King Constantine II of the Hellenes: May His Memory Be Eternal

Last night we found out that His Royal Majesty, Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, reposed in the Lord, surrounded by his family.  

The late king, whose health had been declining for the past few years, was 82 years old and had been admitted to the hospital due to breathing difficulties.  You can read the details of his last days as well as a short biography here: https://www.chron.com/news/article/Constantine-the-former-and-last-king-of-Greece-17708691.php

Constantine, a scion of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg dynasty which ruled Greece beginning in 1863, ascended to the throne in 1963, upon the death of his father, the hugely popular King Paul.  A black belt in Karate, he was also an Olympic gold-medalist, leading the three-man Greek team to victory in rowing during the Rome Olympics.  Upon his return from Rome, he was treated to wild acclaim.  

Upon his accession to the throne at age 23, however, he, like every other Greek officeholder, was sucked into the volatility of Greek politics, which proved to be his undoing. 

The precipitate cause was his insistence that, as king, he should be in charge of the military.  Ordinarily, this would be par for the course, but the government of George Papandreou decided otherwise.  In the interim, Greece had been plagued by student riots that destabilized the country.  The situation had become so untenable that a group of colonels staged a coup on April 21, 1967.  Constantine was unable to contain it and eventually had to take his family and flee to Rome to escape imminent danger to their lives.  During this flight, his wife, Queen Anne-Marie, lost the child she was carrying.

During his exile from government, he established a residence in Rome, then in London, where he was able to maintain a decent living as a businessman.  He was a constant fixture in royal circles throughout the world and became godfather to Prince William, the son of his second cousin, HRH Charles, the Prince of Wales.  It was during one of Constantine’s birthday parties, that Prince Charles introduced Camilla Parker-Bowles to Society.

He never wavered from his devotion to Greece and the Greek people and never spoke ill of those who persecuted him.  A devout Christian and elegant gentleman of the first water, he managed to carve out a position for himself on the international stage as a statesman-at-large.  He served on the International Olympic Committee and became an unofficial goodwill ambassador for Greece.  

Though banished from Greece, he was able to attend his mother’s funeral in 1981 and was greeted by enthusiastic crowds.  After the passage of a few years, he was able to convince the Conservative government to be allowed to return to Greece as a tourist.  (During this time, he made a pilgrimage with his two oldest sons to Mt Athos, where he was seated on the Bishop’s Throne* and was honored by the monks as the rightful king.)  His reception during this sojourn was even more enthusiastic.  

Eventually, he and his family were able to permanently return to Greece, provided that he renounced any claims to the throne.  Though grateful for being able to return as a permanent citizen, the republican government continued to treat him with contempt.  In the graceless fashion that is so typical many Greek regimes, the government confiscated Tatoi, the royal plantation which had been bought by King Christian IX of Denmark as a dowry for his son, the future George I.  This was most unfair given the fact that the dynasty paid property taxes on this land throughout their ownership of it.  Most members of the royal family are in fact buried there.  (It was in fact a working plantation, employing many people which sold agricultural products to the general market.)  After a hard-fought legal battle, Constantine was reimbursed by the government for the unjust confiscation of Tatoi.  In his typical unassuming fashion, he put the proceeds from the reimbursement into a charitable trust, choosing not to personally profit from the monies awarded to him but instead allocated them to various charities.

Constantine II was the last remaining anointed Orthodox monarch.  Needless to say, Greece has lost much prestige since the downfall of the monarchy and it is my fervent hope that his son, Pavlos, someday ascend the throne as King Paul II of the Hellenes and restore Greece to its former glory.

May the Lord, the true King, richly reward His servant Constantine and continue to bless his family.

 

*In reality, the so-called Bishop’s Throne was where the Roman basileus (i.e. Byzantine emperor) or his legate sat while attending Church services.  With the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, this throne became the province of the bishops of the Church.  

Comments

  1. Veras Coltroupis says
    • George Michalopulos says

      Veras, thank you for these State Dept memoranda. In reading it all, it is clear that the situation at that time was very fluid. This particular bullet point proves that the King was a patriot who was a prisoner of the Colonels:

      2. Chances of countercoup, never bright, have sunk hour by hour and now seem virtually nil. King, whose surprise at and opposition to coup is becoming increasingly widely recognized here, presumably is also recognizing coup as fait accompli.

  2. I always felt sorry for Constantine II, as it seems he was always between a rock and a hard place during his reign. No matter where he turned, there were always (insurmountable) obstacles. May his memory be eternal!

  3. Thank you for these insights! Regrettably, I wasn’t aware of him until this post. Much appreciated. Indeed, he sounds like a good, Orthodox king.

  4. May his memory be eternal.

  5. Veras Coltroupis says

    As in Jordan, the Greek monarchs were for modernism and moderation. Jim Jatras’ dad was one of the leading monarchists who opposed the junta. Chris Woodhouse who orchestrated the Gorgopotamos sabotage and organized EDES against both fascists and communists was anti-junta and a Thatcherite MP. Those who describe the civil was as “royalists v communists” are themselves communist because the royalist forces fought against both. The 1941 class of the military academy was graduated early as 1940B to fight Mussolini. By 1967 those who went to Egypt to fight with the King were Generals but those that collaborated with Mussolini (who held southern Greece, while Bulgaria held the north, and Hitler only Thessalonike) were still Colonels. In Entity, Frattini, p304 we learn the junta really served the uniate (“ounia fatsa, ounia ratsa”) Venetian shippers masquerading as Greeks. In Barron’s Greek Connection we see this again, with Esso Pappas funding the Watergate breakin. The “Americans” behind the junta were not in Langley, VA, but in the basement of the East Seventy Fourth Street Cathedral.

    See

    https://www.reddit.com/r/OrthodoxPolitics/comments/xz01b7/greek_glucksburg_monarchs/

  6. George Michalopulos says
  7. Antiochene Son says

    OT, but the three candidates elected by the Antiochian Archdiocese for Metropolitan are: Bishop John (Abdalah), Bishop Nicholas (Ozone), and Metropolitan Saba (Isper).

    • Gail Sheppard says

      Thanks, AS!

    • Antiochene Son says

      Most of the people I know are praying for Bishop John to be selected, but I also know some fans of Bishop Nicholas. I’ve heard good things about Metropolitan Saba also, especially about his heroic efforts in Syria during the worst days of the war (an emulator of St. Joseph of Damascus).

      • Whoever it is needs to be able to stand up to Elpidophoros on the Assembly. It’s a sad fact but that’s how it is now. There needs to be a strong presence to push back against the things he will try to do, like getting Belya promoted to the episcopate.

        I don’t really know the fortitude of the three men but they are going to have to be someone who is not easily bullied or a “status quo” bishop

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