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Kings of the Hellenes / House of Glücksburg

Othon IOtto I 6 Feb 183322 Oct 1862
Georgios IGeorge I 6 Jun 186318 Mar 1913
Konstantinos IConstantine I18 Mar 191312 Jun 1917
AlexandrosAlexander12 Jun 191725 Oct 1920
Konstantinos I (2nd time) Constantine I11 Dec 192027 Sep 1922
Georgios II George II27 Sep 192216 Mar 1924
inter regnum / Republic
Georgios II (2nd time) George II10 Nov 19357 May 1941
Georgios II (restored) George II13 Oct 19441 Apr 1947
Pavlos IPaul I 1 Apr 19476 Mar 1964
Konstantinos IIConstantine I 6 Mar 19641 Jun 1973

From 1833 to 1973 Greece was intermittently a monarchy. Over this time, seven kings reigned, six from the House of Glücksburg. The Greeks, as a nation, are essentially democratic in their ideas and habits, and hereditary rank was almost nonexistent in the kingdom, the use of titles of nobility being explicitly prohibited by an Article of the Constitution. The Monarchy, consequently, differed from monarchies generally, and had hitherto been regarded merely as a convenient political institution, calling for no particular display of loyalty, though the diplomatic advantages accruing to Greece from the connection of its dynasty with so many of the Royal Families of Europe had long been recognised by the nation.

The Third National Assembly in Trezina (1827) chose the Corfiot Count Ioannis Kapodistrias, a charismatic and internationally respected personality, as governor of the Greek Republic. He was assassinated in September 1831, and the civil conflict that followed came to an end only when the "Three Protective Powers" (Great Britain, France and Russia) selected and imposed a young German prince as King of Greece. The institution of an absolute Monarchy instead of a Republic was the price Greeks had to pay for their inability to accept compromises. It was at the same time the guarantee offered to the conservative powers of the Holy Alliance that Greece would not prove an example to the peoples of Restoration Europe. But the Monarchy was also the key institution through which the protective powers, and especially Great Britain, exercised their influence upon the Greek government and interfered in national politics. As a result, the dynasties and their entourages identified themselves with the agents that curtailed smooth institutional development.

In January, 1833, Otto of the House of Wittelsbach, second son of Ludwig I, the King of Bavaria, became King of Greece, a country of great poverty, with a population of about 750,000, unaccustomed to the reign of law and order usual in western Europe. The kingdom was small, with unsatisfactory boundaries, lacking Thessaly, which was peopled entirely by Greeks. The country had been devastated by a long and unusually sanguinary war. Internal conditions were anarchic. Brigandage was rife; the debt was large. The problem was, how to make out of such unpromising materials a prosperous and progressive state. King Otto reigned from 1833 to 1862.

In the early part of the 19th Century an attempt was made to consolidate the political power of the monarchy through the establishment of an authoritarian regime in which political power would be concentrated in the hands of the king (initially of the regency). The constitution and the application of the parliamentary system were the main bone of contention with the opposition, especially in the early 1840s, but also the vehicle by which the traditional social elites of Greek society attempted to regain part of their political power.

The formation of the first Constitution was the main object of the National Assembly which came about after the Movement of 3rd September and lasted from 8th November 1843 until 18th March 1844. After the termination of the proceedings of the National Assembly the constitution, which included 107 articles, was issued. According to these articles, the absolute monarchy was abolished and the regime of constitutional monarchy was established.

After 1861, the anti-dynastic movement was daily increasing due to the arrogance and the continuous interventions of the King on the parliamentary life of the country. The 'Resolution of the Nation', published on the 11th of October 1862, abolished the reign of Otho and formed a provisional government until the next National Assembly. The Resolution did not abolish Monarchy but the specific reign of Otho and his Dynasty.

Schloss Glücksburg is counted among the most significant of Family Seats in Northern Germany. The residence of the Dukes of Schleswig-Holstein and, at times, the home of the Danish Kings (both families descended from the House of Oldenburg) - has been shaped by the events of European history. Prince Christian von Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg became King of Denmark on 15 November 1863, and later became known as the "Father-in-Law of Europe." In May 1863 his son, Wilhelm, under the name of Georg I, was proclaimed 'King of the Hellenes' by the Greek National assembly. And, in 1905, his grandson, Carl, was elected King Haakon VII of Norway. Through Christian IX, Glücksburg became the ancestral home of the Danish, Norwegian and Greek Royal Houses.

The King's exclusive right to choose the ministers of his government and the strong tendency of every royal government to interfere in the elections for parliament, soon led to a bitter political strife that ended with the imposition of the "principle of parliamentarism". Since 1875, the head of the Greek State asks the political leader who enjoys the majority in Parliament to form a government and this leader and all hisministers are responsible to parliament.

King George I conferred on his heir apparent the title of "Duke of Sparta"; but finding this supposed attempt to introduce a foreign aristocratic system into the State regarded with disfavor, he judiciously refrained from creating Dukedoms for his younger sons. The Crown Prince's new title was, indeed, never officially adopted either by the Chamber or the press, and he continued until his accession to the throne to be styled simply "Diodochos" - the "Successor."

The period following the Greek defeat in the Greco-Turkish war of 1897 was characterized by universal discontent and demand for renewal of national life in all sectors and especially the restructuring of the state. In the army, and especially in the lower ranks, there was widespread feeling that the involvement of the princes in the leadership of the army and the overall inability and corruption of political and military officers were directly to blame for the national failure. But the keen expression of popular indignation and a generalized anti-dynastic feeling in the period after the defeat did not lead to immediate overthrow, as for a while seemed imminent, thanks to the intervention of the Great Powers in favor of the monarchy and also to efforts of the statesmen who were afraid for their own fate. Thus, despite its lack of popularity, the monarchy preserved its authority intact.

In 1917 Constantine was forced from the throne by Allied pressure and Venizelos was made the effective protege of Allied policy. After military failures in the war against Turkey, the army was rancorous against what it considered high treason by the royal government. The officers easily took power in 1922 and forced, again, King Constantine to leave the country. In March 1924, the National Assembly declared Greece a Republic. In 1935 a plebiscite on the return of the monarchy with a 98% voting for the restoration of the monarchy in the form of King George II. In August 1936, the prime minister John Metaxas (1871-1941) revoked the Constitution with the active support of the King and imposed a dictatorship (1936-1941).

After the end of the Civil War the King was in complete control over the army and high administration and was thus dominating the political system. The Greek public administration, justice, education, and army were headed and, in their high echelons, staffed in priority by the same individuals who served under the pre-war Royal dictatorship of Metaxas or even under the collaborationist governments; they were resolutely royalists, anti- Communists, conservatives with anti-parliamentarian and authoritarian beliefs.

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.

George Papandreou, who triumphed in the February 1964 elections, garnered considerable support from liberal and leftist voters who were discontent with the authoritarian royal governments. A group of colonels staged a coup on April 21, 1967, a month before projected elections. The eclipsed King tried to regain control of the situation, staged an unsuccessful amateurish coup in December 1967, and when he was beaten left the country.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:59:13 ZULU