Fidel Castro’s death in late 2016 has focused attention on the former Cuban dictator’s career. Castro’s success in establishing and maintaining a Communist dictatorship 90 miles off the coast of the United States was a remarkable achievement. Unfortunately, this and associated successes were achieved at the Cuban people’s expense. By examining the history of the proceeding Batista regime, a perspective will hopefully emerge which illustrates how Castro deceived the Cuban people and the world at large to establish a cruel and unnecessary totalitarian dictatorship.

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The deep trouble that Greece has fallen into in the wake of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis (GFC) has placed her in the international spotlight.  This nation’s current predicament can be understood in the context of the deposed Constantine II’s failed struggle against George Papandreou in the 1960s to maintain Greek democracy and due to the Greek people’s refusal to reinstate a Crowned Democracy in late 1974.  This refusal cleared the way for Papandreou’s ascendancy as prime minister between 1981 and 1989 and from 1993 to 1996. 

 

Papandreou rorted Greece’s membership of the European Union (EU) to establish an octopus type ascendancy through his party, the Pan Hellenic Socialist Liberation Movement (PASOK) that distorted Greece’s economy.  This ultimately laid the foundation for the disastrous European component of the GFC. 

 

King Constantine II’s failed struggle to safeguard Greek democracy in the 1960s has led to his name and that of the Greek monarchy falling into disrepute.  The Greek monarchy has been caricatured as an unnecessarily meddlesome institution that represented the interests of foreign powers.  These historical perspectives of modern Greek history are challenged by Dr. David Paul Bennett in his historical review of the Greek monarchy. 

 

 The Greek Revolution (1821-1829)

 

The current financial crisis has given Greece an international focus that it arguably has not had since her War of Independence (1821-1829).  This struggle (which is often referred to as the ‘Greek Revolution’) drew widespread attention in Britain because the English poet Lord George Byron died of a fever while fighting for Greece.  The Greeks fought heroically for their independence against Ottoman Turkey which had conquered Greece in 1453 from the Byzantine Empire (330-1453). 

The Byzantine Empire bequeathed a cultural legacy that Greeks tenaciously held onto to maintain their identity under nearly four hundred years of Turkish rule.  Greek independence (or the termination of Turkish hegemony) became a distinct prospect following British, French and Russian intervention in 1827 at the naval battle of Navarino against the Turkey.   Indeed it was the grand ambition of Russia’s imperial family, the Romanovs, to ultimately destroy the Ottoman Empire and conquer the then Turkish capital Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) to establish a new Byzantine Empire.

Greek independence therefore had a strong allure for the Russians and this was manifested when its former Foreign Minister Count Ioannis Antonios Kapodistrias became provisional president of a Greek republic (The First Hellenic Republic) in 1827.  It was envisaged that Kapodistrias would rule Greece nominally on behalf of the Ottomans while the country would actually be a Russian satellite.    Due to pressure from the great European powers of Britain, France, Austria and Russia it was agreed that Greece would become kingdom under the protection of the aforementioned powers.  (This arrangement was nominally in place until 1919). 

Kapodistrias as provisional president dragged his feet as a search was undertaken to find a new king of Greece.  Due to rivalry within Greece’s ruling aristocratic families, who had previously collaboratorated with Ottoman Turkey before becoming Greek patriots, Kapodistrias was assassinated in 1831.  The choice of Greek king eventually fell on the younger son King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Prince Otto, who became Greek king in 1832. *

(The prime candidate for the Greek throne had been Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.  He had previously fought in the Russian army and his sister was the mother of the future Queen Victoria of Britain.  The young prince, who went onto become the first king of the Belgiums in 1831, declined to accept the Greek throne wryly and perhaps prophetically predicting that a Greek king would always have to keep his bags packed). 

Failed Expectations:  The Reign of King Otto

Prince Otto was chosen by the foreign powers and was acceptable to the Greeks because the Bavarian royal family (the Wittelsbachs) could trace its antecedence back to princely families of the Byzantine Empire.  The theme that modern Greek monarchy was a foreign imposed institution that was ill-suited to Greece commenced with controversy over King Otto’s reign (1832 to 1862).  The first seemingly negative aspect of King Otto’s reign was that under the guidance of a Bavarian coterie of advisers (whose authority was enforced by an accompanying Bavarian garrison) Greece was converted into a de facto Bavarian colony.

Initial Bavarian domination did however have the unintended positive ramification of displacing the aristocratic families (such as the Koundouriotis and Mavromikhalis families who had ruled Greece as vassals of the Turks and then underpinned the Kapodistrias regime.  Therefore when a revolution led by veterans of the War of Independence overthrew and banished the Bavarian advisers in 1843 power actually passed to the broad mass of the Greek people.  The Constitution of 1844 instituted popular local government and in this context Greece became one of the few independent nineteenth century European states without a powerful land-owning aristocracy.

At the time of the 1843 Revolution there was still a strong sentiment for King Otto who was regarded as a Greek patriot (which His Majesty actually was) cut off from his people by his Bavarian advisers.  The Greek king was not inclined toward the role of constitutional monarch and was able to dominant Greek politics due to the absence of a coherent party system* which effectively undermined the power of the Greek parliament.  (*Political parties, such as they were under King Otto, identified with the protecting powers.  Therefore there was a ‘French Party’, an ‘English Party’ and a ‘Russian Party’).

King Otto utilized his political power to pursue his grand passion of extending Greece to Greek inhabited areas (‘unredeemed Greece’) that were still under Turkish rule: Macedonia, Thrace, Cyprus and Crete.  There was also a strong Greek desire that Britain cede the Ionian Islands to the Greece.  Nevertheless King Otto maintained Greek neutrality during the Crimean War 1854 to 1856 in which Britain and France fought against Russia.  Greek neutrality during the Crimean War was a source of great unpopularity for King Otto. A Russian victory in the Crimean War was desired by most Greeks who hoped that this would clear the way to liberate unredeemed Greece. 

King Otto’s reign did however have its major achievements.  The Greek capital was relocated to Athens in 1839 and made into a first class modern capital.  Under King Otto’s patronage a national library, a royal palace, a national gardens and a university were built in Athens.  The constructions of these buildings was impressive because King Otto utilized his skills as a planner and as an organiser to surmount the nation’s scarcity of resources to construct a national capital which would serve as an important foundation for a future Greater Greece.

The king and his wife, Queen Amalia, also consciously fostered a sense of national identity by patronising Greek folk culture and adopting Greek national customs.  The royal couple’s interest in Greek culture did have a lasting reciprocal impact as the Bavarian colours of blue and white were adopted and have remained as Greece’s national colours.

The Fall of King Otto

 

For all his patriotism, good intentions and actual achievements, King Otto’s reluctance to cede full authority to the parliament and his failure to achieve his self-appointed task of liberating unredeemed Greece led to his deposition in 1862*.  The royal couple’s failure to have an heir had also caused grave concern because the throne would be inherited by one of the king’s younger Bavarian brothers.  The nation was not prepared to endure another Bavarian born king who had not been raised in Greece and who would not a Greek Orthodox.

(*Both King Otto and Queen Amalia, who respectively died in 1867 and 1875, tenaciously held onto their adopted Greek customs as they were acutely pained by their exile from Greece). 

While King Otto’s fall may have been of his own doing the Greek search for a new king and dynasty was influenced by a desire to have the British occupied Ionian Islands ceded to Greece.  The Greek Parliament therefore nominated Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Albert as the new king of Greece and this was overwhelmingly confirmed in a plebiscite* by full male suffrage in 1863.

(*There was an option of making Greece a republic but this received less than one hundred votes in the plebiscite). 

George I and the Kingdom of the Hellenes

 

Queen Victoria on the advice of the British government declined the throne on Prince Alfred’s behalf on the basis that Britain was one of the Protecting Powers of Greece and as such it was inappropriate for the Greek throne to go to a British prince.  There was also the danger that Prince Alfred’s acceptance of the throne would alienate Russia which was wary of British influence in the Balkans in the wake of the Crimean War.

Prince Christian of Denmark (the younger son of King Christian of Denmark) was selected by the Greek parliament in 1863 as the new king of Greece.  This selection was due to the Danish royal family’s close relations with both the British and Russian royal families.  Although Britain had refused to allow Prince Alfred to assume the Greek throne British goodwill toward Greece was manifested by the Ionian Islands being ceded upon Prince Frederick’s ascension. 

The Danish prince took the name and title of George I on assuming the Greek throne.  His Majesty’s reign (1863 to 1913) was an epoch in its own right and lasted fifty years and thereby constituted half the period in which the Glucksburg dynasty reigned in Greece, give or take war time banishments and a republican interregnum.  Indeed it is plausible that had George I not being assassinated by a madman in 1913 that the turmoil and instability that bedevilled the Greek monarchy may have been avoided.

This counter factual historical perspective concerning the disastrous aspects of George I’s regicide have been used by republicans to support their contention that the late king’s successors were not up to his standard which consequently precipitated the rise of Greek republicanism.  This conclusion will be challenged in this article.

The Glucksburg dynasty survived and was thrice restored with majority support which lasted until the 1970s.  What distinguished the Greek monarchy from other European constitutional monarchies was that it was drawn into the vortex of partisan politics and as such faced entrenched and substantial opposition.  The viability of a constitutional monarchy in such a context is problematic and the Greek monarchy did eventually fall.  However, the ramifications of this fall have proven to be detrimental not only to Greece but to the world in the wake of the 2008 GFC.

Although the Glucksburg dynasty did fall George I’s successors did, despite their travails, have their successes and these deserve recognition.  The dynasty got off to a positive start when George I married Grand Duchess Olga of Russia in 1867.  She was a cousin of Tsar Alexander III.  As a Russian Orthodox Her Majesty immediately endeared herself to her new nation.  George I remained a Lutheran but this did not cause any angst because it was pre-arranged that all his children (he eventually had eight children) would be Greek Orthodox. 

The Birth of a Crowned Democracy

George I’s assumed the title of ‘King of the Hellenes’* to denote that an implicit objective of his reign would be to liberate unredeemed Greece.  Furthermore the new king in swearing to uphold the constitution of 1864 (drafted in the wake of Otto’s authoritarian tendencies) officially designated Greece a ‘Crowned Democracy’ in which the role and legitimacy of the monarchy was to safeguard democratic parliamentary rule.

(*For simplicity’s sake the Kingdom of the Hellenes and the Hellenic royal family will be respectively referred to as ‘Greece’ and the ‘Greek royal family’).

Greece took a gigantic step to becoming an actual functioning democracy in 1881 when the 1864 Constitution was amended to oblige the king to appoint the leader of the largest parliamentary faction as prime minister.  The ramification of this constitutional requirement was that Greek parliaments developed an inherent tendency of having two coherent parliamentary blocs.  As a result the Greek party system (similar to Britain) has since traditionally being a two party system.

In contrast to the British party system Greece’s two major parties have met aphorised, reconfigured and being subject to the emergence of powerful third parties.  Political controversy concerning the Greek monarchy and its resilience have been intertwined and derived from the fact that up until the 1970s at least one of the two major parties was monarchist. 

The two major political figures (and rivals) in George I’s reign up until the late nineteenth century were Kharilaos Trikoupis and Theodoros Diliyiannis The rivalries between these two political leaders helped spawn the two major political parties, the Nationalist Party and the New Party.  These two parties metamorphosed in the twentieth century to respectively become the Populists and the Liberals.  The rivalry between these two parties was intense but non-ideological.

The Greek agricultural sector was (and still is) dominated by small landowners whose financial position was often derived from government support and/or political connections.  Villages and towns were therefore often divided upon party lines in order to gain patronage.  Which party one supported was often dependant upon family connections and allegiances.  This patrimonial approach to party allegiance extended to the major cities due to family networks spilling over from villages into urban areas.

George I remained scrupulously above partisan political party divisions and as such ensured that the Greek monarchy was overwhelmingly accepted by the people.  The absence of a land owning aristocracy also helped endear the Greek monarchy to its people.  Consequently when Greece entered the twentieth century Greek republicanism was near non-existent.

 

The Struggle for National Expansion

The virtual absence of republicanism did not mean that George I’s reign was not without political controversy.  The first major challenge of George I’s reign was the unpopularity he gained by supporting the nation’s leading politicians in keeping Greece neutral during the Russian-Turkish War of 1877-78.  This prudence, particularly in the wake of Turkey’s defeat, caused great public frustration as Greece was apparently denied Greece the opportunity of taking Macedonia, Crete and Cyprus.  (Britain capitalized on Turkey’s defeat to occupy Cyprus in 1881).  British opposition in 1886 also seemingly thwarted Greece from taking military action against Turkey. 

Greece’s failure to capitalize on Turkish weakness did not imperil the Greek monarchy because George I was supporting the position of Greece’s parliamentary leaders.  However their stance was probably not supported by public opinion and in 1894 the nationalist National Association.  The aims of this association were to forement revolt by Greeks in Turkish occupied territories and subsequently ensure Greek government support for their compatriots. 

The political impact of the National Association was apparent in 1896 when a revolt against Turkish rule broke out in Crete and Greece went to war against Turkey in 1897.  Greece’s defeat in the 1897 War tarnished the Greek royal family because Crown Prince Constantine was at the forefront in heroically but unsuccessfully fighting against the Turks.

In the nineteenth century there was an expectation that royals actually fight in wars and although Crown Prince Constantine met this expectation Greece’s defeat adversely affected the royal family’s prestige.  The threat of intervention against Turkey by Greece’s now nominal Protecting Powers still safeguarded Greece against possible Turkish retribution.  Indeed it was at the behest of the Protecting Powers that Crete was granted autonomy and George I’s second son Prince George was made High Commissioner in 1898 in which he nominally represented the Turkish Sultan. 

 

 The Emergence of Eleutherios Venizelos

 

The prudent Prince George soon came into political conflict with Crete’s major political leader and main agitator for union with Greece, Eleutherios Venizelos.  Venizelos was to go on not only to achieve his objective of uniting Crete with Greece (which was officially occurred in 1912) but of eventually extending Greek territory by 1919 to include most of Macedonia, western Thrace and northern Epirus.  Indeed in terms of territorial expansion Venizelos more than doubled Greece’s size and he is arguably Greece’s greatest modern statesman. 

Unfortunately for the Greek royal family their relationship with Venizelos was fraught with political conflict which has to help underpin republican mythology concerning the Greek monarchy being an agent of foreign influence.  In fact Venizelos only became a republican a year before his death in 1936.  Indeed a closer examination of this Greek statesman’s life would highlight the contribution that the Greek royal family also made in achieving national consolidation and that they also had substantial support amongst the Greek people.

Venizelos’s agitation for Createan union with Greece provided him with a national following in Greece itself which helped precipitate the formation in May 1909 of Military League among nationalist army officers.  The Military League dared not stage an outright military coup because this would have alienated Greece’s two major political parties which still enjoyed overwhelming support. 

The Military League still exercised its power in pursuit of the objective of liberating unredeemed Greece.  The Military League exercised its political influence to secure the dismissal of Crown Prince Constantine and George I’s other sons from the military because they were misperceived as an impediment in taking military action against Turkey.  The Military League dissolved itself in March 1910 following Venizelos’s arrival in Athens.  He assumed the role of being the conduit of Greek nationalist aspirations on behalf of the military and the people in liaising with George I and the nation’s politicians.

George I and Venizelos were both sufficiently astute to come to a working political arrangement that ensured that constitutional government remained intact and indeed by the end of 1910 the Cretan politician was Greece’s elected prime minister.  A new constitution was promulgated in June 1911 and a full reconciliation with the royal family was also seemingly reached that year when Crown Prince Constantine was given the new position of Inspector-General of the army. 

Venizelos’s domestic political talents were also apparent in foreign affairs when he succeeded in negotiating an alliance with Serbia and Bulgaria which led to these two nations in conjunction with Greece take Salonika and Macedonia from Turkey in the First Balkan War of 1912-1913.  Friction almost immediately broke out between Bulgaria with Greece and Serbia over distribution of territory which precipitated the outbreak of the Second Balkan War in late June 1913.  Within a month Greece and Serbia along Roumania had defeated Bulgaria in this war.

The heroism with which male members of the royal family fought, particularly Crown Prince Constantine and the effectiveness and compassion with which female members of the Greek royal family demonstrated in nursing wounded soldiers during the Balkan wars endeared the Greek monarchy to their people.  Affection and loyalty toward the Greek royal family was seemingly permanently in the wake of the widespread grief that was generated by George I’s assassination in Salonika by a madman in March 1913.

 

The First World War:  The National Schism

 

The apparently overwhelming acceptance of the Greek monarchy was jeopardized in 1914 by the division between Constantine I and Venizelos as to whether Greece should enter the First World War on the allied side.  Prime Minister Venizelos favoured Greece the Entente while Constantine I wanted Greece to remain neutral.

The king’s desire for neutrality was due to the immense respect His Majesty had for the military acumen of the army chief of staff, General Ioannis Metaxas.  The German trained Metaxas was considered by Constantine I to be a military genius and it was on the basis of Metaxas’s belief that the Central Powers would prevail in the First World War that the Greek king favoured neutrality. 

It should be pointed out at this juncture that it is a mythology that Constantine I was dominated by his wife, Queen Sophia, the sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany.  Queen Sophia became estranged from her brother after Her Majesty converted to Greek Orthodoxy of her volition.  As a grand daughter of Queen Victoria* Sophia was a staunch anglophile who thought that her husband’s orientation toward Germany was absurd.

(*Queen Sophia along with most grand children of Queen Victoria erroneously believed that she was the British Queen’s favourite grand-child.  This distinction was actually held by Empress Alexandra of Russia). 

Out of genuine love for her husband Queen Sophia personally supported him and the only political conviction that Her Majesty shared with Constantine I was a deep faith in the personal genius of General Metaxas.  (The exiled Queen Sophia went to her death in 1930 convinced that the Greek monarchy would be restored by General Metaxas). 

Queen Sophia has been mis-portrayed in contemporary Greek political culture as the villainess who dominated her husband and therefore plunged Greece into deep political crisis.  A Greek 1980s movie on the political life of Venizelos grossly misrepresented Queen Sophia and falsely portraying Constantine I as wholly dependant upon his wife due to a supposed mental break down.  This movie’s misrepresentation resonated with many Greek viewers because the depiction of Queen Sophia equated with caricature and hatred that many Greeks felt toward her grand-niece, the much misunderstood German born Queen Frederica. As inaccurate as the popular portrayal of Queen Sophia is, Constantine I’s actions in the First World War were actually reprehensible because His Majesty utilized his position to undermine democratic processes to keep Greece neutral.  The king and prime minister initially agreed to disagree so that Greece accordingly remained neutral.

In March 1915 however Constantine I dismissed Venizelos and even though the former prime minister’s Liberal Party clearly but narrowly won the June parliamentary elections the king still delayed Venizelos’s reappointment until August.  Bulgaria’s entry into the war in September 1915 on the side of the Central Powers precipitated great tension between Constantine I and Venizelos that the latter was again dismissed in October.  The dismissal represented an irreversible rapture between the two protagonists that Venizelsos’s Liberals boycotted the December 1915 parliamentary elections which were consequently and overwhelmingly won by the now pro-king Nationalist Party, which later became the Populist Party. 

The rupture between Constantine I and Venizelos became a national division (‘The National Schism’).  In October 1916 the Allies occupied in Salonika where Venizelos established a rival government.  The situation became even more dangerous in December 1916 when troops loyal to the king clashed with the allies.  The allies took decisive action in June 1917 when British warships sailed into Athens and threatened to shell the capital unless Constantine I departed for exile. 

The Greek Royal Family is Removed by Foreign Intervention

The first banishment of the Greek royal family gives lie to one of the persistent myths concerning the Greek monarchy- that it served the interests of foreign powers.  The fact of the matter was that the Greek royal family was actually forced out by the threat of foreign military intervention and in a context when they enjoyed the strong support of their people.  The allied ultimatum that Constantine I leave Greece resulted in thousands gathering outside the royal palace to block the king’s departure.

It was only by a ruse that the royal family was able to depart for their summer palace of Tatoi and from there go to neutral Switzerland.  Popular resistance to Constantine I’s departure fostered a strong belief in succeeding generations of the Greek royal family (which may have existed until late 1974) that they always had the love of the Greek people no matter how turbulent the political situation.

Another republican myth concerning the Greek royal family in relation to the First World War era was that Venizelos was always a republican.  The banishment of Constantine I saw the throne pass to his second son Prince Alexander because Crown Prince George was considered by the allies to be too close to his father.  Venizelos treated King Alexander with the greatest respect and insisted that His Majesty be accorded full status as king.  A chasm consequently developed between Alexander and his exiled family which adamantly refused to recognize him as king. 

Whatever controversy could be attached to Venizelos for coming to power and installing Alexander as king with foreign military assistance Greece’s entry on the allied side paid tremendous territorial dividends.  Greek military support for the allied campaign on the Macedonian front in May 1918 helped secure an Entente military victory in the Balkans. 

Venizelos’s consistent and tenacious support for the allies was seemingly vindicated by the defeat of the Central Powers in November 1918.  However, many if not most, Greeks remained loyal to the exiled Constantine I even though he had backed the losing side.  This loyalty may have been derived from the resentment felt toward the heavy handed way in which the allies had deposed Constantine I in June 1917, the continuance of martial law and Venizelos’s pro-longed absences abroad negotiating treaties and agreements with foreign powers.

Discontent with Venizelos was manifested when he surprisingly lost the November 1920 parliamentary elections.  Ironically a vital contributing factor in regard to Venizelos’s defeat was King Alexander’s surprise death in October 1920 (His Majesty died from blood poisoning after he had been bitten by his pet monkey) because the issue of royal succession raised the prospect of Greece becoming a republic.  The political situation was further complicated because Venizelos remained a monarchist even though his Liberal Party was becoming republican inclined.

Venizelos understandably could not abide a return of Constantine I and he offered the throne to Prince Paul.  The twenty year old prince adamantly refused to become king because His Royal Highness recognised his father and older brother’s rights super-ceded his.  Admiral Pavlos Koundouriotis accordingly became regent and there was an expectation that a Liberal victory at the November 1920 parliamentary polls would be a precursor to Greece becoming a republic.

