, and was succeeded by his son, King Constantine II. Later that year, Constantine married Princess Anne Marie of Denmark, giving Greece a new Queen. Frederica stepped aside, allowing her new daughter-in-law to take center stage. However, she was accused in the media of being the ‘power behind the throne’. In response, the Dowager Queen relinquished her appanage from the State and retired from public life. While she remained active in family and social events, she stayed out of the official, and political, spotlight.

In 1967, the Greek Royal Family was once again forced to leave the country following a failed counter-coup led by King Constantine II. They settled in Rome, and Queen Frederica and her daughter Irene spent some time living in India. In later years, she would divide her time between her son’s home in the United Kingdom, and that of her elder daughter, Sofia, in Spain.

Grave of King Paul and Queen Frederica. source: Wikipedia

On February 6, 1981, after undergoing cataract surgery in Madrid, Queen Frederica died from a massive heart attack. After receiving permission from the Greek government, she was buried beside her late husband in the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi Palace. Her son and his family were permitted to attend but had to leave immediately after the burial.

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King Paul I of the Hellenes

source: Wikipedia

King Paul of the Hellenes

King Paul of the Hellenes reigned from April 1, 1947 until his death on March 6, 1964. He was born at Tatoi Palace on December 14, 1901, the youngest son of King Constantine I of the Hellenes and Princess Sophie of Prussia. He was a great-grandson of both King Christian IX of Denmark and Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. He had five siblings:

Paul (front) with his parents and siblings, c.1908. (rear: Princess Irene, King Constantine I, future King George II; front: Queen Sophia, Princess Helen, future King Alexander). source: Wikipedia

As the third son, Paul was never expected to mount the throne, and therefore didn’t receive the extensive education given to his eldest brother, George. He was educated primarily at home by several foreign tutors and Greek university professors. He also attended Saint Peter’s Preparatory School for Young Gentlemen, in Eastbourne, England and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. Plans to attend the Royal Naval Academy at Dartmouth were cancelled due to the outbreak of World War I.

In 1917, King Constantine I was forced to relinquish the throne, and Paul’s older brother, Alexander, was chosen by the Greek government to succeed him. Paul accompanied his parents and siblings to Switzerland where they lived in exile. No longer able to join the British Royal Navy, it was arranged for Paul to join the Imperial German Navy. He studied at the German Imperial Naval Academy in Kiel, overseen by his uncle, Prince Heinrich of Prussia. However, in 1918, he returned to Switzerland following the fall of the German Empire.

Paul (far right) with members of his family, 1921. (l-r: Princess Irene, Queen Sophia, King Constantine I, Princess Helen, Crown Princess of Romania, Crown Prince Carol of Romania, Paul). source: Wikipedia

Following the death of his brother, King Alexander in 1920, the Greek Government initially wanted Paul to succeed him on the Greek throne. Paul, however, declined, citing the fact that his father and eldest brother were still living and both preceded him in the line of succession. Soon, a new government came to power, and King Constantine I was restored to the throne. The family returned to Greece, and Paul joined the Hellenic Naval Academy, beginning his naval career with the Greek forces. After two years of studies, he was promoted to Lieutenant, and served on the Greek cruiser, Elli.

Paul became Crown Prince on September 11, 1922, when his father was forced to abdicate, and his elder brother became King George II. Still in the Greek Navy, Paul split his time between his naval duties and supporting his brother and the monarchy.

More turmoil was soon to come. Following the election of Eleftherios Venizelos as Prime Minister in the fall of 1923, King George II and the Greek royal family were asked to leave Greece while the new government decided on the future of the monarchy. Under the guise of an official visit to his wife’s family in Romania, King George and his wife, accompanied by Crown Prince Paul, left Greece. Just months later, the monarchy was abolished and the Second Hellenic Republic was declared. Quickly tired of the Romanian royal court, Paul moved to Italy, living with his mother and younger sisters. He later moved to London where he worked for a year as an apprentice aircraft mechanic for Armstrong Siddeley (using the name Paul Beck).

While living in the UK, Paul fell in love with a commoner, and wanted to marry. However, he was dissuaded by his mother, who stressed the fact that he was likely to ascend the throne, and marriage to a commoner would further damage the future of the monarchy. This was his second failed relationship. He had previously proposed to his first cousin, Princess Nina Georgievna of Russia, the daughter of Grand Duke George Mikhailovich and Princess Marie of Greece, but she had turned him down.

In 1930, Paul accompanied a Danish friend on his private yacht for a cruise in the Aegean Sea. Despite being banned from entering Greece, he agreed to keep his identity secret to avoid any problems. After traveling along the French and Italian coasts, they arrived in Corfu at the beginning of August. He spent the next six weeks traveling around Greece, including visiting his former homes – Mon Repos on Corfu, the Royal Palace of Athens and Tatoi Palace. Although recognized by several former servants, Paul managed to remain anonymous and avoid any problems due his presence in the country.

In 1935, the Greek monarchy was restored and Paul returned to Greece with his brother. He soon resumed his career with the Greek navy, as a Lieutenant Commander attached to the General Staff. He also returned to working with the Greek Scout Movement, of which he had served as chairman since the 1920s.

Wedding of Paul and Frederica, 1938.

Wedding of Paul and Frederica, 1938.

On January 8, 1938, at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, Paul married his first cousin once removed, Princess Frederica of Hanover, Duchess of Brunswick. She was the daughter of Prince Ernst August of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick, and Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia. The two had first met in 1927 when Frederica was just ten years old, and then again in 1934 at the wedding of Paul’s cousin Princess Marina and Britain’s Prince George, Duke of Kent. The following year, Paul was living in Italy when Frederica was studying in Florence, and the two began a romance. In 1936, while in Berlin to attend the Olympic games, Paul and Frederica became engaged, but the engagement wasn’t formally announced until September 28, 1937. After their marriage, they settled at a villa in the Athens suburb of Psychiko, and would go on to have three children:

In 1941, German forces invaded Greece, and the royal family was once again forced to flee. Settling first in Crete, Paul soon traveled to London with his brother where they set up a government-in-exile. Meanwhile, his wife and children settled in South Africa before later moving to Egypt.

