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GreekReporter.comGreek NewsFormer King of Greece, Constantine, Dies at 82

Former King of Greece, Constantine, Dies at 82

Constantine former king of Greece passes away
Former King of Greece, Constantine, Dies. Credit: Holger motzkau / Wikimedia Commons CC3

Constantine II, the former king of Greece, died on Tuesday, January 10th.

Staff at Athens’ private Hygeia Hospital confirmed Constantine’s death after treatment in an intensive care unit, but provided no further details pending an official announcement.

The former Greek king, who was born on June 2, 1940 and passed at the age of eighty-two, had been hospitalized several times in recent years. He relocated to Athens in 2021 to be closer to medical facilities.

Constantine was the last monarch of Greece. He became king in 1964 and reigned until 1973, when the Greek monarchy was abolished.

Former King of Greece Constantine’s early years

Constantine was born on June 2, 1940 in a suburb of Athens. He was the second child and only legitimate son of Prince Paul, the heir presumptive of Greece. His mother, Princess Frederica, was a German aristocrat and princess of Hannover.

During his baptism in Athens, the Hellenic Armed Forces acted as his godparent. He was named after his paternal grandfather, Constantine I.

The young prince was born during the Second World War. The Greek military repulsed the Italian offensive in Albania in 1940 but lost ground when Nazi Germany intervened in 1941. The royal family fled first to Crete and then to Egypt but finally ended up in South Africa.

Constantine finally returned to Greece with the rest of the royal family in 1946. The following year, King George died, and Constantine’s father, Paul, became the king of Greece.

Education and military service

Constantine was sent to a boarding school in his younger years and then attended Victoria College of Alexandria, Egypt, where he crossed paths with fellow royalty, King Hussein of Jordan. Actor Omar Sharif was another one of his classmates.

The young crown prince served in all three branches of the Greek military and attended each of their academies. This also gave him the opportunity to attend the NATO Air Force Special Weapons School in Germany.


Constantine Former king of Greece martial art karate breaks bricks
Constantine engaging in the martial arts tradition of breaking bricks. Credit: Je-Maintiendrai

Constantine was also a talented athlete. In 1960 at the age of just twenty, he won an Olympic gold medal in sailing. This was the first Greek gold medal won in sailing since the Stockholm Olympic Games of 1912.

The future king of Greece also enjoyed swimming, squash, and track events. Martial arts and karate—in which he attained a black belt—were two of his other interests.

Constantine becomes king

Constantine fromer king of Greece
Constantine former king of Greece. Public Domain

On March 6, 1964, King Paul died of cancer, and Constantine inherited the throne. He was just twenty-three at the time. He had already been appointed regent prior to this due to his father’s worsening health.

The new king inherited a precarious political position in Greece. The country was still shaken by the civil war which lasted from 1944 to 1949. Greek society remained polarized between the conservative and royalist right versus the liberal and socialist left.

Constantine’s ascension to the throne coincided with the election of George Papandreou as prime minister just one month prior. There was a general sense of optimism that the new monarch together with the newly elected centrist prime minister could give Greece a fresh start.

However, after the resignation of Papandreou, Constantine was forced to appoint a new government. Georgios Athanasiadis-Novas was in power as the new Greek prime minister for only a month before Ilias Tsirimokos also attempted but failed to form a stable government. Two caretaker governments followed, but these also crumbled.

Military junta

On April 21, 1967, a group of middle-ranking army officers led by Colonel George Papadopoulos took advantage of the military turmoil destabilizing Greece and successfully took control of the government during a coup.

Despite having sworn in the junta, or Regime of Colonels, Constantine opposed them and planned a counter-coup. He traveled to the city of Kavala, where he planned to assemble a force of loyal military personnel before marching on to Thessaloniki. There, he hoped to install an alternative administration.

The plan was set in motion in December and initially went well. The generals in Kavala were loyal to the royal family, and the air force and navy personnel stationed there had not taken part in the coup.

However, mid-ranking military officers in Kavala who were loyal to the junta assembled their men and arrested the royalist generals. They would have also detained the king, but he fled to Italy with his family on December 14th.

Although Constantine officially remained king until 1973, he never returned to Greece as the reigning monarch.

Exile and the dissolution of the monarchy

Constantine hoped to return to Greece as the reigning monarch when the military junta collapsed in 1974. However, the new government held a referendum in December of that year on whether Greece should even have a monarchy.

Constantine was not permitted to return to Greece to campaign on behalf of the monarchy and was instead only able to broadcast to the Greek people from London. The Greek public ultimately voted against restoring the monarchy.

The former king remained in exile away from Greece for nearly five decades. He was strongly encouraged not to return to the country. He was only permitted to return briefly to attend the funeral of his mother in 1981.

Constantine’s personal life

Constantine spent most of the remainder of his life in London. He was a close friend of King Charles III and became the godfather of Prince William.

His wife was Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, whom he married in 1964. They had five children together.

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