The Greek People Restore Constantine I

 

The upset landslide victory in November 1920 elections by the pro-Constantine Populists resulted in Admiral Koundouriotis making way as regent for the much beloved Dowager Queen Olga (who is the only Romanov since the 1917 Russian Revolution to actually exercise reigning royal prerogatives) and the new government of Dimtrios Gounaris calling a referendum on the question of re-instating Constantine I as king.  This referendum (which in effect was the first held on Greece remaining a monarchy) was held despite strong opposition from the Allies.  In spite of, or perhaps because of, allied opposition Constantine I was overwhelmingly restored in the December 1920 referendum and was welcomed on his return by massive and emotional crowds.

The restoration of an apparently pro-German monarch following the allied victory was a highly unusual, if not, unique occurrence.  Unfortunately the apparent fairytale ending soon became a horror story for Constantine I.  Turkey under General Mustafa Kemal (who later assumed the name Kemal Ataturk) refused to accept allied conditions imposed on his nation as a defeated power.  It subsequently fell to Greece not only to hold its territorial gains in Asia Minor against Turkey but to enforce allied conditions on the previously defeated nation.

Due to Ataturk’s military skill Greece was defeated in March 1921 in Asia Minor.  Greece under the leadership of the Populist Party and with the support of Constantine I persevered in the face of military defeat only to be completely routed in August 1922.  The July 1923 Treaty of Lausanne resulted in over 1.5 million Greeks been expelled and the massive influx of refugees into Greece caused great dislocation.  The loss of territory to Turkey and the arrival of displaced refugees combined with substantial existing pro-Venizelos sentiment created a groundwork for definite shift toward a republican future.

 

 

Military Backed Republicanism:  The Second Hellenic Republic

In the wake of Greece’s military defeat General Nicholas Plastiras staged a bloody military coup in September 1922 in which six generals and Prime Minister Dimtrios Gounaris were later executed.  Constantine I was deposed and banished to Italy where His Majesty died a broken man in January 1924.  The extremism of Plastiras’s action may have pleased those Greeks embittered by military defeat and population expulsion but there were also many who were appalled and as such remained staunchly loyal to their monarchy.  General Plastiras’s violent action generated much passion which concealed his and his cohort’s shared culpability for the 1922 military defeat.

For General Plastiras and the military council that now ruled Greece the maintenance of the Greek monarchy was a danger.  The executions represented a point of no-return. From the perspective of Greece’s military rulers the abolition of the monarchy was a necessity.  Constantine I’s abdication resulted in Crown Prince George’s ascension to the throne as George II.  There was still an existing base of monarchist support within the military which militated against an immediate move to a republic. 

An abortive monarchist military coup led by Metaxas (who had been previously retired from the army) in October 1923 made the transition to a republic all but inevitable particularly as the Populist Party boycotted the December 1923 parliamentary elections.  The new parliament on convening banished George II and remaining members of the royal family.  Admiral Koundouriotis again became regent and the Liberal Party dominated parliament authorised a referendum to be held in March to make Greece a republic.

Venizelos again became prime minister in January 1924 but resigned in early February due to his unease at his Liberal Party’s republicanism.  The March referendum predictably made Greece a republic due to half the electorate adhering to the Populist Party boycott of the referendum. Admiral Koundouriotis was then elected ‘president’ in April by the parliament of the Second Hellenic Republic.  (The First Hellenic Republic was that led by Kapodistrias). 

The refusal by Venizelos to serve as prime minister under the new republic was a wise and ethical one.  Someone as brilliant as Venizelos appreciated that his long term political viability would have been fatally undermined by serving as prime minister of a compromised republic.  Venizelos knew that half the population were immediately alienated from the new republic and that the impetus for its creation was due to a clique of military officers wishing to safeguard their positions after carrying out a bloody military purge.

Anxiety on the part of the army officers who had staged the 1922 coup was increased on their part for fear of the new republic becoming a functional democracy by the monarchist Populist Party eventually taking part in politics.  The exiled Greek royal family*knew that in contrast to other recently deposed European royal families that they stood a realistic chance of being restored because one of the nation’s two major parties remained monarchist.  Divisions between the Liberals and the Populists before the First World War had been based on patronage but the contemporary issue of a republic versus a monarchy was now the defining issue of division.

(*George II first moved to Roumania and then to London, with his Roumanian wife, Queen Elisabeth, a Roumanian princess, whom he divorced in June 1935). 

Fear that the Populist Party’s eventual re-entry into politics might lead to a restoration of monarchy led to General Theodoros Pangalos, one of the leaders of the 1922 revolt, to stage a coup in June 1925.  ‘President’ Koundouriotis initially acquiesced to the Pangalos dictatorship before being deposed in January 1926 as a prelude to the dictator being ‘elected’ unopposed as ‘president’ later that year. 

A powerful myth that assails the Greek monarchy is that it worked in collusion with the Greek military to foist dictatorship on Greece.  In fact banishments of the Greek royal family and the establishments of republics in 1924 and in 1973 were due to the Greek military’s hostility toward the monarchy.  Strained relations on the part of the Greek monarchy with avowedly monarchist army leaders such as Metaxas (in the 1930s) and Field Marshal Alexandros (in the 1950s) laid the groundwork for a clique of covertly republican colonels to stage a military coup in 1967. 

The first open republican military dictatorship of General Theodoros Pangalos not only deepened monarchist opposition to the military within society but threatened to alienate republican Greeks who had supported the 1922 military coup.  General George Kondylis, one of the leaders the 1922 coup therefore staged a coup in August 1926 to disengage the military from an unpopular dictatorship.

General Kondylis’s intention of restoring democratic constitutional rule still roused fear among elements of the military that they would be held to account for the 1922 purge.  Accordingly Colonel Napoleon Zervas* attempted to block a restoration of civilian rule.  It was only after General Kondylis had forcibly dissolved Zervas’s Republican Guard in September 1926 that the way was cleared for Admiral Koundouriotis’s reinstatement as ‘president’ and for parliamentary elections to be held in November 1926. 

(*Zervas re-emerged during the Second World War as one of the major resistance leaders as head of the National Republican Greek League, E.D.E.S.).  

The November 1926 parliamentary elections were a near circuit breaker which almost clinched the Second Hellenic Republic’s legitimacy and survival.  The Populist Party’s participation and strong showing in these elections potentially reconciled monarchist orientated Greeks to the Second Hellenic Republic.  Prospects for republican consolidation were further enhanced by the formation of a government of national unity following the 1926 elections between the two major parties led by the highly respected non-party Alexandros Zaimis.  (Zaimis had previously established his sterling reputation as High Commissioner for Crete following Prince George’s resignation in 1906). 

The wisdom of Venizelos’s previous withdrawal from Greek politics to maintain his democratic bona fides was seemingly vindicated when he led the Liberal Party to election victory in 1928 to again become prime minister.  The transition to a democracy did not however consolidate the republic because monarchist sentiment had not been fully extinguished.  Furthermore the Greek military’s hostility toward any prospect of a royal restoration, no matter how seemingly remote only strengthened monarchist resolve with those who were uneasy about the conditions in which the republic had been born.

 

Prince Andreas Helps Revive Monarchism

The issue of monarchical restoration discreetly re-emerged in 1929 when the idea was advanced that parliament elect Prince Andreas as the next ‘president’ in succession to ‘President’ Koundouriotis.  Prince Andreas was a son of George I and an uncle of the exiled George II.  The prince (who was the father of Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh) was scapegoated for military defeat by the Turks at the Battle of Sakaryu in 1921 and sentenced to death by a farcical military tribunal in 1922. 

A British warship HMS Calypso was despatched to Athens to rescue Prince Andreas and it was under the threat of military action that the prince and his family (including an eighteen month Prince Phillip) departed Greece in December 1922.  The threatened British military intervention would later be cited by republicans to support their contention that the Greek royal family was beholden to foreign interests.

In fact that the threatened British intervention was due to pressure brought to bear by the British establishment on George V to use his influence to save Prince Andreas.  The British king was never fully forgiven by the establishment for His Majesty’s role in denying the deposed Nicholas II of Russia and his family refuge following the 1917 Revolution.  This refusal cost Nicholas II and His Majesty’s family their lives.

George V was further discredited because it was widely believed in establishment circles that Nicholas II would have had the decency and courage to have done the right thing by his British relatives had a similar situation arisen.  It was in this context British military action was threatened to save a prince whose nephew had not (to say the least) supported the allied side during the First World War.

Prince Andreas in his own right had demonstrated great courage during his court martial which endeared him to those Greeks who were disgusted by the 1922 purge.  The exiled prince’s mooted 1929 presidential candidacy was never really viable because the Populists were then the minority party.  However fear that a military coup might ensue if Prince Andreas was elected ‘president’ drove the point home for many Greeks that they did not have the ultimate right to determine their constitutional destiny.  This realization in turn bolstered monarchist sentiment.

Former General Metaxas struck a raw nerve when he put the issue of monarchical restoration to the forefront of politics of the Second Hellenic Republic.  However, contrary to popular opinion, Metaxas was not always an avowed monarchist.  He had returned to Greece to take part in the 1926 parliamentary elections as leader of the newly founded Free Opinion Party.  This party initially accepted the Second Hellenic Republic and was a major threat to the Populist Party on the centre-right.  Due to bitter in-fighting within the Free Opinion Party its vote steeply declined in successive elections between 1926 and 1936.  To maintain political relevance Metaxas recast himself as a staunch monarchist to hold onto a hardline monarchist voting base.

Metaxas’s avowed monarchism highlighted that ultimate power lay with the military.  Even though the Second Hellenic Republic was supposed to be democratic, press censorship restrictions against advocacy of a royal restoration existed which served to foster monarchist sentiment. 

Due to a financial crisis Venizelos failed to win re-election in 1932 and in March 1933 (after an intermediary period of political instability) the monarchist inclined Populists led by Panayiotis Tsaldaris were elected to office*.  The new prime minister had previously been imprisoned for his loyalty to the monarchy.  He had courageously called for full press freedom and had called for a reinstatement of the monarchy. 

(*A military coup was attempted by General Plastiras on the Populists winning the 1933 elections but had failed due to opposition from Venizelos).

The Integrity of Panayiotis Tsaldaris

Although a staunch monarchist Tsaldaris was prepared to serve as prime minister under the republic until a democratic referendum restored the monarchy.  The threat of a republican military coup re-emerged in April 1934* when parliamentary election of a ‘president’ again paradoxically brought the issue of a royal restoration to the fore.  Alexandros Zaimis, who had previously served as a non-party prime minister between 1926 and 1928 and had been elected ‘president’ by the parliament in 1929 and was re-elected as a compromise in 1934. 

(*The marriage of Britain’s Prince George, the Duke of Kent, to George I’s cousin Princess Marina in October 1934 generated rumours that went round the Athens cafes circuit that the newly wed royal couple could become the new King and Queen of Greece as part of a political compromise.  It was expected amongst the British royal family that the Duke of Kent would ascend the throne on the abdication of Edward VIII in December 1936 instead of his painfully shy older brother Prince Albert, the Duke of York, who became George VI.  During the Second World War it was rumoured that the anti-Soviet Duke of Kent (who was killed in a flying accident in 1942) was offered to be made king of Poland by the Polish Prime Minister in exile, General Wladyslaw Sikorski (who also later died in a plane crash) on condition of Britain helping secure genuine Polish independence at the end of the Second World War). 

But the issue of royal restoration did not go away because Prime Minister Tsaldaris would not let go of the objective of asserting full civilian control over the military.  The inter-related issues of monarchism and full civilian control came to the boil in March 1935 when a republican military coup was attempted.  Although it is not fashionable for the point to be made this coup would not have been undertaken without Venizelos’s support.

Why Venizelos supported the March 1935 coup is something of a mystery.  The Greek statesman had being a monarchist (if only a sentimental one during the Second Hellenic Republic) and had consistently being a democrat.  Had the March 1935 coup succeeded Greece at best would have returned to a military backed republic supported by approximately half the population as had been the case between 1924 and 1925 (a period during which Venizelos wisely refused to hold office under).  At worst, a successful 1935 military coup could have meant a Venizelos backed Pangalos type of republic, similar to the 1925-1926 period. 

The March 1935 military coup (which was again principally instigated by General Plastiras) undoubtedly would have succeeded had General Kondylis not took the stunningly surprising action of staging a counter-coup.  The coup’s failure had the profound ramification of Venizelos fleeing to Paris where he died a broken man in March 1936.  The failure of the 1935 coup meant that constitutional government remained intact as did the military’s latent political power.  This time however military political power was directed at restoring the monarchy instead of blocking the institution’s return.

Early elections were held in June 1935 following the coup’s failure.  Due to a Liberal Party boycott an overwhelmingly monarchist parliament was returned.  Prime Minister Tsaldaris ironically found himself confronting a demand from a new military strongman that he promptly restore the monarchy.  The prime minister was a staunch democrat who refused to act in an arbitrary manner.  Consequently the prime minister and General Kondylis found that they were at cross-purposes. 

For General Kondylis the creation of a republic in 1924 had safeguarded him (and his fellow cohorts) from any retribution for supporting the 1922 military coup.  Similarly Kondylis’s role in ending the Pangalos dictatorship in 1926 had seemingly secured his future against retribution for having been part of an open military dictatorship. Consequently the prospect of supporting the 1935 coup against a monarchist majority of the population (albeit, probably a small majority) was not a prospect that General Kondylis savoured. 

General Kondylis, who had risked his life by betraying the 1935 coup, was not however prepared to take any chances and in October 1935 he forced Tsaldaris from office, summarily sacked ‘President’ Zaimis* and proclaimed himself regent and prime minister.  A referendum (which Greek republicans overwhelmingly boycotted) was hastily called in early November which showed a purported 96% support for a royal restoration.  The general’s heavy handed actions unfortunately tarnished the legitimacy of the Greek monarchy, which in 1935 probably had majority support.  Indeed Kondylis’s actions undermined one of the reasons why there was support for the Greek monarchy- resentment against the latent political power of the military under the Second Hellenic Republic.  

(*Photos of ‘President' Zaimis’s tearful but dignified departure from the palace bolstered existing republican sentiment and the legitimacy of the Second Hellenic Republic among republican Greeks). 

 

1935: Monarchy Restored

George II on his return home in late November refused to associate with Kondylis and consequently compelled the general to resign.  A new caretaker government led by Constantine Demertzis was appointed and new parliamentary elections were held in January 1936.  The election results were disastrously indecisive.  The convened parliament was near evenly divided between the Populists, (which were themselves divided into rival Tsaldaris and Kondylis wings) the Liberals and respective monarchist and republican aligned parties.   The party that held the balance of power was the Communist Party of Greece (KKE)!

The political situation was further complicated by the respective deaths (of natural causes) between January and April 1936 of Venizelos, Tsaldaris, Kondylis and Demertzis.  Venizelos’s death in March in Paris had the most profound impact.  This was evident in the massive and emotional outpouring of grief at his funeral in Greece.  The grief for Venizelos reinforced the sentiment and the notion that the monarchy was an imposed institution on Greece.

The late prime minister was held up as a martyr for Greek nationalism and democracy.  Venizelos was probably the greatest modern Greek statesman in that he was primarily responsible for doubling Greece’s national territory.  He had also been a democrat and a monarchist even though his base was overwhelmingly republican.  Venizelos remained a monarchist (and a democrat) up until he tragically supported for the abortive 1935 military coup.

Had Venizelos supported Tsaldaris (who always remained a democrat) the monarchy could have been restored in a democratic referendum and with that Greece could have avoided the turbulent divisions of the 1930s that spilled over during the German occupation and ultimately to the Greek Civil War of 1946 to 1949.  Ironically Venizelos’s violation of his democratic principles fully reconciled him to the republicanism of his supporters.

The other tragic death in 1936 was that of Tsaldaris.  His democratic principles and monarchism deprived the restored George II of a needed political base to steady a restored constitutional monarchy.  The void created by Tsaldaris’s death was filled by his arch-rival on the centre-right, Ioannis Metaxas. 

 

The Fourth of August 1936: Greece Avoids a Possible Communist Takeover

 

Indeed with the deaths of Venizelos, Tsaldaris and Kondylis a void was created to the extent that the two major parties, the Liberals and the Populists consented to the king’s appointment of Metaxas as prime minister on the death of caretaker Prime Minister Constantine Demertzis in April 1936 as a compromise.  Due to the polarised nature of the political situation the parliament was prologued and executive power was vested in an executive committee evenly composed of Liberals and Populists. 

The very well organised KKE (led by the very able Nikos Zachariadis) utilized popular front methods to manipulate and attempt to appropriate the mass support of Liberal Party’s support base to support a general strike planned for August the 5th 1936.  The prospect of this outcome occurring was viable due to the inexplicable decision of Liberal leader Themistoklis Souphoulis to enter into a pact with the KKE!  The anxiety generated by the intended 1936 strike became such a legend that memoires of it were a factor in a substantial part of the population acquiescing to the Colonels’ coup of 1967.

With regard to the 1936 context George II was confronted with the prospect of a communist instigated and directed revolt leading to either civil war or a communist takeover.  In order to safeguard the situation George II reluctantly acquiesced to the super efficient Metaxas taking strong counter measures to forestall the planned general strike by imposing martial law on August the 4th 1936. 

Royal consent for the Metaxas dictatorship has been invoked by Greek republicans to legitimize their hostility toward the Greek monarchy.  It should however be remembered that George II’s support for Metaxas was to forestall a genuine communist threat.  The monarch envisaged Metaxas’s dictatorship as a necessary interregnum until democracy could be later restored.  By contrast Metaxas regarded his dictatorship as a means to revamp what he regarded as the undisciplined the individuality of the Greek temperament to take Greece to a fascist future in keeping with the totalitarianism of Mussolini’s Italy and Hitler’s Germany. 

 

 

 

 

George II and Metaxas: The Concealed Rift

The differing objectives and intentions on the part of George II and Metaxas with regard to the August the 4th dictatorship were manifested by the intense rivalry between the regime’s National Organisation of Youth (EON) and the Boy Scouts.  The latter youth organisation was under the patronage of George II’s brother Crown Prince Pavlos.  Even though Greece under Metaxas was a tightly regimented dictatorship the Boy Scouts became a bastion for non-fascist Greeks who (similar to the Greek royal family) regarded the Metaxas regime as a transitory phenomenon.

Metaxas was more interested and committed to EON than he was to his ephemeral August the 4th Movement.  The rivalry between the two youth groups was often evident at official or semi-official ceremonies and functions.  Although no-one would have known it at the time the dictator’s patronage of EON would later rebound on the Greek monarchy because the covertly republican colonels of the 1960s were influenced in the 1930s by Metaxas’s authoritarianism and subtle anti-monarchism.

The Metaxas regime (1936 to 1941) did have its successes.  Public debts for small farmers were immediately cancelled on Metaxas coming to power.  A public works program was undertaken and the civil service were pressured to be more responsive to public needs.  A sound national currency with strong purchasing power was also achieved. 

As Greece under Metaxas was officially corporatist state an eight hour working day was introduced, a concerted effort was made to extend education opportunities to all children and to end any notions of class distinctions.  Something approximating a social welfare system was also introduced under Metaxas which has since led to an expectation on the part of future generation of Greeks that there always be a social security net.

The regime’s key success (even if temporary) was in destroying the apparatus of the KKE.  The real threat of a communist revolution had been a crucial factor in Metaxas assuming near absolute power.  It was subsequently a key objective of the regime to eliminate the well organised KKE.  The Interior Minister Constantine Maniadakis ingeniously infiltrated the KKE at its highest levels to seemingly render the party ineffective.

But in a scenario similar to C.K. Chesterton’s 1908 book, The Man Who Was Thursday, some key regime operatives who had previously infiltrated the KKE actually went onto faithfully serve the KKE and its guerrilla front organisation the National Liberation Front/National Popular Liberation Army (E.A.M.-E.L.A.S) following the German invasion of Greece in April 1941. 

 

 

Which Direction? Fascism and Monarchism Collide

For all the Metaxas regime’s successes its ultimate objectives were sinister because its underlying intention was to establish a fully-fledged and lasting totalitarian state.  Metaxas openly admired Nazi Germany and the Greek regime was accordingly styled ‘The Third Hellenic Civilization’. Greece became a key trading partner with *Nazi Germany which used the country as its spring board to politically and economically infiltrate the Balkans.

(*Eerily enough contemporary Greece in the wake of the 2008 GFC is now being used as a base for the People’s Republic of China, the PRC, to economically and politically infiltrate the Balkans). 

The fascist objectives of the Metaxas regime were to be obscured by its effective resistance to the Italian invasion of Greece in October 1940.  Metaxas’s unambiguous ‘No’ to the farcical Italian ultimatum which would have reduced Greece to an Italian satellite was recognised by even anti-fascist Greeks as an act of heroism.  Due to thorough military planning and preparation Greece not only successfully withstood the Italian invasion but by March 1941 was prepared to take Italian occupied Albania. 

The conflicting objectives between George II and Metaxas were manifested with regard to profound disagreement as to whether an alliance with Nazi Germany should be entered into by Greece.  Metaxas knew that Greece could not withstand a German intervention on behalf of the Italians.  As a fascist Metaxas regarded his successful defence against the Italy as a prelude to Greece entering into an alliance with Nazi Germany whom he hoped would win the Second World War.

George II by contrast (who regarded the 4th of August regime as transitory) hoped for an allied victory and was opposed to any alliance with Nazi Germany.  British Prime Minister Winston Churchill would never forget George II’s stance particularly in the wake of the fall of France in 1940 when continental allies of Britain were scarce.

 

Greece Gains a Patriot:  The Advent of Crown Princess Frederica

It should also be pointed out for historical accuracy that George II’s German sister in law Crown Princess Frederica was always staunchly anti-Nazi.  Her Royal Highness was born in 1917 the daughter of Duke Ernest Augustus III of Brunswick-Gotha and Princess Victoria-Louise of Prussia.  Duke Ernest Augustus III was also the claimant to the throne of Hanover. The kings of Hanover had reigned as kings of Britain from 1714 to 1837 until Queen Victoria’s ascension ended the link because female succession was not allowed in Hanover.  The Kingdom of Hanover officially disappeared from the map of Europe when the kingdom was annexed by Prussia as a punishment for having supported Austria in the War of 1866. 

The rift between the House of Hanover and the Hohenzollerns (the German imperial family) was apparently ended when Duke Ernest-Augustus and Princess Louise Victoria met, fell in love and were married in 1913.  Despite the horrors of the First World War Duke Ernest-Augustus III resumed cordial relations with his royal British relatives following the war’s end.

