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Wednesday, January 11, 2023

At age 82, former and final Greek king Constantine passes away

Constantine, the former and last king of Greece, dies at 82

 

ATHENS: The first Constantine and Athens: His doctors announced his death late on Tuesday at a private hospital in Athens. Constantine was the last king of Greece. He was 82.


The Associated Press was informed by staff at the private Hygeia Hospital in Athens that Constantine had passed away following treatment in the intensive care unit. However, no additional information was available until an official announcement was made.


Constantine II was a young monarch who had already won a gold medal at the Olympics in sailing when he took the throne in 1964 at the age of 23. He was very popular. By the following year, he had wasted a significant amount of that support by actively participating in the schemes that brought down the Center Union government of prime minister George Papandreou, which had been elected by popular vote.


In Greece, the "apostasy," or the defection of several lawmakers from the ruling party, destabilized the constitutional order and resulted in a military coup in 1967. Constantine was eventually forced into exile after clashing with military rulers. The dictatorship ended the monarchy in 1973, and a referendum held after democracy was restored in 1974 ended Constantine's hopes of ever reigning again. His doctors announced late Tuesday that he had passed away at a private hospital in Athens. He was 82.


The Associated Press was informed by staff at the private Hygeia Hospital in Athens that Constantine had passed away following treatment in the intensive care unit. However, no additional information was available until an official announcement was made.


Constantine II was a young monarch who had already won a gold medal at the Olympics in sailing when he took the throne in 1964 at the age of 23. He was very popular. By the following year, he had wasted a significant amount of that support by actively participating in the schemes that brought down the Center Union government of prime minister George Papandreou, which had been elected by popular vote.


In Greece, the "apostasy," or the defection of several lawmakers from the ruling party, destabilized the constitutional order and resulted in a military coup in 1967. Constantine was eventually forced into exile after clashing with military rulers. The monarchy was abolished by the dictatorship in 1973, and a referendum held after democracy was restored in 1974 ended Constantine's hopes of ever reigning again.


He was able to return to his home country in his final years, when opposition to his presence no longer held currency as a badge of vigilant republicanism, and he was reduced in the decades that followed to only brief visits to Greece, each of which caused a political and media storm. Constantine became a historical figure with little recollection of Greece's monarchy and became relatively uncontroversial.


Constantine was born in Athens on June 2, 1940, to Princess Federica of Hanover and Prince Paul, the younger brother of King George II and heir presumptive to the throne. Sophia, his older sister, is married to the former Spanish king Juan Carlos I. Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and husband of Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain, was an uncle. He was born in Greece.


The family was descended from Prince Christian, later Christian IX of Denmark, of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg branch of the Danish ruling family. The family had ruled in Greece since 1863, with the exception of a 12-year republican period from 1922 to 1935.


During World War II, the German invasion of Greece forced the royal family to flee to Alexandria in Egypt, South Africa, and then back to Alexandria before Constantine's first birthday. Constantine was educated at a boarding school and then attended all three military academies as well as classes at Athens Law School as preparation for his future role. King George II returned to Greece in 1946 in response to a disputed referendum, but he died a few months later, leaving Constantine as the heir to King Paul I. Constantine also attended classes at Athens Law School. He also competed in sailing and karate, both of which he did with a black belt.


He and two other Greek sailors, then 20 years old, won a gold medal at the Rome Olympics in 1960 in the Dragon Class, which is no longer an Olympic class. Constantine was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee in 1963 while still a prince. In 1974, he was made an honorary member for life.


On March 6, 1964, King Paul I succumbed to cancer and was succeeded by Constantine, a few weeks after the Center Union party defeated the conservatives with 53% of the vote.


At first, the prime minister George Papandreou and Constantine had a close relationship. However, when Constantine insisted that the monarch had the right to control the armed forces, the relationship quickly soured.


Papandreou wanted to control the ministry of defense and eventually demanded to be appointed defense minister as well. Many officers were toying with the idea of a dictatorship and saw any non-conservative government as soft on communism. Papandreou resigned in July 1965 following a tense correspondence with Constantine.


Constantine's insistence on a centrist defector-led government with a slim parliamentary majority on the third try was extremely unpopular. He was seen by many as being controlled by his clever mother, dowager Queen Frederica. Take your mother with you because the people don't want you! became the anthem of the often-violent protests that swept Greece in the summer of 1965.


Constantine eventually agreed to a truce with Papandreou and appointed a technocratic government and a conservative-led government to hold elections in May 1967.


However, Constantine and his courtiers feared retaliation and prepared a coup with the assistance of high-ranking officers in light of the polls' overwhelming support for the Center Union and the rising popularity of Andreas, Papandreou's left-leaning son.


However, on April 21, 1967, a mole, a general whom they had won over to their side, informed a group of lower-ranking officers, led by colonels, of Constantine's plans and proclaimed a dictatorship.


Constantine was taken aback, and the official portrait of the new government showed how he felt about the new rulers. While preparing a countercoup with the assistance of his loyal navy and troops in northern Greece, he pretended to go along with them.


Constantine and his family flew to the northern city of Kavala on December 13, 1967, with the intention of marching on Thessaloniki and establishing a government there. Constantine was forced to flee to Rome the following day after the badly managed and infiltrated counter-coup failed. He would never take over as king again.


After an unsuccessful Navy countercoup in May 1973, the junta appointed a regent and abolished the monarchy on June 1, 1973. The decision was confirmed by a plebiscite in July, which was widely regarded as rigged.


Veteran politician Constantine Karamanlis, who had returned from exile to lead a civilian government, advised Constantine against returning to Greece after the dictatorship fell in July 1974. A conservative, Karamanlis had also headed the government from 1955 to 1963. He had argued with the court over what he thought was the court's excessive intrusion into politics.


Karamanlis called for a plebiscite on the monarchy on December 8, 1974, following his triumphant victory in the elections in November. Constantine was not allowed to campaign in the country, but the outcome was clear and widely accepted: A republic was supported by 69.2% of voters.


Soon after, Karamanlis made the well-known statement that the nation had eradicated a malignant growth. “National unity must take precedence... I wholeheartedly wish that developments will justify the result of yesterday's vote,” Constantine stated the day after the referendum.


Even though Greece no longer recognized titles of nobility, Constantine continued to refer to himself as King of Greece and his children as princes and princesses until his final days, despite the fact that he accepted that Greece was now a republic.


He lived in London's Hampstead Garden Suburb for most of his exile, where he was said to have been especially close to his second cousin Charles, Prince of Wales and now King Charles III.


Although Constantine only briefly returned to his country 14 years later to bury Queen Federica, his mother, in 1981, he made numerous subsequent visits and established himself there as of 2010. There were still disagreements: In 1994, the socialist government expropriated the royal family's remaining assets and stripped him of his nationality. In 2002, Constantine won a lawsuit at the European Court of Human Rights and received 12 million euros, less than half of the 500 million he had sought.


As a Danish prince, Constantine traveled with a Danish passport.


His wife, the former Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, who was the youngest sister of Queen Margrethe II, survives him. Alexia, Pavlos, Nikolaos, Theodora, and Philippos are the five children; likewise, nine grandchildren

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