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Prince Charles: The Devastation by Fires in Greece ‘Stuff of Nightmares’

Prince Charles fires Greece
Prince Charles and Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall, during their visit to Crete’s archeological site of Knossos in 2018. Credit: Royal Family

Prince Charles said on Saturday that the devastation in Greece — “the land of my father” — from the fires is the stuff of nightmares and called on the world to act on climate change.

Writing an article for the British tabloid Daily Mail, the heir to the British throne, used visceral and emotional language talking about the fires devastating his beloved Greece, saying the scenes have been “terrifying.”

He tells of his heartbreak at seeing the land where his father and grandfather were born being “swallowed up by ferocious flames” and warns that climate change is upon us and that “time is rapidly running out.”

“Owing to family connections, I have always felt a particular fascination and affection for Greece,” Prince Charles writes.

“Apart from the allure of her landscapes, history and culture, both my father and grandfather were born there, which is why I was so touched to be invited earlier this year to celebrate the bicentenary of the country’s independence.

“Now, five months later, it has been heartbreaking to see the devastating fires affecting Greece, Turkey, and now Italy which has just recorded Europe’s highest ever temperature.

“It has been truly the stuff of nightmares to see the once blue skies above the Peloponnese, Attica and the island of Evia turn a bright orange as mile after mile of the country’s famed landscape and over 100,000 hectares of forest and farmland have been swallowed up by ferocious flames, causing the tragic loss of life, injury and the widespread destruction of so many peoples’ homes and livelihoods,” Prince Charles writes.

Prince Charles moved by fires in Greece

Prince Charles says that the fires in Greece prove that the environmental crisis is “monumental” and can be tackled only by big business and governments working together.

Warning that weather-related disasters should serve as a wake-up call, the prince writes: “We have been in the ‘last chance saloon’ for too long already, so if we do not confront the monumental challenge head on – and fast – we and the world as we know it will be done for.”

Charles’s challenge to big business is a significant intervention from the heir to the British throne. It comes in the wake of a stark report from the United Nations’ panel on climate change earlier this month which warned of unprecedented global warming and which was described as a ‘code red’ moment for humanity.

In the autumn, Britain will host COP26, the UN’s climate change conference, in Glasgow, which is seen as one of the last chances for major nations to agree an approach to prevent potentially catastrophic global heating.

Prince Charles and roots in Greece

Prince Charles has a particularly strong connection to Greece, or “the land of his grandfather,” as he noted.

Both Prince Charles’ father, Prince Philip, and grandfather, Prince Andrew, were born in the Mediterranean country.

Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, was born at Tatoi Palace, on the outskirts of Athens in 1882, which was partly damaged by the August catastrophic fires. His father, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born on the island of Corfu, at Mon Repos Palace, in 1921.

Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark (1882-1944) was the seventh child and fourth son of King George I of Greece and Olga Constantinovna of Russia. He was the grandfather of the present Prince of Wales.

Prince Andrew was an officer in the Greek army, who also served in the Balkan Wars (1912-1913). In 1913, his father was assassinated and Andrew’s elder brother, Constantine, became king. Constantine’s neutrality policy during World War I led to his abdication, and most members of the royal family, including Andrew, were exiled.

After the royals’ return a few years later, Andrew fought again in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), but the war went badly for Greece, and Andrew was blamed, in part, for the catastrophic loss of Greek territory.

The court martial was about to sentence him to death for his decisions,  but General Theodoros Pangalos intervened and saved him, on the grounds that his “great inexperience of commanding upper ranks”. Andrew was exiled for the second time in 1922, and spent most of the rest of his life in France.

Prince Andrew was estranged from his wife, Princess Alice, but was never divorced from her. He spent the rest of his life in Monte Carlo, dying on Dec. 3, 1944 from a heart attack. His body was transported to Greece was and buried in the royal cemetery at Tatoi.

Charles’ grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg (1856-1969), was diagnosed with schizophrenia and committed to a sanatorium in Switzerland, thereafter living separately from her husband. Allegedly, Princess Alice believed that she possessed healing powers and that she had come into erotic contact with Jesus Christ.

After her recovery, she returned to Greece in 1938 whereupon she devoted most of her remaining years to charity work. She stayed in Athens during World War II, courageously sheltering Jewish refugees. She was also responsible for the management of many orphanages and clubs, doing valuable social work during the years of the German Occupation.

In 1949 Princess Alice moved to Tinos to establish a convent, even trying to take on its construction herself. She lived as an Orthodox nun until the end of her life in 1969.

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