Finally, Paul and his family returned to Greece in September 1946, and just months later, he ascended the Greek throne following the sudden death of his brother, King George II. The family moved to the Royal Palace in Athens and began restoring Tatoi Palace, which soon became their primary residence. Shortly after becoming King, Paul found his country in the midst of civil war which would last until 1949. The country suffered more than it had during WWII, with over 10% of the population homeless, and more than 7,000 villages damaged or destroyed. King Paul worked tirelessly to promote reconciliation after the war, and in doing so brought about increased popularity and support for the monarchy.

In August 1954, King Paul and his wife hosted over 100 foreign royals on a cruise of the Mediterranean, Aegean and Ionian Seas, aboard the ship Agamemnon. Officially, it was designed to promote tourism in Greece, as well as reuniting many of the royal families who had been separated by war. Read more about the Agamemnon Cruise here!

After a State Visit to the United Kingdom in July 1963, King Paul fell ill. He was later diagnosed with stomach cancer, but put off having surgery until after the general election which saw the election of George Papandreou as Prime Minister. On February 20, 1964, the day after he swore in the new government, King Paul underwent surgery at Tatoi Palace, in a room which had been converted into an operating room. Sadly, he would never recover. King Paul of the Hellenes died on March 6, 1964 at Tatoi Palace. His funeral was attended by many foreign royals, including King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden, Prince Rainier III of Monaco, The Duke of Edinburgh, former King Umberto II of Italy, former Tsar Simeon II of Bulgaria, and the Count of Barcelona, as well as the First Lady of the United States, Lady Bird Johnson, and former US President Harry Truman. King Paul was buried at the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi Palace, and was succeeded by his son, King Constantine II, who would become the last King of the Hellenes.

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Aspasia Manos, Princess of Greece

Aspasia-01Aspasia Manos, Princess Alexander of Greece

Aspasia Manos was the wife of King Alexander of the Hellenes. She was born on September 4, 1896 in Athens, to Colonel Petros Manos and Maria Argyropoulos, and grew up around the royal family as her father was an aide to King Constantine I.

After her parents divorced, Aspasia left Greece to study in France and Switzerland. Upon returning, she became reaquainted with Prince Alexander, King Constantine’s second son, who would later reign briefly as King. The two quickly began a romance, despite the unlikelihood of being able to marry due to their different ranks.

In June 1917, King Constantine I was forced to step down from the throne, and Alexander was appointed to replace him. With his family exiled in Switzerland, and subject to a Prime Minister who treated him as just a puppet king, Alexander had only Aspasia by his side. The relationship remained largely unknown to the public, but was a source of contention within the royal family and the government. The Prime Minister was strongly against the idea of the marriage, as he feared that marriage to a Greek citizen would bring about increased support for the monarchy. He, instead, hoped to arrange a marriage for Alexander to Princess Mary of the United Kingdom, to strengthen the relationship between the two countries. King Constantine supported his son’s relationship, but before leaving Greece, had made him promise to wait until his return before marrying.

Despite the challenges from his family and the Prime Minister, Aspasia and Alexander married secretly on November 4, 1919. Aspasia and her mother moved into the Royal Palace, but were soon forced to go abroad when news of the marriage became known. Several months later, Alexander was able to leave Greece and join his wife in Paris and soon the couple returned to Greece together. However, she was never given the title of Queen – instead being known simply as Madame Manos.

Months later, on October 25, 1920, King Alexander died after contracting septicemia from a monkey bite several weeks earlier. Aspasia was four months pregnant at the time, and gave birth to their daughter, Alexandra, in March of 1921. Not long after Alexander’s death, his father, King Constantine I, was restored to the throne. Both the King and his government treated Alexander’s reign as merely a regency, which meant that Alexander and Aspasia had not gotten the necessary permissions to marry and their marriage was void. However, at Queen Sophia’s urging, a law was later passed which allowed the King to retroactively approve the marriage. On September 12, 1922, King Constantine issued a decree recognizing the marriage, and legitimizing their daughter. Aspasia was now Princess Alexander of Greece and Denmark. Despite this, her relationship with her husband’s family was not always easy. Her father-in-law remained distant, and her sister-in-law, Elisabeta of Romania (wife of Crown Prince George) despised her. But others reached out to her, including Queen Sophia and the Dowager Queen Olga, and Princess Andrew of Greece (the former Alice of Battenberg, and mother of the Duke of Edinburgh).

In the fall of 1922, King Constantine was forced to abdicate in favor of Crown Prince George (King George II), and another coup in December 1923 again forced the Greek Royal Family into exile. When the Second Hellenic Republic was declared in March 1924, Aspasia and Alexandra were the only members of the Royal Family to remain in Greece. However, the left several months later, settling in Florence with Queen Sophia. Later, they moved to England, where they stayed with Sir James Horlick and his family near Ascot. With Horlick’s help, Aspasia was able to purchase a property in Venice – known as the Garden of Eden (link in French) – from a relative of Sir Anthony Eden (who would later become Prime Minister of the United Kingdom). The property consisted of a modest villa and large garden, situated right on the canal.

Aspasia (seated) with her daughter Alexandra

Aspasia (seated) with her daughter Alexandra

Aspasia and her daughter remained in Venice after the monarchy was restored in 1935, making only occasional visits to Greece. However, after the outbreak of war between Italy and Greece in 1940, they quickly left Venice and returned to Athens, where Aspasia worked tirelessly with the Red Cross. The next year, they were forced to flee when the Germans invaded, traveling to Egypt and then South Africa. Aspasia was given permission to settle in the UK where she continued her work with the Red Cross. It was there that her daughter began a romance with King Peter II of Yugoslavia, and the couple were married on March 20, 1944. The following year, Aspasia’s only grandchild – Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia – was born at Claridge’s Hotel in London.

