Constantine II of Greece

Constantine, formerly Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, and his wife
Constantine, formerly Constantine II, King of the Hellenes, and his wife

Constantine of Greece, formerly Constantine II, King of the Hellenes (born June 2, 1940) was King of Greece from 1964 until the abolition of the monarchy in 1974. During the period 1964-1974 his title in Greek was Konstantinos II, Vasileus ton Ellinon or Κωνσταντίνος Β', Βασιλεύς των Ελλήνων. He has lived in exile since 1967.

Constantine was born at Psychiko, near Athens, the nephew of King George II and eldest son of the King's brother and heir, Prince Paul. His mother was a German princess, Frederika of Hanover. He was one year old when the Germans invaded Greece and he spent the next four years in exile in Egypt with his family. Returning to Greece in 1945, he was educated at a preparatory school and then attended military academies. When King George died in 1947 his father became King and he became heir to the throne.

As a young man Constantine was handsome, athletic and popular with most of the Greek public. In 1960, at the age of 20 he competed in the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, winning a gold medal in sailing (Gold Dragon Class). In 1964 he married a Danish princess, Anne-Marie, sister of the current Danish Queen, Margrethe II. His sister, Sofia, is married to King Juan Carlos of Spain.

As King 1964-67

Titular Royal Family of Greece

In 1964, shortly before Constantine's marriage, King Paul died and Constantine became King Constantine II. Constantine was seen as young and inexperienced as well as being under the influence of his mother, a strong conservative and believer in the prerogatives of the monarchy.

Greece at this time was strongly polarised between the monarchist rightists, represented by the former long-serving Prime Minister, Constantine Karamanlis, and the republican left, heirs of the Greek liberal leader Eleftherios Venizelos, led at this time by George Papandreou, who became Prime Minister in February 1964 (Papandreou was already an interim prime minister after the legislative elections of 1963). Even some right-wing politicians, however, had a low opinion of Constantine. Karamanlis described him as "Paul's naughty little boy" and regarded him responsible for his resignation in 1963.

Relations between the King and Prime Minister Papandreou began with goodwill on both sides, although Papandreou had always been a republican. But they soon became hostile after an insulant letter the King sent to the prime minister and, most importantly, after the alleged "Aspida scandal" that shook the Army. The name of Papandreou's son, Andreas, was involved in the case and the defence minister, Petros Garoufalias was oblidged by the prime minister to resign, when he tried to form a committee, in order to examine the alleged scandal. Papandreou decided to appoint himself as new defence minister and, when, Constantine II refused to accept the appointment, a new political turmoil erupted.

Constantine proposed the appointment as defence minister of any other person pleasing to the prime minister, because, as the King logically argumentated, there was a conflict of interest, since the prime minister's son was allegedely involved in the scandal. Papandreou rejected the King's proposition, although, initially, he had shown some willingness to accept it and he submitted his resignation. Within a few moments after his resignation, Constantine appointed a new government led by Georgios Athanasiadis-Novas, who failed to ensure the Parliament's confidence. This appointment, also known as The Royal coup (Greek: Το Βασιλικό Πραξικόπημα), evoked many critics against Constantine, as being unconstitutional.

According to those criticising him, Constantine, by appointing a new government comprising defectors and not proclaiming new elections, caused a constitutional crisis and political instability that lasted for more than two years and led to the period of the dictatorship of 1967-1974.

Constantine first appointed President of the Parliament, Georgios Athanasiadis-Novas, as Prime Minister. He was succeeded by Ilias Tsirimokos, who also failed to form a stable government, and was dismissed. He next appointed some of Papandreou's dissidents, led by Stephanos Stephanopoulos, to form a government of "King's men," which lasted until December 1966, amid mounting strikes and protests, supported by the right-wing National Radical Union. When Stephanopoulos resigned in frustration, Constantine appointed an interim government under Ioannis Paraskevopoulos, which called elections for May 1967. This government did not even last till the scheduled elections. It was replaced on April 3, 1967, by another interim government under Panagiotis Kanellopoulos.

The period of the Greek Dictatorship 1967-74

Monarchical Styles of
King Constantine II of The Hellenes
Reference style: His Majesty
Spoken style: Your Majesty
Alternative style: Sir

Elections were scheduled for 28 May 1967. The fear of a "Communist threat", along with the traditional right-wing nationalist ideology in the military led a group of junior Army officers led by George Papadopoulos to stage a coup d'etat on April 21. The coup leaders stormed Constantine at his residence in Tatoi, which was surrounded by tanks to prevent resistance. The King argued with the colonels and initially dismissed them. Later in the day he went to the Ministry of National Defence, where all coup leaders were gathered, and had a discussion with Kanellopoulos and with leading generals. He agreed to collaborate and swear the new regime in only when the junta agreed to include a number of civilian politicians, with a royalist nominee, Constantine Kollias, as Prime Minister. Some view Constantine's brief co-operation with the coup as a tactical move to allow him to organize a counter-coup; other view it as a fatal error, as he tacitly condoned an unconstitutional regime.

