Category Archives: Greek Royals

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark

by Scott Mehl

Sophie of Greece and Denmark in 1955, with her daughter Friederike. Photo source: Daily Mail

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark, Princess of Hesse, Princess of Hanover

Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark was the third daughter of Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Known in the family as “Tiny”, she was born on March 25, 1915 at Mon Repos on the isle of Corfu, Greece. She had four siblings:

Because of the unstable political situation in Greece, Sophie spent several years living in Switzerland, and later settled in France in the early 1920s. However, the family was soon pulled apart. Her mother suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized in 1930, and her father had basically given up on his marriage and spent most of his time with a mistress on the French Riviera. So it was no surprise when Sophie, at just 16 years old, became engaged to be married. She would be the first of the sisters to marry, but the others followed within the following year. On December 15, 1930 at Schloss Friedrichshof in Kronberg, Sophie married Prince Christoph of Hesse, in both Orthodox and Lutheran ceremonies. He was the son of Prince Friedrich Karl of Hesse and Princess Margarete of Prussia. Sophie and Christoph were second cousins once removed through their mutual descent from Queen Victoria. They had five children:

  • Princess Christina of Hesse (1933) – married (1) Prince Andrej of Yugoslavia, had issue; (2) Robert van Eyck, had issue
  • Princess Dorothea of Hesse (1934) – married Prince Friedrich Karl of Windisch-Grätz, had issue
  • Prince Karl of Hesse (1937) – married Countess Yvonne Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget and Szapár, had issue
  • Prince Rainer of Hesse (1939) – unmarried
  • Princess Clarissa of Hesse (1944) – married Jean-Claude Derrin (div), had issue

Sophie and Christoph lived in Berlin, where he worked in an insurance company, as well as serving as a reserve officer in the Luftwaffe. At the outbreak of World War II, Christoph entered active service, serving as a navigator in a bomb squadron, and later transferred to a fighter squadron in Tunisia and Sicily. In October 1943, Hitler recalled all the German princes from active service. Christoph was en route back to Germany when his plane crashed on October 7 and he was killed.

Sophie, meanwhile, had been living with her mother-in-law at Schloss Friedrichshof, with her five children. She was also raising the four children of her brother-in-law, Prince Philip of Hesse, who had been imprisoned in 1943. Forced to leave Friedrichshof when the American troops arrived, Sophie and her family moved to Schloss Wolfsgarten, the family home of the former Grand Dukes of Hesse and by Rhine.

Sophie married a second time on April 23, 1946, in Salem, Baden. Her husband was Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hanover, the son of Ernst August III, Duke of Brunswick and Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia. Sophie and Georg Wilhelm were second cousins. This marriage is the only known case where the British sovereign withheld permission to marry, under the Royal Marriages Act of 1772. Although Germany and Britain were at war, the groom’s father still requested consent from King George VI. The King wished to let them know that it would be inappropriate to give his consent due to the war, but the British government would not allow it. Therefore, the request went unanswered, meaning that the marriage was not recognized under British law. Sophie and Georg had three children:

Throughout her life, Sophie was very close with her brother, The Duke of Edinburgh. Although not invited to Philip’s wedding because of her German ties, Sophie and her husband paid a private visit shortly after the wedding, spending time with Philip and Elizabeth at Birkhall. Six years later, Sophie and her surviving sisters, and their families, were all in attendance for Elizabeth’s coronation. The families visited often, and Sophie was a regular guest at the Windsor Royal Horse Show each year, as well as most private family events. In 1964, she was named as one of the godparents for Philip’s youngest son, Prince Edward. In 1994, Sophie and Philip traveled to Jerusalem, where their mother was posthumously honored as Righteous Among the Nations for her efforts to help Jewish families during the war.

Sophie and Philip in Jerusalem, 1994.

In her later years, Sophie lived in Schliersee, near Munich, with her husband. She also regularly visited Princess Margaret of Hesse and by Rhine (the wife of Prince Ludwig) who was among her closest friends. In the summer of 2001, with her health failing, Sophie moved to a nursing home in Munich, where she later died on November 24, 2001. She was buried in the cemetery in Schliersee, and a memorial service was held two months later at Schloss Wolfsgarten, attended by The Duke of Edinburgh.

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Princess Cecilie of Greece, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

by Scott Mehl

source: Wikipedia

Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark, Hereditary Grand Duchess of Hesse and by Rhine

Princess Cecilie of Greece and Denmark was born at Tatoi Palace on June 22, 1911. She was the third daughter of Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. Cecilie had four siblings:

Cecilie with her husband and two sons, c1933. photo: personal collection

On February 2, 1931, in Darmstadt, Cecilie married her first cousin once removed, Georg Donatus, Hereditary Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine. He was the son of Ernst Ludwig, Grand Duke of Hesse and by Rhine and Princess Eleonore of Solms-Hohensolms-Lich. Cecilie and Georg Donatus (known as Don) had three children:

Cecilie’s life came to a tragic end on November 16, 1937. A very pregnant Cecilie, her husband, their two sons, and her mother-in-law, were traveling by plane to London to attend the wedding of Don’s brother, Prince Ludwig and Margaret Geddes four days later. Facing bad weather, the plane was unable to land in Brussels as scheduled, and was instead diverted to Ostend. While attempting to land, the plane clipped a chimney on a factory near the airport, and the plane crashed leaving no survivors.

