Though very popular with his subjects, Prince Constantine was deemed too young and inexperienced to successfully rule Greece when he ascended the throne of that turbulent country.
His Royal Highness Prince Constantine of Greece and Denmark was born on June 2, 1940 at Psychico, a suburb of Athens. His parents were Prince Paul, brother and heir to King George II, and the German born Princess, Frederika of Hanover. He was not yet a year old when his country was invaded and overrun by the armies of Germany. The Royal Family fled first to Crete, but when that island was invaded by airborne troops, they went to Egypt and finally London, England. Constantine and his sisters Sophia and Irene were sent to Capetown, South Africa where he spent the war years.
Scott#410 - Constantine's parent. PRincess Frederika-Louise and Crown Prince Paul from the Royal Wedding issue of 1938
The Royal Family returned to Greece in 1946 after the defeat of the Axis powers. Constantine attended preparatory school and later enrolled in assorted military academies. In 1947 his uncle, King George II died, his father became King Paul and Constantine was now His Royal Highness Crown Prince Constantine of Greece, Prince of Denmark.
Greece was embroiled in a civil war at the time between the nationalists of the Greek government and the Greek Communist Party. The war lasted until 1949 when it was successfully concluded by the government and led to Greece’s admission to NATO.
The handsome young prince was popular with his people. In 1960, along with his sister Sophia, he took part in the Summer Olympic Games in Rome. Competing in the Dragon Class of sailing, he and his crew won a gold medal.
The Greek Royal Family is closely connected to many of the other royalty in Europe. Both of Constantine’s parents are descended from Queen Victoria and are of German and Danish origin. In 1962 Princess Sophia married Prince Juan Carlos, the future king of Spain. On March 6, 1964, King Paul died and Constantine ascended to the throne. Constantine married in September, taking as his bride the Danish princess Anne-Marie, sister of the present Queen Margrethe II.
Constantine’s mother, Queen Frederi-ka, had a strong influence over her newly crowned son. She was a strong conservative and supporter of the prerogatives of royalty. Even though the Prime Minister, George Papandreou, was a staunch republican, relations between the king and his government began well. The right-wing opposition leader, Constantine Karamanlis, however regarded his king as "Paul’s naughty little boy" and blamed him for his downfall in 1963.
The Aspida Scandel of 1965, which involved military officers planning to seize control of the army, strained relations between Constantine and his government when the name of the Prime Minister’s son, Andreas Papandreou, became linked to the affair. The defense minister resigned and Prime Minister Papandreou appointed himself defense minister to head off any committee being formed to investigate the scandal.
Constantine refused to accept his prime minister’s tactics and appointed another man as defense minister. This was apparently not acceptable to Papandreou and he resigned as Prime Minister. Constantine had obviously expected this to happen for within moments of Papandreou’s resignation, he had appointed a new government to be headed by Georgios Athanasiadis-Novas.
Scott# 588 - Crown Prince Constantine from a 1956 definitive set.
A constitutional crisis erupted over this "Royal Coup" as the king had failed to call an election. Two years of instability in government followed. When Athanasi-adis-Novas failed to form a stable government, he was replaced by Ilias Tsiri-mokos. The later was also unsuccessful and was dismissed. A dissident from Papandreou’s government, Stephanos Stephanopoulos, was Constantine’s next choice as prime minister. This government of "King’s Men" only lasted until December 1966 when Stephanopoulos resigned due to mounting pressure caused by strikes and protests.
Scott# 675 - Prince Constantine as Chief Scout from the 50th Anniv. of Greek Scouting issue.
Constantine’s next choice to run Greece was Ioannis Paraskevopoulos, who promptly scheduled elections for May 1967. His government did not last that long and was replaced by an interim government on April 3, led by Panagiotis Kanellopoulos. Though the elections were scheduled for the next month, a group of traditional right-wing army officers could not wait and staged a coup on April 21.
