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Legacy Torn, Greece’s Former King Constantine II Will Lay With Royals

ATHENS – Denied a state funeral or public honors following his passing 56 years after swearing in a military junta before turning on them, Greece’s former King Constantine II will be buried privately at the former royal estate Tatoi.

He was a provocative figure in Greek history for his brief attachment to the Colonels who overthrew the government in a 1967 coup – he staged a failed attempt to depose them – and Greeks in 1974 voted to end the monarchy.

Suffering from chronic heart and mobility problems, he was being treated at an Athens hospital when he died at 82, the only son of King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece.

“It is with deep sadness that the royal family announces that HM King Constantine, beloved husband, father, and brother, passed away yesterday,” Constantine’s private office said in a statement.

Constantine’s wife, Anne-Marie, is the younger sister of Denmark’s Queen Margrethe. In a statement, the royal palace in Copenhagen said it was “with great sadness” that the Queen had learned of Constantine’s death. His elder sister is Queen Sophia of Spain.

The children of the former King Constantine’s children leave from the Maximos Mansion after the arrangements with the government for the funeral of their father, Wednesday 11 January 2023.
(VASILIS REMPAPIS/EUROKINISSI)

He was godfather to Britain’s Prince William and a second cousin to King Charles and the resting place will be at the abandoned summer palace that, during World War II, the woods were chopped for fuel and corpses buried in shallow graves.

King George II regained possession of the estate in 1946. It passed down as private property to King Constantine II until 1994, when the building and grounds were confiscated by the government of Andreas Papandreou.

Twenty members of the royal family are buried there, beginning with Olga of Greece in 1880, the last until now was Princess Katherine of Greece and Denmark in 2007.

A mausoleum was built to house the bodies of King Konstantínos I, Queen Sophie and King Aléxandros. The remaining members are buried in tombs with crosses near the Royal Chapel.

Greek and Olympic flags are seen at half-staff as the Hellenic Olympic Committee commemorate the former king of Greece who was an Olympic sailing gold medalist in Rome in 1960, at Panathinean stadium in Athens, Greece, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

The funeral procession will be held on Jan. 16 at the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, his office said, closing the last chapter of Greek monarchy, his legacy tarnished by his brief association with the junta.

Constantine’s family said the funeral service would take place at the Athens Cathedral and that the timing of the service and burial, and the duration the former king’s body would remain in the church would be set.

He won a gold medal for Greece in sailing at the 1960 Olympics and was a keen horseman and honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, which expressed grief at his death.

He was was hugely popular in Greece 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, leading to a coup three years later.

WEDDING OF PHILIPPUS GLYXBURG WITH NINA FLOR at the Metropolis of ATHENS. Saturday 23 October 2021 (Elias Koutoulogenis / PANORAMAPRESS)

He was just 27 and had recently taken the throne with the lightning strike coup took place in 1967 and the junta forced him into exile and abolished the monarchy in 1974, a year before falling. It was restored by referendum, making him the last King of Greece.

He wouldn’t return to Greece for decades and remained deeply unpopular for his decision to swear in the Colonels whose repressive regime saw opponents jailed, tortured and harassed.

Constantine was married to Princess Anne-Marie, the youngest daughter of King Frederick IX of Denmark, and had five children.
Known as “The Ex” or just “Glucksberg” – from the German House of Glucksberg which has connections with royalty throughout Europe – Constantine spent almost 50 years in exile in Italy and London, before quietly returning to settle in Greece in 2013, noted Reuters.

“The eventful journey of the former King Constantine marked and was marked by turbulent moments in Greece’s modern history, wounds healed by the choices, the free conscience and the maturity of our people,” Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said, offering his condolences to the former king’s family.

Constantine’s death, he said, was “the formal epilogue of a chapter that has been definitively closed with the 1974 referendum,” and an historic moment despite its ignominy over his role with the junta.

He will send Culture Minister Lina Mendoni to represent the government and the funeral will likely be attended by other European royals. His family had ruled Greece from 1863, apart from a 12-year interlude from 1922-35, until the monarchy was finally ended.

(Material from The Associated Press was used in this report)

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