King Constantine II surrounded by the junta Government at the swearing-in Ceremony of the Dictators
King Constantine II surrounded by the junta Government at the swearing-in Ceremony of the Dictators

In December the King and Kollias attempted a counter-coup. They escaped from Athens and tried to rally the Army in northern Greece to support a royalist government. But the Army remained loyal to the junta, and the civilian opposition were not willing to risk their lives coming out in support of a royalist counter-coup. The coup collapsed, and Constantine and Kollias fled to Rome. Papadopoulos then appointed himself Prime Minister, and appointed General George Zoitakis as Regent.

Over the next year the junta sent intermediaries to the King to negotiate the terms on which he might return to Greece. But Constantine insisted on the full restoration of democracy under the existing constitution as a precondition, and Papadopoulos would not agree to this. Instead the regime promulgated a new constitution in November 1968, which retained the monarchy but stripped it of its powers, and provided for a permanent regency until the King chose to accept the new order. This standoff continued until 1972, when Papadopoulos dismissed Zoitakis and appointed himself Regent.

By 1973 the military dictators had grown deeply unpopular, and in May officers of the largely royalist Navy staged an abortive coup, although Constantine himself was not involved. Papadopoulos retaliated by declaring Greece a republic, a decision which was confirmed by a plebiscite in July. The vote was widely presumed to be rigged, although it is likely that many republicans voted in favour despite their dislike of the regime. Papadopoulos then declared himself President, but in November there was a coup within the regime and he was replaced by Phaidon Ghizikis, who was a front for the new military strongman, Demetrios Ioannidis.

Restoration of Democracy

In July 1974 events in Cyprus led to the downfall of the military regime, and Karamanlis returned from exile to become Prime Minister. Although the 1973 republican constitution was regarded as illegitimate, the monarchy was not restored. Having won elections in November, Karamanlis announced that a second referendum would be held on the monarchy. Though he was the leader of the traditionally monarchist right, he made no effort to defend Constantine, with whom he was on poor terms. The left voted overwhelmingly for a republic and so did the centrists, condemning Constantine for swearing in the junta in 1967, for his reluctance to sever all ties with the junta once in exile, and for the dismissal of George Papandreou in 1965, the event that had led to the coup. Given these circumstances, it was not surprising that the vote to retain the monarchy was only 31 percent

Cover of Greek newspaper "Athinaiki" about the polling results: From corner to corner, Greece is burning down with one voice: "The end of the Glücksburgs!"

In exile

Constantine was not formally exiled nor stripped of his property or citizenship after the referendum, but he was strongly discouraged from returning to Greece, and did not return until February 1981, and then only for the funeral of his mother, Queen Frederika. There were also legal disputes with the Greek state, since Constantine was unable or unwilling to pay the heavy taxes on his property in Greece. In the early 1990s Constantine started appearing more in the Greek media. In 1992 he concluded an agreement with the conservative government of Mitsotakis, ceding most of his land in Greece to a non-profit foundation in exchange for the former palace of Tatoi in Athens and the right to export a large number of movables from Greece.

In 1993 Constantine attempted a first lengthy visit to Greece, but the government became irritated by his "tour" around Greece. Faced with increasingly loud protests from the opposition, the government asked him to leave. In 1994, the second government of Andreas Papandreou passed new legislation reversing the 1992 agreement and stripping Constantine of his property in Greece and his Greek citizenship. Constantine then sued Greece before the European Court of Human Rights, claiming ownership of lands worth in excess of €550 million. He won only partially, receiving only €4 million for the lost property. The Greek government paid this sum (out of the "disasters of nature" budget, as a means of making a public statement), but was not obliged by the court decision to return any lands. Constantine, in turn, announced the creation of the Anna Maria Foundation, a vehicle to allocate the funds in question to philanthropic needs.

Current status

Following the abolition of the monarchy, Constantine has repeatedly stated that he recognizes the republic, the laws and the constitution of Greece. He told Time magazine "If the Greek people decide that they want a republic, they are entitled to have that and should be left in peace to enjoy it".1 Until 1994, Constantine's official Greek passport identified him as "Constantine, former king of the Hellenes." A law passed in 1994 stripped him of his Greek citizenship, passport, and property. The law stated that Constantine could not be granted a Greek passport unless he adopted a surname. Constantine has since refused to comply. Constantine continues to use the title "King Constantine," although he no longer uses "Constantine, King of the Hellenes".

