This Week in History: November 29th to December 5th

Firkas Fortress in Chania. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

November 29th:

On this day in 1934, Princess Marina of Greece and Denmark married Prince George, Duke of Kent. Princess Marina was the last foreign princess who married into the British royal family. Many have described her as an ‘exceptional figure – the epitome of royal style and beauty.’ Born in Athens, Princess Marina was educated by an English governess in a simple, down-to-earth manner, that emphasized duty over all other things. She was fluent in Greek, Russian, English, French, and German and remained a devout Orthodox Christian for the entirety of her life. She met her future husband, Prince George, Duke of Kent in 1932 while visiting London following her family’s exile from Greece in 1917. Prince George’s reputation was a questionable one (with persistent rumors about his homosexuality as well as his carefree lifestyle). It might have been a marriage of convenience, but the couple emerged as one of the favorite royal couples in the public’s eyes. The couple married in 1934 and had three children. Sadly, just six weeks after the birth of their youngest child, Prince George was killed when his military plane crashed in Scotland in 1942. His death was surrounded by much mystery but this never deterred Marina, who continued to be one of the most hard-working members of the Royal family. During World War II, Marina trained as a nurse for three months under the pseudonym “Sister Kay,” rendering service as a civil nurse reserve. In 1968 it was discovered that the Princess was suffering from an inoperable brain tumor and one month later, she died in her home at Kensington Palace surrounded by her children and sister. Her funeral took place on August 30, 1968 with her coffin carried into St. George’s Chapel in Windsor covered in a Greek flag.

December 1st:

On this day in 1913, the flag of Greece was officially raised at the Firka Fortress in Chania, Crete symbolizing the union of Crete with the rest of Greece. Constructed in 1629 to protect the Venetian harbor entrance from raiders, the Firka Fortress has a panoramic view of the Chania harbor. Because of its historical significance and also partly as a result of its unique location, the Union of Crete with Greece was celebrated at the fortress by hauling down the Turkish flag for the last time and raising the blue-and-white flag of Greece in its place – where it has waved proudly ever since.

December 3rd:

On this day in 1992, the Greek oil tanker Aegean Sea, which was carrying nearly 80,000 tons of crude oil, ran aground in a storm while approaching Spain and spilled much of its cargo. The accident occurred when the 856-foot Aegean Sea tried to enter a port close to the Tower of Hercules in the middle of a strong storm. The resulting fire burned for 24 hours and it was reported that of the 23.8 million gallons of oil that was transported, about 21.5 million were dumped into the sea. Fifteen Greek crewmen and 14 sailors from the Philippines were rescued from the vessel which eventually caught fire and broke into pieces.

December 5th:

On this day in 1924, George Savalas, the Greek-American actor, was born in the Bronx in New York. He attended Holy Cross Institute in Connecticut and Mineola High School on Long Island before studying drama at Columbia University’s school of the performing arts. Thus began his career as a stage actor and acting instructor. George was the younger brother of actor Telly Savalas, with whom he acted in the popular 1970s TV crime series ‘Kojak’ (George played Detective Stavros to Telly’s Kojak). After ‘Kojak’ ended, he recorded a Top-10 Greek language record and toured with his band at many major venues including Carnegie Hall. In addition to his performing career, he served in the Pacific during World War II and was a decorated U.S. Navy gunner. George died of leukemia at the young age of 60 and was survived by his wife and their six children (five sons and one daughter).

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