Thursday, 6 March 2014

Greek Royal Family commemorates King Paul I of the Hellenes

Crown Prince Pavlos and his family in Athens.

Athens hasn't seen such a big royal event in decades. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of King Paul's death  his children, King Constantine II of the Hellenes, Queen Anna-Maria, Queen Sofía of Spain and Princess Irene, and many other family members gathered in the Greek capital to hold a memorial service for their parents . Yesterday a new documentary on the life of King Paul I had a world premiere. The film perfomance was attended not only by Greek royals, but also by many members of other royal families, among them  Crown Prince Alexander of Serbia, Margrave Max and Margrevine Valery of Baden.

Today 50 years ago King Paul I of the Hellenes passed away. In late February 1964, he had undergone an operation for stomach cancer, and a couple of days afterwards in Athens he passed away. On 19th February 1964 his eldest son, Crown Prince Constantine, had been appointed as Regent.

The royal decree that appointed 23-year-old Crown Prince Constantine as Regent, was drafted by the Government and sent to the King for signature. King Paul signed it, and it was promulgated in the official gazette. Before he was admitted to the hospital, King Paul had sworn in the new cabinet of Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou, which was formed after the recent elections. Due to the king's fragile health the ceremony had taken place at the royal residence of Tatoi and not at the Royal Palace in Athens. On 6th March 1964 the death of King Paul I was announced. He was succeeded by his only son, King Constantine II of the Hellenes.
King Paul (Greek: Παῦλος, Βασιλεὺς τῶν Ἑλλήνων, Pávlos, Vasiléfs ton Ellínon; 14th December 1901 – 6th March 1964) was born in Athens, the third son of King Constantine I of the Hellenes and his wife, Queen Sophia, née Princess of Prussia. He was trained as a naval officer and joined the British Royal Navy as a cadet at the Naval Academy in Dartmouth, later in Osborne. During World War I he accompanied his parents into exile, which they spent in Switzerland and Germany, while his elder brother ruled as King Alexander I. After his brother's premature death, the Greek parliament had proclaimed Prince Paul to be his successor, but he refused and insisted on his father's return on the throne. On 19th December 1920 the royal family returned and Prince Paul joined the Greek Royal Naval Academy in Piraeus to complete his formation. In 1922 he graduated and was promoted to sub lieutenant.

After the Greek troops were defeated by Turkey, King Constantine I was picked as scapegoat and forced into exile again. He left his beloved Greece on 22nd September 1922 and was succeeded by his eldest son, King George II. This made Prince Paul the new Crown Prince of Greece. King Constantine I died in Italy on 23 January 1923, but the government refused to grant the dead monarch a state funeral at home. The second republic was proclaimed on 25th March 1924 and the Royal Family was forced to leave the country of their birth and were stripped of their nationality and their property.

Short of money, Crown Prince Paul first went to Romania, where his sister had married Crown Prince Carol, then to the UK and found a job in the new aeroplane industry. At the British company Armstrong Siddeley in Coventry he became a mechanic apprentice under the name of "Paul Beck" and assembled planes.

Instablility in the Greek republic
Between 1924, when the republic was proclaimed and 1935, when it was finally abolished again Greece was shaken by instability and financial ruin. In little less than ten years, the country had 23 governments, one dictatorship and 13 coups d'État. In the end, the Monarchy was universally seen as the solution. On 10th October 1935 a military putsch deposed the prime minister and the president and the national assembly proclaimed the re-instalment of the Monarchy under the regency of Georgios Kondýlis. King George II insisted on a popular vote and Kondýlis organised a referendum on 3rd November 1935. On 5th November King George agreed to return to Greece. King and Crown Prince arrived in Athens on 25th November.

Wedding of Crown Prince Paul of Greece and Princess Frederika of Hanover.
To secure the dynasty's future Crown Prince Paul married the Princess Frederika of Hanover. He first met his bride in 1927, when she was only ten years old. They met again in 1934 when both attended the wedding of Greek Princess Marina and the Duke of Kent. The young couple married on 9th January 1938. The first child was born on 2nd November 1938: Princess Sophia, today Queen Sofía of Spain, followed on 2nd June 1940 by Prince Constantine, today King Constantine II of the Hellenes, and 11th May 1942 Princess Irene. The latter princess was born in South Africa, where Crown Princess Frederika had found refuge. Between the two births was the Italian attack on Greece and after the Greek troops had defeated the invader, the Germans came to the aid of their allies and occupied the Kingdom of Greece in 1941.

While King George II, Crown Prince Paul and the royal government went to Britain to continue the fight against the invaders, Crown Princess Frederika and her children were invited by South African Prime Minister Jan Smuts to come to his country. They stayed there until March 1944 and then left South African for Egypt. After the German troops were defeated another referendum was held on the Monarchy. On 1st September 1946 69 % of the Greeks said yes to the return of their royal family. On 27th September King George II came back to Greece for a third time only to die suddenly on 1st April 1947.

The reign of King Paul I
The new King and Queen faced a country that was torn apart by civil war. In 1947 they was unable to attend the wedding of his first cousin, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh to Princess Elizabeth as King Paul was suffering from typhoid fever.

By 1949 the Civil War was effectively over, with the Communist insurgents ceasing the majority of their operations, and the task of rebuilding the shattered north of the country began. Between 1948 and 1952 Greece received 376 millions US $ US aid from the Marshall Plan. The country began to stabilise under King Paul in eleven years the country had only two prime ministers, one of them was Konstantin Karamanlis  who after 1974 played such an unfortunate role. But in the 50s the agricultural and mining sectors boomed and the tourism industry flourished. Greece recovered not only economically, but diplomatic and trade links were strengthened as well by the royal couple's state visits abroad. King Paul became the first Greek Monarch to visit Istanbul and Ankara in June 1952. However, links with Britain became strained over Cyprus, where the majority Greek population favoured union with Greece, which Britain, as the colonial power, would not endorse. Eventually, Cyprus became an independent state in 1960.

The monarch's health deteriorated at the end of the 50s. He died during surgery on 6th March 1964 and was buried in a state funeral on 11th March 1964.
Funeral of King Paul on 11th March 1964. At the centre his widow, Queen Frederika, to her right the new king: Constantine II, next to him, Princess Sofía of Spain. From right to left: Prince Juan Carlos, Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark, Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark.

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