Aspasia soon returned to Venice and began the project of rebuilding her home which had been partially destroyed during the war. The remainder of her life was often a struggle financially, and Aspasia was once forced to leave her villa during the winter as she could not afford the heating bill. She also sold furniture and other assets when necessary, in order to pay her bills. Despite her financial situation, she often had her daughter and grandson living with her. Following the war, and the overthrow of the Yugoslavian monarchy, Alexandra and Peter’s marriage began to deteriorate. Limited income, his numerous affairs, his drinking, and Alexandra’s ill health and depression soon led the couple to separate, and Aspasia was instrumental in the raising of her grandson.

Aspasia’s tomb at Tatoi. source: Wikipedia

Aspasia’s tomb at Tatoi. source: Wikipedia

Aspasia lived to see her grandson’s marriage to Princess Maria da Glória of Orléans-Bragança, although she was too ill to attend. A month later, on August 7, 1972, Aspasia Manos, Princess Alexander of Greece and Denmark, died in Venice, just a month before her 76th birthday. She was buried in the Orthodox cemetery on the island of San Michele in Venice. In 1993, her remains were reinterred in the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi.

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King Alexander of the Hellenes

source: Wikipedia

King Alexander of the Hellenes

Born on July 20, 1893 at Tatoi Palace, King Alexander was the second son of King Constantine I of the Hellenes and Princess Sophie of Prussia. He had five siblings:

Alexander with four of his siblings, c1904. (l-r) Helen, Irene (in chair), George, Alexander and Paul. source: Wikipedia

Raised at the Royal Palace in Athens and Tatoi Palace, Alexander was educated in Greece, attending the Hellenic Military Academy and serving with the Greek forces. He saw combat during the Balkan Wars, and joined his father at the head of the Army of Thessaly, capturing the city of Thessaloniki in 1912.

On June 11, 1917, Alexander’s father was forced to give up his throne, agreeing to go into exile but not officially abdicating. The Allies wanted Greece to remain a monarchy, but felt that Crown Prince George was too pro-German, and bypassed him. Alexander was then chosen to replace his father on the Greek throne. He took the oath of loyalty in the ballroom of the Royal Palace that same day, in the presence of his father, elder brother and the Prime Minister. Two days later, his parents and siblings left Greece and settled Switzerland. Alexander would not see his family again.

King Alexander of the Hellenes (left) with King Alexander I of Yugoslavia, at the Macedonian Front, 1918. source: Wikipedia

Just days later, Alexander was forced to name Eleftherios Venizelos as Prime Minister. Venizelos, the leader of the Liberal Party, held all the power, and Alexander was basically a prisoner in his own palace, merely acting as a puppet king. His few public appearances were usually visits to the Greek troops, including a visit to the Macedonian Front in 1918.

The day after becoming King, Alexander disclosed his relationship with an old childhood friend, Aspasia Manos. She was the daughter of Petros Manos, who had served as Master of the Horse to his father. They had become reaquainted in 1915 and began a secret romance. With Greece at war, King Constantine insisted that his son wait until the war was over before even considering a possible engagement. However, Alexander’s separation from his family and near lack of contact with them, only brought him even closer to Aspasia, and he made the decision to marry her. The Prime Minister, too, was strongly against the idea, fearing that marriage to a native Greek would only bring about public support for the Greek Royal Family. Venizelos had hoped to arrange a marriage between Alexander and Princess Mary of the United Kingdom (daughter of King George V), which would help strengthen the relationship between the two countries. While there was little support at home, his father did support the match but wanted Alexander to wait.

Finally, after several failed attempts, Alexander and Aspasia were married secretly by a royal chaplain on November 17, 1919. When the Archbishop of Athens found out, it turned into a major scandal. Under the terms of the constitution, permission from both the sovereign and the head of the Greek Orthodox Church was needed for any member of the royal family to marry.

At first, the marriage was kept secret, with Aspasia and her mother permitted to move into the palace with Alexander. However, once it became public, she was forced to leave the country, eventually settling in Paris. Alexander was allowed to join her there – under the guise of attending the Peace Conference – on the condition that they she not accompany him at any official functions.

Alexander and Aspasia, 1920. source: Wikipedia

In the mid-1920s, Alexander and Aspasia were permitted to return to Greece. The marriage was legalized, but Aspasia would not be recognized as Queen. Settled in at Tatoi Palace, Aspasia was soon pregnant with the couple’s only child, Alexandra. Alexandra was born in 1921, five months after her father’s death, and would later marry King Peter II of Yugoslavia.

One of his last public appearances was in July 1920, when he visited the newly acquired territories of West Thrace. While there, the main town was renamed Alexandroupoli in his honor. Just a few months later, tragedy struck the Greek Royal Family. On October 2, 1920, King Alexander was bitten by a monkey while walking in the grounds of Tatoi Palace. Not thinking it was serious, he had the wound cleaned and dressed, but it soon became infected. He soon developed septicemia and became delirious with fever. Despite his pleas for his mother to be at his bedside, the government would not allow either of his parents to return to Greece. They did, however, allow his grandmother, Queen Olga, to come to Athens. King Alexander died on October 25, 1920, at the Royal Palace. Delayed by bad weather, Queen Olga did not arrive until two hours after his death.

Tomb of King Alexander. source: Wikipedia

The King’s body lay in state at the Athens Cathedral until his funeral several days later. Queen Olga was the only member of the Greek royal family permitted to attend. Following the funeral, Alexander’s remains were interred at the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi. Interestingly, unlike the tombstones of his father and brothers, Alexander’s does not refer to him as King of the Hellenes. Because of the political circumstances which put him on the throne, none in the royal family considered his reign to be truly legitimate and treated it more as a regency. Alexander himself shared this feeling. His tombstone simply says ‘Alexander, son of the King of the Hellenes, Prince of Denmark.’