Having received the news, a private wedding ceremony was hastily arranged for Ludwig and Margaret the following day. They then traveled to Belgium to accompany the bodies back to Darmstadt. A funeral was held a few days later, attended by all of Cecilie’s family. Cecilie and her family were all buried in the burial ground next to the New Mausoleum in the Rosenhöhe.

Ludwig and Margaret adopted Cecilie and Don’s only surviving child, Princess Johanna. Sadly, less than two years later, Johanna contracted meningitis and died. She was buried alongside the rest of her family.

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Princess Theodora of Greece, Margravine of Baden

by Scott Mehl
Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark, Margravine of Baden

Princess Theodora of Greece and Denmark was born on May 30, 1906 at Tatoi Palace, the second daughter of Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg. She had four siblings:

Theodora with her sisters in 1922. (l-r) Margarita, Cecilie, Theodora, Sophie.

Raised primarily in Greece, Theodora and her family had to leave Greece several times due to the political unrest, and repeated overthrow of the monarchy.  They spent several years living in Switzerland, and later settled outside of Paris.  After her mother suffered a nervous breakdown in 1930, Theodora and her sisters were quickly married, all into formal German royal families.

On August 17, 1931, Theodora married Berthold, Margrave of Baden. He was the son of Maximilian, Margrave of Baden and Princess Marie Luise of Hanover. The couple were second cousins through their mutual descent from King Christian IX of Denmark. They took up residence at Schloss Salem had three children:

Theodora with her husband and two elder children, c1936. source: private collection

In her later years, Princess Theodora spent time with her children and grandchildren, and made occasional visits to England to see her brother Philip and his family.  At just 63 years old, she died in Büdingen in Hesse on October 16, 1969, just five weeks before the death of her mother. She was buried alongside her husband in the family cemetery in Salem.

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Princess Margarita of Greece, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg

by Scott Mehl

Margarita, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. photo: private collection

Princess Margarita of Greece and Denmark, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg

Princess Margarita of Greece and Denmark was born on April 18, 1905 at the Royal Palace in Athens. She was the eldest child of Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg, and was the first great-great-grandchild of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Margarita had four younger siblings:

1930-1931 saw the marriages of Margarita and her three sisters. Although she was the eldest, Margarita was the third to marry. Her groom was Gottfried, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg. He was the son of Ernst II, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg and Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha. Margarita and Gottfried were second cousins once removed through their mutual descent from Queen Victoria, and third cousins through Tsar Nicholas I of Russia. They married in Langenburg on April 20, 1931, and had five children:

  • Kraft, Prince of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1935) – married (1) Princess Charlotte of Croÿ, had issue; married (2) Irma Pospesch, no issue
  • Princess Beatrix of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1936) – unmarried
  • Prince Georg Andreas of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1938) – married Luise, Princess of Schönburg-Waldenburg, had issue
  • Prince Rupprecht of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1944) – unmarried
  • Prince Albrecht of Hohenlohe-Langenburg (1944) – married Maria-Hildegard Fischer, had issue

In 1934, Margarita and her husband traveled to New York to testify in the famous custody battle for the young Gloria Vanderbilt. Gottfried had at one time been in a romantic relationship her mother, Mrs. Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt, and during the custody hearing, a housemaid made some rather salacious allegations about the relationship between the two. Margarita also testified as a character witness for Mrs. Vanderbilt.

Although Margarita and her sisters were not invited to their brother Philip’s wedding (due to strong anti-German sentiment so soon after the war), she and Philip remained close, and in 1950, she was named as one of the godparents for Philip’s daughter, Princess Anne. And in 1953, Margarita, her surviving sisters and their mother, were prominent guests at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

After being widowed in 1960, Margarita maintained a quiet life in Langenburg, visiting with her children and grandchildren, as well as occasional trips to visit Philip and his family in the UK. At the age of 76, Princess Margarita died in Langenburg on April 24, 1961. She is buried beside her husband in the family cemetery.

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Prince Andreas of Greece

by Scott Mehl

Photo source: The Peerage

Prince Andreas of Greece

Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark (typically known as Andrew) was born February 2 1882, in Athens, Greece, the son of King George I of the Hellenes and Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinova of Russia. At the time of his birth, he was 4th in line to the Greek throne behind his three brothers.  Andreas had 7 siblings:

As a child, he was considered to be more ‘Greek’ than most of his siblings, refusing to speak anything but Greek with his parents, despite also speaking several other languages. His education was mostly in military schools and led to his joining the Greek forces at the age of 19.