The Duke’s anglophila was manifested by his hostility to the Nazi regime.  At Princess Frederica’s marriage to Crown Prince Pavlos in January 1938 the Hanoverian flag was defiantly flown instead of the Swastika.  During the Italian invasion the Nazi regime tried to use the Duke as an intermediary with his daughter to promote a German-Greek alliance.  The Duke instead sent a coded message through to his relieved daughter urging the Greek government to resist any alliance with Nazi Germany.*

(*The Duke’s anti-Nazism was unfortunately contradicted by the role that his wife Princess Louise-Victoria fulfilled in May 1940 in persuading her father, the deposed Wilhelm II, against taking up Winston Churchill’s offer to be flown to Britain from his Doorn estate in the Netherlands.  The unflaggingly monarchist Churchill wanted to establish a royal German government in exile in London headed by Wilhelm II.  Although the former German Kaiser, who deeply loved his grand daughter Crown Princess Frederica, unfortunately welcomed early German military successes he refused to allow his remains to be repatriated for a state funeral in Germany and at his own funeral in 1941, which he had previously planned, no Nazi paraphernalia was allowed). 

The Second World War:  Monarchy Breaks with Fascism

The concealed rift between George II and Metaxas was resolved when the dictator suddenly died of a heart attack in January 1941.  Rumours circulated around Athens’s café circuit that Metaxas’s death was due to his coffee being poisoned.  The August the 4th regime disintegrated on Metaxas’s death with the succession of the apolitical Alexandros Koyzis, the Governor of the Bank of Greece as the new prime minister.  The German intervention did come in April 1941 and there was a sentiment amongst the pro-Metaxas officer army corps to collaborate with the conquering Germans. 

Prime Minister Koyzis committed suicide in April before the Germans took Athens as the government and royal family ironically evacuated to Crete.  (Crete was a republican strong hold.  Despite the effectiveness of the Metaxas regime’s repression this island still managed to revolt against the dictatorship in 1938).  Before departing for Egypt George II notionally reconciled with the Liberal camp by appointing Emmaniouil Tsouderos as prime minister.  Tsouderos was a Liberal Party leader and a one time supporter of Venizelos.   

George II’s belated royal reconciliation with the Liberal camp only seemed to be of symbolic significance.  The prospects for the Greek royal family ever returning to reign in their homeland seemed to be one of the most remote of all the exiled European royal families that had been banished by the Germans.  Much of the Metaxas inclined officer corps that remained in the country did so because they were pro-German. Greece would have been a collaborationist country had it not being for the patriotism and courage of the vast majority of Greeks in resisting the Germans and Italians.

Unfortunately a newly resurgent KKE moved into void by establishing the National Liberation Front/National Popular Liberation Army (E.A.M.-E.L.A.S).  This guerrilla group appealed to the anti-fascism of Liberal republican orientated segments of society.  Even E.A.M.-E.L.A.S’s major anti-communist rival was republican, the National Republican Greek League, (E.D.E.S) led by the staunchly republican Colonel Napoleon Zervas.

The monarchy’s limited mainstay of military support was undermined by a left wing mutiny of Greek troops stationed in Egypt in April 1944.  This mutiny set the scene for a conference held in Beirut between the Cairo government (as the Greek Government in exile was known) and a communist dominated provisional underground government in occupied Greece.  These two governments nominally merged to form a new government under the leadership of the republican Georgis Papandreou.

The new government’s non-communist components and George II subsequently moved to London in 1944.  Following the German retreat from Greece in October 1944 Papandreou moved his government to Athens but without George II.  Archbishop Damaskinos of Athens was appointed regent of Greece by the Papandreou government on its arrival in the Greek capital.

Indeed not only was the prospect of a monarchical restoration slim but the chances of Greece withstanding a communist takeover were also correspondingly remote.  The Greek government may very well have suffered the same fate as the royal Yugoslav government in exile which on its arrival in Belgrade in 1944 (without King Peter II) became a communist front.  The Papandreou government avoided this outcome due to the landing and accompanying presence of British troops who landed in Athens and Salonika in October 1944.  There were even clashes between ELAS and British troops in Athens in December 1944 (‘the December events’) which caused alarm in London and Moscow. 

December 1944: Winston Churchill Risks His Life for the Greek Monarchy

The presence of British troops, who were greatly outnumbered by ELAS guerrillas, would not have been enough to stop a communist takeover had it not been for the extraordinarily brave decision of Winston Churchill to go to Athens on Christmas Day 1944.  This action of Churchill’s helps puts lie to the circulated myth that the British leader sold out the peoples of Central and Eastern Europe to Stalin.

The myth of the Churchill sell out revolves round the British prime minister’s dealings with Stalin at Yalta in October 1944 where the two leaders signed the so-called Percentages Agreement.  Under this ad hoc and scrawled agreement majority percentages with regard to respective levels of Soviet and British (soon to be American) spheres of influence in Central and Eastern European nations were allocated by the two leaders. 

The Soviet majority percentage quartiles that were formulated (with the exception of Greece) reflected existing Soviet military strength in the cited nations.  Had President Franklin D. Roosevelt of the United States agreed to Churchill’s plan to launch an allied liberation of the Balkans from Italy* in 1944 then the Soviet armies would have been cut off before they reached Central Europe and Eastern Europe. 

(*Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s support for the Italian monarchy between 1943 and 1945 was a major reason for its survival and a source of its lingering power.  Had Churchill won the 1945 British general elections a six month extension for the 1946 referendum on Italy’s continuance as a monarchy probably would have been granted and the Interior Minister Giuseppe Romita consequently could not have rigged the June 1946 referendum that made Italy a republic). 

President Roosevelt’s refusal to support Churchill and naïve preference for Stalin was due to the president’s bitterness concerning the way in which the British and French had deified President Woodrow Wilson at the Versailles Conference in 1919.  As a result President Roosevelt had a paranoid fear about British ‘imperialism’ in the post-war era which greatly contributed to the later artificial post-war division of Europe.

The overlooked irony of the Percentages Agreement was that the only nation that Stalin granted a majority percentage to Britain was Greece even though communist ELAS troops had an overwhelming military advantage.  Prime Minister Churchill’s physical presence in Athens caused Stalin (who was keen to avoid any possible inter-allied rift before Germany was fully defeated) to restrain the Greek communists.  During his sojourn in Athens Churchill came to admire Papandreou (‘The Old Fox’) and Archbishop Damaskinos for their staunch anti-communism.  This was despite Churchill’s initial antagonism toward the two Greek leaders due to their reluctance to immediately restore George II. 

The vital consequence of Churchill’s visit to Athens was that the Soviets placed pressure on the KKE to adhere to the February 1945 Varkiza Conference where the communist partially disbanded and the military authority of the Greek government, backed by British troops, expanded.  Papandreou resigned in February 1945 as prime minister and over the next thirteen months a series of prime ministers were appointed by Archbishop Damaskinos.  These prime ministers (which included the notorious General Nicholas Plastiras) were republican inclined or at the very least supportive of the Archbishop’s desire to indefinitely extend his regency.

 

 

 

1946: Constantine Tsaldaris’s Integrity Secures the Monarchy’s Improbable Return

The military position of these transitionary governments rested not only on British military support but also on a precarious co-operation between the anti-communist (but republican) E.D.E.S. and the military forces (the ‘Security Battalions’) of the former collaborationist regime of Ioannis Rallis.  The ‘Security Battalions’ were *republican orientated but they were more sympathetic toward the monarchist inclined Populist Party than the Liberals which had close links to the rival E.D.E.S component within the merged non – communist military.

(*The Security Battalions were overwhelmingly republican as they were predominately drawn from the military faction that had previously supported the republican military dictatorship of General Pangalos).

The March 1946 parliamentary elections were essentially a re-run of the January 1936 elections in that the nation was polarized between a Populist Party led monarchist coalition led by Constantine Tsaldaris* and a Liberal Party led republican coalition led by Themistoklis Souphoulis.  The major difference between the 1936 and the 1946 elections was that the KKE boycotted the elections and prevented people in areas under its control from voting.  Consequently the Tsaldaris led Populist coalition won the 1946 parliamentary elections.

(*Constantine Tsaldaris was the nephew of the late Panayiotis Tsaldaris.  The former utilized his family’s extensive network and his late uncle’s immense prestige to relaunch the Populist Party.  A vital ingredient in relaunching the Populist Party was an appeal to existing monarchist sentiments).

The Tsaldaris family represented the best of democratic monarchist traditions.  It was at Prime Minister Constantine Tsaldaris’s insistence that Archbishop Damaskinos reluctantly agreed to a referendum in September on the question of George II being restored to the throne.  The 69% vote in favour of George II was partly due to a communist instigated boycott.  The KKE was not adversely affected by George II’s return to Greece in September 1946 because it provided the communists with the needed pretext to launch a civil war to take power. 

The Monarchy Saves The Day:  The Greek Civil War, 1946 to 1949

The KKE launched their post-referendum military bid for power on the basis that a financially weak Britain would be unable to help Greece and that the republican Liberals would withhold their support for the restored monarchy.  The latter assumption did not come to fruition.  This was partly because Constantine Tsaldaris graciously ceded the prime ministership in 1947 to the Liberal leader Themistoklis Souphoulis.  A succession of coalition cabinets between the Populists and the Liberals facilitated needed anti-communist national unity throughout the civil war. 

The communist assumption that Britain would be unable to help militarily was correct and this opened the question of whether the United States would step into the breach.  President Harry Truman’s decision to aid Greece (and a Soviet threatened Turkey) came with the unveiling of the Truman Doctrine in March 1947 which undoubtedly saved Greece from a communist takeover.

The president’s decision not to revert to American isolationism was partially due to the impact of Churchill’s ‘Iron Curtain’ speech in Fulton Missouri in March 1946.  In his speech the now British Opposition Leader Churchill warned that Europe would be divided into communist and non-communist spheres and that the latter would eventually succumb without American support.  The speech was also moving because Churchill singled out Greece.  Churchill predicted that Greek heroism would prevail over the communist threat but emphasised that Greece desperately needed American military and economic aid.

(Churchill was always very proud of his role in supporting the Greek monarchy.  He was elated by the restoration of the Greek monarchy in 1935 and very grateful to George II for refusing to go into an alliance with the Nazi Germany in 1941.  From the 1950s to the early 1960s Churchill annually holidayed and painted on the Greek island of Corfu.  A member of the Greek royal family, as expected by Churchill, always visited him on Corfu). 

The subsequent inflow of American military and economic aid removed the threat of an imminent communist military victory.  The Greek Civil War was in effect won when Tito’ Yugoslavia cut off aid to the Greek communists in June 1948 after being expelled from the Soviet bloc.  Even without access to Soviet aid the KKE was a formidable threat because their strategy was premised on causing social dislocation.  The communists carried out the barbaric practices such as sending children from occupied areas to Soviet bloc nations and by assassinating community leaders to facilitate the societal breakdown thought necessary to achieve victory.

Perhaps the most important role that the Greek royal family made was that they provided a counter-force during the civil war that crucially rallied civilian and military morale.  Nonetheless George II was understandably uncertain when he died in April 1947 of whether Greece could withstand the communist threat.  The twice restored king was succeeded as king by his brother Crown Prince Pavlos. 

 

The Unfair Vilification of Queen Frederica

The most important member of the Greek royal family that emerged in resisting the KKE was Queen Frederica.  The queen was at the forefront of arriving at villages to rescue children who might otherwise have been abducted by the communists and generally providing humanitarian assistance where she could through Her Majesty’s Royal Aid Society.  Another very important function that the queen fulfilled was in visiting the troops, often on the front line, to bolster their morale. 

Queen Frederica continued with her substantial charity activities following the civil war and this contributed to the royal family maintaining a devoted following which probably helps explain existing monarchist sentiment in contemporary Greece.  The queen understood that royalty had to remain close to the people to survive and the there was no more important period to apply this dictum than during the civil war. 

Usually when a royal figure fulfils an important public role he or she becomes a symbol of national unity and purpose that transcends political differences.  This was not to be the case with Queen Frederica.  Those who supported the communist side (or perceived to have supported the KKE) were often ostracised following the civil war’s end in October 1949.  For these people Queen Frederica became a symbol of right-wing oppression. 

Another reason why Queen Frederica became an often hated figure was because Her Majesty was involved in Greek politics.  However this involvement was often undertaken out of necessity. A closer analysis of Queen Frederica’s actions indicate that Her Majesty was motivated by a desire to promote democracy and ultimately ensure that the Greek monarchy became an institution that was above politics.

 

 

 

Marshal Papagos and the Parastate

A key factor in defeat of the KKE was the emergence of a political-security apparatus that became known as the ‘parastate’.  The United States poured massive military aid to the Greek armed forces and with American help a Greek Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was created.  The military and the Greek CIA were virtually independent of successive civilian governments.  A key figure in the security apparatus was General Alexander Papagos who on becoming commander in chief of the armed forces in 1949 was promoted to the rank of Field Marshal.

Papagos was the army chief of staff when the Greek army effectively resisted the Italian invasion of 1940.  The Germans asked Papagos to lead a collaborationist regime but he famously replied that England loses every battle except the last.  For his defiance General Papagos was deported to a German concentration camp in 1943.  Freed in 1945 General Papagos returned to Greece that year to become one of the leading figures in resisting the KKE.

Greece seemingly moved to the left in 1950 when the Liberal led coalition led by Nicholas Plastiras won the parliamentary elections.  However the defeat of the Populists only facilitated Field Marshal Papagos’s formal political rise to power.  Following a period of unstable coalition government, which further contributed to the break down of the established party system, Field Marshal Papagos retired from the army and formed a new political party called the Greek Rally.  This new party won a plurality of seats in parliamentary elections in September 1951.  A special parliamentary committee was formed which drew up a new constitution that was ratified in December 1951.

Elections under the new constitution were held in November 1952 which led to a landslide victory for Papagos’s Rally.  The new constitution enshrined new civil rights provisions but in reality Papagos’s rise to power consolidated the parastate.  The Greek CIA maintained extensive files on most citizens.  Security agencies infiltrated the press, political parties (which often consequently split) and supported youth and professional organisations to carry out spying operations to prevent any possible leftist mobilization.  Trade unionism was permitted but unions were prevented from having a political dimension to them that went beyond labour matters.

The emergence of the parastate had the strong support of an estimated 35% of the population who in the wake of the civil war were intensely anti-communist and monarchist.  The parastate’s viability was also underwritten by a generation who had been subjected to the fascism of Metaxas’s EON and therefore supported the existence of a quasi-authoritarian state. 

Army officers and the security services often invoked their supposed loyalty to the Crown to justify their independence from civilian government authority.  Ironically however it was Queen Frederica the seeming symbol of right wing oppression who was hostile to the parastate.  Her Majesty was intelligent enough to know that societal divisions fostered by the parastate could eventually precipitate widespread future unrest.  Queen Frederica established a counter-network amongst politicians, the public service, the armed forces and the security services that opposed Papagos.

The queen’s actions were risky and the monarchy’s continuance now came under threat from the Right.  Any notion by Papagos of abolishing the monarchy was complicated by the fact that the parastate’s support base within the population that was overwhelmingly monarchist.  Queen Frederica never received any credit for her opposition to Papagos.  This was because Her Majesty did not popularize her struggle or attempt to reach out politically to republican inclined Greeks.  To have done so would have possibly alienated the monarchy’s existing support base. 

The Monarchy Commences its Break with the Parastate

The monarchy’s struggle with Papagos was resolved when he died of natural causes in October 1955.  Acting on the advice of his political adviser Panagiotis Pipinelis King Pavlos appointed the Public Works Minister Constantine Karamanlis as the new prime minister.  This appointment was a surprise because the king had bypassed more senior ministers such as Stephanos Stephanopoulos and Panagiotis Kanellopoulos.  The royal bypassing of Stephanopoulos was particularly controversial because most of the previous Populist Party component that had gone into the Greek Rally was loyal to him.

Karamanlis’s appointment therefore helped precipitate the breakdown of the Greek party system as the new prime minister founded the National Radical Union (ERE) which clearly and fairly won the February 1956 parliamentary elections.  The appointment of a relatively politically unknown such Karamanlis as prime minister helped the monarchy break with the Papagos legacy.  Under Karamanlis’s leadership cautious moves were made to curb the parastate.  This was manifested when Karamanlis had over one thousand communist prisoners released before the February 1956 elections. 

The major achievements of the Karamanlis era (1955 to 1963) were financial reforms to strengthen the drachma aimed to ultimately take Greece into the European Economic Community (EEC).  Foreign investment was encouraged to stimulate economic growth and the foundations of a thriving tourist industry were established.  Greece under Karamanlis maintained a pro-western foreign policy orientation.  (Greece had previously joined the Council of Europe in 1949 and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO in 1951).

A giant step in dismantling the parastate was undertaken when emergency measures in place since the civil war were rescinded in July 1962.  The progressive dismantling of the parastate under Karamanlis was previously apparent when the pro-communist United Democratic Left (EDA) emerged as the major opposition party following the May 1958 parliamentary elections*.  The pro-communist left’s (the KKE was formally banned) reflected widespread discontent amongst segments of society that felt aggrieved by the continuance of the parastate.  This upset upsurge by the EDA was also due to the splintering of the Liberal Party and Greek Rally into a myriad of political parties in the wake of Papagos’s death and Karamanlis’s rise to power. 

(*Under the 1952 constitution incumbent prime ministers were obliged to step down in favour of impartial caretaker governments which held office during the election campaign period). 

 

 

King Pavlos Helps Revive The Liberal Camp

At Prime Minister Karamanlis’s instigation King Pavlos conciliated amongst the non-communist opposition parties to help form a non-communist opposition party in 1961, the Centre Union.  This party essentially brought together the two main rivals within the Liberal camp, Georgis Papandreou and Sophoklis Venizelos, the son of Eleutherios Venizelos.  The Centre Union also brought in figures from the political right represented by Spiros Markezinis and Stephanos Stephanopoulos who had been associated with Papagos.

It was ironic that Greece’s equivalent of a conservative political party, the ERE, was avowedly ‘radical’ and its major parliamentary opponent was avowedly centrist. These two parties, the ERE and the Centre Union, were thought to be metamorphisms of Greece’s respective liberal and conservative parties.  The events that unfolded under the leadership of Georgis Papandreou and his son Andreas were to ensure that the ideological dichotomy in Greek politics would eventually be between a liberal/conservative party and a left-wing populist socialist party. 

Georgis Papandreou and Sophoklis Venizelos went into the October 1961 elections as the co-leaders of the Centre Union.  Following the Centre Union’s narrow loss George Papandreou emerged as the Centre Union’s de facto leader by launching his ‘unyielding struggle’ against electoral fraud he alleged had secured the ERE’s re-election.  The allegations were not credible because a respected caretaker government was in place at the time of the 1961 elections.

(Spiros Markezinis, a principal leader of the Centre Union, realized that a major objective of Papandreou’s civil disobedience campaign was to generate a left wing social movement.  Markezinis consequently split from the Centre Union after the 1961 elections to form the Progressive Party). 

Papandreou’s civil disobedience campaign was sustained by those who resented the parastate.  In fact Papandreou’s ‘unyielding struggle’ was not really against electoral fraud but against the parastate.  The campaign intensified when an EDA Member of Parliament George Lambrakis was fatally wounded by two right wing youths allegedly linked to a parastate organisation at a rally in Salonika in May 1963.  Lambrakis’s death generated further demonstrations and political passion.

 

The Papandreous’ Commence Their ‘Unyielding Struggle’ Against Political Moderation

 

With the benefit of hindsight the ‘unyielding struggle’ was probably orchestrated by Georgis Papandreou’s son Andreas.  In 1959 Karamanlis invited Andreas to return from the United States to conduct an economic symposium in Athens and to become an economics adviser to the Greek government.  The younger Papandreou was a Harvard PhD graduate and was then a well regarded economics academic.

By inviting Andreas Papandreou in 1959 to return to Greece Karamanlis commenced the tragic pattern of attempting to politically moderate Papandreou which the latter would shamelessly turn to his advantage. Prime Minister Karamanlis also erred in thinking that Andreas would moderate (indeed the exact opposite happened) his father due to his years in the United States as an academic.

In fact Andreas Papandreou had been a Trotskyite in his youth.  He had evidently discarded his youthful Marxism as an academic.  But Andreas Papandreou retained an appreciation of Trotskyite methodology.  As such Andreas Papandreou understood how to create a strong political organisation to gain political power by instigating and utilizing mass campaigns of civil disobedience. 

The underlying discontent that existed within a substantial part of population that was alienated by the parastate provided Andreas with the scope to create a political base for himself and to pursue his objective of taking power in his own right.  Integral to Andreas Papandreou’s desire to take power was a determination to establish a political apparatus through which he could exercise power over Greek society.  In such a context a key Andreas Papandreou objective was to abolish the Greek monarchy.

Despite King Pavlos’s role in helping found the Centre Union Georgis Papandreou launched a vicious campaign against the king claiming that His Majesty ruled instead of reigned.  This attack on King Pavlos was unfounded because His Majesty’s political actions, such as Karamanlis’s surprise appointment and helping to form the Centre Union, had been aimed at promoting political moderation to facilitate the progressive dismantling of the parastate.

Furthermore King Pavlos and the royal family excelled in fulfilling non –political civic functions and charity work.  The public affection that the royal family was held by a substantial part of the population was evident by the widespread celebrations in Athens in May 1962 when King Pavlos’s older daughter Princess Sophia married Prince Juan Carlos, son of the then Spanish claimant, Don Juan, the Count of Barcelona*.  (This royal wedding was the largest gathering of royalty since the First World War). 

(*The royal couple are now the king and queen of Spain.  The sterling success of the post- 1975 restored Spanish monarchy is testament to what might have been had in Greece had it not been for the chicanery of the Papandreous and the tragic intervention of Colonel George Papadopoulos).

 

 

Crown Prince Constantine

Crown Prince Constantine excelled as a non-political royal.  His Royal Highness was charming and handsome.  Born in June 1940 Constantine was raised in war-time exile in South Africa.  (Interestingly Nelson Mandela officially invited Constantine II to his May 1994 presidential inauguration).  The Crown Prince received an excellent education in which he attended a special school composed of students that were selected from a representative range of Greek society.  His Royal Highness also received training in each of the three branches of the Greek armed forces. 