King Alexander’s death left the throne vacant, with the Greek Parliament wanting to pass the throne to another member of the Royal Family. (They had gone as far as insisting that King Constantine and Crown Prince George be permanently banned from the line of succession). Just days after Alexander’s death, the throne was offered to his younger brother, Paul. But he declined, pointing out that both his father and elder brother were still living, and neither had renounced their rights to the throne. Just weeks later, new elections saw the defeat of Prime Minister Venizelos and the monarchists winning the majority. King Constantine was restored to the throne, and the new Prime Minister asked Queen Olga, already in Athens, to serve as Regent until King Constantine’s return to Greece.

Two years after Alexander’s death, his marriage was retroactively recognized by King Constantine I, and their daughter legitimized. Both Aspasia and Alexandra were made Princesses of Greece and Denmark.

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Princess Elisabeta of Romania, Queen of the Hellenes

source: Wikipedia

Princess Elisabeta of Romania, Queen of the Hellenes

Princess Elisabeta of Romania was the wife of King George II of the Hellenes from 1921 until 1935. She was born Elisabeta Charlotte Josephine Alexandra Victoria on October 12, 1894 at Peleş Castle in Romania, eldest daughter of King Ferdinand I of Romania and Princess Marie of Edinburgh. Elisabeta had five siblings:

Elisabeta on her mother’s lap, with her brother, Carol, c1895. source: Wikipedia

As a child, she was raised by her great-aunt (and namesake) Queen Elisabeth, the wife of King Carol I. As a child she learned to play the piano and violin and quickly developed a talent for drawing and painting. Educated privately at home, she quickly learned to speak several languages and furthered her skills in music and art. She also began her charitable work at a young age. Along with her sisters, Elisabeta often joined their mother in her nursing work during World War I. And after the war, she spent a year studying art and music in Paris.

Queen Marie, Princess Elisabeta and Princess Maria in Paris, 1919. source: Wikipedia

Elisabeta first met her future husband in 1911, when the Greek Royal Family had been invited to visit the Romanian Royal Family. Prince George (later King George II) was the son of King Constantine I of the Hellenes and Princess Sophie of Prussia. He and Elisabeta were second-cousins through their mothers. During the visit, George proposed but Elisabeta declined. He proposed again in 1914 after the Balkan Wars, but she again turned him down. The two, however, maintained contact and George’s luck would soon improve. In early 1920, while traveling from France with her mother and sisters, they stopped in Switzerland where the Greek Royal Family were living in exile. George proposed again, and this time, she accepted. The engagement was announced in October 1920 and they married on February 27, 1921 in Bucharest. By the time of the wedding, George’s father had been restored to the Greek throne. Elisabeta became Crown Princess of Greece and Duchess of Sparta. A week after their return to Greece, a second wedding took place in Athens. Elisabeta’s brother, Carol, married George’s sister, Princess Helen of Greece. Neither marriage would prove to be a happy one.

Elisabeta and George, 1921. source: Wikipedia

The Crown Princess found her new life in Greece to be very difficult. She didn’t speak the language and often felt snubbed by many in her husband’s family. Not having their own home, the couple lived with King Constantine and Queen Sophia. Trying to make the best of the situation, Elisabeta quickly set out to redecorate their apartments, but soon found that there was little money to do so. The Greek Royal Family did not have the same financial resources to which she was accustomed, and her own dowry was not of much help. She began working with the Red Cross, and indulging in her love of painting and gardening. She also worked hard to learn the Greek language in hopes that it would help her relationships with her new family. Soon she found herself pregnant, but suffered a miscarriage and then fell ill with typhoid. Having recovered, she returned to Romania in the fall of 1922 to attend her parents’ coronation. While there, she learned that her father-in-law had abdicated in favor of her husband. She was now Queen of the Hellenes.

Days after her parents’ coronation, she returned to Greece. However, she shunned the typical duties expected of a Consort, preferring to spend time at Tatoi Palace where she could paint and play the piano, and spend hours working in the gardens she had designed there. Soon, it became likely that the Greek monarchy would be eliminated in favor of a Republic. Under the guise of an official visit to Romania, Elisabeta and her husband went into exile on December 19, 1923. They settled briefly at Cotroceni Palace before taking the lease on a small villa in Bucharest. Just months later, on March 25, 1924, King George II was formally deposed.

Soon, the couple began to grow apart. Elisabeta was happy to be back in her homeland, while George felt stifled at the Romanian court. He began spending more time abroad, and by the early 1930s, was living permanently in London. Both of them had begun affairs, and in 1935, Elisabeta filed for divorce in Bucharest, citing desertion as the grounds for divorce. The divorce was issued on July 6, 1935, and her former husband found out when he read about it in the newspaper. He had never been made aware of the proceedings.

Elisabeta then petitioned to have her Romanian citizenship restored (she had relinquished it upon her marriage), and through very shrewd investments, as well as the booming Romanian economy, managed to become financially well-off. In March of that year, she had purchased Banloc – a commune in Western Romania, made up by several villages – where she lived at Banloc Castle. And in Bucharest, the Elisabeta Palace was built for her in the mid-1390s. She also had a home in the village of Copăceni, outside of Bucharest. She devoted much of her time to charity, working with many organizations to help children and those who were ill. At her own expense, she established a hospital and children’s home in Bucharest.

By 1944, she had given up the Elisabeta Palace to her nephew, King Mihai, who moved his court there following the bombing of the Royal Palace in Bucharest. She, instead, spent her time at Banloc and Copăceni. It was there, on December 30, 1947, that King Mihai was forced to abdicate. Just days later, on January 4, 1948, the royal train carrying King Mihai, Queen Mother Helen and Princess Ileana left Bucharest and traveled to Banloc, where Elisabeta joined them on their journey out of Romania. After staying briefly in Sigmaringen, Germany, and in Zurich, she eventually settled in Cannes, France where she leased an apartment and later taught piano lessons.

