NEWS Constantine, the last Greek king in exile from the monarchy, dies at 82

Constantine, the last Greek king in exile from the monarchy, dies at 82

Constantine II, the last king of Greece, ascended the throne as a young monarch in 1964, celebrating with an Olympic sailing gold medal, but his reign effectively ended three years later, Because he fled the country after clashes with the military junta, he died in an Athens hospital on January 10. He is 82 years old.

A statement from Hygeia Hospital said the former king suffered a stroke and complications from other health problems.

he was the last ruler of the 19th century The family dynasty’s ties to Greece were tenuous, but it sought legitimacy from wider genealogical ties to European royalty.

He has lived in London for decades and is a cousin of King Charles III, godfather to Prince William and part of the extended family of the Greek-born Prince Philip. The ex-king traveled as Constantine de Grecia and held a Danish passport because his family shared blood with a branch of the Danish royal family—plus, he also Married to former Danish princess Ann-Marie. His younger sister Sofia is the wife of former King Juan Carlos of Spain.

But for Greeks, he remains deeply embedded in the history of a right-wing dictatorship from 1967 to 1974, whose ruthless crackdown on opposition still resonates as a disturbing memory in the country’s political and cultural life.

Events began to unfold in 1965 when the young king fell out with Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, leading to the downfall of his government. This political crisis – still known in Greece as “apostate” – began a period of unrest and caretaker government.

“I don’t want you, take your mother away!” protesters chanted the king and his mother, Queen Frederica, in 1965.

Ongoing political turmoil is used by a group of Greek military officers as a reason to take control of the country April 1967. The “colons” were also known to fear that the king would preemptively bring his supporters to power.

In desperation, he agreed to formally appoint the military junta as Greece’s new leader. The king and his family then moved to northern Greece in an attempt to lead a counter-coup. The plan failed, and the family fled to Rome, later settling in London.

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“That was the worst day of my life,” he said of leaving Greece in a 2015 memoir published by Greek newspaper To Vima. “That day, I saw my first gray hair.”

Some officers of the Greek navy remained loyal to him and tried again in 1973 against the junta. The military ruler abolished the monarchy – though he continued to claim that he was the rightful monarch of Greece.

The leader of the junta, George Papadopoulos, called the former king a “collaborator of foreign powers and murderers”.

After the fall of the dictatorship in 1974 — following a military crisis with Turkey as Greece tried to unite with the island nation of Cyprus — he sought a dramatic return. Political leaders advised him to wait, fearing he would undermine efforts to restore democracy. Instead, a referendum was held on whether to restore the monarchy.

On the eve of the vote, the former king appeared confident. The result “will bring me and my family home”, he said in London. However, nearly 70% of the vote was against reestablishing the royal family. The prime minister, Constantine Karamanlis, was quoted as saying that the electorate had saved the country from vicious growth.

The former king did not return to Greece until 1981, after he was granted a five-hour visit to bury his mother in the family cemetery at the former royal palace in Tatoi, north of Athens. (The Greek government has announced that the remains of former kings will also be buried here.)

In London, the former king used his royal title and claimed family lands in Greece, including Tatoi. In 1994, the Greek government formally stripped him of his citizenship and confiscated royal property.

His lawsuit with the European Court of Human Rights was awarded 12 million euros — far less than the 500 million he had sought. In 1995, he bragged to Vanity Fair that he received 65,000 letters a year from Greek citizens and needed a staff of four to help with his affairs.

His life in exile was anything but rough. He is close to other European royals, who often refer to him as “Your Majesty”. He and his wife lived in a mansion in London’s palatial suburb of Hampstead Gardens. If the British royal family hosts a grand event, he’s on the guest list.

When Athens hosted the Olympic Games in 2004, he returned as an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee. However, despite his reputation as a past Olympic medalist, his presence was deliberately subdued at the organizers’ request.

At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, the then Crown Prince was the gold medalist for the three-man Dragon class sailing team. He was also the standard-bearer for the opening ceremony in Rome and a Greek postage stamp was produced to commemorate his team’s victory.

In an interview with NBC’s “Today” during the Athens Olympics, the former king called Greece “his country”.

“I remember having the honor of carrying the flag when our team entered the field,” he said of the Rome Olympics. “The cheers of the crowd still ring in my ears.”

He has spent more and more time in Greece for more than a decade, as authorities provided accommodation and protests over his presence largely subsided. He also made some minor concessions. Only later did he realize that the age of the Greek monarchy was long over.

His official website lists him as King Constantine, a former king of Greece.

The future king was born in Athens on June 2, 1940, to Princess Frederica of Hanover and Prince Paul, brother of King George II of Greece and heir to the throne.

Before Prince Constantine’s first birthday, the family fled to Alexandria, Egypt, as Nazi troops took over much of the country. The family later spent time in South Africa before returning to Greece in 1946, when the country was embroiled in a disastrous civil war between Communist-backed forces and nationalists, many of whom were loyal to the monarchy.

The nationalist side won, but political divisions remained strong for decades and spilled over over the monarchy – which some critics denounce as an outsider with family ties to wartime enemy Germany.

Princes are educated at boarding schools and military academies in preparation for the throne. His turn came in 1964, at the age of 23, after the death of his father, King Paul. (The family has ruled Greece since 1863, except from 1924 to 1935).

The last king of Greece is survived by his 58-year-old wife, Anne-Marie. Five children, Alexia, Pavlos, Nikolaos, Theodora, and Philippos; and nine grandchildren.

His lineage can be traced back to the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg family, which includes Denmark and other countries. However, he declined to adopt either of those names after the Greek government said the passport could only be reinstated if the surname was adopted.

“I don’t have a name,” he said in London in 1995. “My family has no names.”

Glücksburg was the name of a place, he pointed out, like any London borough.

“I might as well call myself Mr. Kensington,” he said.

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