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Politics

Prof. Stamatopoulos – Former King of Greece Should Be Given State Funeral

ATHENS – On the occasion of the death of the Constantine, the former king of Greece, the distinguished historian Costas Stamatopoulos, whose work and research has studied in a calm and scholarly manner the institution of monarchy in Greece, as well as the role of the departed monarch in the political affairs of the country, spoke to the National Herald. He discussed Constantine as a person, about the evaluation of the institution of the monarchy in Greece, but also about the complexes that Greek society has not overcome regarding the deceased and monarchy in general.

The National Herald: Does the death of the former King Constantine close a chapter of modern Greek political history, or was it already closed in 1974?

Kostas Stamatopoulos: My view is that both are happening. Of course a chapter is closing because it is the death of the last king of the country. So in that sense it is closing. In once sense, it was closed with the 1974 referendum, but we can say that it is a chapter that has been closing in the course of all these years from ’74 to the present day. [Different things were] are happening at the same time. Today we are living through a historic moment, but the political significance has long since disappeared. So we have 1974, we have today, and we have this gradual erasure over these decades.

TNH: Has there ever been a real evaluation of the institution of monarchy in Greece?

KS: I think not. Because we don’t take into account something that is very important: the institution of monarchy needs time to develop and this time was never given to the Greek dynasties, because we were going from one overthrow to another. No king, except George I, has reigned longer than a popular politician has ruled the country. For royalty to demonstrate its potential it must be given time, and ours never was. This is something very basic that we overlook. We are now in a position, and on a research level this is being done, to look at things from a distance and judge them objectively. And what I mean by objectively is: to judge the royal institution as we judge all institutions. We should not start by saying either that it is bad or good ‘a priori’. What applies to all other institutions that have operated in this country should apply to our view of monarchy. We have made some progress but we still have a long way to go.

TNH: Why have we as a society not overcome various complexes that manifest themselves in various ways towards, above all, with Constantine?

KS: This is something that was artificially maintained for 50 years now. For two generations, all that Greeks have been hearing about the former king was either nothing at all, or something negative which was given to them on purpose. Therefore, the Greek cannot have a cool-headed view. No serious discussion was heard. Except for my books and a few other things that are documented and weighed, assigning responsibility here and there – as historical research dictates. Sober discourse has not been heard. Nonetheless, in following the case of the Tatoi Estate’s redevelopment, I note that there is a little progress, which I count as a positive initiative of this government.

TNH: What kind of man was the former King Constantine?

KS: Mikis Theodorakis himself once said, speaking of Constantine and his sisters, that they were “good people… They have love in them.” I remember the phrases; I had heard them from his own mouth. Their main characteristic is that they are good, decent, ordinary people – there is no trace of snobbery. There is no “do you know who I am” in them. But at the same time in Constantine there was no element of the intellectual. His whole upbringing made him a good soldier and an athlete. The training of a military man is useful for a future king, that of an athlete is not. It is irrelevant, but it does add some positive elements to his personality of value for his main role. But Constantine had no education. And it is curious how King Paul, a man so cultured, did not care about this dimension in his son. He was also a man of limited political instinct who nevertheless did not lack courage. In the critical moments of his life he moved with bravery. Not always with deliberation, but always with bravery. In any case, he did not have the stuff of a politician.

TNH: Should he have been buried with the honors of a head of state?

KS: He should have been buried under the protocol for former heads of state. He was the head of a given state, and in any case, you cannot slice up Greek history, which has a continuity, and take only what you like. It is also silly to talk about a private funeral when at this moment we know that there is no king in the world who will not come, and there are strong security measures being taken. All this shows that we spoke frivolously at first and now the circumstances themselves force us to take it back.

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