FILE - Britain's Queen Elizabeth II, right, speaks with former King Constantine II during the opening ceremony of the Round Square International Conference at Wellington College, Crowthorne, England, Oct. 17, 2011. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth, Pool, File)
ATHENS — Constantine, the former and last king of Greece, will be buried as a private citizen in Tatoi, the former summer residence of Greece’s royals and where his parents and ancestors are buried, the government said Wednesday.
A controversial figure in Greek history, Constantine died in hospital late Tuesday night at the age of 82. Greece’s monarchy was definitively abolished in a referendum in 1974, and Constantine had spent decades in exile before settling in his home country once more in his waning years.
Decisions on his funeral were announced by the office of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who chaired a ministerial meeting to discuss the details Wednesday morning. The date and location of the funeral service was not immediately determined and would be decided on in collaboration with the former king’s family, the prime minister’s office said.
The government will be represented at the funeral by the culture minister, while “all protocol procedures will be followed for dignitaries from abroad who will attend the funeral,” the announcement said.
Few people in Greece have any nostalgia for the former royal family, but Constantine’s funeral is likely to attract attendance from other European royals, many of whom are related to him. His older sister is Sophia, wife of former King Juan Carlos I of Spain, while the Greek-born Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh and husband of the late Queen Elizabeth II, was an uncle. Constantine was one of the godparents of William, Prince of Wales and heir to the British throne.
The family, which had ruled Greece from 1863 apart from a 12-year republican interlude between 1922-1935, was descended from Prince Christian, later Christian IX of Denmark, of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg branch of the Danish ruling family
An Olympic sailing gold medalist, Constantine was hugely popular when he acceded to the throne in 1964 at the age of 23, but much of that support rapidly waned with his active involvement in the machinations that brought down the elected government of Prime Minister George Papandreou.
The episode involving the defection from the ruling party of several lawmakers destabilized the constitutional order and led to a military coup in 1967. Constantine eventually clashed with the military rulers and was forced into exile.
When the dictatorship collapsed in July 1974, Constantine was eager to return to Greece but was advised against it by veteran politician Constantine Karamanlis, who returned from exile to head a civilian government.
After his triumphal win in November elections, Karamanlis called for a plebiscite on the monarchy. Constantine was not allowed in the country to campaign, but the result was unambiguous and widely accepted: 69.2% voted in favor of a republic.
To his final days, Constantine, while accepting that Greece was now a republic, continued to style himself King of Greece and his children as princes and princesses even though Greece no longer recognized titles of nobility.
For most of his years in exile he lived in London and was said to be especially close to his second cousin, Charles, now King Charles III.
While it took Constantine 14 years to return to his country, briefly, to bury his mother, Queen Frederica, in 1981, he multiplied his visits thereafter and, from 2010, made his home in Greece.
There were continued disputes: In 1994, the then socialist government stripped him of his nationality and expropriated what remained of the royal family’s property. Constantine sued at the European Court of Human Rights and was awarded 12 million euros in 2002, a fraction of the 500 million he had sought.
He is survived by his wife, the former Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, youngest sister of Queen Margrethe II; five children, Alexia, Pavlos, Nikolaos, Theodora and Philippos; and nine grandchildren.
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