NEW YORK – The East Mediterranean Business Culture Alliance (EMBCA) presented ‘The Legacy of Former King Constantine II of Greece’ webinar panel discussion on March 5. The compelling discussion was introduced and moderated by Lou Katsos and Marina A. Belessis Casoria, EMBCA’s President and Executive Vice President respectively. The distinguished panel included author and investigative journalist Nicholas Gage; educator and community leader Peter Stavrianidis, PhD; journalist and author Spiridoula Irida Spanea; journalist and public relations consultant Dimitrios Filios; and author/poet Nicholas Alexiou, Professor of Sociology, and Director of the American Hellenic Project (HAP).
Katsos gave the welcoming remarks and a moment of silence was held for the victims of the train tragedy in Greece. He then introduced the panelists and gave background information on the former king.
“Former King Constantine II (June 2, 1940-January 10, 2023) was the last King of the Hellenes (his formal/official title) and reigned from March 6, 1964, until the abolition of the Hellenic monarchy on June 1, 1973,” Katsos noted. “Born in Athens, he was the only son of King Paul of Greece and his Queen Consort, the former Princess Frederica of Hanover. Part of his childhood was spent in Africa during World War II, following the German invasion and occupation of Hellas. Following the return of the Hellenic royal family to Hellas after the end of WWII, his father succeeded to the throne in 1947 upon the death of his childless elder brother King George II with Constantine becoming Crown Prince.”
“Constantine won an Olympic gold medal in sailing in 1960 and in 1963 became a member of the International Olympic Committee, serving until his resignation in 1974, after which he was made an honorary member,” Katsos continued. “He succeeded to the throne following the death of his father in 1964 and several months later married Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, with whom he had five children.”
“His ascension to the Hellenic throne was at a time, although years later, when Hellas in some ways was still feeling the effects of the Civil War and with society strongly split between the royalist conservative right and the liberal-socialist left,” Katsos said.
The coup d’etat of April 21, 1967 brought in the military dictatorship which lasted until 1974. Constantine’s failed counter coup from Kavala on December 13, 1967 led to his forced exile, fleeing to Rome and later London after a brief turbulent reign. He remained in exile through the rest of the Hellenic Dictatorship and he technically was the king until the Hellenic monarchy was abolished by vote on June 1, 1973. Following the abolition of the monarchy, he and his family moved to the UK.
“A Hellenic law passed under Prime Minister Andreas Papandreau in 1994 stripped him of his Hellenic citizenship, passport and property forcing him to travel in and out of Hellas on a Danish passport,” Katsos said, noting that “the former king and his wife returned to the Hellenic Republic in 2013 and he resided there for the remainder of his life.”
The former king died on January 10, 2023 at age 82. By the decision of the Hellenic government he was not given a state funeral. After a private funeral officiated by Archbishop Ieronymos, he was buried in Tatoi, the summer palace of the former Hellenic royal family, next to his parents.
Marina A. Belessis Casoria introduced the panelists who shared their thoughts and insights into the former king’s legacy with Nicholas Gage sharing personal recollections of meeting Constantine. “I’m not a monarchist, I don’t believe the people who created democracy should be ruled by kings or queens but I admired him because he loved Greece I think as much as we do,” Gage said. “He made mistakes in his early years as king, all the decisions he took, many that cost him personally, took into consideration what would be best for Greece.”
Spanea shared the story of Constantine’s Olympic medals and what the victory meant to Greece after several years of a drought in Olympic medals.
Filios also shared his insights having met Constantine and interviewed him, noting that as a person, he was “polite, pleasant and educated.”
Dr. Stavrianidis shared that although it is clear that monarchy will never return to Greece, he does view the family of the former king favorably and believes that they could “play a significant role, whether it be philanthropic, political or social.”
Professor Alexiou highlighted his presentation with slides and noted that Constantine continued the “dark tradition of all previous kings of Greece… putting the interests of the monarchy far above the interests of the Greek people.”
Video of the discussion is available on EMBCA’s YouTube channel: https://bit.ly/3Yv70WS.