Princess Elisabeta of Romania, Queen of Greece, died in Cannes on November 15, 1956. She is buried at the Hedinger Church in Sigmaringen.

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King George II of the Hellenes

source: Wikipedia

King George II of Greece

King George II of the Hellenes was the eldest son of King Constantine I and Princess Sophie of Prussia. He was born on July 19, 1890 at Tatoi Palace, and had five younger siblings:

At the time of his birth, his grandfather, King George I, was King of the Hellenes, and his father was Crown Prince. Through his mother, he was a grandson of Kaiser Friedrich III of Germany and Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom.

Queen Sophia and King Constantine I surrounded by their five eldest children (l-r): Paul, Alexander, George, Helen and Irene. c1911. source: Wikipedia

As a child, George and his family lived in a villa in Athens, and enjoyed time at Tatoi Palace. They also traveled often to England, and spent part of their summers at Friedrichshof (his grandmother’s home in Germany) as well as Corfu and Venice. His education was primarily military-based, attending the Hellenic Military Academy in Athens. At the age of 18, George continued his military training with the 1st Infantry Regiment of the Prussian Guard in Berlin, where he stayed for several years. He returned to Greece in October 1912, and fought with the 1st Greek Infantry during the Balkan Wars. All would change on March 18, 1913 when his grandfather was assassinated, and his father ascended to the Greek throne. George became Crown Prince and Duke of Sparta (the traditional title for the heir to the Greek throne, although rarely used within Greece).

In June 1917, George’s father was forced to relinquish the throne. While George was the Crown Prince and rightful heir, the government felt he was too ‘German’, having trained with the Prussian Guard, and because of his mother’s German roots. Instead, his younger brother, Alexander, was placed on the throne. George went into exile in Switzerland with his father and most of his family. King Alexander died on October 25, 1920, having contracted septicemia following a monkey bite, and soon after, King Constantine was returned to the throne. George returned to Greece, and served in the Greek forces during the Greco-Turkish War.

George and Elisabetha, 1921. source: Wikipedia

George married his second-cousin, Princess Elisabeta of Romania, on February 27, 1921 in Bucharest. She was the daughter of King Ferdinand I of Romania and Princess Marie of Edinburgh. The couple had become engaged in October 1920, after having known each other for many years. Coincidentally, it was at the formal engagement festivities that George’s sister, Helen, began her relationship with Elisabeta’s brother, Crown Prince Carol of Romania. The two became engaged the following month, and married in Athens just two weeks after George and Elisabeta’s wedding. George and Elisabeta had no children, and would eventually divorce in 1935.

Following Greece’s loss in the Greco-Turkish War, an uprising of Greek military officers (known as the 11 September 1922 Revolution) took control of the government. The new military regime forced King Constantine I to abdicate, and George ascended to the throne on September 27, 1922, as King George II. Like his brother, Alexander, George was also a puppet-king for Revolutionary Committee, and lived in constant fear of their actions.

On October 18, 1923, the Revolutionary government announced that elections would be held in mid-December to elect a National Assembly which would determine Greece’s future form of government. Just days later, a group of pro-royalist military officers attempted to stage a coup, but were quickly defeated. Although not responsible for the coup, King George II was blamed for it, and there were public calls to abolish the monarchy.

Following the elections in December, George was asked to leave the country while the new government decided Greece’s fate. Under the guise of an official visit to his wife’s home country of Romania, George left Greece on December 19, 1923 with his wife and younger brother, Paul. They lived for a few weeks in a wing of Cotroceni Palace, before taking a small villa in Bucharest. On March 25, 1924, Greece declared itself a Republic, and the monarchy was abolished. King George was stripped of his Greek citizenship and all of his assets in the country were confiscated.

King George and Queen Elisabetha (on right) with the Romanian royal family, late 1920s. source: Wikipedia

George quickly grew disenchanted with his life at the Romanian court, but found great comfort in the help and support of his mother-in-law, Queen Marie, who he wrote “was the only one to make life bearable” at the time. He soon began to travel, spending about half the year between visiting his mother in Florence, and friends in London. In 1932, he moved permanently to London, taking a small suite of rooms at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair. He was careful to avoid saying or doing anything that could be considered political, stating simply that he considered himself to be one of the Greek people, and should the country choose to bring him back to the throne, he would abide by their wishes. He was close with the British royal family, and in 1934, attended the wedding of his cousin, Princess Marina, to the Duke of Kent. By this time, his marriage to Elisabetha had deteriorated, and she had undertaken several affairs. George, too, had begun an affair. In early 1935, he met Joyce Wallach, the wife of an aide to the Governor of India. Married with a young daughter, she soon divorced her husband, and the two enjoyed a very private relationship for the rest of George’s life. After returning to London, George was surprised to find that he was no longer married. Elisabetha had been granted a divorce in Bucharest, citing desertion as the grounds for divorce. In reality, she had already vowed not to return to Greece and there was growing sentiment to restore the monarchy. The marriage was dissolved on July 6, 1935.

Elisabeta was right. On November 3, 1935, a referendum resulted in an overwhelming majority supporting the restoration of the Greek monarchy. George, along with his brother Paul, began making arrangements to return to Athens. Following visits to France and Italy, they arrived in Greece on November 25, 1935. Although met with significant support, George found his country broken and in need of reform. More changes in leadership in the government led to the dissolution of the Hellenic Assembly and new elections to be held in January 1936. By April of that year, Ioannis Metaxas had become Prime Minister. Further unrest led to a general strike planned for August 5, 1936. The day before the strike, Metaxas advises King George to once again dissolve the Assembly, but without calling for new elections, and the suspend parts of the constitution, basically allowing for a dictatorship. Facing increased political turmoil and a growing rise of communism, King George agrees, and allows for what became known as the 4th of August Regime under Prime Minister Metaxas. Once again, King George becomes a puppet-king, but this time at least has the support and respect of his Prime Minister.