His Royal Highness excelled in sports becoming a black belt in karate and a champion yachtsman.  Indeed the twenty year old seemingly gained the nation’s adoration when he won an Olympic gold medal in yachting at the Rome 1960 Summer Olympics.  The Crown Prince’s popularity was also bolstered by his attachment to the movie star *Aliki Vougiouklaki .  Their amicable break up was erroneously attributed to snobbishness on the part of Queen Frederica. 

(*Many Greeks today believe that had Constantine II married Aliki Vougiouklaki that her continuing popularity may have influenced the vote for a reinstatement of a Crowned Democracy in December 1974). 

Race Against Time: Queen Frederica Moves to Fully Reconcile with the Liberal Camp

Queen Frederica did have genuine concerns about her son’s future when King Pavlos was diagnosed with cancer in 1963.  Her Majesty worried that her politically disinterested son would be unable to cope with the political machinations of Georgis Papandreou’s ‘unyielding struggle’.  The queen consequently believed that the monarchy had to reach a reconciliation with the Liberal camp (in the form of Centre Union) before her son ascended the throne.

Queen Frederica believed that the good will of the Centre Union could be gained without alienating the overwhelmingly monarchist ERE if the monarchy broke with Karamanlis.  The ascension of George Papandreou the queen believed would be counteracted by the almost corresponding power of Sophoklis Venizelos within the Centre Union.  Indeed it was expected that the septuagenarian Papandreou might die during the course of the following parliamentary term to be succeeded by the staunchly monarchist Sophoklis Venizelos.  At any rate it was believed that the younger Venizelos would exercise a restraining influence on Georgis Papandreou.  Furthermore Queen Frederica envisaged that a Centre Union government would fully dismantle the parastate, which an ERE government could not do due to opposition from its voting base.  Such an outcome Her Majesty believed would allow the Greek Crown to make the transition to being a fully non-political monarchy.

The queen attempted the political shift after she and her daughter Princess Irene were accosted by left-wing demonstrators while on a private visit to London in 1963.  Therefore when Prime Minister Karamanlis advised King Pavlos to cancel his scheduled official* visit to London scheduled for later that year the king declined to do so on his wife’s advice.  As Queen Frederica had probably intended Karamanlis consequently resigned as prime minister in June 1963 due to the royal refusal to heed his advise. 

(* Karamanlis’s prediction proved to be correct and the Greek royal visit was marred by extensive hostile demonstrations in Britain.  Elizabeth II on accompanying the royal Greek couple was booed and this caused Her Majesty to publicly cry for the first time). 

Karamanlis’s resignation ended his previous close friendship with Queen Frederica.  Although no-one would have known it at the time Karamanlis would later have his revenge on the Greek royal family, particularly on Queen Frederica.  But just as Karamanlis’s mishandling of Andreas Papandreou would fall into a tragic counterproductive pattern his malice against the Greek royal family would have profoundly negative consequences for Greece.

Panagiotis Pipinelis, the outgoing Commerce Minister in the Karamanlis government, and one of King Paul’s key political advisers, formed a caretaker government on Karamanlis’s resignation.  A successor non-party caretaker government (led by Stylianos Mavromichalis, the President of the Supreme Court) was formed in September on Karamanlis’s return from a holiday abroad to contest the early elections scheduled for November 1963.

The pro-communist EDA won the balance of power in the November 1963 elections which resulted in Georgis Papandreou forming a minority Centre Union government.  The historical ramification of the 1963 elections was that Karamanlis’s failure to win led to his resignation as ERE leader and departure for a Swiss exile.  Karamanlis was succeeded by Panagiotis Kanellopoulos as ERE leader, who oddly enough, was a republican despite his party being overwhelmingly monarchist. 

Georgis Papandreou served as prime minister for just over a month during which time he adroitly distributed patronage before resigning in December 1963 to be succeeded by another caretaker government which held office until new parliamentary elections were held in February 1964.  These elections were convincingly won by the Papandreou led Centre Union.

Although King Pavlos was gravely ill His Majesty insisted on officiating at the swearing in of the new government because this seemingly signified the monarchy’s final reconciliation with the Liberal camp.  The fast paced series of events that had occurred since Karamanlis’s June 1963 resignation apparently culminated with King Pavlos’s death in early March 1964. 

The widespread mourning following King Pavlos’s death and international tributes to His Majesty seemingly indicated that the Greek monarchy’s continuance was assured.  Indeed the late king’s principal achievement seemed to have been gaining the monarchy’s overall acceptance.  In retrospect King Pavlos’s main accomplishment was that His Majesty was the only Greek monarch who had both died peacefully and whose reign was uninterrupted. 

Constantine II’s ascension in March 1964 also seemed to consolidate the monarchy as the new king was known to be non politically minded.  Perhaps the first ill-omen for Constantine II’s reign was that Sophoklis Venizelos died in early February before Papandreou was sworn in as prime minister.

The unexpected death of Sophoklis Venizelos inverted the sequence that Queen Frederica had envisaged of the aged Georgis Papandreou dying to be succeeded by the staunchly monarchist and moderate Venizelos.  Nonetheless the Venizelos wing of the Centre Union was still strong and led by Sophoklis Venizelos’s strong minded nephew, the Finance Minister Constantine Mitsotakis.  It was now generally expected that the new Centre Union government would proceed to fully dismantle the parastate.

 

 

The 1964 Royal Wedding:  The Greek Monarchy Moves to Break with Politics

The monarchy’s scope to generate good will and national unity was seemingly apparent when Constantine II’s marriage to Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark was celebrated with great gusto in September 1964.  (In the wake of King Paul’s death the royal wedding was brought forward from January 1965).  The then eighteen year old Danish princess was the youngest of Frederick IX’s* three daughters and arguably the most beautiful and popular.

(*Frederick IX’s father King Christian X did not wear a Star of David during the German occupation as was reputed.  Jews in German occupied Denmark were not required to wear this symbol.  However Christian X informed the Nazi Germans that if they introduced the Star of David he would wear one on his public daily ride through the capital to show solidarity with his Jewish subjects).  

The announcement of Princess Anne-Marie’s engagement to the Greek Crown Prince in January 1963 was met with concern in Denmark that Her Royal Highness would be entering into dangerous political territory by marrying into the Greek royal family.  There was also concern in Denmark as to what Princess Anne-Marie’s status would be in relation to Queen Frederica.  Her Majesty retained the status of Queen Consort until her son married and it was known that Queen Frederica intended to maintain the title of ‘Queen’ after the royal wedding.

King Frederick IX’s televised endorsement of the marriage and public admonishment to the engaged couple to always love and support each other no matter what circumstances won over Danish public approval for the marriage.  The Danish Parliament consequently consented in July 1964 to Princess Anne-Marie’s marriage.  In the light of subsequent events the royal couple have lived up to the late Danish king’s injunction.

Queen Anne-Marie brought no potential bloc vote (such as what Aliki Vougiouklaki might have) to fall back upon in a time of crisis.  Nonetheless Queen Anne-Marie has consistently being a tower of strength for her husband and family.  The main disadvantage of Constantine II’s marriage to Anne-Marie has being that it seemingly bolstered the republican charge that the Greek royal family ‘is not really Greek’, particularly because the queen comes from the dynasty’s country of origin.

Queen Anne-Marie’s republican critics have never given her credit for converting to Greek Orthodoxy prior to her marriage, renouncing her rights to the Danish throne, giving her full allegiance to Greece and raising her children as Greeks.  During the three years when Queen Anne-Marie lived in Greece Her Majesty undertook extensive charity activities through ‘Her Majesty’s Fund’.  This charity supported a micro-credit scheme to help poor women.

Furthermore Her Majesty was a constant support to husband throughout the period of political turmoil while always keeping out of politics.  In many ways Queen Anne-Marie represents the best of what the Greek monarchy could have been had it not been for the chicanery of the Papandreous and the tragic stupidity of Colonel George Papadopoulos.

The marriage of Constantine II and Princess Anne-Marie in September 1964 was the first televised royal wedding in history.  This wedding was watched by millions of people around the world and was international headline news.  All of Athens seemed to celebrate the wedding.  Prime Minister Georgis Papandreou attended the wedding in good spirits. Constantine II publicly heralded the prime minister as a replacement father figure in the wake of his father’s recent death.

The royal wedding was also noteworthy for the wide range of royals from around the world that attended.  The Greek royal family did not recognize any distinction between deposed and reigning royalty.  Constantine II insisted on according all visiting royals with full royal status, perhaps most touchingly to a moved King Farouk, the deposed and unfairly maligned former Egyptian monarch. 

 

 

 

The Courageous Princess Alice

This royal wedding also highlighted the close links between the British and Greek royal families. Prince Charles and Princess Anne represented the British royal family and the Orthodox nun who greeted them at the airport was none other than their grandmother , Princess Alice!  Their grandmother, was a British born German princess who married Prince Andreas in 1903.

Her Royal Highness endured the travails of exile as a member of the Greek royal family.  It was Prince Alice who appealed to the British to rescue her husband Prince Andreas from certain execution which they did by dispatching the HMS Calypso in 1922.  Princess Alice had come up with the idea that her husband stand for ‘president’ of the Second Hellenic Republic in 1929. By the time of the monarchy’s restoration in 1935 Prince Andreas and Princess’s Alice marriage had however ended.

Princess Alice returned to Greece in 1938 where she devoted herself to charity work.  Her Royal Highness was the most prominent member of the Greek royal family, along with Princess Elena, (a Russian Grand Duchess who was the mother of Princess Marina) to remain in Greece during the German occupation.

The impoverished princess utilized her contacts with the Swedish royal family (her sister was the Swedish Crown Princess) to provide needed aid to the inhabitants of war torn Athens.  Princess Alice continued her charity work during and after the Greek Civil War.  (The rival and respective charity work of Princess Alice and Princess Elena were cumulative contributing factors in the pro-king vote in the 1946 referendum).  In 1949 Her Royal Highness founded a Greek Orthodox order of nuns, the Christian Sisterhood of Martha and Mary.  Wearing her order’s habit  Princess Alice drew attention at her daughter in law’s coronation as British queen in 1953.  Although Princess Alice maintained cordial relations with the Greek royal family Constantine II was closer to Princess Alice’s good natured rival Princess Elena who died in 1957. 

It was only with the great reluctance that Princess Alice accepted her son’s offer to depart Greece to move to Buckingham Palace in 1967 following the colonels’ coup.  Princess Alice’s accepted her son’s offer due to her ill-health.  Domiciled in Buckingham Palace Princess Alice endeared herself to her grand children, always insisting that they address her, as ‘Yia’ the Greek for ‘grandmother’.  Princess Alice died in December 1969.

Her Royal Highness’s posthumous desire that she be buried in the Covenant of Mary Magdalene in Jerusalem was realized in 1988.   In 1994 Princess Alice was recognized by Israel as ‘Righteous among the Nations’ at the Yad Vashem memorial for those who had died in the Holocaust.  This award was given to Princess Alice because Her Royal Highness had sheltered a Jewish family, the Cohens, in her Athens flat during the German occupation.  A surviving member of the Cohen family attended the ceremony as did the Duke of Edinburgh and his sister Princess Sophie of Hanover.*  Princess Alice’s life was testament that foreign royalty who married into the Greek royal family wholeheartedly gave their allegiance to Greece. 

(*Although Princess Sophie had married into German royalty Her Royal Highness remained a Greek Orthodox.  Her Royal Highness poignantly gave the Orthodox sign of the cross at the award ceremony). 

 

The Old Fox Averts Political Moderation:  The Double Game of Georgis Papandreou

 

Queen Anne-Marie was prepared to devote her life to Greece as Princess Alice had after marrying into the Greek royal family.  Unfortunately Prime Minister Georgis Papandreou’s duplicity became apparent at the time of the royal wedding.  Queen Frederica emerged from mourning to make her first public appearance at the wedding.  Contrary to popular opinion Queen Frederica was not financially well off.  Her Majesty confidentially wrote to the prime minister asking for help with her financial situation.

Georgis Papandreou leaked news of the queen’s private correspondence and then hypocritically came to Her Majesty’s defence.  To further undermine Queen Frederica’s position Prime Minister Papandreou canvassed introducing new press censorship laws that made it les majesty to attack Queen Frederica.   

Georgis Papandreou also undermined senior ministers in his government and he eventually assumed the ministerial portfolios of education and foreign affairs.  Expected liberal reforms dismantling the parastate, such as releasing remaining communist prisoners were not enacted.  The only substantial reform that Georgis Papandreou fulfilled was that of reforming the school syllabus. 

Particular controversy was attached early in the Papandreou prime ministership to the role of his son.  In an act of blatant nepotism Andreas Papandreou was appointed deputy minister for economic co-ordination. Although Andreas was supposed to be pro-American it was he who moved to ban Voice of America broadcasts in Greece and who publicly opposed Greece’s membership of NATO. Even at this early stage their were allegations of corruption against Andreas Papandreou who was obliged to step down as minister in June 1964 over awarding a lucrative contract to a friend.  After a cursory investigation Andreas Papandreou was re-instated in November that year as a minister.

The pattern that emerged with regard to Papandreou failing to come through on expected reforms and supporting his son was to project that he was being sabotaged by ‘reactionary’ elements within his government and party.  In truth the Papandreou strategy was to raise expectations of reform, deliberately refrain from following through and then convert disappointment into a newly created left wing galvanized political base so that a break with the moderate elements of the Centre Union could be engineered.  A raw nerve with regard to this political game was reached in June 1965 when the conservative press revealed the existence of a left-wing group of army officers that was directly linked to Andreas Papandreou!

Democracy Threatened:  The ASPIDA Conspiracy

The revelation of the existence of ASPIDA (‘The Shield’) duly alarmed senior commanders of the Greek armed forces, particularly the army chiefs of staff.  The prospect that the prime minister’s son was involved in ASPIDA (which was composed of 28 officers) also sent shudders down the spines of Greece’s army generals as the end of the brutal Greek Civil War had only ended less than twenty years before. 

True to form Prime Minister Papandreou moved took the crisis to another level instead of finding a political compromise.  Andreas Papandreou moved to dismiss the moderate Defence Minister Petros Garoufalias in July 1965.  As defence minister Georgis Papandreou could protect the ASPIDA linked officers by enabling them to continue to serve in the armed forces.  Contrary to popular legend Constantine II was prepared to sanction Papandreou’s dismissal of Garoufalias.His Majesty was not however prepared to ratify Papandreou’s appointment as the new defence minister due to a conflict of interest with regard to the need to investigate the ASPIDA allegations and Andreas Papandreou’s possible involvement with this left-wing group.  Prime Minister Papandreou was therefore asked by the king to nominate someone beside himself as the new defence minister.

Critics of Constantine II’s actions in refusing to adhere to prime ministerial advice have contended that the king grievously failed in his duties as a constitutional monarch.  This criticism negates the fact that had Constantine II given way to Georgis Papandreou’s demand to become the defence minister a ‘centrist’ military coup would have inevitably ensued.

It may sound oxymoronic to have a ‘centrist’ military coup but the army chief of staff General Grigorios Spantidakis was inclined to stage a military coup to counteract a leftist threat to democracy.  Generals loyal to General Grigorios Spantidakis were prepared to establish a short term military backed interim government before returning the country to civilian rule.  In contrast to George Papadopoulos’s colonels, General Spantidakis’s generals probably would not have held onto power indefinitely or heavy handidly sought remould Greek society to their ideological specifications.

 

Constantine II Tries to Safeguard Democracy

 

The non-politically inclined Constantine II was still acutely aware that Georgis Papandreou’s appointment as defence minister would precipitate a ‘centrist’ military coup.  The king’s dilemma could have been resolved had Georgis Papandreou being prepared to compromise.  For the Papandreous the crisis instead offered a golden opportunity to create a new left-wing base to rule with or later retake power if a constitutional crisis precipitated Georgis Papandreou’s resignation as prime minister.

The king’s advisers, such as Panagiotis Pipinelis, counselled that the way to prevent a military coup was to ensure that an impartial judicial investigation was undertaken.  Pipinelis suspected that Andreas Papandreou was probably complicit with ASPIDA and that an indictment of the younger Papandreou would probably eventually lead to his conviction.  Pipinelis knew that the results of an independent judicial investigation would politically neuter Andreas Papandreou or at the very least remove the immediate threat of a ‘centrist’ military coup.

It was with the objective of avoiding a military coup that Constantine II refused Georgis Papandreou’s demand that he be appointed defence minister.  His Majesty reiterated to the prime minister that the dismissal would be approved on the condition that Papandreou not personally assume the portfolio due to there being a conflict of interest.  The infuriated prime minister refused to relent and then informed the king that he would tender his resignation the following day.  Constantine II replied that Papandreou’s verbal articulation of his intention to resign constituted a resignation which was for with accepted.  (The date of the Papandreou resignation was the 15th of July 1965). 

Constantine II’s political advisers knew that political stability had to be maintained to avoid a military coup.  It was therefore pre-arranged for the Speaker of the parliament Georgis Athanasiadis Novas quickly be sworn in as the new prime minister following Papandreou’s departure from the royal palace.  The ensuing uproar that the Papandreous generated only raised the prospect of a military coup unless the king secured the appointment of a minority government during whose tenure an impartial investigation into the ASPIDA affair could be undertaken.

Most of the Centre Union MPs supported Georgis Papandreou that they along with EDA MPs, voted Novas down.  (The ERE and the right-wing Progressive Party voted for Novas).  His Majesty appreciated the importance of avoiding a military coup and therefore appointed Ilias Tsirimokos,  an avowed socialist and former EDA MP, as the next prime minister on August 20th.  Tsirimokos in turn failed to win parliamentary approval but the king’s next choice of Stephanos Stephanopoulos narrowly did and he became prime minister in September 1965.  The parliament was then prologued to November so that the new government could find its bearings. 

The ‘Apostate’ Governments, 1965 to 1967

Stephanopoulos was a former stalwart of the Populist Party who had taken most of that party in to support Papagos’s Greek Rally.  King Pavlos had passed over Stephanopoulos on Papagos’s death in 1955 to become the next prime minister.  Nonetheless Stephanopoulos had at King Pavlos’s urging taken his political group into the Centre Union in 1961.

The new prime minister partly owed his election by parliament to the intense lobbying efforts of Constantine Mitsotakis.  This Cretan MP was the nephew of Eleutherios Venizelos who had inherited the leadership of his late cousin’s (Sophoklis Venizelos) faction within the Centre Union.  Mitsotakis’s (who became the new minister for economic co-ordination) action in supporting Stephanopoulos was in keeping with the objective of the Venizelos wing of the Centre Union of preventing a possible move to the far left by the mercurial Georgis Papandreou.

(Andreas Papandreou maintained an avowedly intense personal hatred of Mitsotakis until his death in June 1996.  But as with regard to Andreas Papandreou’s supposed passions it was not really clear if his emotions were genuine or politically calculated). 

The major and interconnected objectives of the Stephanopoulos government were to ensure that an independent judicial investigation into the ASPIDA affair was undertaken to therefore remove the threat of a general’s coup.  The Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court Constantine Kollias was appointed to investigate the ASPIDA affair.  A contentious issue of investigation was whether Andreas Papandreou was complicit as a covert supporter and organiser of ASPIDA. 

Stephanopoulos supporters were derided by Papandreou supporters as ‘apostates’ and in one of the many ironies of modern Greek politics the new prime minister formally founded a Liberal Democratic Party in December 1965.  This development was ironic because Stephanopoulos had once being a leading member of the Populist Party which had been the great historical rival of the defunct Liberal Party.  The Stephanopoulos government was a minority government (which mainly survived due to the parliamentary support of the ERE) whose political survival was precarious.  Nonetheless it was the Stephanopoulos government that in April 1966 released the remaining 96 communist prisoners.  This government’s actions of dismantling the parastate was reflective of the role that the previous government of Georgis Papandreou should have fulfilled in fully dismantling the parastate to overcome the remaining legacies of the Greek Civil War.

Instead the Papandreous utilized discontent from the Civil War and the lingering parastate to build a new political base and overthrow Greece’s existing socio-political system, a key component of which was the monarchy.  Between the time of Georgis Papandreou’s fall in July 1965 until the colonels’ April 1967 military coup Andreas Papandreou did what he could to generate popular unrest.  This included Andreas Papandreou working in collusion with the KKE/EDA affiliated Lambrakis Youth to precipitate left-wing demonstrations.

The ensuing press war that respectively represented the conflict between Greece’s different political factions.  This political polarization also indicated that previously suppressed elements within society were standing up to the parastate that it could not survive without further and more intense political repression.  In this context the Papandreous’ previous refusal to pursue a moderate approach while they were in government to help facilitate the dismantling of the parastate was all the more reprehensible.

Constantine II and Queen Anne –Marie still fulfilled their duties during the crisis period by undertaking civic and ceremonial functions.  The royal couple remained close to their people due to their hectic round of engagements and charity work throughout this turbulent period.  In later years an exiled Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie drew strength and happiness from their memories when they were domiciled monarchs.  This probably sustained their naïve pre-1974 referendum belief that they would eventually be restored. 

A major political objective of the Stephanopoulos government was met in November 1966 when twenty eight officers and Andreas Papandreou were indicted for trial for conspiracy to seize power in a military coup.  (Andreas Papandreou was exempt from arrest due to his parliamentary immunity).  The indictments significantly reduced the scope for a generals’ coup but there was still a need to reduce political tensions.

Coup Almost Averted:  The Papandreou/ Kanellopoulos Deal

The indictment of Andreas Papandreou apparently led Georgis Papandreou to somewhat relent and in December 1966 the senior Papandreou made a deal with the ERE leader Panagiotis Kanellopoulos.  Under the Papandreou/ Kanellopoulos deal, which Constantine II was aware of through the involvement of his political adviser Evangelos Averoff in arranging it, the ERE withdrew its support for the Stephanopoulos government.  A new non-political interim government led by Ioannis Paraskevopoulos the Governor of the Central Bank was formed that had the apparent support of the ERE and the Centre Union. 

Having an interim government in place that the two major parties supported seemed to offer the promising prospect that peaceful elections would be held and the results of which would be accepted.  The Papandreou/ Kanellopoulos seemed to reduce the prospects for a military coup.

