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  • Writer's pictureStavros Papagianneas

The Death of a King

Constantine II, the last King of Greece, who ruled for just three years during a turbulent period of the country's modern history that culminated in the abolition of the monarchy, died in Athens earlier this month at 82. He spent much of his life in exile from his homeland, but lived out his final years in Greece.

Constantine won a gold medal in sailing during the Olympic games of Rome in 1960 and married the amiable Princess Anna-Maria of Denmark. He came to the throne in 1964 during a turbulent period in Greek history that culminated in a military coup in April 1967.

Inexperienced, he failed to respect the popular vote by interfering in the country's politics. He was forced to flee abroad following an unsuccessful counter-coup in December 1967. At a genuinely critical moment, he chose to provide legitimacy to the colonels' coup in April 1967, facilitating the prevailing of a dark period in the country's history. Instead, Juan Carlos appeared on television as King of Spain and disavowed the 1981 coup attempt in his country.

In 1974, Greeks voted to abolish the monarchy, and the former King was later stripped of his Hellenic citizenship by the government of Andreas Papandreou in 1994. However, in his statement to the press, the former King noted that while the PM was entitled to his personal opinion about him, he could in no way claim Constantine was not a Greek citizen.

Although controversial due to his role in Greece's politics in the 60s, Constantine was a good PR ambassador for the country. First with his gold medal in Rome, then with the marriage of his son Pavlos and, finally his role in attracting the Olympic games in Athens in 2004.

The marriage of his oldest son Prince Pavlos to Marie-Chantal Miller took place in the summer of 1995 in the cathedral of St Sophia in London. The wedding ceremony, receptions, the ball and celebrations hosted by Miller's father, billionaire Robert Warren Miller, reportedly cost 8 million US$ and was attended by 1,400 guests.

According to Hello Magazine, the wedding was the most extraordinary gathering of royal families in fifty years. There were more royals in attendance than at the wedding of Prince Charles to Diana Spencer. Constantine's sister Sofia was the Queen of Spain, and the sister of Queen Anna-Maria was the Queen of Denmark.

In Athens, opinion polls after the wedding showed a boost in the popularity of Constantine. Personal attacks in the media began to subside. It was proved once more that love and marriage are good recipes for successful media coverage. It can accomplish good results, even in the minds that tend to be hostile.

Constantin's popularity in Greece was hugely boosted when the country was awarded the 2004 Olympics. It was well known that he had been actively campaigning for Greece for many years as an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee. At the 2004 Olympics, he was the official presenter of the sailing medal and was favourably treated by the Greek press, which was aware of his contribution.

Greece may no longer have a ruling monarchy. Still, its former royal house has close connections to several royal families in Europe - like the UK, Spain and Denmark - through the late King Constantine and his wife, Queen Anna-Maria. The Greek Royal Family is also distantly related to the other royal families in Europe, like the Belgian, Luxembourg, Norwegian and Swedish, as they all descend from King Christian IX of Denmark. However, their relations are a bit more distant than what the Greeks share with the Danes, British and Spaniards.

The late Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elisabeth II of the UK, was Constantine's uncle, and the former Greek monarch was considered close to his cousin, King Charles III. Constantine became godfather to Prince William and attended his royal wedding in 2010.

Last week the Greek government decided that the last King of Greece, Constantin Glücksburg, would be buried as a private citizen, close to his ancestors, who are buried in the grounds of the family's former summer palace at Tatoi, in the north of Athens.

PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis referred in a statement to the former King's eventful life and to turbulent moments in Greek history that were "healed by the maturity of the Greek people".

The abolishment of the monarchy since the 1974 referendum belongs to history. The Hellenic Republic is solid and is not threatened by the funeral of the former King. I am not a supporter of monarchy. Nevertheless, on a human level, honouring the dead is an integral part of human values ​​and traditions.

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