Having little power or even formal role, King George begins the task of restoring the Royal Palace in Athens, which had been looted and left in disrepair. With no money provided, George undertook the project – and the costs – himself. Another project the King undertook was to bring home the remains of his relatives who had been buried elsewhere. In November 1936, he and Prince Paul traveled to Florence to retrieve the remains of his parents, and his grandmother, Queen Olga, and had them all interred at the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi Palace. Four years later, he arranged for the remains of his aunt, Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna of Russia, to be returned – fulfilling a promise he had made to his grandmother many years before.

In April 1941, following the German occupation of Greece, King George and the government went into exile. The Greek Royal Family was evacuated to Egypt, but soon needed to find another place to settle. George and his brother, Paul, moved to London, while Paul’s wife and children went to South Africa for the remainder of the war. (The British government was not willing to allow Prince Paul’s wife, Princess Frederica of Hanover, into the country). He eventually settled in Cairo where his government-in-exile had settled in 1943. Despite his promise that following liberation he would restore the 1911 Constitution and hold elections within six months, many in Greece did not trust him and fought against his return. With the establishment of a rival Communist-led government, it was decided that a referendum would be held to determine the fate of the Greek monarchy. King George was forced to appoint the Archbishop of Athens as Regent. The archbishop quickly appointed a new government which was very anti-monarchy. The King, frustrated and tired, leased a house in London, expecting to live out the rest of his life in exile with his mistress. However, the following year on September 1, 1946, a referendum was finally held, and the majority supported the return of the King. Several weeks later, King George II returned to a country rife with political uncertainty and facing economic collapse.

Tomb of King George II at Tatoi. source: Wikipedia, photo by krischnig

His return would be short-lived. His health declining, King George II of the Hellenes was found unconscious in his office at the Royal Palace on April 1, 1947. Several hours later, it is announced that he had died of arteriosclerosis. Following a state funeral at the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, he was buried at the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi.

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Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia, Queen of the Hellenes

source: Wikipedia

Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia, Queen of the Hellenes

Queen Olga of the Hellenes was born Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinova of Russia, on September 3, 1851 at Pavlovsk Palace, St. Petersburg. She was the elder daughter of Grand Duke Konstantin Nicolayevich of Russia (a son of Tsar Nicholas I) and Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg. She had 5 siblings:

Olga (far right) with her mother and four of her siblings, c.1861. source: Wikipedia

Olga grew up at her father’s estates in St. Petersburg and the Crimea, as well as some time in Poland where her father served as Viceroy. She was educated privately at home.

Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna, c.1866. source: Wikipedia

In 1863, she first met her future husband who had just been elected King George I of the Hellenes. The two met again four years later, and she quickly fell in love. The couple married in the chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on October 27, 1867. Just sixteen years old, Olga was now Queen of the Hellenes. Over the next 20 years, Olga and George had eight children:

Being so young, Olga was not prepared for her new life as Queen, in a new country. But she made efforts to earn the love and respect of the Greek people, wearing a dress of blue and white – the Greek national colors – for her arrival, and quickly learning to speak Greek. Used to the splendor of the Russian court, life in Greece was quite different, and almost boring in comparison. But Olga adjusted and was a very hands-on mother, and threw herself into charity work which she thoroughly enjoyed. From the moment she arrived in Greece, she took on several patronages previously held by the previous Queen Amalia. Particularly drawn to helping those in need, she worked tireless to improve conditions for the poor and orphaned. She also became patron of several military hospitals, and helped establish the Annunciation Hospital in Athens. She also built a Russian Hospital in Piraeus, which served Russian soldiers and any other soldiers visiting Greece. During the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and the Balkan Wars, Olga established hospitals to serve the wounded, and was awarded the Royal Red cross by Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom in December 1897. She also retained her love for Russia, and often entertained Russian sailors at the Royal Palace.

Despite her charity work, Olga occasionally courted controversy in Greece. Realizing that many wounded soldiers were unable to read the Bible due to the archaic Greek in which it was written, she arranged for a new version to be published in Modern Greek. This was not authorized by the Greek Holy Synod and caused a huge uproar, with calls for excommunication for anyone involved in the project, including Olga. By the end of the year, all remaining copies had been confiscated and no longer allowed to be circulated.

Queen Olga and King George, December 1912. source: Wikipedia

Olga’s husband, King George, was assassinated in Thessaloniki on March 18, 1913. Olga arrived in the city the next day to accompany her husband’s body back to Athens. She retained a wing of the Royal Palace in Athens, but spent much of her time back in Russia. When World War I began, Queen Olga was in Russia, where she established a hospital at Pavlovsk Palace to treat wounded soldiers.

Olga remained in Greece even after the fall of the Russian monarchy in 1917.  Following the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks invaded Pavlovsk Palace but she remained unharmed.  Initially, they refused to let her leave Russia, and at the time, Greece was in no position to offer any help.  Her son, Constantine, had been deposed and sent into exile, and one of his younger sons, Alexander, had been chosen to replace him.  Finally, with help from the Danish government, Olga was able to leave Russia, traveling to join her family in Switzerland in 1919.

In October 1920, her grandson, King Alexander, developed septicemia from a monkey bite. Gravely ill, he called for his mother, but the government would not permit Queen Sophie to return. It was, however, negotiated, that Queen Olga could travel to Athens to be at her grandson’s bedside. Sadly, she arrived just hours after Alexander died on October 25. The next several weeks saw significant changes in the political landscape of Greece. Prime Minister Venizelos was defeated in a general election just days after Alexander’s death. The following month, the new Prime Minister asked Queen Olga to serve as Regent. And three days later, a referendum was held, in which her son, King Constantine I, was restored to the Greek throne. Queen Olga served as Regent until his return to Greece on December 19, 1920.

