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Paul, King of the Hellenes, 1947-1964

As heir presumptive, Prince Paul as a young man showed an understandable lack of interest in kingship. Chafing under the dominance of his stingy elder brother George II, the easygoing Crown Prince spent most of his time away from Greece, aimlessly drifting from the home of one royal relative to that of another.

Frederika and Paul (another relative of Queen Victoria) first met when she was only ten. Frederika boasts to this day that she fell in love with him at first sight. Whatever the facts, the romance had from the first the full approval of all the royal families concerned; the Hohenzollerns, the Hanovers, the Glucksburgs, who ruled Greece, and even the Windsors, who, as rulers of Great Britain, must pass on the betrothals of all potential heirs to the British throne. On Jan. 9, 1938, two years after Frederika left school, she and Prince Paul were married by the Archbishop of Athens.

Crown Prince Paul was forced to leave Greece at the German intrusion. The invaders wanted to overthrow his brother, King George, and use the Crown Prince as a pawn. From Crete, his family fled to Alexandria (later moved to South Africa), and returned by plebiscite in 1946. In September 1946, under conditions of extreme duress and fraud, no one was surprised when the monarchy received the support of a majority in a rigged referendum. King George promptly returned To Greece, but died in March 1947, to be succeeded by King Paul.

After a short-term liberal interlude (1950-1951), a strong conservative government lead by Papagos came to office. Successive right-wing governments lasted until 1963. Strongly influenced by the King and his powerful entourage, these governments were responsible for the setting up of a "lame" parliamentary system, biased against a large part of Greek citizenry. The Army, truly Royal, totally escaped political control while its officers were forming secret and less secret leagues closely knitted with groups of obscure politicians and ultraconservative civil administrators who thought themselves as the true protectors of the King, Faith and Country. Effective power was slipping out of the hands of its institutional possessors.

King Paul and Queen Frederika visited the USA in 1953. Amiable and easygoing, King Paul is as strapping (6 ft. 3 in.) a monarch as any society matron could wish for. Frederika, his 5-ft. 3-in. Queen, whose trim figure and impudent face are topped by an unruly mop of chestnut curls, was once described (to her face) by a U.S. Congressman in his cups as "the cutest little Queenie I ever saw." Many a soberer American has expressed a like opinion. "Very seldom in my career," said General George Marshall after meeting Frederika, "have I come upon such lucidity and strength of character, covered with a unique charm that makes them irresistible."

Greece's Queen was no royal flibbertigibbet. Born to the purple as well as being married to it, she takes what she calls "this King business" with deadly seriousness, and exploits every ounce of her charm and wit to strengthen its power. "Did you ever stop to think," Frederika once asked Winston Churchill, "that if your Queen Victoria had died before she reached the throne, my father would now be King of England?" Because Victoria did survive, the Duke of Cumberland, Victoria's uncle and Frederika's great-great-grandfather, had to be satisfied with the Kingdom of Hanover, and that was lost forever in 1866 when his son took the losing side in a war with the King of Prussia. The feud was not patched up until years later when the Hanoverian prince, Ernst August. Duke of Brunswick, married the daughter of Kaiser Wilhelm II. The third child (and first daughter) of that marriage was Frederika Louise Thyra Victoria Margarita Sophia Olga Cecilia Isabella Christa, Princess of Hanover, Great Britain and Ireland, Duchess of Brunswick and Liineburg, and present Queen of Greece. She was born on April 18, 1917 in the Hanoverian fortress of Blankenburg, in a united Prussian Germany about to go down to defeat.

As Queen of Greece. Frederika dabbled firmly and frequently in the political pond, and she never hesitated to express her opinion on any and all subjects to whatever newsman might drop by. As the first German Hanover to occupy a throne in more than 80 years, Frederika more than justified her regal forebears. But a Queen, particularly a mere Queen consort, with such outstanding gifts and firm opinions was bound to have an unsettling effect on the delicate balance of Greek politics. Frederika's personal charm and many good works had gone far in Greece to wipe out the stain of her German past and the fact that three of her brothers were officers in Hitler's Wehrmacht. Her Teutonic inclination toward rigid government was not so easy to erase. Like most of her ancestors, Frederika firmly believed that monarchs should rule their countries.

King Paul and Queen Frederika unwisely decided to return to the UK in 1963, against the advice of Prime Minister Karamanlis. Frustrated at the endless interference of the royal family, Karamanlis resigned and went into exile. Not unexpectedly, the royal visitors were harassed by demonstrators everywhere they went. The leader and deputy leader of the Labour Party boycotted the state dinner in their honour and joined the demonstrators. This convinced many lower rank army officers that while the monarchy was a useful symbol, this weak king and his interfering mother were a liability.

King Paul died on March 6, 1964. That evening, the bereaved Crown Prince Constantine became King of the Hellenes.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:59:12 ZULU