King Constantine was at his residence in Tatoi when the leaders of the coup stormed in and encircled his home with tanks. Instead of submitting to the coup, the king argued with the leaders and summarily dismissed them. He then went to the National Defense Ministry, where the leaders had gathered, and discussed the situation with Kanellopoulos and his generals. It was hoped that the king would raise the state against the coup leaders, but instead he accepted the military regime under the condition that he appoint as the prime minister Constantine Kollias. The military accepted the conditions and the "Regime of the Colonels" began. The Junta would rule Greece through a series of right-wing military governments until 1974.
The alliance was not an easy one. Neither the military nor the king desired to share power. It is not surprising, therefore, that after a visit to the United States during which President Lyndon Johnson is reported to have suggested a change in government might do Greece some good, the king organized a counter-coup.
Though expected assistance from the U.S. did not materialize, Constantine launched his coup in mid-December 1967. His plans were vague and ill-conceived. Things went well at first when he was received and supported in Kavala in northern Greece. The Navy and Air Force both declared for him and began mobilizing. Plans were made to march on and capture Thessaloniki, the administrative capital of the area but the king depended solely on the military and did not attempt to garner support from the local politicians.
Also, while high-ranking officers supported him, many middle rank officers were pro-junta and they quickly arrested their superiors and took command of their forces. The units that had been about to advance on Thessaloniki were now turned around and sent to arrest the king in Kavala.
Scott# 690 - Constantine and his crew won a gold medal at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
Constantine, realizing that his coup had failed, promptly boarded the royal plane and fled the country with his family. On December 14, they landed in Rome and here they would remain for the duration of the junta’s rule. Papadopoulos now became Prime Minister and General George Zoitakis was appointed to fill the king’s position as regent.
Throughout the following year, attempts were made by the junta to negotiate Constantine’s return to Greece but he insisted on nothing less than the full return of democracy as his condition. The junta refused. Instead they rewrote the constitution to strip the monarchy of all its powers and establish a permanent regency until Constantine agreed to their terms. This situation remained in place until 1972 when Prime Minister Papadopoulos declared himself regent.
In response the Navy, whose ranking officers were primarily Royalists, staged a coup in May. The king was not involved and the coup failed. Papadopoulos retaliated by declaring Greece a republic. He abolished the monarchy on June 1, 1974 and in July, held a plebiscite that purportedly confirmed his decision. Papado-poulos declared himself president, but an internal coup ousted him and Phaidon Ghizikis took his place. In time the Republican constitution was declared illegitimate, but the monarchy was never restored.
Though the king was never formally stripped of his rank or property, he was not encouraged to return to Greece. In February 1981 he attended the funeral of his mother, Queen Frederika but did not stay long. Legal disputes began to plague the exiled king due to unpaid taxes on his lands in Greece. In 1992 he ceded most of his property to a non-profit organization in exchange for the right to a villa in Athens and the opportunity to remove a large number of items from Greece. A year later he attempted a tour of his former kingdom but was asked to leave. He was stripped of his citizenship and property in 1994 but managed to win back a small portion in a settlement when he sued through the European Court of Human Rights.
Scott# 877 - Constantine and his wife, Queen Anne-Marie and daughter, Princess Alexis from a 1966 commemorative issue.
Constantine still uses the title King Constantine and is included in many of the royal functions in England where he presently resides. The King and his wife, Anne-Marie are close friends to Charles, Prince of Wales and he is godfather to Prince William. Since 2004, he has been able to travel to Greece on a Danish diplomatic passport under the name Constantine of Greece
Constantine and Anne-Marie had five children: Alexia was born at Corfu in July of 1965, Crown Prince Pavlos was born in Athens in 1967, Nikolaos was born in Rome in 1969, and Theodora and Philip-pos were born in London in 1983 and 1986 respectively. Seven grandchildren have resulted from those children. Obviously, should Greece ever desire a return to a monarchy they have a large and growing royal family at their disposal.