Queen Olga with her son, Prince Christopher and his first wife on their wedding day, January 1, 1920. source: Wikipedia

In September 1922, following another coup, King Constantine I abdicated in favor of his eldest son and rightful heir, King George II. Constantine and his family, along with Queen Olga, left the country and went into exile in Italy. George II would only serve for 18 months before the monarchy was deposed. Unlike the other members of her family, Queen Olga was held in very high esteem by the Greek people, and was the only member of her family to be given a pension by the new government.

Queen Olga, painted by de László, 1914. source: Wikipedia

Queen Olga spent her remaining years in the United Kingdom, shuttling between the homes of her son, Christopher, and her daughter, Marie, as well as the royal residences of the British Royal Family. Olga remained very close to her sister-in-law, Queen Alexandra, and was particularly close to her nephew, King George V. After several years of ill health, Queen Olga died on June 18, 1926.

Again, as a sign of the respect in which she was held, the Greek government offered to provide a lavish funeral and burial in Greece. Her children, however, declined the offer. Following a funeral at the Orthodox Church in Rome, Queen Olga’s remains were placed in the crypt of the Russian church in Florence, beside those of her son, King Constantine I. In 1936, after the Greek monarchy was restored, Queen Olga was re-interred in the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi Palace.

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King George I of the Hellenes

source: Wikipedia

King George I of the Hellenes

King George I of the Hellenes was born Prince Christian Vilhelm Ferdinand Adolf Georg of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, on December 24, 1845 at the Yellow Palace in Copenhagen. Known as Vilhelm, he was the son of Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg (later King Christian IX) and Princess Luise of Hesse-Kassel. He had 5 siblings:

In 1852, his father was designated as heir-presumptive to the childless King Frederik VII of Denmark. Vilhelm’s title changed to Prince of Denmark. The family split their time between the Yellow Palace and Bernstorff Palace, which had been available to them following his father’s appointment. After his initial education at home, Vilhelm joined the Royal Danish Navy, attending the Royal Danish Naval Academy alongside his elder brother, Frederik.

Prince Vilhelm with his family, 1862. front: Princess Dagmar, Prince Valdemar, Queen Louise, Princess Thyra, Princess Alexandra; back: Prince Frederik, King Christian IX, Prince Vilhelm. source: Wikipedia

In 1862, King Otto of Greece (born Prince Otto of Bavaria) was deposed. Still wanting a monarchy, but rejecting Otto’s proposed successor, Greece began searching for a new King. Initially, the focus fell on Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (the second son of Queen Victoria), who received overwhelming support from the Greek people. However, the London Conference of 1832 stipulated that no one from the ruling families of the Great Powers could accept the Greek throne. While several other European princes were put forward as possible sovereigns, the Greek people and the Great Powers soon chose Prince Vilhelm as their next King. On March 30, 1863, the 17-year old Vilhelm was unanimously elected by the Greek National Assembly and took the name King George I of the Hellenes. A ceremonial enthronement was held in Copenhagen on June 6, 1863.

George made visits to Russia, England, and France, before arriving in Athens on October 30, 1863. From the beginning, George was determined to be very different than his predecessor. He quickly learned Greek and was often seen informally strolling through the streets of Athens. Although he’d been accompanied to Greece with several advisors from Denmark, he soon dispatched them back home so it wouldn’t appear that he was being overly influenced by his home country. George toured the country the following year and then demanded that the Assembly finally adopt a new constitution. Finally done, he took an oath on November 28, 1864 to defend the new constitution, establishing a constitutional monarchy in which the King deferred authority to the elected government. George quickly became very popular with the Greek people.

source: Wikipedia

In 1863, while visiting St Petersburg before his arrival in Greece, King George first met his future wife, Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia. She was the daughter of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich (a son of Tsar Nicholas I) and Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg. Four years later, while visiting his sister Dagmar, who had married the future Tsar Alexander III, George met Olga again. By this time, George was looking for a wife, and marriage to a Russian Grand Duchess would be advantageous both politically and as far the religion of further generations. While George had remained Lutheran after taking the throne, it was expected that future Greek sovereigns would be raised in the Orthodox faith. Olga was smitten with George, and the two quickly fell in love. They married in the chapel of the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg on October 27, 1867 and went on to have eight children:

King George and Queen Olga with six of their children, c1890. source: Wikipedia

The King and his family spent much of their time at Tatoi, a 10,000-acre estate outside Athens which the King purchased in the 1870s. Along with the main palace, King George established a winery and a Danish-styled dairy farm. He established the Royal Cemetery on the grounds, following the death of his daughter, Princess Olga, in 1880. King George also acquired Mon Repos, a villa on the isle of Corfu, in 1864, which the royal family used as a summer residence. Mon Repos is probably best known today as the birthplace of George’s grandson, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who was born there in 1921.

King George’s early reign saw constant upheaval, with 21 different governments in 10 years. Attempts to return the isle of Crete to Greek control went unsuccessful, which caused great tension among the Greek people. Following the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878 (in which Greece remained neutral despite the attempts of George’s sister, Tsarevna Maria Feodorovna of Russia, to get Greece to join with the Russians), Greece claimed stake to Crete, and the regions of Epirus and Thessaly which were all under Ottoman rule. Eventually, in 1881, the Ottomans ceded Thessaly.

The political climate in Crete remained tense, with the predominantly Greek population revolting against Turkish rule in 1897. The Great Powers stepped in, ordering both Greek and Turkish forces to withdraw, with Crete being under international control. While the Turks agreed, the Greek Prime Minister refused and sent troops to take the island. When forces crossed the Macedonian border, war broke out. By the end of April, the war was over, with Greece losing swiftly and severely. Following the defeat, King George lost much of his popularity and support from the Greek people, even considering abdication. But the following year, in February 1898, an assassination attempt was made on the King and his daughter Maria, while riding in an open carriage. Fortunately, both were unharmed, and he received an upswell of support from his subjects.