Constantine is occasionally mocked in the Greek press for calling himself King Constantine. Several nicknames have been popular both with the press and some parts of Greek society. These include "o Teos" ("the former") which is, in fact, applied as a qualitative for former but living Presidents and Prime Ministers, and the derogatory nickname "Kokos" which evokes the Greek word "κοκορόμυαλος" ("feather-brained") or possibly Constantine's childhood name ("Kokos" is Greek baby talk for the name Constantine). He is also frequently referred to as Mr. Glücksburg; this reference to his family dates back to at least 1935 when Archimandrite Christoforos Ktenas referred to the then exiled King Constantine I of Greece as, "Γλυξβούργος Ντίνος" (Dino Glucksburg), in his book on Mount Athos.2 Glücksburg was originally mainly used by opponents of constitutional monarchy, and drew attention to the fact that the royal family was not of ethnic Greek origin. Today, this appellation is more widespread and also draws attention to the fact that Constantine's family lacks a legal surname in Greece. To this effect, Constantine has stated: "I don't have a name - my family doesn't have a name. The law that Mr. Papandreou passed basically says that he considers that I am not Greek and that my family was Greek only so long as we were exercising the responsibilities of sovereign, and I had to go out and acquire a name. The problem is that my family originates from Denmark, and the Danish royal family haven't got a surname." Glücksburg, he said, was not a family name but the name of a town. "I may as well call myself Mr. Kensington."3 Since 2004, Constantine freely travels in and out of Greece on a Danish diplomatic passport, as "Constantino de Grecia" (Spanish for "Constantine of Greece").

Constantine and Anne-Marie now live in London, where Constantine is a close friend of The Prince of Wales and a godfather to Prince William of Wales. As with other exiled royalty living abroad he is invited to Royal functions under his former regnal name and title as a courtesy title, not constitutional office. However, since he does not represent any country — including Greece — he is not invited to official functions held by the British government (official invitations are only extended to heads of state and recognised government representatives).

On 24 December 2004 Constantine, his wife and family visited the Presidential Palace (and former royal palace) in Athens where he met with President Costis Stephanopoulos.

Family status

The children and grandchildren of Constantine and Anne-Marie are:


  • His Royal Highness Prince Constantine of Greece and Denmark (1940-1947)
  • His Royal Highness Crown Prince Constantine of Greece, Prince of Denmark (1947-1964)
  • His Majesty The King of the Hellenes or His Majesty The King of Greece (1964-1973)
  • His Majesty King Constantine of The Hellenes or His Majesty King Constantine of Greece (since 1973) outside of Greece
  • Constantine of Greece (used in Greece, 2003-present)


  • Woodhouse, C.M. (1998). Modern Greece a Short History. London: Faber & Faber. ISBN 0-571-19794-9.
  • Γιάννης Κάτρης (1974). Η γέννηση του νεοφασισμού στην Ελλάδα 1960-1970. Athens: Παπαζήση.
  • Αλέξης Παπαχελάς (1997). Ο βιασμός της ελληνικής δημοκρατίας. Athens:Εστία. ISBN 960-05-0748-1.
  • ΜΑΡΙΟΣ ΠΛΩΡΙΤΗΣ:Απάντηση στον Γκλύξμπουργκ, Εφημερίδα Το ΒΗΜΑ, Κυριακή 10 Ιουνίου 2001 - Αρ. Φύλλου 13283
  • ΜΑΡΙΟΣ ΠΛΩΡΙΤΗΣ:Δευτερολογία για τον Γκλύξμπουργκ, Εφημερίδα Το ΒΗΜΑ, Κυριακή 24 Ιουνίου 2001 - Αρ. Φύλλου 13295
  • ΣΤΑΥΡΟΣ Π. ΨΥΧΑΡΗΣ: H ΣΥΝΤΑΓΗ ΤΗΣ ΚΡΙΣΗΣ, Εφημερίδα Το ΒΗΜΑ, 17/10/2004 - Κωδικός άρθρου: B14292A011 ID: 265758


  1. "Throneless abroad: The men who would be king", TIME magazine (Jun. 3, 2002/Vol. 159 No. 22)
  2. Archmandrite Chrostoforou Ktena. "Apanda ta en Agio Orei iera kathidrymata eis 726...", Athens 1935. Source quoted in, R.M.Dawkins, "A new book on the Administration of Athos, The Link - a review of Mediaeval and Modern Greek, No.1, June 1938, edited by Nicholas Bachtin.
  3. "King Without A Country," Vanity Fair (July 1995).


Preceded by:
King of the Hellenes
6 March 196424 July 1973
Succeeded by:
Monarchy Abolished
President George Papadopoulos
Preceded by:
Titular King of Greece Succeeded by:
Pavlos, Crown Prince of Greece
Preceded by:
Mireille von Hanover
Line of succession to the British throne Succeeded by:
Irene of Greece

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