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About ΗΜ King Constantine II

ΗΜ King Constantine II, the only son of King Paul I and Queen Frederica, was born on 2 June 1940 in Athens, at Villa Psychico. He was proclaimed King of the Hellenes on 6 March 1964 at the age of 24, succeeding his father King Paul I, who died that day. He reigned as King through until 1 June 1973, when the leader of the military junta Georgios Papadopoulos formally deposed King Constantine II to establish Greece as a non-monarchical regime. In 1974, Constantine Karamanlis held a referendum on the future of the monarchy. Though King Constantine II was not permitted to return to Greece to campaign on his own behalf, he nonetheless received 30% of the public vote. The republic referendum held on 8 December 1974 brought the Crowned Democracy of Greece to an end. In 2013, ΗΜ King Constantine II – together with ΗΜ Queen Anne-Marie – returned to permanently reside in Greece through until his death on 10 January 2023. He was laid to rest in the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi.

Early Years

Soon after the birth of the then Prince Constantine (2 June 1940), the Royal Family left Athens to take refuge on the island of Crete following the invasion of Greece by Nazi Germany. Since the family were at risk of being captured by German forces, King George II ordered his brother – and heir to the throne – Paul to seek sanctuary in Alexandria, Egypt.

The family of Prince Constantine subsequently left Alexandria for Cape Town, South Africa, where they lived under the protection of the Prime Minister of the Union of South Africa, Jan Christian Smuts. His younger sister, Princess Irene, was born in South Africa on 11 May 1942.

The 1946 referendum restored King George II to the throne, and the family of Prince Constantine returned to Greece.

Following the death of King George II in 1947, the Greek throne passed to Prince Constantine’s father, King Paul I. Now the heir apparent, Crown Prince Constantine attended the funeral of his uncle, King George II, holding his father by the hand during the funeral procession.

From 1949, Crown Prince Constantine was a pupil at the National Anavryta School in Athens, an institution founded on the educational principles developed by Kurt Hahn. He has spoken of just how much he enjoyed the camaraderie of boarding school and his interactions with the other children, forging lifelong ties of friendship.

While still a pupil at Anavryta, he also undertook military training each weekend, and – once he had completed his school studies – went on to train at three military academies (those of the Hellenic Army, Navy, and Air Force). On turning 18, as the only son of the reigning King and Queen, he swore allegiance to all three branches of the Hellenic Armed Forces.

In 1960, he commenced his studies at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Law School. During his student years, he also took part in numerous official engagements, accompanying his parents – King Paul I and Queen Frederica – on state visits to Italy, the United Kingdom, West Germany, Lebanon, Ethiopia, India, and Thailand.

The Olympic Games in Rome

In 1960, Crown Prince Constantine brought Greece its first Olympic gold medal since 1912, serving as helmsman on the keelboat Nereus to win the Dragon class of the Olympic sailing programme held in the Bay of Naples, Italy. His sister Sophia (later Queen Sofía of Spain) served as a reserve member of the crew, for which her training was just as intensive as that of her brother.

On his return to Athens, Crown Prince Constantine was honoured by the public with a hero’s welcome.

The Coronation and Wedding of ΗΜ King Constantine II

King Paul I died on 6 March 1964 and was succeeded by his son and heir apparent, Crown Prince Constantine, who was crowned Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, at the age of 24.

Later that same year, he married Princess Anne-Marie, the youngest daughter of King Frederik IX of Denmark, whom he had first met in 1959 – while still the Crown Prince – on a stop made in Copenhagen during a visit to Sweden and Norway. He proposed during a sailing holiday they took together in Norway, and the royal couple were married in Athens on 18 September 1964.

Their first child, Princess Alexia, was born on 10 July 1965 at the Mon Repos Villa on the island of Corfu – the residence where Prince Philip of Greece, the Duke of Edinburgh was also born in 1921. Crown Prince Pavlos was born on 20 May 1967, Prince Nikolaos on 1 October 1969, Princess Theodora on 9 June 1983, and Prince Philippos on 26 April 1986.

The Greek Junta – Regime of the Colonels

On acceding to the throne, ΗΜ King Constantine II found himself facing a complex and challenging domestic political situation in Greece. His profound differences of opinion with the then Prime Minister George Papandreou led to the resignation of the government on 15 July 1965. There followed a period of intense political turmoil that eventually led to a military coup d’état on 21 April 1967.

Though beset by intense and conflicting pressures, the prime concern of His Majesty was always the safety of the Greek people. On a state visit to the United States of America, he declared: “This is not my government. The 21st of April was the worst day of my life.”

In December 1967, ΗΜ King Constantine II flew to the city of Kavala in northern Greece, where he led a counter-coup – an attempt to overthrow the Greek junta and restore democracy. He soon realised, however, that any further action might result in bloodshed and so took the decision to leave with his family for Rome, of his own accord.

During his stay in Rome, the King received frequent requests asking for his return to Greece, which he refused to do unless democracy was first restored.

In 1973, the leader of the military junta Georgios Papadopoulos formally deposed King Constantine II to establish Greece as a non-monarchical regime.

1974 Referendum

In 1974, Constantine Karamanlis returned to Greece from Paris to form a democratic government. In December that same year, a referendum was held on the future of the monarchy. Though ΗΜ King Constantine II was not allowed to return to Greece to campaign on his own behalf, nor availed of co-ordinated and official representation, he still received more than 30% of the public vote – considered an exceptional achievement, given the circumstances.

Years Spent Abroad

Following the counter-coup in 1967, the Greek Royal Family lived in Rome and, for a short time, in Denmark before making London their permanent place of residence in 1974.