In the First Balkan War of 1912, Greece joined forces with Montenegro, Serbia, and Bulgaria in fighting against Turkey. This time, the Greek forces were victorious, and on November 12, 1912, led by Crown Prince Constantine, they took the city of Thessaloniki in what was then Macedonia. Three days later, the King arrived and rode through the streets accompanied by his son and the Prime Minister.

Tomb of King George I of Greece, photo by Kostisl, source: Wikipedia

With his Golden Jubilee approaching, King George planned to abdicate following the celebrations planned for October 1913. However, his life would end several months before he had the chance. On March 18, 1913, while on a walk in Thessaloniki, King George was killed when an assassin shot him at close range in the back. The King died instantly. His body was returned to Athens, where it lay in state for three days in the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens. Draped in both the Greek and Danish flags, his coffin was then interred in Royal Cemetery at Tatoi.

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King Constantine I of the Hellenes

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

King Constantine I of Greece was born on August 2, 1868 in Athens, Greece. Constantine’s birth was met with great joy in Greece as he would be the first Greek-born child of a modern Greek monarch. He was the eldest of the eight children of King George I of the Hellenes and his wife Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia, daughter of Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaievich who was a son of Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. Constantine’s father was born Prince Vilhelm (William) of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and later became a Prince of Denmark when his father succeeded to the Danish throne as King Christian IX. When he was only 17 years old, Prince Vilhelm was elected King by the Greek National Assembly.

Constantine had four brothers and three sisters:

Greek Royal Family around 1890, Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Although Danish born King George I retained his Lutheran faith, all his children were baptized Greek Orthodox and learned Greek from birth. Constantine was tutored by prominent university professors in Greek literature, mathematics, physics, and history. In 1882, Constantine enrolled in the Hellenic Military Academy, the officer cadet school of the Hellenic Army. After graduation, Constantine received further military education in the German Imperial Army in Berlin. He also attended the University of Heidelberg and the University of Leipzig in Germany where he studied political science and business. In 1890, he returned to Greece and embarked on a military career. With the rank of Major General, Constantine took over the command of the 3rd Army in Athens.

Constantine in the field uniform of a Lieutenant General of the Greek Army in the 1890s; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

During the summer of 1887, many European royals were in England to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. Queen Victoria observed a relationship developing between her granddaughter Princess Sophie of Prussia and Constantine, and was pleased. Constantine was not very bright, but as Queen Victoria wrote to her eldest child Victoria, Princess Royal, Sophie’s mother, “a good heart and a good character…go far beyond cleverness.” The couple became engaged shortly after the death of Sophie’s father, Friedrich III, German Emperor in 1888. Despite having the approval of Queen Victoria and her eldest brother Wilhelm, now the German Emperor, Sophie did not have the wholehearted agreement of her mother. Her mother dreaded sending Sophie so far away, and she thought the stability of the Greek throne was uncertain and the country was considered underdeveloped. Nevertheless, Sophie and Constantine married on October 27, 1889 in Athens, Greece. They had a Greek Orthodox service at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation and then a Lutheran service in the private Lutheran chapel of King George I of Greece. A contemporary account of the wedding can be read at Otago Witness: The Royal Wedding in Athens.

Engagement Photo 1889; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Sophie and Constantine had six children and there is a 23 year age gap between their eldest and youngest child.

Photo circa 1910, Top left: Constantine holding Irene, Top right: the future George II, Left: Sophia, Center: Helen, Right: the future Alexander I, Front: the future Paul I, Katherine is not yet born; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

On March 18, 1913, Constantine’s father King George I was assassinated and he acceded to the Greek throne as King Constantine I.

Swearing-in ceremony of King Constantine I before the Greek Parliament in 1913; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

At first, Constantine was a popular king because of his success in the war against Turkey and Bulgaria. At the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, Greece remained a neutral nation. However, Greece had signed a treaty with Serbia in 1913 obliging Greece to come to Serbia’s aid if attacked by Bulgaria. Bulgaria did attack Serbia, disagreements arose between King Constantine and the Greek Prime Minister, the King was accused of pro-German sentiments, and he was forced to abdicate in 1917. Constantine and his family went into exile in Switzerland.

Crown Prince George, was also suspected of collaborating with the Germans, so it was the second son Alexander, who succeeded his father on the throne. In 1920, Alexander died of blood poisoning as a result of a monkey bite, and the third son Paul, was asked to take over the throne. After Paul declined, Constantine was brought back after a change of government and a referendum allowing his return from exile. Constantine was enthusiastically welcomed by the Greek people, but the enthusiasm did not last long. After a defeat in a war against Turkey in 1922, Constantine was forced to abdicate a second time and again go into exile. The crown went to his eldest son George, who reigned until 1925 when he was forced to abdicate. He was restored to the throne in 1936 and reigned until his death in 1947, when his younger brother Paul became king. Thus, all three sons of Constantine became Kings of Greece.


On January 11, 1923, Constantine died at the age of 54 from a brain hemorrhage in Palermo, Sicily. He was buried in the crypt of the Russian Church of Florence in Italy. With the restoration of the monarchy in 1936, the returning of the remains of Greek royals to Greece was permitted. The Greek government sent the battleship Averof Brindisi to pick up the remains of Constantine, his mother Queen Olga, and his wife Queen Sophia, who had also died in exile. The battleship arrived in Piraeus, Greece on November 17, 1936. An official procession transported the remains to the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation in Athens where they lay in state for six days. The remains were then buried at the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi Palace.

Tomb of King Constantine I of Greece; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: King Constantine I of Greece

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