However Andreas Papandreou (and perhaps deep down Georgis Papandreou who might have been playing a good cop to his son’s bad cop) could not be placated by the deal with Kanellopoulos.  Fifteen of the twenty-eight ASPIDA conspirators were found guilty of conspiring to seize power and there was concern within the Centre Union (which had apparently tepidly split into a respective Andreas and Georgis factions) that Andreas would be arrested on losing his parliamentary immunity when the parliament was formally dissolved for early elections.

A Centre Union bill sponsored bill extending the parliamentary immunity of MPs during an election campaign was defeated in late March 1967 due to opposition from the ERE.  The ERE then withdrew its support for the Paraskevopoulos government. 

It is often overlooked that Constantine II offered to re-appoint Papandreou prime minister following the end of the Paraskevopoulos government.  Papandreou declined and as a result Constantine II appointed Kanellopoulos* as the prime minister of an ERE government on the third of April 1967.  To secure needed political stability Kanellopoulos dissolved the parliament on the 14th of April and called elections for May the 28th

(* A joke that went round Athens cafes was that the king chose Kanellopoulos because he did not have a son).

The actions that Constantine II on the advice of his political counsellors since the ASPIDA affair broke in June 1965 had significantly reduced the scope of a military coup.  However the very real prospect, if not near certainty of a Centre Union victory and the prospect of a powerful Andreas Papandreou still raised the prospect of a military coup.  Prime Minister Kanellopoulos with the involvement of one of Constantine II’s political advisor, Evangelos Averoff amicably purged Karamanlis supporters from the ERE so that they could move over to strengthen Stephanopoulos’s Liberal Democratic Party. 

The transferral of Karamanlis supporters into the Liberal Democratic Party in turn opened the way for Kanellopoulos to enter into a coalition with Andreas Papandreou’s Centre Union after it probably won a majority in the May 1967 elections.  The Centre Union/ERE coalition was envisaged as essentially a coalition between the Georgis Papandreou wing of the party with the Andreas component left out in the cold.  The benefit of a Georgis Papandreou/ Kanellopoulos government would be that the threat of a military coup would be removed and that the new government could then proceed with the final dismantling of the parastate.

A Modern Greek Tragedy: The 1967 Military Coup of George Papadopoulos

It was at the point that Constantine II’s advisers with the king’s courageous support had adroitly defused a potential crisis and thereby saved Greek democracy from a generals’ coup that a colonels’ coup suddenly struck on the 21st of April 1967.  The lightening coup resulted in the mass arrest of most of Greece’s politicians and the imposition of martial law.  Constantine II was at the Tatoi Palace outside Athens when the coup occurred in the early hours of the 21st of April.  The king was cut off from his advisers and was at an initial loss as to how to re-act.  His Majesty made his way to the Defence Ministry where the assembled generals stood at attention and pledged allegiance to their king.  However Constantine II’s visit to the Defence Ministry demonstrated to His Majesty that operational power was with the colonels, not the generals.  Constantine II had to accept that actual power lay with the coup leader Colonel George Papadopoulos and not the army chief of staff General Grigorios Spantidakis (who was ignorant of the April coup).

The king on returning to Tatoi from the Defence Ministry was faced with the agonizing choice of departing for exile or initially acquiescencing to the coup. Cut off from his political advisers Constantine II opted to stay in Greece.  Following his mothers’ suggestion the Supreme Court Prosecutor Constantine Kollias was appointed the new prime minister whom the colonels grudgingly accepted.

A key monarchist who somehow managed to make contact with His Majesty during this distressing period was the newspaper publisher Eleni Vlakhou.  She advised His Majesty that under no circumstances should he be photographed with the new colonels and implicitly implied that Constantine II should immediately depart for exile.  Unfortunately, although Constantine II and Prime Minister Kollias noticeably grimaced in their photo with the colonels’ dominated cabinet, the king badly blundered not only for being photographed with the colonels but in initially acquiescing to their coup. 

Constantine II’s reluctant and tentative acceptance of the coup was a grave mistake.  With the benefit of hindsight had the king departed for exile the new regime would have had great difficulty in securing foreign recognition.  Although the coup came as a surprise the colonels did have a ready made support base of approximately 35% of the population that was staunchly monarchist.  (George II’s refusal to associate with General Kondylis in November 1935 had obliged him to resign thereby clearing the way for new elections). 

Furthermore had Constantine II gone into exile His Majesty probably would have held the allegiance of those Greeks who accepted the monarchy but were not necessarily committed to the institution.  An immediate regal departure for exile could even have won Constantine II the support of some Greek republicans.  International press correspondents reported that at the early stages of the coup, when there was great uncertainty, but that there was strong popular support for Constantine II in Athens.*

(*The Greek king’s failure to steadfastly oppose the coup in its early stages paradoxically may have contributed to the survival of the Spanish monarchy because it was a salutary warning to the Constantine II’s brother in law King Juan Carlos.  The Spanish king acted quickly and unhesitatingly against an attempted military coup in February 1981 which helped safe-guard Spanish democracy). 

The very act of the colonels staging their stupid coup completely went against the major benefit and the key justification in the king refusing to hold early elections until the ASPIDA investigation had been completed- avoiding a military coup in the first place.  Consequently Constantine II could only reap ill-will for his previous fortitude because it was consequently and perversely perceived as one of the major reasons for the colonels’ 1967 military coup. 

The King and the Colonels:  Constantine II Plays for Time

The course that Constantine II followed was to attempt to moderate the new regime, play for time and subsequently remain close to the Greek people through fulfilling his civic duties.  This last action was premised on a deep seated belief that the Greek royal family then had that they always had the love of the Greek people.  (The unofficial motto of the Greek kings was, ‘My Strength is My People’s Love’). 

Moderating the colonels’ regime involved securing the appointment of Constantine Kollias as the new prime minister and army chief of staff General Spantidakis as the new defence minister and deputy prime minister.

Real power at the outset of the colonel’s regime was held by Colonel George Papadopoulos, who was officially ‘Minister to the Prime Minister’.  The two other most prominent and powerful colonels were Stylianos Patakos and Nikolaos Makerezos.  Patakos (who was actually a Brigadier General) was appointed interior minister. Colonel Makerezos was appointed minister for economic co-ordination, where as minister for economic affairs was actually successful.  There was also an anonymous ‘Revolutionary Council’ which held a degree of power that was difficult to measure. 

The origins of the colonels went back to the left-wing April 1944 of Greek troops stationed in Egypt.  Shaken by the mutiny a group of anti-communist officers formed a mutual support network.  This network survived into the 1960s due to the meticulous, if not obsessive, nature of George Papadopoulos.  The colonels were also bound by similarity of having conservative rural backgrounds.  As youths they were exposed to the fascism of the Metaxas regime and their fierce anti-leftism was consolidated during the Greek Civil War.  They also gained a sense of direction and purpose from the parastate that Field Marshal Papagos constructed during and after the civil war.

The political turmoil of the ‘Apostate’ period (i.e. the time between Georgis Papandreou’s July 1965 resignation and the April 21st 1967 military coup) it was probable that a continuance of the parastate could not be maintained after parliamentary elections were held.  This was because the civil unrest demonstrated that political social controls could not be maintained once a degree of political stability had been restored by a probable Papandreou/ Kanellopoulos government.  Such a government could have proceeded to fully dismantle the parastate.  From the colonels’ perspective a full dismantling of the parastate* would have deprived them of a meaningful role in Greek society.

(*The existence of parastate agencies enabled the colonels to quickly impose a regimented regime on the Greek people from the outset.  The existence of a critical mass, approximately 35% of the population that supported the parastate also gave the regime a ready made support base). 

For Colonel Papadopoulos the political instability of the apostate period offered a golden opportunity to seize power due to political instability and public alienation with politics.  The colonels’ regime was essentially a recycled Metaxas regime.  The leaders of the April 1967 takeover regarded their power grab as a ‘revolution’ as opposed to a coup.  In this context the colonels’ regime regarded it is as their role to ‘remould’ the Greek character to purge it of what they considered to be the undisciplined individualistic orientation of Greeks that had supposedly underpinned recent political instability.

Similar to the Metaxas regime the colonels cancelled farmer’s debts on coming to power and prioritized clamping down on possible political dissent in urban centres.  The facilitation of this latter objective was aided by the efficiency with which Greece’s distracted campaigning politicians (including the Papandreous) were arrested.  Political leaders and their key operatives were imprisoned, banished to remote islands or placed under house arrest.  Strict press censorship was imposed from the outset by the military regime and reflected its reluctance to expeditiously institutionalize by forming a new political party and holding national elections. 

The regime’s reluctance to establish a ruling party was probably two-fold.  Firstly, too many of the officers on the shadowy Revolutionary Council were hostile to a quick return to constitutional rule due to their hostility towards politicians.  These officers were also concerned that Papadopoulos wanted to establish a personalized dictatorship.  There was also a condescending attitude on the army’s part that the Greek people were insufficiently ‘mature’ to return to a constitutional-electoral politics at an early stage.

The political situation was also complicated by Papadopoulos’s reluctance to reach an accommodation with Constantine II due to the colonels’ underlying republicanism.  Their inherent anti-monarchism could be traced back to the Metaxas and Papagos regimes in which the monarchy had been an ultimate barrier to establishing an absolute hold over Greek society.

The colonels’ alternating objectives of either co-opting the monarchy to their ends or abolishing the institution were apparent to astute political observers from the outset.  Eight days after the coup (the 29th of April) a special cabinet committee was established to draw up a new constitution.  Surprisingly heated inter-committee debates were held but these were of little real impact.  The real arbitrator of the constitution that finally forwarded was the ‘Revolutionary Council’, which eventually submitted its own version of a constitutional draft in September 1968 for popular approval. 

The Rift between the Monarchy and Neo-Fascism

Following in the footsteps of his late uncle and parents Constantine II attempted to be a rallying point for those elements of civil society that were resistant to the junta’s objective of regimenting the nation.  The king and queen remained important symbols of continuity to those the many Greeks who were understandably anxious about the colonels’ regime.  Constantine II continued to support an array of palace supported charities that functioned almost as a de facto alternative social security system. 

The birth of a Crown Prince Pavlos in May 1967 was an important milestone to monarchists Greeks who were concerned about the monarchy’s continued viability.  Constantine II’s in-laws King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark attended their grandson Crown Prince Pavlos’s christening to show their support for the embattled Greek monarchy.  (More foreign royalty probably would have attended the christening had it not been for the colonels’ regime).  The attendance of Crown Prince Pavlos’s Danish grandparents was also very helpful because the democratic credentials of the Danish monarchy were, and are, impeccable. 

Constantine II also received moral support when he and Queen Anne-Marie visited the United States and Canada in September 1967.  President Lyndon Johnson took a personal liking to Constantine II and advised the king to break with the colonels when it was feasible to do so.  The president also implicitly assured His Majesty of American support.  (The emergence of the parastate led to a phobia on the part of many Greeks that the American CIA micro-managed Greek politics). 

The problem for Constantine II in disengaging from the colonels was that the regime’s support base in society was monarchist.  Even monarchist army officers who were not part of the regime’s military network were initially sympathetic to the regime.  The king’s central pillars of support were the air force and the navy.  However (as events in 1973 would later illustrate) the loyalty to the monarchy of the non-army branches of the armed forces would not be enough to overthrow the colonels.

An option that the king did have was to have Prime Minister Kollias resign and pre-empt the colonels by quickly appointing General Spantidakis as the new prime minister.  But even this option was not really viable because Colonel Papadopoulos had demonstrated since the April coup that operational authority was in his hands and that he could only be removed by an army backed coup.

Constantine II sought to wedge the army from the colonels by exploiting discontent over Cyprus issue.  This island republic in the Aegean had received independence in 1960 from Britain and had since being wracked by unrest between its Greek majority and Turkish minority.  Negotiations between Greece and Turkey were under way in 1967 to resolve tension between the two nations caused by domestic Cypriot politics.

To strengthen Greece’s negotiating position Papadopoulos had consented to the appointment of the internationally respected Panagiotis Pipinelis as foreign minister in November 1967.  Papadopoulos was reluctant to appoint Pipinelis as foreign minister because he was such a staunch monarchist.  Pipinelis had been a key and canny political adviser to Constantine II and King Pavlos.

Although Constantine II actually approved of Pipinelis’s success in defusing the Cyprus crisis (fighting had erupted in November 1967 on Cyprus) in December1967 the king still moved to exploit nationalist discontent within the army over Cyprus to overthrow the colonels.  The king understood that this was his only real chance to militarily end the colonels’ regime so His Majesty took the risk.  Even this window of opportunity was a narrow one for the king because the colonels had a tight military grip on Athens.

 

 

Thirteen is an Unlucky Number:  The Abortive Royal Counter –Coup of December 13 1967

His Majesty therefore decided to launch his military revolt from Larissa in the northern Kavala region on December 13th where he and His Majesty’s immediate family and prime minister flew*.  The Kavala region was a leftist stronghold but the element of surprise did work enabled the king to take Larissa where His Majesty was hailed by the anti-regime locals (who were overwhelmingly republican). From His Majesty’s base in Larissa the king radio broadcast his opposition to the colonels and called for a restoration of democracy.  (Had the royal counter-coup been successful the king would have appointed Petros Garoufalias as the new prime minister).  Due to His Majesty’s freedom of movement the navy and air force mobilized to support their king.   

(*The royal party was composed of the king, Queen Anne-Marie, Queen Frederica, the king’s two year old daughter Princess Alexia, Crown Prince Pavlos, the king’s sister, Princess Irene and Prime Minister Kollias).

The insurmountable and fatal problem that His Majesty always faced was that he was not able to prise away the colonel’s tight operational control over the army.  The shrewd Papadopoulos already had a contingency plan in place with regard to a possible royal counter coup.  This was quickly activated by Papadopoulos having most of Greece’s serving generals arrested.  The failure of the royal counter-coup to get off the ground necessitated the royal party’s flight from Greece on the 13th of December 1967.  The royal plane that arrived in Rome in the early hours of the 14th of December was actually flown by the king who landed the plane with a near empty fuel tank.

The failure of the royal counter coup was not so much a mistake but a test that Constantine II had to go through to find if he had the capacity to oust the colonels.  From the outset Constantine II clearly lacked a military capacity to launch a military coup in Athens.  The Kavala region offered His Majesty a degree of operational freedom that he might not otherwise not had.  The launching of the coup from Larissa enabled the king to test what degree of military action that he actually had.  It was only by launching the coup from Larissa that the king ascertained that his military support nationwide was insufficient that then necessitated his departure. 

Critics of the king have argued that the king should have been more prepared than what he had been in April and December 1967 to risk further bloodshed.  Having grown up during the Greek Civil War, Constantine II was always conscious of the need to avoid civil conflict that could grievously undermine national cohesion.  Furthermore as a king, Constantine II was innately resistant to being a focal point for national disunity that could possibly lead to another civil war.

 

 

The King’s Banishment Consolidates Dictatorship

Papadopoulos quickly moved into the void by appointing General Georgis Zoitakis (one of the few generals who actively supported the colonels’ coup) as the new regent with himself as the new prime minister.   The failure of the royal countercoup was a boon for Papadopoulos* because it enabled him to politically neuter Constantine II without alienating the monarchist base within society that the dictator initially needed.  (*Papadopoulos formally retired from the military on being sworn in as prime minister).

Ironically one of the beneficiaries of the failure of the abortive royal counter coup was Andreas Papandreou.  He was released from prison in January 1968 from where he departed with his family for Sweden.  From exile Andreas Papandreou founded his ineffective Pan Hellenic Liberation Front (PAK).  Nonetheless Andreas Papandreou had demonstrated courage and fortitude during his imprisonment and it is probable that American pressure had secured Andreas Papandreou’s release in January 1968.

For all his avowed anti-Americanism Andreas Papandreou may have owed his life to the Americans.  The Americans probably appreciated that it was best to have a purported leftist leader to ensure that left-wing anti-Americanism did not get out of hand after the dictatorship ended.

Although Andreas Papandreou from been imprisoned he was the ultimate beneficiary of the 1967 coup.  Had the May 28 1967 elections taken place the existing socio-political structure that Andreas Papandreou sough to destroy would have been preserved, the cornerstone of which was the monarchy.  Someone as diabolically clever as Andreas Papandreou probably knew that the underlying objective that he had always had of taking power via a newly generated left wing base was now within reach if the colonels’ regime later fell.  Crucial to the attainment of this left-wing objective would be a non-reinstatement of the Greek monarchy.

Georgis Papandreou’s house arrest lasted between April and October 1967.  The Old Fox, having previously done so much to undermine the monarchy, now declared himself loyal to the exiled king.  This action was probably undertaken by Georgis Papandreou so that he could enter into a political partnership with Kanellopoulos. The Old Fox knew that Kanellopoulos’s prospects of later reactivating his moribund ERE were to tap into family political networks that were overwhelmingly monarchist.

The post 1967 Georgis Papandreou/ Kanellopoulos political partnership was testament to what might have been had the April coup not occurred and a moderate Centre Union/ERE government been formed.  The only time that the pre-1967 politicians managed to mount a substantial anti-regime protest was at Georgis Papandreou’s November 1968 funeral, which was attended by Kanellopoulos.  Although Georgis Papandreou had done so much to undermine the Greek monarchy he at least died an avowed Greek monarchist. 

The Exiled Monarchy: Banished But Not Forgotten

The position of the monarchy itself was weakened by missed opportunities on Constantine II’s part in exile.  With the benefit of hindsight His Majesty should have formed a government in exile or at the very least formally and publicly disassociated himself from the junta.  Foreign Minister Panagiotis Pipinelis was not in Greece at the time of the royal counter-coup but was prepared to support a royal government in exile.  Such a government probably would have been financed by the Shah of Iran who, having briefly exiled himself, took an acute interest in Greek politics.  President Johnson of the United States was also personally sympathetic to Constantine II and this might have secured American recognition of a royal government in exile. 

Furthermore most Greek embassies around the world, including the Greek Embassy in Washington were similarly prepared to support a royal government in exile.  Unfortunately the Greek Embassy in Rome was so solicitous and deferential to the recently banished Greek royal family.  This unfortunately influenced Constantine II against opting to establish a royal government in exile.

The disorientated Greek royal family was reassured by the personal support they received from embassy staff which contributed to Constantine II falling into the trap of accepting the regime’s stated good will.  Constantine II was re-assured by mail and by personal emissaries from Papadopoulos that that although the regime sought His Majesty’s re-instatement it would respectfully wait until mutually convenient arrangements were arrived at.

In January 1968 the king’s immediate family moved to a villa in Rome that was paid for by the Greek state. (Her Majesty Queen Frederica and Princess Irene moved into a separate villa just outside Rome).  Servants and a chauffer driven car were also provided as part of a continuing civil list for the exiled royals.  A special royal emissary between Rome and Athens was also established.  The exiled king possibly exercised a degree of influence on the Greek regime through the Foreign Minister Panagiotis Pipinelis, who was then the most powerful civilian in the cabinet.

An implicit condition of the regime’s financial support was that the king not speak out against it.  From Constantine II’s perspective the best cause of action was to maintain a discreet lifestyle in exile and wait for the regime to either fall or sufficiently liberalize so that he could return to Greece.  The king also established contact with the Swiss based Constantine Karamanlis who most of Greece’s sidelined or exiled politicians looked to as the ultimate savour when the colonels’ regime ultimately and ignominiously ended. 

The exiled Constantine II still psychologically felt that he was still a reigning king.  Indeed reigning royal houses around the world treated still Constantine II as a reigning monarch, which he technically was.*  The king remained a member of the International Olympic Committee and on the governing committee of the International Yachting Federation, which His Majesty still is.  These international commitments and the Greek royal family’s travels around the royal courts of Europe enabled them to retain their royal status.  Perhaps a highlight of Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie’s period in exile was that they were accorded full royal recognition at the Shah of Iran’s lavish Persepolis celebrations in October 1971. 

(A major a major accomplishment of Constantine II’s since his democratically affirmed deposition in late 1974 has been that His Majesty is still treated by the royal courts of Europe and semi-officials bodies around the world as some-one with a unique semi-official status.  *The British royal court follows the protocol that deposed monarchs retain their courtesy titles as ‘king’ and/or ‘queen’ but without territorial designation.  This is now the case for Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie in regard to recognition by British royal court protocol). 

Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie maintained a low-key profile in Rome and remained within their allocated budget.  The Greek royal couple’s failure to attend Rome’s 1968 gala ball was a grave disappointment to the Italian capital’s social set which was then sentimentally loyal to the exiled Italian royal family*.  The young king and queen also took the opportunity that the extra free time that exile afforded them to spend with their three children, Princess Alexia, Prince Pavlos and Prince Nikolaos who was born in Rome in 1969.  Two more children were later born in Britain, Princess Theodora in 1983 and Prince Philippos in 1986.

(*King Farouk of Egypt arrived in Italy shortly after his deposition in July 1952.  The deposed king did not concern himself with Egyptian politics as a political exile.  The former king instead established an entourage in Rome which became a virtual community.  The only royal who maintained a friendship with King Farouk was Prince Rainer of Monaco who granted the citizen-less exiled former monarch Monegasque citizenship in 1959.  Although Farouk was accused of corruption during his 1936 to 1952 reign His Majesty gained a reputation for financial generosity to his friends in Rome and his February 1965 funeral was well attended by those he had been kind to). 

During the 1967 to 1973 period of their exile when Constantine II’s and Anne-Marie’s official royal status was still recognized.  Official portraits of them were compulsorily hung in government offices and at public places such as airports.  Their images remained on bank notes, coins and stamps.  (Special stamps of Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie were issued in 1971).  Royal insignias with the Hellenic Crown were still worn by the armed forces and the police.  The royal coat of arms were still displayed in the law courts.  The king and queen’s youthful good looks added to their mystique but it was still unclear if this mystique would translate into sufficient popularity that would later precipitate their actual reinstatement. 

 

 

Monarchist Resistance to the Dictatorship

The fact that a reinstatement of the Greek monarchy was not a certainty became more apparent as time progressed.  Even before the flight into exile the colonels’ regime persecuted Greek monarchists.  The monarchist newspaper editor Eleni Vlakhou* was detained in September 1967 and escaped to London in December that year where she continued to oppose the dictatorship.

(*Vlakhou returned to Greece in 1974, was elected to parliament and continued to publish.  Her re-established newspaper, Kathimerini gave respectful coverage to Constantine II after the adverse 1974 referendum result.  Even Vlakhou’s arch enemy Andreas Papandreou grudgingly paid tribute to her on her death in October 1995). 

