Site hosted by Angelfire.com: Build your free website today!

Big thanks to Marie for this article.


Vanity Fair, July 1995

King Without A Country

Constantine II of Greece, the favorite ex-monarch of Europe's reigning royals, wants his throne back. This month, his son, would-be crown prince Pavlos, is making the match of the decade-with an American heiress whose father could buy them a kingdom.

By Bob Colacello

"The Swedens are coming. The Norways. Naturally, all the Danes. The various Germans. The Dutch, the Belgians, the Luxembourgs, and the Liechtensteins. Some of the family of the Count of Paris- not too many. The Italian royal family. Of course, the Spaniards. And the entire British royal family. There haven't been this many royals together in London since the wedding of Elizabeth to Philip in 1947."

My source, an international society fixture who likes to refer to royalty the way they refer to one another-by country- is running down the guest list for the most talked-about union of American money and European titles since Consuelo Vanderbilt married the Duke of Marlborough at the end of the last century: the July 1 wedding of the would-be crown prince of Greece, Pavlos, the eldest son of former king Constantine and queen Anne Marie, to Marie-Chantal Miller, the middle daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Miller, the reigning king and queen of a multibillion-dollar empire of duty-free shops in Asia and the Pacific.

The Millers, who are based in Hong Kong, also maintain houses in London, Paris, Gstaad, and New York. Marie-Chantal and her sisters- Pia, who is married to Christopher Getty, and Alexandra, who will marry Prince Alexandre von Furstenberg later this year-are said to come with a dowry of $200 million each, and the Millers are apparently sparing no expensive for the London festivities. The wedding invitations, engraved in Paris with the Greek royal crest in full color, are said to have cost more than $50 apiece. Some 1,300 guests have been invited to a dinner dance the bride's parents are giving two nights before the wedding at Wrotham Park, a stately Palladian house an hour outside London. The following afternoon, the groom's aunt, Queen Margrethe of Denmark, is hosting a lunch for about 100 guests aboard her yacht, the Daneborg, which will be moored on the Thames. The wedding, at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sophia, will be followed by a garden party at Hampton Court Palace.

Fiorenzo Cattaneo, the longtime right-hand man of Renzo Mongiardino, the grandissimo Italian decorator who has done the Millers' art-filled Manhattan town house, has been commissioned to decorate both Wrotham Park and the tent at Hampton Court. Lady Elizabeth Anson, the Queen of England's cousin, will provide the catering, and her brother, Lord (Patrick) Lichfield, will be the official photographer. Valentino is designing the bride's gown, as well as those of her Ecuadorian-born mother, Chantal, and her sisters. The traditional "passing of the wedding crowns" of the Greek Orthodox ceremony will be performed by the groom's brother Nikolaos and his cousins the crown princes of Spain, Denmark, and Belgium.

The Greek shipping dynasties-the Livanoses and the Niarchoses, the Chandrises and the Goulandrises-are expected en masse. John Kluge, Carroll Petrie, Rupert Murdoch, and all four Forbes brothers are flying from the States, as is Alecko Papamarkou, the New York-based Greek international financer, who matched up Pavlos and Marie-Chantal, his goddaughter, at Philip Niarchos's party in New Orleans three years ago.

For the exiled Greek royal family, however, this wedding represents much more than the hottest social ticket of the summer. Constantine is the favorite former king of Europe's reigning royals- his sister is the Queen of Spain, his sister-in-law is the Queen of Denmark, Prince Philip is his cousin, and he is a godfather of Prince William- and perhaps the most determined to reign again. When I asked him how he felt about his son's marriage, his answer pointed to its greater implications: "Wonderful. Great. She's a lovely person. The whole family is absolutely delighted. We announced the engagement in Constantinople, after receiving the blessing of the patriarch, and it went over quite well in the Greek press."

"Constantine has no, no, no chance of going back to the throne," says a close observer of European royalty. "The only way is for the son-as it happened in Spain. It's always easier to start something new with someone who doesn't have a past. And a wedding like this is a good way to start." A jet-setter's take: "It doesn't matter anymore if the Greeks want Constantine back or not. The Millers can buy him Greece."

Constantine II was only 23 when he took the throne of Greece upon the death of his father, King Paul, in 1964. Three years later, after attempting a countercoup against right-wing colonels who had seized power, he fled to Rome. After the colonels fell in 1974, the return of the monarchy was rejected by a 69 percent majority in a referendum the legitimacy of which he has always questioned. That year he moved his family to London and, with the exception of a five-hour visit to bury his mother, Queen Frederica, in 1981, stayed away from Greece until the summer of 1993, when he stunned his former subjects by landing at the Salonika airport in a jet owned by King Hussein of Jordan, with British broadcaster Selina Scott and a Sky TV crew aboard, for a two-week "family holiday" that ended with Greek warships menacing the borrowed royal yacht.

In April 1994, Constantine's longtime arch-enemy, Prime Minster Andreas Papandreou, the septuagenarian head of the socialist Pasok Party, pushed a bill through Parliament stripping the former king of his Greek citizenship, passport, and properties: Tatoi, a 10,000-acre estate near Athens; Mon Repos, the Corfu villa where Prince Philip was born; and several thousand acres of forestland in central Greece. The bill was signed into law by then president Constantine Karamanlis, the octogenarian founder of the conservative New Democracy Party, who many say has been the former king's real nemesis all along.

