ATHENS, Greece – Constantine, Greece’s former and last king. Who won an Olympic gold medal before becoming embroiled. His country’s turbulent politics as king in the 1960s and spending decades in exile, has died. He was 82.
Doctors at the private Hygeia Hospital in Athens confirmed. The Associated Press that Constantine died late Tuesday. After treatment in an intensive care unit. But had no further details pending an official announcement.
When he ascended the throne as Constantine II in 1964 at the age of 23, the young king. Who had already achieved glory as an Olympic gold medalist in sailing, was popular. By the following year, he had squandered much of that support. By participating in conspiracies to topple Prime Minister George Papandreou’s elected central union government.
The defection of many lawmakers from the ruling party. Still known in Greece as “apostasy”, destabilized the constitutional order and led to a military coup in 1967. Constantine clashed with the military rulers and was forced into exile.
Dictatorship led to the abolition of the monarchy in 1973. While a referendum after democracy was restored in 1974 dashed. Any hope of Constantine’s reign again.
Reduced to only fleeting visits to Greece in the following decades. That each time caused a political and media storm. He was able to settle back in his home country in his declining years. When the currency was no longer held. As a badge of the awakened republicanism opposed to his presence. With minimal nostalgia for monarchy in Greece, Constantine became a controversial figure.
Born into royalty
Constantine was born on June 2, 1940, in Athens to Prince Paul. Younger brother of King George II and heir to the throne, and Princess Federica of Hanover. His older sister Sofia is the wife of former King Juan Carlos I of Spain. Greek-born Prince Philip, late Duke of Edinburgh. And husband of the late Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, was an uncle.
The family, which ruled Greece from 1863 except for a 12-year republic. Between 1922–1935, is descended from Prince Christian. The House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glucksburg branch of Denmark. Later Christian IX of Denmark. ruling family
Before Constantine’s first birthday, the royal family was forced to flee Greece during the German invasion of World War II. Moving to Alexandria, Egypt, South Africa, and back to Alexandria. King George II returned to Greece after a controversial referendum in 1946. But died a few months later, making Constantine King Paul I’s successor.
Constantine was educated at a boarding school. And then attended three military academies as well. As Athens law school classes in preparation for his future role. He competed in various sports, including sailing and karate, in which he held a black belt.
In 1960, at the age of 20, he and two other Greek sailors won a gold medal in the dragon class. No longer the Olympic class — at the Rome Olympics. While a prince, Constantine was elected a member of the International Olympic Committee. And was made an honorary life member in 1974.
King Paul I died of cancer on March 6, 1964. And was succeeded by Constantine. A few weeks after the Center Union Party won over the Conservatives with 53% of the vote.
‘People don’t want you’
The prime minister, George Papandreou. And Constantine had a very close relationship. But soon became heated over Constantine’s insistence. That control of the armed forces was the emperor’s prerogative.
With many officers toying with the idea of dictatorship and seeing. Any non-conservative government as soft on communism. Papandreou wanted to control the Ministry of Defense. And demanded the appointment of a Minister of Defense. After a heated exchange of letters with Constantine, Papandreou resigned in July 1965.
Constantine’s insistence on appointing a government made up of moderate defectors. Who won a narrow parliamentary majority at the third attempt was unpopular.
“People don’t want you, take your mother!” In the summer of 1965, Greece became a rallying point for the shaking protests.
, Constantine brokered a truce of sorts with Papandreou. And appointed a government of technocrats. And then a conservative-led government to hold an election in May 1967.
But, with the polls pro-Union and Papandreou’s left-leaning son, Andreas, gaining popularity, Constantine. And his courtiers feared reprisals and prepared. A coup with the help of high-ranking officials.
But, a group of low-ranking officers led by colonels were preparing their own coup. And informed of Constantine’s plan by a mole, declared a dictatorship on April 21, 1967.
He pretended to go with them. While preparing a counter-coup with the troops. And navy of northern Greece, which remained loyal to him.
On December 13, 1967, Constantine and his family flew to the northern city of Kavala. The intention of advancing on Thessaloniki and setting up a government there. The counter-coup, led and infiltrated, collapsed. He will not return as a reigning king.
The end of the monarchy
The junta appointed a regent and abolished the monarchy on June 1, 1973, following a failed military counter-coup in May 1973. A July referendum, considered rigged, confirmed the decision.
When the dictatorship fell in July 1974. It by veteran politician Constantine Karamanlis. Who had returned from exile to head a civilian government. Karamanlis, who also led the government from 1955-63, was a conservative. But clashed with the court over what he considered. His excessive interference in politics.
After his landslide victory in the November elections. Karamanlis called for a referendum on the monarchy in 1974. But the result was unequivocal and accepted: 69.2% voted for a republic.
Soon after, Karamanlis said that the nation had rid itself of a cancerous growth. I hope that the developments will justify the results of yesterday’s vote.”
To his last days, Constantine continued to style himself King of Greece. And his children princes and princesses. Even though Greece no longer recognized the title of aristocracy, even though Greece was now a republic.
For most of his years in exile, he lived in the London suburb of Hampstead Gardens.
Although it took Constantine 14 years to return to his country, in 1981 to bury his mother Queen Federica. He then multiplied his visits and made his home there since 2010. There were continuing conflicts: in 1994, the then Socialist government stripped him of his nationality. Constantine sued the European Court of Human Rights.
He is survived by his wife, the former Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark. Younger sister of Queen Margrethe II; five children, Alexia, Pavlos, Nikolaos. Theodora and Philippos; and nine grandchildren.