The two main resistance movements to the colonels that emerged, the National Resistance Movement and Free Greeks were monarchist.  These resistance groups were composed of retired military officers and even before the colonels declared a republic in 1973 the nation’s censored press warned that Constantine II was in danger of losing his throne unless His Majesty disassociated himself from the monarchist resistance.  (Greece’s lack of effective military capacity during the 1974 Cyprus crisis was partially attributed to the purge of senior monarchist army officers).

The nation’s two major political parties, the ERE and the Centre Union were disorientated by the coup and did not effectively re-assemble to function during the dictatorship.  Nonetheless former ERE prime minister Panagiotis Kanellopoulos and George Mavros, Georgis Papandreou’s successor as Centre Union leader, kept the spirit of their parties alive by courageously defying the dictatorship.

The major underground political party that resisted the colonels’ regime on a co-ordinated basis was the longed banned KKE.  The communists chronically split in August 1968 due to massive internal discord concerning the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.  In that same month and year (August 1968) Alexandros Panagoulis attempted to assassinate Papadopoulos.  The failed assassination by the left-wing Panagoulis helped create a legend of left-wing resistance to the dictatorship that negated the role of Greek monarchists in fighting for political freedom.

 

 

 Political Institutionalization That Never Was:  The Colonels’ Bizarre 1968 Constitution

Ironically the mainstay of support for the colonels’ regime was monarchist or those who had previously supported parastate out of fear of a communist takeover.  Papadopoulos therefore could not afford to immediately abolish the monarchy.  The dictator proceeded with his strategy of remaining notionally monarchist as he moved to consolidate his power by laying the groundwork for a future republic.  A new constitution was ratified in a referendum in September 1968 with a reputed 92% of the vote.

To placate the substantial monarchist component of society Greece officially remained a ‘Crowned Democracy’.  However the prerogatives of the Crown were sharply curtailed and the king’s political actions were to be effectively guided by a Council of the Nation.  Freedom of the press was ostensibly granted but almost immediately negated by a new Constitutional Court which had wide ranging powers in the ostensible pursuit of national security to restrain the exercise of political rights, such as the registration and functioning of political parties. 

Under the 1968 Constitution cabinet in effect would become more powerful than the parliament.  The scope for parliamentarians to exercise power was restricted because their primary role was essentially to review legislation and government policy.  Only the prime minister and two deputy prime ministers were allowed to have seats in the parliament.  The armed forces were constitutionally granted independence from the government and the state.

The 1968 Constitution was probably unique in history in that there were problems with its implementation prior to its full application.  Even though the colonels had taken great care to establish constitutional super structures official institutions they did not always function as they were intended.  The president of the Council of the Nation was sacked by the regime in 1969 after he (Michael Stasinopoulos) refused to carry out a purge of senior judges. 

The new constitution reflected that the colonels were the off-spring of the parastate.  This constitution sought to institutionalize an array of agencies that supposedly would regulate and pre-determine political outcomes and people’s behaviour in accordance with the perspectives of the colonels. 

The disposition of the colonels to regiment society according to their mores was later reflected by the establishment of an Ombudsman in 1969 to investigate the private lives of civil servants and the appointment of retired generals to administer universities.  Furthermore, in keeping with past practice under the parastate, professional trade unionism was formally forbidden. 

The new regime from the beginning also sought to strictly regiment young people by establishing regime controlled youth groups and trade unions.  Strangely enough, but still similar to the Metaxas regime, the colonels regime did not form a coherent political party which could have co-ordinated the array of government controlled parastate organisations.

Papadopoulos’ reluctance to quickly institutionalize his regime was probably derived from the fact that an establishment of a new ruling party would have entailed tapping into the network of families that had previously underpinned the ERE and the Populist Party.  For Papadopoulos to have done so would have meant Papadopoulos reaching a political accommodation with Constantine II.

Indeed the 1968 Constitution could not take full effect without Constantine II agreeing to return to Greece.  The king understandably balked at legitimizing the new constitution which would institutionalize the dictatorship.  For Papadopoulos this impasse was probably welcome because he was really a republican.  With the benefit of hindsight the 1968 Constitution (which Princess Alice’s cousin Lord Louis Mountbatten of Britain thought was stupid) established the groundwork for the creation of a presidential republic by simply substituting a powerful executive prime minister with an executive president. 

For all of the regime’s narrow mindedness it did have its successes.  Services and amenities were extended to rural parts of Greece.  Talented technocrats were appointed to cabinet positions such as Adamantios Androuptsopoulos who served as finance minister.  Consequently banking reforms helped spur strong domestic growth.  A tourist industry was developed and a pension plan was introduced.  The regime was also responsible for facilitating a more efficient civil service.

As with most authoritarian regimes the price for its achievements was too high.  The Greek people chafed at living under such an intrusive and ostensibly puritanical regime.  The Interior Minister Stylianos Patakos’s move to ban miniskirts and beards (which was eventually rescinded) was met with derision. The regime’s intervention at a Rolling Stones music concert was also met with widespread contempt.  The regime’s puritanical streak not only reflected its leaders’ social mores but that it was too disconnected from substantial parts of society.

The major political failure of the colonels was that they did not move fast enough to institutionalize their regime by holding elections under the 1968 Constitution.  Political family networks could have been tapped into by the regime to have created a new ruling political party that approximated with the support base of the traditional conservative monarchist party that had been one of Greece’s traditional two major parties.  Such a political manoeuvre on Papadopoulos’s part may have provided him the means of dismounting the dictatorship tiger, which General Kondylis had achieved in the 1920s and in the 1930s. 

 

 

 

Papadopoulos Consolidates His Personal Power

Before feeling any sympathy for Papadopoulos it is probable that his long term agenda had always been to establish a presidential republic.  To achieve this goal Papadopoulos first had to consolidate his position as prime minister.  A major impediment for Papadopoulos in consolidating his authority was the Foreign Minister Panagiotis Pipinelis, who as previously mentioned was both the most powerful civilian and the leading monarchist in the cabinet.  His international prestige was such that the colonels’ regime remained a respected member of NATO despite international ostracism, such as the Council of Europe’s condemnation of Greece for the use of torture. 

Pipinelis’s death in July 1970 precipitated the first major crisis within the regime after Papadopoulos succeeded to the position of foreign minister.  Ironically hardliners within the regime were weary of Papadopoulos becoming an absolute dictator and his assumption of this important cabinet position therefore raised a substantial degree of opposition.

In circumstances that are still unclear, pressure from the shadowy Revolutionary Council caused Papadopoulos to submit his resignation in August 1970 to the regent, General Georgis Zoitakis.  The regent offered the armed forces chief General Odysseus Anghelis the position of prime minister but he declined.  Papadopoulos subsequently remained on as prime minister with enhanced power.  From that point on it seems that the Revolutionary Council never re-convened.

(*The deceased foreign minister had possibly been the most able of royal political advisers.  It was at Pipinelis’s instigation that Karamanlis had been appointed prime minister in 1955.  There was an expectation in political circles that Pipinelis would move into the void to restore democracy in the wake of the collapse of the dictatorship.  Pipinelis’s death led to a shift in focus in the exiled Karamanlis fulfilling that role.  As events transpired Karamanlis refused to support a reinstatement of the monarchy which the more far sighted Pipinelis probably would have).

Papadopoulos utilized his enhanced power in August 1971 to deprive Stylianos Patakos and Nikolaos Makerezos of their respective positions of interior minister and minister for economic co-ordination.  These two senior figures were subsequently appointed deputy prime ministers.  The prime minister’s dismissal of the regent General Zoitakis in March 1972 and Papadopoulos’s assumption of that position signified a consolidation of one man rule*.  The only remaining barrier for Papadopoulos was the abolition of the Greek monarchy. 

(* A joke that made the rounds of Athenian cafes was that Papadopoulos’s second wife Despina Gaspari was promiscuous because she was sleeping with the prime minister, the foreign minister, the minister for economic co-ordination and the regent.  Papadopoulos had previously fast tracked by a special decree in 1970 his divorce from his first wife Nike Vasileiadi to marry Gaspari). 

 

 

1973-1974: The Military Republic

An abortive naval mutiny in late May 1973 aimed at restoring Constantine II cleared the way for Papadopoulos to convene a special cabinet meeting (cabinet had legislative authority) to declare a presidential republic on the Ist of June 1973.  This new republic was retrospectively approved in a referendum on the 29th of July by a purported 73%.  This referendum was undoubtedly rigged but the Papadopoulos correctly calculated that hard core monarchist support was approximately at 30%. 

Avoiding the 99% figure that dictators normally arrange Papadopoulos sent a subliminal message to the pre-1967 politicians/opponents of his regime such as Panagiotis Kanellopoulos and George Mavros that there was scope for them to win seats in parliamentary elections that were now scheduled for July 1974.  Ironically these two political figures, Kanellopoulos and Mavros, campaigned for a ‘No’ vote even though they were republicans.  Papadopoulos was inaugurated for an eight year term as ‘president’ in August 1973 and in October that year Spiros Markezinis was appointed as the new prime minister.

Markezinis had been the leader of the defunct right wing Progressive Party and he was the most prominent of the pre-1967 political leaders to collaborate with Papadopoulos.  The Markezinis appointment represented a political transition of Greece going from being a military dictatorship to a military backed government.  Martial law was lifted, press censorship was eased, most political prisoners were released and a new predominately civilian cabinet was appointed.

Now that Papadopoulos had consolidated his political power by creating a republic the dictator utilized his connection with Markezinis to tap into family political networks to create a new ruling party.  Papadopoulos had deliberately and previously refrained from this political action when Greece was officially a monarchy because the latent family political networks were overwhelmingly monarchist.  The new ‘president’ probably would have secured his power by attaching an array of semi-official professional para state type associations to the new ruling party that Markezinis was establishing. 

Markezinis’s tapping into monarchist family networks to establish a new pro-regime political party was a work in progress when riots broke out at the Athens Polytechnic* on November 14th 1973.  These riots were carried out by disgruntled students and tanks were dispatched to put down the student revolt.  Officially twenty –four civilians outside the Polytechnic were killed.  The brutal crushing of the revolt was carried out by the Greek Military Police (ESA) under the command of General Dimitrios Ioannidis. 

(*The Polytechnic riots are now a powerful symbol of resistance to established authority.  They could now be invoked as a far left rallying point against Greece’s socio-political order in the wake of the 2008 GFC even though the nation is now a democracy).

During the courageous but abortive student uprising ‘Prime Minister’ Markezinis remained in contact with Greece’s pre-1967 politicians to prevent the revolt from possibly spreading and to ensure that prospects for political liberalization were not closed off.  Whether Papadopoulos would have aborted political liberalization became a moot point because General Ioannidis suddenly seized power in a military coup on the 25th of November 1973.

The Ioannidis coup was probably staged by the ESA commander on the basis that he was afraid that his role in crushing the Athens Polytechnic could mean that Papadopoulos would dismiss him to continue with political liberalization.  At the time of the 1973 coup most of the leading officers (the colonels) who had supported the 1967 coup had been brought into the government.  As a result the Greek military by 1973 was non-political in that it was not concerned with the day to day running of Greece.  The mainstay of Papadopoulos’s continued political utilization of the military to enforce his power was the ESA.

General Ioannidis was able to secure broad based army acceptance of the coup by offering the army chief of staff General Phaedon Gizikis the position of ‘president’.  The sentimentally monarchist navy and air force were happy to see the end of the republican Papadopoulos.  Indeed Ioannidis in a sop to the air force agreed to it being officially redesignated as the ‘Royal Hellenic Air Force’. 

The Ioannidis regime was essentially holding pattern against further political liberalization.  The new Greek dictator (Ioannidis) did not have to confront the political complication of abolishing the Greek monarchy.  The new government officially retained the republican version of the 1968 Constitution but no time table was given with regard to holding future parliamentary elections. 

Indeed the new ‘prime minister’, Adamantios Androutsopoulos (who had previously served as finance minister following the 1967 coup and then as interior minister from 1971 until his dismissal in early May 1973) conceded that Papadopoulos would have rigged the July 1974 parliamentary elections.  Returning to the colonels’ previous mantra Androutsopoulos stated that the Greek people were ‘not sufficiently mature’ to vote in elections and that more time was needed for the public to accept the objectives of the 1967 ‘Revolution’, as the coup was officially categorized by the regime.

Having staged his coup as an act of self-defence Ioannidis’s agenda was consequently narrow.  Probably from Ioannidis’s perspective he did not have to complicate the situation by adopting a long term political strategy.  Had General Ioannidis been smarter he could have done ‘a General Kondylis’ by promptly returning Greece to civilian rule.  Papadopoulos had already eased the military from power so there was sufficient scope for such a transition.  Markezinis could have been retained by Ioannidis as ‘prime minister’.  The scheduled July 1974 elections could have taken place that would have gained credence by being fairly conducted.  A democratically elected civilian government would then have to operate in institutional republican structures that were favourable to the military. 

 

 

 

General Ioannidis and the 1974 Cyprus Debacle

Instead General Ioannidis utilized his position as strongman to focus on achieving one of his obsessions, enosis or union between Greece and the island of Cyprus.  This island which Britain had formally annexed in 1914 was divided between a Greek majority and a Turkish minority.  A strong political movement for union with Greece among Cypriot Greeks emerged in the 1950s and was led by a Greek monarchist, George Grivas.  He founded the National Organisation of Cypriot Fighters (EOKA) which undertook a guerrilla campaign against the British. 

Grivas’s monarchism led to mis-understandings between the British and Greek royal families in the 1950s.  (King Pavlos and Queen Frederica had been so determined to visit Britain in 1963to heal any possible past mis-understandings).  Ironically the Greek royal family had come under attack in Greece in the 1950s because it was misperceived as being too close to Britain to be sufficiently supportive of its Greek Cypriot compatriots.

Grivas’s role as the primary advocate of enosis was appropriated by the island’s religious leader Archbishop Makarios III.  It was His Eminence who represented Greek Cypriot interests at the London and Zurich Conferences in 1959 in which Cyprus’s status was negotiated.  Britain, Greece and Turkey also attended these conferences to decide Cyprus’s future status.  In an about face Makarios III shifted from supporting an enosis with Greece to independence for Cyprus as a seeming compromise between Greece and Turkey.

The prestige of Makarios III was sufficient that most Greek Cypriots accepted independence although there was probably a deeper desire for eventual enosis with Greece.  General Grivas was however immediately alienated from Makarios III.  This created potential dangers for the Cypriot president because Cyprus’s National Guard (i.e. its army) was composed of former EOKA members and Greek officers who served on secondment.  The threat of a pro- enosis military coup was counteracted by the threat of Turkish military intervention and the fact that Makarios III was overwhelmingly supported by Greek Cypriots and grudgingly accepted by most Cypriot Turks.

As respected as President Makarios was, he was paradoxically never trusted by most people because he was too much of a Byzantine figure.  Dr. Henry Kissinger, the former American Secretary of State and National Security Adviser cited Makarios III as one of the most interesting and amazing political leaders that he had ever met.  The Cypriot president was an avowed left wing third world leader who in fact utilized American support to keep the hostile colonels regime at bay.  (The Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktas maintained that Makarios III was a covert Greek monarchist). 

Due to backing from Papadopoulos EOKA was re-launched as EOKA B in 1971 under Grivas’s leadership.  Grivas’s death in January 1974 created a vacuum which General Ioannidis exploited to strengthen his influence over the Cypriot National Guard in which Greek officers served on secondment.  Greece at this time was hit hard by the 1973 OPEC oil shocks.  To General Ioannidis’s mind the prospect of enosis between Cyprus and Greece offered the opportunity to explore and secure possible oil reserves in the Aegean Sea.

Perhaps more importantly enosis offered General Ioannidis the means of gaining prestige to secure his political position.  The mystery of why Ioannidis instigated the July 15th 1974 military coup against President Makarios was that he did not seem to anticipate a subsequent Turkish military reaction.  Perhaps the dictator thought that the Americans would restrain Turkey from taking responsive military action. 

President Makarios himself narrowly escaped from Cyprus with his life during the coup.  His Eminence later addressed the United Nations General Assembly in 1974 in which he condemned the coup as an attempted Greek takeover of Cyprus.

(Makarios III was restored as Cypriot president at the end of 1974 by which time the island was divided between a Greek south and a Turkish north.  The archbishop died in 1977.  The Turkish north of the island unilaterally declared its independence in January 1984 and is only recognised by Turkey as an independent republic.  Ironically there is now a push from Northern Cyprus for re-unification.  This is probably derived from the prosperity that the southern part of the island has enjoyed as a member of the European Union). 

July 1974: The Fall of the Military Dictatorship

Whatever the controversy of Turkey’s 20th of July invasion of Northern Cyprus it had the positive ramification of ending the military dictatorship in Greece.  Paradoxically the Greek military under the dictatorship became run down with regard to external defence needs due to the focus on domestic oppression.  Indeed the regime was expert at pre-emptively crushing urban protests.

This repressive capacity was neutered by the Cyprus debacle and this became apparent when a group of brave individuals gathered at Constitution Square to demonstrate against the dictatorship in July 1974.  The ESA was no where to be seen.  As a result the demonstration swelled to thousands.  Jubilant Athenians took to the streets to celebrate the military’s incapacity to restrain their will to regain their freedom.  The ESA remained in their barracks as *Ioannidis’s went to ground.

(*Ioannidis would later attempt a mini-military coup in February 1975 from his barracks arrest.  Although Papadopoulos was described as Greece’s ‘last dictator’ when he died in June 1999 that odious distinction actually rests with Ioannidis who is still in Korydallos Prison.

The leading members of the colonels’ regime were convicted in August 1975.  Most of them were sentenced to death but their sentences were all commuted to life imprisonment.  Interestingly Papadopoulos re-committed himself as a monarchist at the conclusion of his trial.  The imprisoned former dictator in 1984 founded his own political party, the National Political Camp, EPEN, but he later on fell out with it). 

The demise of the military’s political power led to ‘President’ Phaedon Gizikis calling a meeting of the leading pre-1967 politicians to form a new government.  The major political leaders who gathered were Kanellopoulos, Mavros, Athanasiadis Novas and Markezinis (whom the military still trusted).  These politicians were essentially divided into three streams, the ERE, the Centre Union and the Apostates.  Interestingly although Kanellopoulos was republican the family political networks he needed to reconstitute the ERE were overwhelmingly monarchist.

Missed Opportunities for a Reinstated Crown Democracy

The gathered politicians appreciated that a reconstituted ERE was needed to fill the political that even the assembled republicans were consequently open to an accommodation with the exiled Constantine II.  A political compromise between the ERE and the Centre Union streams was apparently arrived at when it was agreed that an apostate, Georgis Athanasiadis Novas be appointed as the new prime minister.

Novas had been commissioned prime minister by Constantine II following Georgis Papandreou’s July 1965 resignation.  The former prime minister (Novas) was a bridge between the ERE and the Centre Union streams.  As a monarchist Novas would have been supportive of Constantine II’s immediate return either as a private citizen or as reinstated monarch.  In either context Constantine II’s return would have helped precipitate a re-assembling of the ERE which could have provided the momentum for a restoration of the monarchy in a subsequent referendum.

The assembled politicians preferred candidate as a new prime minister was not Novas but the exiled Constantine Karamanlis.  The Novas compromise was prefaced on Karamanlis not being available or prepared to return to resume the leadership of Greece.  In his nearly eleven years of Swiss exile Karamanlis had maintained a disdainful approach toward Greek politicians. Therefore it was not a surety among the assembled politicians that Karamanlis would return to power if it was offered

Karamanlis Returns as a Modern Day Pontius Pilot

Indeed Karamanlis on the seventh anniversary (1974) of the April 21st coup had issued a statement urging the military regime to make way by restoring Constantine II as king.  The circumstances surrounding the July 1974 meeting of the politicians with Gizikis are still unclear but Karamanlis’s professed monarchism did help pave the way for his return to power.  It seems as though it was Evangelos Averoff who prevailed on the military ‘president’ (Gizikis) to press the assembled politicians to convey their preparedness to the exiled Karamanlis that they would serve in a national unity government under him.  Karamanlis was consequently returned to be sworn in as prime minister on the 23rd of July 1974 by ‘President’ Gizikis. 

It is debatable whether Averoff would have helped instigate Karamanlis’s return to power had he known that the former prime minister would not support a reinstatement of a Crowned Democracy. Averoff had been Constantine II’s political adviser who had brokered the deal between the ERE and Georgis Papandreou wing of the Centre Union in 1967 for a post election national unity government.  His success in avoiding a possible general’s coup could not stop the colonels’ coup of April 1967.  A staunch monarchist Averoff was the go-between the naval officers and Constantine II during the May 1973 naval mutiny.  Not only was a republic declared in the wake of the abortive naval mutiny but Averoff was consequently arrested. 

The exiled Constantine II demonstrated a degree of political astuteness which had not always been His Majesty’s strong suit by moving from London to Paris to be closer to the Swiss based Karamanlis as the Cyprus crisis broke.  His Majesty had been caught unaware by Papadopoulos’s declaration of a republic in 1973 and the subsequent termination of financial support.  To gain their bearings the Greek royal family briefly moved to Queen Anne-Marie’s homeland of Denmark where they stayed at the royal Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen.  In 1974 the royal family moved to Cobham in Surrey in Britain. 

Prior to Karamanlis’s departure for Athens from Switzerland (on a plane provided by French President Valery Giscard d’Esaing) Constantine II contacted the former prime and asked to accompany him.  Karamanlis respectfully rebuffed his king but assured His Majesty that he could soon join him but not immediately because the situation was then too dangerous.

Despite entries from King Hussein of Jordan and the Shah of Iran, Constantine II did not immediately return to Athens but instead returned to London to await events.  To be fair, His Majesty had no option.  Disappointed monarchists chastised the king for not immediately returning to Greece to fill the vacuum of the military regime’s demise.  But without Karamanlis’s support the king could not have returned.

For the king to have unilaterally returned at such a delicate stage would have been seen as jeopardizing Greece’s return to democracy.  Indeed in the light of subsequent Karamanlis’s refusal to allow Constantine II to return was a harbinger in the prime minister’s later role in not supporting a Crowned Democracy in the 1974 referendum.  Karamanlis on returning to Athens in July 1974 formed a new government of national unity predominately composed of the ERE and the Centre Union streams.  Even the military dictatorship’s staunchest opponents did not seem to mind General Gizikis continuing on as ‘president’ because he was a block to a possible restoration of the monarchy. 

