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  • George Kyriazidis

Former King of Greece, Constantine II, dies aged 82

A Greek newspaper announcing the results of the 1974 referendum. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The former King of Greece, Constantine II, died of a stroke at the age of 82 on Tuesday, in a private hospital in Athens. According to reports, the former King was experiencing serious health problems in the past few months and recently contracted COVID-19 for the second time, which apparently made his health deteriorate even further.

Early Life

Constantine II was born in his family’s residence in Athens on June 2, 1940.

He spent World War II in exile in Egypt and South Africa, returning to Greece in 1946. A year later, Constantine became crown prince when Greece’s King George II died and his brother, Paul, Constantine's father, ascended the throne.

When Paul died on March 6, 1964, he acceded to the throne as Constantine II at the age of 23. The young Monarch had already achieved international praise as an Olympic gold medalist in sailing and was very popular. In the same year, he married Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark in Athens, with whom he had five children: Princes Pavlos, Nikolaos and Philippos, and Princesses Alexia, and Theodora.

A Controversial King

Constantine’s nine-year reign proved to be rather controversial and brought the end of monarchy in Greece. The royal family first began to lose its popularity after Constantine's active involvement in the apostasy that brought down the popularly elected Center Union government, led by prime minister Georgios Papandreou. The Center Union government’s resolution majorly destabilized the constitutional order, allowing rival politicians to take action, resulting in a military coup. After the 1967 coup, Constantine and his family fled to self-imposed exile in Rome, and the military junta appointed a regent to take his place.

The Greek monarchy was abolished on June 1, 1973, when the junta proclaimed the country a Republic, a decision that was later legitimized by the Greek people who voted 69% against the Royal Family, at the 8 December 1974 referendum, called by Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis. King Constantine accepted the abolition and remained in exile.

A Celebrated Hero, But Without State Honors

That year, the former King moved from Rome to England, settling in London. In the 2000s, he became a frequent visitor to Greece and in 2013, Constantine returned to reside in Greece as he and his wife Anne-Marie purchased a villa in Porto Cheli. Later, they relocated to Athens in the spring of 2022.

Constantine will receive a private burial at the former royal estate of Tatoi outside Athens, where other members of the former Greek Royal family are buried. The Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis announced that Constantine II would not be receiving the honors of a State Leader during his funeral.

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