Prince Andreas and Princess Alice, c1903.  source: Wikipedia

At the coronation of King Edward VII of the United Kingdom in August 1902, Andreas first met Princess Alice of Battenberg. She was the eldest daughter of Prince Ludwig of Battenberg and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine (later the Marquess and Marchioness of Milford Haven). The couple married in Darmstadt in a civil ceremony on October 6, 1903, followed by both Lutheran and Greek Orthodox ceremonies. Over the next 18 years, they had five children:

Prince Andreas military service was often interrupted by the political turmoil in Greece. In the early years, he resigned from the army following a coup d’état in 1909. He later returned in 1912 and found in the Balkan Wars. Following the abdication of his brother, King Constantine I, in 1917, Andreas went into exile along with most of the Greek royal family. Upon Constantine’s return to the throne in 1920, Andreas was also reinstated in the Greek Army and saw service in the Greco-Turkish War. Following another coup d’état in 1922, Andreas was arrested and court-martialled. He was found guilty and faced possible death. Through the efforts of King George V of the United Kingdom, arrangements were made for Andreas to be spared and with his family, he went into exile again. The family settled in Saint-Cloud, on the outskirts of Paris.

Prince Andrew and his family in 1928

Prince Andreas and his family in 1928

He spent the next several years defending his actions during his military service in Greece, even writing a book in 1930 – Towards Disaster: The Greek Army in Asia Minor in 1921.  By the early 1930s, Andreas had less and less contact with his family.  His wife and suffered a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized, his four daughters had all married into former German royal families, and his son was attending school first in Germany and then in the United Kingdom.  Somewhat at a loss, having been basically forced into a life of retirement, Andreas moved to the French Riviera.  There, he he enjoyed a life of leisure, spending much of his time living aboard the yacht of his mistress, Countess Andrée de La Bigne.

Andreas only returned to Greece once, in 1936, after Greece had reversed his exile, and restored assets to the Greek royal family.  The following year, tragedy brought the family together.  In November 1937, Andreas’s daughter Cecilie, along with her husband, two sons and mother-in-law, were killed in a plane crash in Belgium. Andreas attended the funeral in Darmstadt, where he was reunited with his wife and son for the first time in six years.  However, the reunion was short-lived, and Prince Andreas soon returned to his life in France.

The onset of World War II brought an end to the little contact Andreas had with his wife and children.  His wife had returned to Greece, his daughters were all behind German lines, and his son was fighting for the British forces.  His hopes of once again seeing his children soon came to and end.  Prince Andreas died at the Metropole Hotel in Monte Carlo on December 3, 1944 at the age of 62.  By that time, it had been five years since he had seen his wife or son.  He was initially buried at the Russian Orthodox Church in Nice, and in 1946, his remains were reinterred in the royal cemetery at Tatoi Palace in Greece.

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Princess Alice of Battenberg, Princess Andreas of Greece

by Scott Mehl

Princess Alice, c1967.

Princess Alice of Battenberg, Princess Andreas of Greece and Denmark

Princess Alice of Battenberg was the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria. She was born HSH Princess Victoria Alice Elisabeth Julia Maria on February 25, 1885, in the Tapestry Room at Windsor Castle. Her parents were Prince Ludwig (Louis) of Battenberg, later 1st Marquess of Milford Haven, and Princess Victoria of Hesse and by Rhine. She was the eldest child, with three younger siblings:

Alice was christened in Darmstadt on April 25, 1885, with the following godparents:

As a child, Alice was diagnosed with congenital deafness, and learned to lip-read in both English and German. Later, she also learned French and Greek. Her childhood was spent in Darmstadt and Jugenheim (German), as well as London and Malta where her father was stationed. The family was very close to their British relatives, and Alice served as a bridesmaid at the 1893 wedding of the future King George V of the United Kingdom and Princess Mary of Teck. They were also very close to their Russian relatives (Alice’s aunt was the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna), and often spent holidays together in Darmstadt.

At the 1902 coronation of her great-uncle, King Edward VII of the United Kingdom, Alice met Prince Andreas of Greece and Denmark. They quickly fell in love and were married in a civil ceremony in Darmstadt on October 6, 1903. The following day, two religious ceremonies were held – one Lutheran and one Greek Orthodox. Their wedding was one of the last large gatherings of European royals before World War I. The couple settled into a wing of the Royal Palace in Athens, and went on to have five children:

While Andreas pursued his military career, Alice raised her family and became very involved in charity work in Greece. However, the political situation in Greece was often tenuous, and the family was forced into exile several times. They lived in Switzerland for several years before King Constantine was restored to the Greek throne in 1920. Their return to Greece was short-lived. In 1922, the King was forced to abdicate, and Prince Andreas was arrested and charged with treason. He was court-martialed and convicted, and would have probably been executed had it not been for the intervention of Alice’s cousin, King George V of the United Kingdom. King George sent a British cruiser – HMS Calypso to take Andreas, Alice and their children safely into exile.