The restored prime minister was to receive considerable praise for his role in restoring democracy between his return to power in July 1974 and the referendum in December that year in which a majority of the Greek people declined to reinstate a Crowned Democracy. The decisive 69% majority against the monarchy and the jubilation in Greece’s major cities hailing the rejection of the monarchy have buttressed the contention that the monarchy’s defeat was almost predestined. 

The 1946 and 1974 Referendums Compared:  Karamanlis Fails to Follow the Tsaldaris Tradition

In actual fact a reinstatement of the monarchy could have occurred in 1974 for the main reason that it did in 1946, the acknowledged leader of the centre right supporting the monarchy in the process of reviving his political party.  The monarchy had previously been restored in September 1946 because monarchist networks had been activated to relaunch the Populist Party after ten years of hibernation.  Constantine Tsaldaris could not have relaunched the Populist Party without tapping into monarchist family political networks.  The Populist Party’s re-emergence for the March 1946 elections was substantially facilitated by the issue of a monarchical restoration.

Negativity associated with the monarchy’s previous association with Metaxas (which had broken down over the issue of Greece’s continuing alliance with Britain) was counteracted by Constantine Tsaldaris’s invoking the prestige of his late uncle, Panayiotis Tsaldaris.  The older Tsaldaris had symbolised heroic resistance to military backed republicanism.  The fascist Metaxas legacy was too discredited but centre-right Greeks still had a democratic monarchist tradition as a vital reference point.  (The tragedies of the Metaxas dictatorship and the Greek Civil War, 1946 to 1949, might have been avoided had Panayiotis Tsaldaris not died in 1936). 

The prospects for a Tsaldaris type generated monarchical re-instatement might have re-occurred in 1974 had it being aligned to centre-right political re-emergence.  This was not to be the case.  Constantine Karamanlis was the contemporary political equivalent of a Constantine Tsaldaris in 1974 but he deliberately refrained from supporting the monarchy’s reinstatement. 

Karamanlis was commended for dismantling the apparatus of the former military dictatorship.  However the outpouring of public opposition to the dictatorship just prior to Karamanlis’s return safeguarded against any possibility that the military could again exercise political influence, let alone return to power.  Indeed the extensive demonstrations that welcomed the dictatorship’s fall also terminated any notion that there could be a surviving parastate.   This returned leader was also praised for his success in averting a war with Turkey over Cyprus.  But Turkey was a NATO country which needed American protection against the neighbouring Soviet Union.  Turkey could not strategically have afforded to have alienated the United States by further undermining Greece which was also a NATO country.  Karamanlis was smart in that he withdrew Greece from NATO’s military command while remaining formal NATO  membership.  In this way Karamanlis retained cordial relations with the United States while defusing deeper anti-American hostility.

The great political skill that Karamanlis demonstrated was to revive the equivalent of a centre/centre-right political party without supporting the monarchy’s reinstatement.  Karamanlis refused to retain the ERE and his prestige was such that he was able to supersede this moribund political party with the newly launched New Democracy Party (ND) on the 4th of October 1974.  Parliamentary elections were scheduled for November the 17th 1974.  The fledgling ND's prospects for success rested on Karamanlis’s massive prestige.  The ND election slogan, ‘Karamanlis or the tanks’ played on the people’s relief of being delivered from a dictatorship and fear of the military re-asserting its power in the future without the ND leader.  Consequently most ND candidates adhered to Karamanlis’s gag during the election campaign regarding their stance in relation to the monarchy’s return.  (Sypros Theotokis from Corfu defied Karamanlis by vocally calling for a reinstatement of a Crowned Democracy). 

Ironically it was politicians from the apostate stream who were more monarchist (or at the very least avowedly monarchist) than the ERE/ND stream which was derived from monarchist family networks.  The apostate stream had republican roots as a descendant of the liberal camp.  Nonetheless, the former apostate prime minister (1965-1966) Stephanos Stephanopoulos and former defence minister Petros Garoufalias founded the National Democratic Union (EDE) which went into the parliamentary elections on a monarchist platform.

The EDE very unfortunately received only received 1.1% of the vote (thought to be a colonels’ loyalist vote in lieu of there being no pro-military party) as opposed to the ND’s 54% of the vote.  The EDE was unable to win any seats because the monarchist voting base overwhelmingly went to New Democracy.  The traditional liberal camp vote remained with the Centre Union which came second with approximately 20% of the vote.  The Centre Union under George Mavros entered into a political alliance with New Forces, to form a Centre Union-New Forces combine.  (New Forces was a configuration of anti-military regime civil groups). 

Had Karamanlis publicly enunciated his republicanism the EDE would have eaten in to ND’s base to possibly challenge the Centre Union-New Forces for second place.  Under such a scenario even without the reinstatement of a Crowned Democracy there would have been a strong monarchist party in the parliament and a viable monarchist political tradition in a republican Greece. 

 

Karamanlis Lays The Foundation for the Future Papandreou Ascendancy

Karamanlis’s decision not to support the Greek monarchy was disastrous.  This was because prime ministerial support for the monarchy in the referendum to clinch its reinstatement would have resulted in Greece retaining a two party political system in which there was a conservative/liberal dichotomy between Greece’s two major political parties.  Republican/ monarchist tensions under a reinstated monarchy would have continued for a time to underpin the division between the conservative/liberal ND and the Centre Union.  Due to the end of the parastate and the non-involvement of the Crown in politics the institution of monarchy would have been accepted in the long term. 

The disaster of the monarchy’s rejection in the December 1974 referendum was that it eventually cleared the way for Andreas Papandreou’s Pan Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) to supplant the Centre Union and create a liberal/conservative versus a socialist dichotomy in relation to Greece’s party system.  Having a political dichotomy based on a division between labour and capital, as Australia has with the Australian Labor Party and the Liberal Party, can be beneficial.  But in the case of Greece PASOK as a Papandreou creation would become a parasitic type monster.  The excesses of PASOK are substantially responsible for the disastrous position that Greece has fallen into in the wake of the 2008 GFC. 

Papandreou returned to Greece in 1974 following the fall of the military dictatorship.  He was offered the leadership of the Centre Union-New Forces but declined.  Tapping into left-wing anti-dictatorship networks Papandreou launched PASOK on his return.  The fledgling party did well to have garnered 13% of the vote and this was probably due to Papandreou’s personal charisma.  Papandreou (who had previously done so much to facilitate the political instability to precipitate the 1967 coup) launched a vitriolic post 1974 campaign against Karamanlis.

The PASOK leader propounded the thesis that Karamanlis had simply appropriated the dictatorial powers of the military to become a new dictator.  Greece’s continued membership of Greece (albeit separate from the NATO command structure) was held up by Papandreou as testament that an American CIA backed covert parastate really ruled Greece.  In a pre-election deal with Papandreou the Centre Union, which was renamed the Democratic Centre Union, it lapsed its campaign in the November 1977 parliamentary elections to allow PASOK to supersede it.  Members of the Centre Democratic Union then entered into PASOK to provide Papandreou with a countervailing force against the party’s neo-Marxist left.  The Centre Democratic Union’s betrayal essentially buried Greece’s political liberal tradition in favour of a populist manipulative one created by Papandreou. 

 

Repressed Monarchism:  Mitsotakis Continues the Venizelos Tradition

Had Karamanlis given his support to the monarchy in the 1974 referendum then the Centre Union probably would have remained Greece’s alternate party under the leadership of Constantine Mitsotakis.  He returned to Greece in 1974 with the fall of the military dictatorship.  Mitsotakis’s political options on his return were limited.  Mitsotakis could not then (i.e. 1974) have assumed the leadership of the Centre Union because memories of his split with Georgis Papandreou were too fresh.

As a scion of the Venizelos liberal stream Mitsotakis in 1974 could not then have been accommodated by New Democracy.  Nor could Mitsotakis have been involved with the staunchly monarchist EDE where his political sympathies probably lay because his local base of Crete was overwhelmingly republican.  Mitsotakis’s limited political options were apparent when he stood unsuccessfully as an independent in the 1974 parliamentary elections.

Paradoxically Papandreou’s rise led to a Mitsotakis political come back because New Democracy recognized that his political stature would be needed to confront Papandreou after Karamanlis departed as ND leader.  Mitsotakis was elected to parliament in the November 1977 elections (held a year ahead of schedule) running under the banner of his Cretan based New Liberals.  The following year, 1978, Mitsotakis entered New Democracy with a ready made strong political base due to his anti-Andreas Papandreou credentials. 

Had support for the monarchy from Karamanlis been forthcoming in the December 1974 referendum a monarchist versus a republican political dichotomy would have correspondingly underpinned a liberal  versus a conservative-liberal dichotomy in relation to major party ideological divisions.  This would have thwarted Andreas Papandreou’s later post -1974 rise to power.  Retention of the Centre Union’s second party status following the 1977 elections would have resulted in Papandreou’s PASOK remaining on the political margins.  Indeed the KKE* led United Left, which came fourth with 9% of the vote in the 1974 elections, probably would have eventually subsumed PASOK had this party not supplanted the Centre Democratic Union in the 1977 elections. 

(*As undemocratic as the KKE was, and is, this party’s 1974 legalization was a giant step in Greece achieving full democratisation.  A vital pillar of the parastate had been the ban on the KKE because this legitimated security agencies interfering in national politics).

A continuing liberal political tradition via a strong Centre Union could have seen a Mitsotakis enter and eventually lead this party to victory.  A Mitsotakis led Centre Union government in a reinstated Crown Democracy could have eventually ended the monarchist –republican division while still ensuring that Greece’s two party remained a liberal versus a liberal-conservative. 

Karamanlis’s refusal to support the monarchy in the 1974 referendum fell into a previous Karamanlis pattern, evident since inviting Andreas Papandreou to Greece in 1959, in which Papandreou turned Karamanlis’s attempt to co-opt him led to Papandreou’s eventual political advantage.  Because so much hinged on Karamanlis’s actions in relation to the 1974 referendum the dynamics of that vote warrant analysis. 

 

 

 

 

The Tragic Dynamics of the 1974 Referendum

There were predictions at the time of the military regime’s fall that the monarchy would receive between 10 and 20 percent of the vote in a referendum.  In fact the ‘yes’ vote for a ‘Crowned Democracy’ at the December 8 1974 referendum was 31%.  This illustrated that the hard core monarchist support base (which had previously been estimated to be 35% of the population) was essentially intact. Greeks who had once supported the monarchy and undecided voters shifted to support a republic.

This republican tilt was probably due to a desire to bury long standing historical discordances that had been associated with the monarchy.  For there to have been a majority vote for a restoration of a ‘Crowned Democracy’ would have required the support of Karamanlis.  His prestige was sufficiently high that prime ministerial support could have swung a favourable vote to secure a royal restoration.  Even with Karamanlis’s support the vote in favour of the monarchy probably would have been at best narrow but it was possible as it had been due to the support of Tsaldaris in 1946. 

Constantine II’s chances of winning the 1974 referendum were also undermined because His Majesty was not allowed to return to campaign.  The king was permitted to address his people in a televised broadcast in which His Majesty pledged to be at the people’s service.  In his televised broadcasts His Majesty spoke of the pain of exile and his desire to be re-united with his people regardless of the vote. 

Monarchists pointed out in the campaign that the king had opposed the military by his abortive counter coup in December 1967.  Constantine II undertook that Queen Frederica would remain in exile.  The king also declared his preparedness to reign under a Swedish type of constitution (Sweden was then drafting a constitution which was adopted in 1975 that deprived the Crown of any governmental prerogatives).  The ‘Yes’ campaign slogan was ‘Eagle Come Home’.  Monarchist campaign workers demonstrated great personal fortitude because they were often confronted with personal derision. 

The 69% support for a republic was greeted by massive street parties in Greece’s major cities.  Newspapers presented the republican vote as a Greek assertion for independence against an alien royal family.  Despite the hurt and disappointment that Constantine II must have felt His Majesty issued a statement accepting the results and expressing his hope that the new republican system would work well.  His Majesty also sent a personal appeal to Karamanlis asking that he and his family be allowed to return to live in Greece.  The prime minister demonstrated his true republican colours by unambiguously refusing the request. 

Lingering Monarchism:  Greece’s 1975 Constitution

 

Karamanlis’s republican motivations were apparent by his personal preference for an executive presidential system on the model of Charles De Gaulle’s Fifth French Republic.  The ND dominated parliament (which was provisionally operating under a republican version of the 1952 constitution) refused to submit to Karamanlis’s desire for a presidential republic.  The majority of ND parliamentarians remained covert monarchists and as such drew up an excellent parliamentary constitution (albeit a republican one) constitution.

Taking into account the break down in parliamentary government that the Papandreous had precipitated in the 1960s parliamentary conventions and procedures were codified in the June 1975 Constitution.  Similarly the role and procedures that the ‘president’ was obliged to follow were clearly stipulated.

Crucially the monarchist ND parliamentary majority steadfastly refused to insert a clause similar to the *Italian republican constitution of 1948 that permanently banished members of the deposed royal family from their country, deprived them of their civil rights and stipulated that the republican form of government could never be altered.  The majority of ND monarchist parliamentarians refused to acquiesce to any prescriptions against their royal family in the ultimate hope that one day Greece’s 1975 constitution could be more easily amended to facilitate a reinstated Crowned Democracy.

(*The June 2nd 1946 referendum which made Italy a republic was rigged.  As previously mentioned the Interior Minister Giuseppe Romita padded the vote in the republican north to counter the strong sentiment for the monarchy in the south.  King Umberto II and Queen Maria Jose, -Her Majesty as the then Crown Princess was one of the key instigators of Mussolini’s overthrow in July 1943- could have established a Kingdom in the South.  Their majesties refused to do so because they feared that a civil war that might result would threaten the Vatican.

In a deal brokered by the Catholic Church between the Italian government and the royal household secretariat Umberto II and Queen Maria Jose departed for exile on the undertaking that they could return as honoured citizens once a new republican constitution was promulgated.  The 1948 constitution instead permanently banished male descendants of King Victor Emmanuel III and Umberto II from Italy as well as their consorts). 

The Party State:  Greece Under PASOK, 1981 to 1989

 

Despite Papandreou’s 1977 political advance Karamanlis persisted in his belief that he could co-opt him.  In May 1980 Karamanlis was elected ‘president’ of Greece by the Greek parliament. He was succeeded by the widely respected George Rallis (who was a monarchist). Karamanlis’s elevation to the ‘presidency’ re-assured enough voters to elect PASOK to power in October 1981 on the premise that Papandreou would be restrained by Karamanlis as ‘president’.

Karamanlis comprehensively failed to restrain Papandreou from establishing a party state in which PASOK extended its tentacles into nearly every important component of the nation.  Papandreou was a strange hybrid of an insightful university economics professor and a Trotskyite organiser who had the skill set to establish a party state that was underwritten by foreign financial credit.

The party state that Papandreou was to establish was based on manipulating European Union (EU) finances.  (The EU at the time of Greece’s entry in 1981 was known as the European Economic Community).  Papandreou had his successes but ultimately these adversely rebounded on Greece because they led to the nation eventually loosing its economic independence.  Papandreou’s manipulative approach to the EU was apparent from the outset.  He had campaigned on a platform of taking Greece out of the EU which appealed to many Greek farmers who were concerned that they would lose their independence.

Having come to power partially on an anti-EU platform Papandreou blacked mailed the Brussels bureaucrats into granting Greece special funds and loans from Brussels.  Papandreou was consequently able to pursue wage indexation, grant non-productive loans and establish a bloated public sector. 

The economic clout that Papandreou accrued was parlayed into political power as PASOK became a conduit for patronage to be dispensed to both supporters and potential supporters.  An impressive party branch structure was established which helped oil a political machine that extended into local government and the bureaucracy.  Papandreou’s re-distributive capacity not only enabled him to extend his reach into Greek society but to maintain near absolute ascendancy over his party.

Papandreou would become internationally notorious for his anti-Americanism.  In actual fact Papandreou was secretly beholden to the Americans.  It was they who had pressured a very reluctant Papadopoulos into releasing Papandreou in late 1967.  As an avowedly anti-American leader of a NATO country Papandreou actually served as a useful go-between the Americans and the Soviets.  Papandreou was the first leader of an EU nation to visit Poland in October 1984 following the imposition of martial law in that country in 1981 as part of an American strategy of supporting the relatively moderate Polish communist leader General Wojciech Juruzelski against pro-Soviet hardliners in his regime. 

The only really adverse draw back of having the avowedly anti-American Papandreou in power was that he assiduously rorted EU funds.  British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a vehement private critic of Papandreou’s excesses that she even made oblique public criticisms of PASOK ruled Greece at EU counsels.  However due to Greece’s strategic value to NATO in the Balkans, placating Papandreou was considered to be a price worth paying by the EU and the United States. 

Papandreou could not, nor did he seek to, dispense EU derived patronage to all Greeks.  His focus was on PASOK supporters or those who could be brought into the party fold.  This approach only served to polarize Greek society and deepen the hatred of those Greeks who opposed Papandreou.  It was on this basis that New Democracy chose Constantine Mitsotakis as its new leader in late 1984 in succession to Evangelos Averoff who had served as party leader from 1981 to 1984). 

The June 1985 parliamentary elections were tempestuous due to Papandreou projecting his venomous hatred for Mitsotakis.  The polarization of the elections had been heightened by Papandreou’s earlier refusal to support Karamanlis’s election as ‘president’ in March that year.  Controversially Papandreou stipulated the introduction of coloured ballot papers to ensure that PASOK MPs voted for his candidate Chriztos Sartzetakis*.  Once this procedural change was pushed through Karamanlis immediately resigned as ‘president’. 

(*Chriztos Sartzetakis was actually an excellent choice as ‘president’ of Greece.  He had shown tremendous courage as the prosecutor by doggedly pursuing the perpetrators of the 1963 fatal wounding George Lambrakis.  Under the colonels’ Sartzetakis was imprisoned and tortured.  Due to his integrity in pursuing the Lambrakis’s attackers Sartzetakis became a hero of the Greek left even though he has always been a Greek monarchist!  Sartzetakis’s public service is testament of how a stronger juridical state could have been facilitated had a Crown Democracy been re-instated in 1974). 

Chriztos Sartzetakis was elected as ‘president’ by the parliament in 1985.  In 1986 Papandreou amended the constitution to remove any special executive powers of the Greek ‘president’.  This in itself was a positive step because they removed the remnants of Karamanlis’s previous unsuccessful attempt to establish a presidential republic which had been rejected by the monarchist majority of MPs.

Papandreou’s motives in facilitating this constitutional reform were not commendable because he wanted to remove any possible threat, such as independent ‘presidential’ constitutional power to his party state.  Nonetheless if there is ever to be a conversion to a re-instated Crowned Democracy under the June 1975 Constitution it is best that the monarch not have strong executive powers.

Karamanlis’s effective removal in 1985 helped polarize the general elections that year.  PASOK won the 1985 elections due to the government’s shameless dispensation of patronage and promise of even more largess that was encapsulated in the PASOK 1985 election slogan of ‘even better days’.  The government’s shortcomings were also concealed by Papandreou’s vitriolic attack on Mitsotakis by falsely accusing him of being a war time collaborator and a supporter of the colonels.

This nephew of Venizelos had in fact been exiled by the military dictatorship.  Had it not been for the adverse vote against ‘Crowned Democracy’ in 1974 Mitsotakis might have been leading the liberal camp instead of this role been usurped by a Trotskyite trained charlatan socialist in the person of Andreas Papandreou.  The existence of Papandreou’s party state undermined objective press coverage of the election as the major newspapers were closely aligned to the two major political parties.

As often happens when a government is re-elected on a premise of offering more ‘good times’ economic austerity is later applied to shore up the nation to rectify previous erroneous economic policies.  Greece was no exception and the post 1985 election economic austerity program that was unveiled precipitated massive demonstrations.  These demonstrations could not be maintained without the support of PASOK aligned trade unions.  Furthermore PASOK’s reach into Greek society that left-wing social groups could not sustain independent protest action.

 

The ASPIDA Affair Revisited:  The Bank of Crete Scandal

The austerity program (which an effective government saturation media propaganda helped many to accept as a patriotic burden) by 1987 had brought Greece back from a financial abyss.  However Papandreou’s eye was on winning re-election in the 1989 elections.  As a result Papandreou reversed the austerity program and resumed EU financed profligate spending.  Recourse to this action perversely paid Papandreou long term political dividends because it enabled him to retain a political base in the wake of Bank of Crete Scandal. 

This scandal broke in late 1988 when the owner of the Bank of Crete George Koskotas alleged that Papandreou had had state owned companies deposit money in his bank and that the Greek prime minister had personally taken bribes.  The furore that ensued resulted in five cabinet ministers resigning at the end of 1988.  Koskotas alleged that Papandreou’s wife Margaret (nee Chant), who was originally an American of Bulgarian descent, had demanded millions of dollars in ‘alimony’ as Andreas moved to separate from her so that he could marry his mistress Dimitra Liani, which he did in July 1989.  (The exiled Queen Anne-Marie would have starved rather than have accepted stolen money). 

For all the criticisms that could be made of Andreas Papandreou it could not be denied that he had incredible internal fortitude.  Not only was he confronted in July 1989 by a financial scandal and a public break up of his long term marriage but his health also deteriorated because he had severe heart problems.  Falling back on the tried and trusted formula of anti-Americanism Papandreou alleged that the Bank of Crete scandal was an American plot against him and his government.

To save the situation Papandreou had electoral laws changed so that the amount of seats won by the party that came second in an election was boosted.  The campaign that Papandreou conducted drew massive crowds which were a testament to PASOK’s formidable organisational reach.  The mass PASOK rallies also conveyed the subtle message that there could be civil disorder if Papandreou was convicted and imprisoned.  The massive rallies were also a means of Papandreou intimidating would be party rivals against challenging his authority.

Papandreou’s alteration of the electoral laws served their purpose because New Democracy was unable to win a majority of seats despite the massive swing against PASOK in the June 18th 1989 elections.  Incredibly a New Democracy – Left Alliance (this alliance was dominated by the KKE) coalition government was formed which was led by the respected ND MP Tzannis Tzannetakis.

