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Greece’s Last King Dies
News Bytes 01/16/2023 0 Comments

On Monday, the casket carrying the former and last monarch of Greece emerged from an Athens cathedral. Royalty from across Europe attended the funeral service. Outside, a crowd of thousands chanted, “Long live the king,” and “Constantine, Constantine.” The long lines suggested the ex-monarch was still beloved by some.

Constantine II was a controversial figure. He spent decades in exile before returning to his home country in his waning years.

Constantine’s wife, Anne-Marie, and his eldest son, Pavlos, led the funeral procession. The casket made the trip to Tatoi, a former royal estate north of Athens. There Constantine will be buried near his parents and ancestors.

“By the grace of God, you drew your last breath in our country, which you always loved above all else throughout your life,” Pavlos said in a eulogy to his father. Constantine’s children and grandchildren, Pavlos continued, “are ready, as you had always been, to offer Greece whatever the country asks of us.”

European royals, many closely related to Constantine, descended on Athens for the funeral. They included Anne Marie’s sister, Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II, and the Spanish royal family. Constantine’s sister Sophia is the mother of Spain’s King Felipe VI and the wife of former King Juan Carlos I.

Juan Carlos, using a walking stick, attended with Sophia at his side. It was a rare public appearance for the former king. He has lived in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates, since being cut off from the Spanish royal family in 2020 due to money scandals.

Constantine was one of the godparents of Prince William, heir to the British throne. William’s aunt, Princess Anne, represented the British royal family in Athens.

The Greek government had announced Constantine would be buried as a private citizen without honors reserved for former heads of state. A limited lying in state was allowed from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. in a chapel next to the cathedral.

Thousands of people turned out. Some traveled across Greece and lined up for hours in the predawn darkness and winter chill.

Some mourners were unhappy that Constantine didn’t receive the honors awarded to former heads of state.

“I feel anger because I consider it petty for funerals to be held at public expense for actors and singers, and for us not to honor a person who, for better or for worse, was king of Greece,” says Irene Zagana.

Already an Olympic sailing gold medalist, Constantine acceded to the throne in 1964 at age 23. The young king and his wife enjoyed huge popularity. But that quickly eroded because of Constantine’s active involvement in the plots that brought down the elected government of then-Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou.

“He himself was beloved,” says Thanassis Diamantopoulos, a political science professor. “But . . . he managed to squander this sympathy very quickly.”

There was a military coup in 1967. Constantine eventually clashed with the military rulers and was forced into exile.

A referendum abolished Greece’s monarchy in 1974. Constantine wanted to return to Greece. But advisors told him not to.

Still, Constantine “should be given credit for something that other deposed monarchs have not done: he never threatened, challenged or undermined the state not headed by a king after he was dethroned,” Diamantopoulos says.

Many people waited patiently for hours to pay their final respects.

“He is a former high-level official to whom we should certainly show the necessary honors, a person who is serious, who is noble, who is decent,” says lawyer Giannis Katsiavos. He was among the crowd of mourners. “We will remember him forever.”

He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. — Daniel 2:21

(People wait in a chapel to view the coffin of Constantine II in Athens, Greece, on January 16, 2023. A man holds a picture of the former king of Greece with his wife, Anne-Marie. AP/Petros Giannakouris)

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