The family settled in Saint-Cloud, outside of Paris, in a small house owned by Andreas’s sister-in-law, Princess George of Greece (the former Marie Bonaparte). There, Alice worked in a charity shop for Greek refugees, and became very religious. On October 20, 1928, she very quietly converted to the Greek Orthodox Church. Soon, Alice began to show signs of mental illness. In 1930, following a nervous breakdown, Princess Alice was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. She was institutionalized in a sanatorium in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland, under the care of Dr. Ludwig Binswanger. After two years in Kreuzlingen, and a brief stay at a clinic in Merano, Italy, she was released. It would be another four years before she had contact with her children, having only maintained ties with her mother. During her absence, all four of her daughters had married and begun their own families. Sadly, it was a tragic event which brought Alice back into contact with her children. On November 16, 1937, Alice’s daughter Cecilie, along with her husband, two children and mother-in-law, were killed in a plane crash in Belgium. Alice attended the funeral in Darmstadt, reconnecting with her surviving children, and meeting her husband for the first time in six years.

In 1938, Alice returned to Greece, continuing her work with the poor. Along with her sister-in-law, Princess Nicholas of Greece (the former Grand Duchess Elena Vladimirovna of Russia), Alice worked with the Red Cross during World War II to organize shelters and nurses in the poor neighborhoods of Athens. Alice and Elena had been the only two members of the Greek Royal Family to remain in the country, while the rest had gone into exile in South Africa. In 1943, after the German Army had occupied Athens, and while most Jews were being deported to concentration camps, Alice hid a Jewish widow, Rachel Cohen, and two of her children in her home. Thirty years earlier, Mrs. Cohen’s husband had come to the aid of King George I of Greece, and the King had offered to someday repay him if there was ever anything he could do for him. Mrs. Cohen remembered this promise, and reached out to Princess Alice. Alice, who saw both the opportunity to repay the debt, and the help save their lives, took the family in, risking her own life in doing so. The following year, she was widowed when Prince Andreas died in Monte Carlo. The two had not seen each other since 1939.

In November 1947, Alice returned to Britain for her son’s wedding. Some of her jewels were used to create Elizabeth’s engagement ring, as well as a bracelet that Philip designed for her as a wedding gift. On November 20, 1947, Alice attended the wedding, although none of her daughters had been invited (due to their marriages to Germans, and the still-strong anti German sentiment after the war). In the group photo from the wedding above, Princess Alice is seen in the front row, standing next to Queen Mary. Alice’s mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven is seen on the far right, next to King George VI and Queen Elizabeth.

Just over a year later, Princess Alice founded a nursing order of nuns, the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary. She established a home for the order just north of Athens, and trained on the Greek island of Tinos. In order to raise funds to support the order, Alice made two tours of the United States. Many were perplexed by this venture – none more so than her own mother, the Dowager Marchioness of Milford Haven, who reportedly said “What can you say of a nun who smokes and plays canasta?” Unfortunately, the order didn’t last very long, due to a limited number of applicants. But Alice continued with her work supporting those in need, and dressed as a nun for the rest of her life.

Alice leading her family’s procession at the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, June 1953

On June 2, 1953, Princess Alice attended the coronation of her daughter-in-law, Queen Elizabeth II, at Westminster Abbey in London. Wearing a gown designed to look like a nun’s habit, she led the formal procession of Philip’s family, including his three surviving sisters and his uncle, Prince George of Greece.

photo: Hello!

Alice remained in Greece, working to help the poor and those in need. However, as the political situation worsened, and with her children’s growing concern for her safety, it soon became obvious that she would need to leave the country that she’d grown to love so much since first arriving in 1903. She left Greece in 1967 following the Colonels’ Coup, and was invited by her son and daughter-in-law to take up residence at Buckingham Palace in London. She died there on December 5, 1969, at the age of 84. Following her funeral, her remains were placed in the Royal Crypt at St. George’s Chapel, Windsor. However, she had previously expressed her wish to be buried near her aunt, Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna, at the Convent of Saint Mary Magdalene on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. On August 3, 1988 – nearly 19 years after her death – her remains were moved to Jerusalem and placed in a crypt below the church.

Prince Charles visiting his grandmother’s tomb, September 2016. photo: Clarence House/PA

On October 31, 1994, Princess Alice was posthumously recognized as Righteous Among the Nations for her sheltering of persecuted Jews during World War II. And in 2010, she was named a Hero of the Holocaust by the British Government.

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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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