The Tzannetakis government achieved its main purpose of ensuring that Papandreou and his associates were investigated in relation to the allegations arising from the Bank of Crete scandal.  These investigations (which were eerily similar to the ASPIDA investigations of the 1960s) resulted in Papandreou and four of his associates been charged with financial fraud.  This development did not revive memories of th fact that Papandreou had first come to political prominence in 1964 when allegations of corruption were first made against in him as a deputy minister in his father’s government. 

The Tzannetakis government in turn step down following Papandreou’s indictment and was succeeded by a caretaker government in October 1989 led by the president of the Supreme Court.  The shameless Papandreou remarkably won a swing to PASOK at the November 1989 parliamentary elections by appealing to left-wing voters who were disillusioned with Left Alliance’s brief coalition with New Democracy. 

Although Papandreou cold not regain power in his own right the election result denied New Democracy a parliamentary election.  A new ND/PASOK coalition government (without either Papandreou or Mitsotakis) was formed under Xenophon Zolotas, the former governor of the central bank. 

 

 

 

Mitsotakis Fails to Break the Party State

New Democracy still fell short of a parliamentary majority in the April 1990 elections but Mitsotakis formed a minority government with the support of an ND break away, the Democratic Renewal.  The first political hurdle that Mitsotakis surmounted was to secure the election of Constantine Karamanlis as ‘president’ in May 1990.  The KKE it must be conceded acted honourably by supporting incumbent ‘President’ Chriztos Sartzetakis’s re-election.  It is a pity that PASOK and independent minded ND MPs did not combine with the KKE to support Sartzetakis.  The fact that New Democracy stuck with Karamanlis was testament to his continuing political influence.

‘President’ Sartzetakis acted impeccably during the 1989-1990 crisis that had been caused by Papandreou’s slanting of the electoral laws to favour the second placed party.  The 1975 Constitution that had been predominately drafted by ND monarchist MPs admirably withstood Papandreou’s attempted de-stabilization of the political system (which he had previously achieved between 1965 and 1967). 

 

 

 

A King Without a Kingdom?  The Post-1974 Exile of Constantine II

The 1990 election of Karamanlis to the ‘presidency’ at one point were stalemated that the exiled Constantine II expressed interest in serving in that position.  His Majesty’s expression of interest raised some comment even though the exiled king had been treated as a non-person by Greece’s major newspapers.  Eleni Vlakhou’s Kathimerini had conspicuously and defiantly treated the exiled Constantine II with respect and always referred to the king as ‘His Majesty’. 

Following the 1974 referendum result Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie established their home in Hampstead in Inner London. The exiled king contemplated pursuing a career as a journalist or studying law.  It was probably too difficult a transition to make because Constantine II could not let go of his feeling that he was still a king. 

Constantine II remained a member of the International Olympic Committee and the International Yachting Federation.  Membership of these committees helped defray the king’s international travel costs.  Furthermore the Greek king and queen were still held in high regard by the reigning royal courts of Asia, Europe and the Middle East that they were often busy with official royal functions throughout the year. (The king’s attendance of Prince Charles and Lady Dianna’s wedding in London in July 1981 caused ‘President’ Karamanlis to boycott the British Royal Wedding). 

Royal finances were problematic, particularly during the period following the referendum.  There were rumours that the king was privately financed by Greek ship owners but it was actually known that the Greek royal family received modest but cumulatively substantial financial donations mailed by individual Greek monarchists.

A major political problem that immediately confronted the king following the referendum result was the establishment and maintenance of a Greek monarchist movement.  The Royal Union was and still is the main monarchist organisation in Greece.  It would appear that the king exercises little influence over the Royal Union which is apparently controlled by New Democracy Party operatives.  This does not denote an ND desire to reinstate a Crowned Democracy but rather to neutralize the monarchy as an issue in Greece or at the very least regulate monarchist sentiment*. 

The flow of donor funds from Greek monarchists helped the king establish a well-run private office in London.  Prior to the advent of e-mail the major function of the king’s office was to answer the massive amounts of mail that came from Greece every year.  Although the option of a Crowned Democracy was rejected three to one in the 1974 referendum monarchist sentiment remains at a consistent thirty percent of the population.  This sentiment is overwhelmingly attached to New Democracy so that the establishment of a monarchist party is not viable.

The closest approximation to a monarchist party was the National Camp (EP) that was led by former prime minister Stephanos Stephanopoulos.  The EP won five seats in the 1977 elections.  This party was essentially a recycled EDA except that it unconvincingly denied being monarchist.  The EP’s electoral base, as with the EDA’s, was with die hard supporters of the colonels’ regime.

Negligible monarchist support for the EP was garnered because it overwhelmingly remained with New Democracy. The EP’s leadership was placated by the monarchist George Rallis’s elevation to the prime ministership in 1980 and as such did not contest the 1981 national elections to help New Democracy stave off a PASOK victory. 

The slight influence of the EP was apparent in February 1981 when Constantine II and his family were allowed to return to briefly attend *Queen Frederica’s funeral at Tatoi.  The king’s return was brief that His Majesty was not even allowed to stay overnight.  At Athens Airport the king and his family were greeted by cheers from monarchists behind a wire fence.  Poignantly, many of the assembled monarchists were vexed to the point of crying that their king was not allowed to go over and meet with them.

(*Queen Frederica’s funeral was attended by a multitude of reigning and deposed royalty.  This was testament to the high esteem that the late queen was still held in royal circles.  Unfortunately Queen Frederica’s status as an important twentieth century historical figure progressively diminished following her son’s exile and the repudiation of the monarchy in 1974.  Her Majesty had fulfilled a vital role in stopping a communist takeover of Greece and her interference in Greek politics was aimed, and almost achieved, a dismantling of the parastate). 

Constantine II Refuses to Let Go of His Homeland

 

Constantine II’s brief return in February 1981 was permitted by then monarchist prime minister, George Rallis, as part of a deal with the EP in which it forewent standing in the October 1981 elections to boost New Democracy’s chances against PASOK.  His Majesty’s 1981 visit was tantalizingly brief and unfortunately marred by anti-monarchist demonstrations.  The visit for the king was probably all the more moving (besides it being for His Majesty’s mother’s funeral) because it was then plausible that the king mighty never again be able to muster any limited leverage to visit his country let alone return to live there. 

The king’s lack of political leverage was apparent in October 1988 when His Majesty actually asked Andreas Papandreou for permission to attend the funeral of the Greek shipping heiress Christina Onassis.  The staunchly anti-monarchist Papandreou unhesitatingly refused. 

The only benefit for the king of his exile was that it enabled His Majesty to spend more time with his family.  To ensure that the royal family maintained their Greek heritage the king and queen helped found the Hellenic College in London in 1980.  Her Majesty was particularly active in this enterprise and her children were all educated at this school.  This college, which closed in 2005, was open to Greek children in London and those of Greek descent. 

The Greek royal family became the centre of a Greek monarchist community in London.  As such St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Cathedral became a meeting point for British based Greek monarchists.  Over one thousand people attended the 2000 New Year’s service at St. Sophia’s which in effect was a tribute to Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie who were naturally in attendance. 

The most important role that Constantine II has served since his deposition has been as an unofficial intermediary for royalty around the world.  This was vividly illustrated at His Majesty’s fiftieth birthday in June 1990 which was attended by royalty, deposed and reigning.  This birthday celebration was also the top draw card event for British aristocracy that year. 

Since then when royals from around the world meet up in London at Greek royal family functions.  This practice has enabled royals to meet without having to make a formal visit to Britain.  Elizabeth II attended a function at Constantine II’s residence at which Prince Charles’ future wife Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall, was also in attendance.  The Greek royal family’s Hampstead residence struck the appropriate balance between unofficial and formal for there to be a public encounter between Her Majesty and Camilla Parker Bowles.

Constantine II has continued to excel as an informal international ambassador for Greece.  His Majesty was instrumental in helping Athens win the bid to host the 2004 Summer Olympics.  Even though Constantine II attended the 2004 Athens

Summer Olympics it must of being bitter sweet for His Majesty not to have been the presiding head of state.  His Majesty’s great grandfather George I had first opened and launched the modern Olympics in Athens in 1896.  (It is a pity that the Summer Olympics were not subsequently always held in Athens).  Furthermore His Majesty’s 1960 Olympic Gold medal had been a cause of national rejoicing in 1960. 

The fact that many Greeks had once loved their royal family and continue to do so would not be apparent if post 1974 Greek films and television series were accepted as being accurate.  Popular culture and films have portrayed the Greek royal family as an institution that was either widely reviled or at best endured. Perhaps the unkindest and most inaccurate commentary on the contemporary Greek royal family is that they are not Greek.  Misinformation about His Majesty is still circulated that he is ashamed of his Greek nationality and denies it on the international cocktail circuit.  This is simply untrue!

Constantine II’s determination that he and his family hold onto their Greek nationality was clearly illustrated when the Greek royal family returned to visit their homeland in August 1993.  The yacht that the Greek royal family sailed in on around the Greek islands was even at one point strafed by an air force jet!*  Monarchist sentiment in the Greek islands was (and still is) strong and it was touching that crowds of surprised people swarmed round the king and members of their royal family when they disembarked. 

(*This was ironic because the Greek air force had once been the most monarchist of the branches of the Greek armed forces). 

The 1993 royal return was similar to the 1981 one in that Constantine II was utilizing what little political scope he had to briefly return to his homeland.  Then Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis was suspected of being a covert monarchist. (The prime minister is repudiated to have secretly met with his king during the 1993 visit and addressed him as ‘Your Majesty’).  Impetus for the royal visit was probably due to Prime Minister Mitsotakis probable defeat in the next national election, which did occur in October 1993. 

That Mitsotakis was facing defeat in upcoming national elections was outrageous.  His minority government had courageously faced the monumental problems bequeathed by Andreas Papandreou whose financial incompetence had brought Greece to the brink of bankruptcy.  Indeed it was incredible that Mitsotakis would be facing Papandreou who in spite of the Bank of Crete scandal had held onto the leadership of PASOK.

Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory:  Papandreou’s 1993 Return to Power

Papandreou’s role in founding and organising PASOK, which is possibly one of the best organised political parties in the world, meant that it was probably too difficult for the former prime minister to be removed as party leader.  The PASOK leader also maintained his political position by claiming that the case against him was an American CIA political conspiracy.  This was a myth that many Greeks were susceptible to due to engrained memories of the parastate. 

The only real impediment to Papandreou’s return was removed in 1992 when the Supreme Court acquitted him by a one vote margin of seven to six.  Although markedly aged Papandreou remained charismatic.  This charisma was probably derived from Papandreou’s capacity to convey the impression that there was an alignment between his personal travails and the economic pain that most Greeks felt as a result of the Mitsotakis government’s austerity program.

The Mitsotakis minority government (1990-1993) had reined in government spending, deregulated the banking sector and bravely attempted to cut the politically bloated bureaucracy that it had inherited from Papandreou.  The PASOK’s promise to end the austerity enabled him to win the October 1993 election.  This victory represented Papandreou’s final triumph over his nemesis.

 

The Papandreou Tragedy

But as with Papandreou’s previous victories over Mitsotakis it was Greece that suffered in the long run.  It had been Mitsotakis who had led the Venizelos faction within the Centre Union to break with Georgis Papandreou’s government in July 1965 to forestall a possible right wing general’s military coup.  The threat of a general’s coup was due to Andreas Papandreou’s subversive activities at the time.  These activities instead precipitated the colonel’s 1967 coup.

The collapse of the military dictatorship in 1974 was a welcome advance for both Papandreou and Mitsotakis and the leadership of the Centre Union was subsequently open to both of them.  As a scion of the Venizelos family and someone who had demonstrated courage in opposing the colonels, Mitsotakis probably would have eventually assumed the leadership of the Centre Union had a Crowned Democracy been reinstated in late 1974.

The rejection of the monarchy fatally undermined the viability for a conservative-liberal versus a liberal and led two party system based on a broad division between capital and labour.  There is nothing inherently wrong with a two party system based on a division between labour and capital.  The problem was that in the Greek context the equivalent of labour party was that PASOK was essentially a creation stemming from Papandreou’s diabolical mind and as such is really a parasitic octopus. 

The New Democracy Party first demonstrated its independence from Karamanlis (whose republicanism was an anthema to a majority of the party) by electing Mitsotakis party leader in 1984.  Mitsotakis’s underlying monarchism was manifested in 1988 when he stated that the 1974 referendum result might have gone the monarchy’s way had Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie being allowed to return to campaign.  This lament probably not only reflected Mitsotakis’s underlying monarchism but the realization that an Andreas Papandreou ascendancy would not have ensued had there been a reinstatement of a Crowned Democracy.

Even toward the end of Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou’s political career he still exploited Karamanlis’s political weaknesses.  This was evident when Karamanlis as ‘president’ willingly signed a law in May 1994 that stripped the Greek royal family of their Greek citizenship.

The Greek Royal Family Remains Greek

Formal laws could be passed denying the royal family of their citizenship but this did not counter their determination to maintain their nationality.  Nor was it possible to divorce those Greeks who maintained their love for their royal family.  This was evident in July 1995 when Crown Prince Pavlos married an American, Marie Chantal Miller in London at St. Sophia’s Cathedral.  More royals attended this royal wedding than Prince Charles and Lady Dianna’s wedding in July 1981.*

(*‘President’ Karamanlis boycotted the 1981 British royal wedding because Constantine II was invited). 

(All the royals who attended the Greek royal family wedding have extensive financial and business contacts in their own right.  These contacts could be utilized in a reinstated Crown Democracy to help get Greece out of the PASOK induced financial rut that the nation is in.  This scenario is preferable to Greece being overly dependent on Germany and susceptible to the People’s Republic of China as a means of extricating Greece from perpetual financial indebtedness). 

Nearly 1500 guests attended the pre-wedding reception.  Perhaps the most touching aspect of the wedding was that Greek monarchists swarmed Athens airport to fly especially to the wedding.  Poignantly the king and crown prince went over to greet those who had travelled from Greece that were gathered in front of St. Sophia’s Cathedral.  Considerable publicity concerning the royal wedding was generated in Greece and the wedding was broadcast live by a sympathetic television station.  This event was possibly the highlight for the Greek royal family since the adverse 1974 referendum result.

Some Greek monarchist privately lamented that Crown Prince Pavlos had made a mistake in not marrying a Greek.  However it is only natural that Constantine II’s and Queen Anne –Marie’s children have love marriages because their parents’ marriage has been a success in the face of adversity.  Marie Chantal Miller converted to Greek Orthodoxy in the May before the wedding and on marrying took the title Crown Princess Pavlos.  Her Royal Highness has whole heartedly committed herself to Greece and is raising her five children as Greeks.

The Papandreou Tradition and Greece’s Financial Crisis

It is reputed that Prime Minister Papandreou was infuriated by the extensive publicity that the royal wedding received.  The ailing prime minister himself was again leaving his mark on his nation by reviving his previous practice of obtaining funds from the EU to finance the dispersal of patronage.  In doing this Papandreou was undermining the excellent work that the Mitsotakis government had previously undertaken.  Papandreou.  The ailing Papandreou relinquished the prime ministership in January 1996 just prior to his death later that month.   

Papandreou was succeeded by the former Commerce Minister Costas Simitis.  The new prime minister had previously been dismissed by Papandreou as national economy minister in 1987 and as commerce minister in 1995.  Simitis was essentially PASOK’s key technocrat that Papandreou used and dispensed with as required with regard to Greece maintaining its credit worthiness.

Simitis gained the distinction of becoming Greece’s longest continuous serving prime minister, (1996 to 2004).  In reality Simitis fulfilled the role for the PASOK power brokers had assigned for him.  That was to economically integrate Greece into the EU via the introduction of the euro so that PASOK could continue to manipulate the EU as a source of financial credit.  The abolition of the drachma in January 1999 was the second most detrimental action in post-war Greece. (The worst detrimental outcome was the rejection of a Crowned Democracy in 1974).

Greece’s agricultural sector had benefited from EU membership with regard to gaining access to markets and agricultural subsidies.  The nation’s membership of the EU however went awry due to excessive lending that was undertaken from the EU to prop up a bloated bureaucracy and non-productive services.  Access to the EU as a type of credit facility undermined the integrity of Greece’s banking sector (which the Mitsotakis government had courageously supported). 

The undermining of Greece’s banking/financial sector was compounded by the drachma’s replacement by the euro in January 1999.  Greece’s entry into the eurozone had had its advantages of having a currency with a stronger purchasing power. The problem that later arose for Greece was that foreign debts would have to repaid in euros.  Greece would have had more control over its economic destiny had it retained the drachma and used this currency to repay its debts. 

The heavy burden of foreign debt itself could have been avoided had Simitis been allowed by PASOK to cut back on spending and borrowing.  This was an impossibility because PASOK’s political viability was premised on maintaining an excessive patronage base.  Simitis effectively acknowledged that his political utility had expired by stepping down as PASOK leader in 2003.  The prime minister was naturally succeeded as PASOK party leader (but not prime minister per se) by Georgis Papandreou, Andreas’s son.  The third Papandreou lost the March 2004 elections to New Democracy’s Kostas Karamanlis.  The new prime minister was nephew of Constantine Karamanlis, who had died in 1998.*

(*The rejection of a Crowned Democracy in 1974 has ironically contributed to the maintenance of political dynasties). 

The Kostas Karamanlis government (2004 to 2009) did have its achievements such as successfully hosting the 2004 Summer Olympics (which Constantine II had helped lobby for as a member of the International Olympic Committee).  Financial reforms were undertaken.  But due to the sobering experience of the Mitsotakis government been punished for its economic austerity’s this Karamanlis government failed to effectively rein in spending and borrowing.  Furthermore the nation was too restricted with regard to financing its debts due to its membership of the eurozone. 

In one of the ironies that seem to abound in modern Greek history and politics, George Papandreou reaped the benefits of his father’s disastrous financial legacy by winning a landslide victory (43% of the vote) in the October 2009 national elections.  Although New Democracy maintained its status as Greece’s second party, its vote fell to its lowest yet (33.5%), which correlated with contemporary levels of monarchist support.  Ominously a new far right wing party, the Orthodox Greek Rally (LAOS), which contains former Junta supporters, came third with 5.6% of the vote behind the KKE, with 7.5& of the vote.    

 

 

Why the Greek Royal Family Must Continue to be of Service

It is a plausible scenario that LAOS and the KKE could respectively supplant New Democracy and PASOK if the Papandreou government fails to meet the profound challenges that it now confronts.  Hopefully New Democracy in the wake of its 2009 election defeat will free itself from the influence of the republican Karamanlis political tradition.  Within the New Democracy parliamentary caucus there is a discernable monarchist group.  It is to be hoped that New Democracy will both maintain its position as one of Greece’s two major parties while returning to its monarchist roots.  Indeed these two desired outcomes are actually interconnected. 

The benefits of centre/centre right Greeks returning to their monarchist roots have been illustrated by Konstantinos Stephanopoulos who served as ‘president’ from 1995 to 2005.  Stephanopoulos came from a stalwart monarchist family who were integral to underpinning the old ERE and in founding New Democracy in 1974.  He probably voted for a reinstatement of a Crowned Democracy in 1974 and served as a senior minister in New Democracy governments up until PASOK’s election in 1981.  Following Mitsotakis’s defeat in the 1985 election Stephanopoulos split from New Democracy in 1985 and founded the Democratic Renewal Party.

The Democratic Renewal Party supported Mitsotakis’s minority government between 1990 and 1993 and its withdrawal of support led to early elections in October 1993 which were won by PASOK.  Respected by politicians from the nation’s two major parties Konstantinos Stephanopoulos was elected ‘president’ of Greece in March 1995 with the support of PASOK.  

‘President’ Stephanopoulos was grateful to Constantine II in helping Athens secure the 1994 Summer Olympics.  This gratitude was manifested when the Greek royal family were officially and graciously received by the ‘president’ in their former official palace.  Since that time members of the Greek royal family have been able to visit their country, although they have to use Danish or Spanish passports because they are denied Greek passports.  Greek royal family members are acknowledged when visiting their homeland with either surly indifference or with excited affection. 

In Italy a rigged referendum created a republic in June 1946 and support for the Italian monarchy has declined from a majority of the population at the time the republic was proclaimed to an estimated 10% of the population.  By contrast one third of Greeks are estimated to still be monarchist nearly two generations after an adverse but accurately conducted referendum.  This level of support is also noteworthy because the Greek royal family have been subjected to a concerted campaign in the media and popular culture in which they have been misrepresented as an alien encroachment on Greece.

 

 

 

 

 

Full Circle?  Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie can now have what was Denied King Otto and Queen Amalia

The myth of monarchical encroachment commenced with King Otto, modern Greece’s first King.  Whatever their actual personal failings King Otto and Queen Amalia deeply grieved their banishment from Greece.  They both desired to be allowed to return to Greece regardless of whether they regained their former royal prerogatives.   Ironically Greece’s *‘last’ king and queen are now in a position that they probably thought that they would never be in- to be allowed to return to live in their homeland to serve their people.  By contrast King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie were allowed to return to live in Greece.  

Had Constantine II prevailed in the political struggle that the Papandreous drew His Majesty into, Greece would have retained its Crowned Democracy.   For all Constantine II’s personal qualities His Majesty is not that politically astute (or that interested in politics per se).  It was therefore a pity that Karamanlis did not address this shortfall by supporting a reinstatement of a Crowned Democracy in the 1974 referendum.  Had Karamanlis done so Constantine II would have excelled as a non-political monarch and Greece probably would avoided the current financial crisis that Andreas Papandreou laid the foundation for.  Now that His Majesty and his family are in a position to return to serve Greece it is to be hoped that will actually do so.

(* Crown Prince Pavlos is considered to be similar to the Duke of Edinburgh’s father Prince Andreas in that he is a remarkable person in his own right.  Prince Andreas did not stand for ‘president’ of Greece in 1929 but his mooted candidacy did put in train events that led to a return of the monarchy.

The crown prince could also one day be of service under the June 1975 republican constitution that monarchist parliamentarians helped draw up.  This constitution could be developed further by popular consent.  Hopefully Crown Prince Pavlos, who is a brilliant financial analyst, will validate the high estimation that he is held in by permanently returning to Greece to be of service). 

Dr. David Paul Bennett is the Director of Social Action Australia Pty Ltd.

 

 

 

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