In 1980, together with ΗΜ Queen Anne-Marie and with members of the London Greek community, ΗΜ King Constantine II founded the Hellenic College of London. The royal couple were also actively involved in the running of the school.

Return to Greece

In 1981, ΗΜ King Constantine II returned to Greece with his family for the first time since 1967, though only for a few hours, in order to attend the funeral of his mother, Queen Frederica, who had died suddenly in Madrid of a heart attack. Though security forces were posted around the Royal Estate at Tatoi to stop the public from attending the funeral, crowds in their thousands still managed to gather in the pine forest that covers Paleocastro Hill in order to greet the family and pay their last respects to the Queen.

ΗΜ King Constantine II returned to Greece once more in 1993, this time on a private visit with his family lasting two weeks.

In 2013, Their Majesties King Constantine II & Queen Anne-Marie returned to permanently reside in Greece.

Royal Estate Confiscated and Greek Citizenship Withdrawn

The Greek Royal Family held Greek nationality up until 1994, when the Greek government of the day passed a law that confiscated their entire estate and, in essence, also stripped them of their Greek citizenship.

Regarding the confiscation of their estate, the Greek Royal Family took legal action, first before the Greek courts and later before the European Court of Human Rights, which would find in their favour and award them nominal compensation.

Regarding the withdrawal of their Greek citizenship, the matter has never been tried before the Greek courts.

The Funeral of ΗΜ King Constantine II

ΗΜ King Constantine II died on 10 January 2023, a few days after being admitted to the Hygeia Hospital in Athens. His entire beloved family were by his side when he passed.

ΗΜ King Constantine II was buried privately, and not accorded those honours reserved for a head of state on the decision of the Greek government. He was laid to rest in the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi.

The funeral of ΗΜ King Constantine II was held on Monday, 16 January 2023 at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens, after his body lay in repose for some hours inside the nearby Chapel of Saint Eleftherios, open to public viewing.

Crowds flocked to the Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens from the early hours to pay their respects to the last King of the Hellenes. The public also lined the streets down which the motorcade transferring his body to Tatoi passed. The event drew extensive coverage in both the Greek and international media.

The ceremony was officiated by His Beatitude Hieronymos II, the Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, in the presence of all twelve Metropolitan Bishops of the Holy Synod. Also in attendance at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens were seven heads of state, the representatives of royal houses, and close friends of the family.

The Greek government was represented by its Deputy Prime Minister, Mr. Panagiotis Pikrammenos, and by its Minister of Culture and Sports, Ms. Lina Mendoni.

The funeral ceremony ended with a moving eulogy delivered by a devastated Crown Prince Pavlos, honouring his father’s memory.

Once the ceremony was complete, the funeral procession left the Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens for the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi. The body of ΗΜ King Constantine II was first taken to the Chapel of the Resurrection on the estate, where Orthodox Trisagion [“thrice holy”] Prayers were chanted in his memory, before being borne to the Royal Cemetery, where the King was laid to rest beside his parents.

Credits: Nikolas Kominis\Studio Kominis.

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Credits: ΕRΤ \ Studio Kominis

Support for Organisations & Programmes

Round Square

ΗΜ King Constantine II served as a Trustee, Chair, and President of Round Square, an international network of schools whose members stay true to the teaching principles of Kurt Hahn. The common goal of these schools is to foster greater understanding between young people everywhere – at an international level, across every continent.

His Majesty secured the involvement of such Round Square Trustees as Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Sonia Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Kevan Gosper. His aim was to ensure that young people would come of age with a knowledge and understanding of how other people – with different mindsets and experiences – think and act.

In honour of his major contributions to the organisation, the King Constantine Medal was established during his lifetime. The medal is awarded each year to an exceptional individual or group of individuals from every Round Square member school who have done work that is out of the ordinary within their local or school communities – outstanding work that truly embraces the spirit and ideals of the organisation.

Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM)

ΗΜ King Constantine II was trained in all five disciplines of the modern pentathlon from a young age.

In 1994, he accepted an invitation to become Patron of the Union Internationale de Pentathlon Moderne (UIPM – World Pentathlon), an organisation that also represented the biathlon at the time (as the UIPMB).

In 2016, His Majesty was inducted into the UIPM Hall of Fame. He was an avid supporter of the modern pentathlon, attending sporting championships and supporting all events organised by the Union.

International Olympic Committee

ΗΜ King Constantine II was appointed President of the Hellenic Olympic Committee (HOC) in 1957 – an indication of his longstanding and strong ties to the Olympic Movement. He was elected an Active Member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 1963 and nominated a lifetime Honorary Member in 1974.

He was also Honorary President of the International Olympic Academy from its inception.

Upon learning of the death of ΗΜ King Constantine II, the IOC announced that the Olympic flag would be flown at half-mast for three days at its headquarters in Lausanne, as a mark of respect.

The Hellenic Olympic Committee also expressed its condolences in an official announcement and, in another mark of respect, flags at both the Panathenaic Stadium and the headquarters of the HOC were flown at half-mast.

World Sailing

HM King Constantine II was introduced to the sport of sailing at a young age, and his service to World Sailing spanned more than 60 years.

He first got involved in the work of the federation in 1960, the same year he won an Olympic gold medal – at just 20 years of age – in the Dragon sailing class at the Rome Olympic Games. From 1961 onwards, he was actively involved in the federation’s committees, and in 1994 was appointed World Sailing Honorary Vice-President, a position that saw him deal directly with the Executive Committee. In 1994, he was appointed World Sailing President of Honour, a role he held until his passing.


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