Constantine, guided by Burson-Marsteller, the powerful public-relations firm he has employed since 1974, responded with a barrage of interviews in which he likened the Greek government's actions to those of Hitler and Stalin, and vowed to press his case all the way to the European Court of Human Rights.

"What I think is monstrous is their attempt to take away his Greek citizenship," says British journalist Frank Giles, who for years covered the Greek royal family. "I know he hasn't got a drop of Greek blood...but his great-grandfather, his grandfather, two of his uncles, and his father were all kings of Greece, and all except the first were born in Greece. So if he's not Greek, what the hell is he?"

Constantine's story is as complicated as the half-Balkan, half-Levantine "cradle of democracy" over which he used to reign. It goes back to 1863, when his great-grandfather, a prince of the Danish royal family, was proclaimed King George I of the Hellenes, replacing the unpopular King Otho, a Bavarian prince who had been put on the throne 31 years earlier by Britain, France, and Russia after they helped Greece win its independence from the Ottoman Empire. It touches upon the role that royalty plays in our time, when kings, queens, emirs, sultans, and an emperor still sit on thrones in more than 25 countries, including Saudia Arabia, Thailand, and Japan. It is also very much wrapped up with the affairs of the so-called diaspora Greeks, especially the colossally rich shipowners who over the years have helped support him in exile, and whose wives adore curtsying to "the king" at Mayfair dinner parties.

Even in the matter of what to call him is complicated. He's happy, he says, with the name on the passport which the Greek Consulate in London issued to him 10 years ago: "Constantine, former King of the Hellenes." Prime Minster Papandreou says his name is Constantine Glucksburg, a simplification on Denmark's royal house of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderbury-Glucksburg.

"The king of Greece here" was the way Constantine identified himself when he telephoned to confirm my request for an interview. "Good morning, Your Majesty," I replied, recalling the advice a White Russian had given me about how to deal with deposed royalty: "One has always to be super-respectful, calling them 'Your Majesty' at first and then 'Sir' or 'Ma'am,' telling them what an honor it is to be received by them, giving them all the courtesies to which the position they no longer have is entitled. And then they relax."

A few days later, I went to see him at his house in the leafy London district of Hampstead, where he and Anne-Marie live with their two youngest children, Theodora, 11, and Philippos, 9. Their first child, Alexia, 29, and Oxford graduate, lives in Barcelona, where she teaches children with Down's Syndrome. Pavlos, 28, recently received a master's degree from the Georgetown School of Foreign Service. Nikolaos, 25, a Brown graduate, is a Fox TV news production assistant in New York.

The red-brick, two-story house has a cobblestone courtyard and an acre of lawn rolling down to Hampstead Heath. The entry hall is lined with portraits of Constantine's ancestors decked out in their medals and tiaras, and stylish sketches of Constantine's late parents, King Paul and Queen Frederica, dominate the dining room, where we were joined for lunch by Constantine's cousin Prince Ernst of Hanover.

Constantine is a large man of 55 with a full head of dark hair touched with gray. His hazel eyes, shielded behind aviator glasses, can be lively or wary, just as his smile is sometimes engaging but more often tentative. There is an awkwardness of his position: a man who was born to reign, and briefly did, now must charm, which he does famously. "He is the single most charming man in the world," says Princess Firyal of Jordan, the former sister-in-law of King Hussein. An art-world beauty adds, "I'll never forget Alexia's 21st-birthday party at Claridge's. I was dancing with Constantine, and Juan Carlos was whirling Princess Diana around the floor. And the next thing I knew, the four of us were in a group-hug dance, with my forehead one inch from Di's."

Over pasta primavera, Constantine listed, in fluent English with slight Greek and Germanic overtones, the obligations that fill his days: He receives 65,000 letters a year from Greek citizens, he said, and maintains an office with a staff of four. He is an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee, and was recently elevated to the honorary presidency of the International Yacht Racing Union, succeeding his cousin the late King Olav of Norway. He is chairman of the council of the Round Square Conference of 26 independent schools in eight countries. Last year he was invited to the inauguration of President Nelson Mandela, and took him two bespoke suits, because he had been told that, after 27 years of prison garb, the new South African leader appreciated fine clothes.

When he turned to his ongoing dispute with the Greek government, the pleasantries gave way to strong statements. It's almost as if his antagonists in Athens, by trying to take away his nationality, have given him back the identity which all exiles struggle to retain. In the upside-down world of deposed royalty, that means he's much less angry about losing his land than he is about gaining a last name.

"I don't have a name," he told me proudly. "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." Glucksburg, he said, was not a family name but the name of a town. "I may as well call myself Mr. Kensington."

Why, I asked, did he think the Greek government had decided to take such an aggressive stance?

"I think Mr. Papandreou wants to divert attention away from problems with the economy, with foreign policy, and within his own political party. Another reason, very possibly, is his personal dislike for me. A third reason is the trip I did in 1993, when I took my family on a summer holiday on a small boat for about 14 days. I think the fact that people came pouring out to see us, after 26 years of our being away, ahs rattled the political establishment to the core.

"It's absurd, because I repeatedly stated in Greece, on television to the Greek people, that I recognized the republic and the laws and the constitution of my country. I'm not about to overthrow anybody. All I want is to be treated as an equal....I want to be allowed to go in and out of the country whenever I like, stay in my home, let my children live there."

Prime Minster Papandreou's government doesn't see things that way. In a fax to me, Press Minster Evangelos Venizelos condemned Constantine's trip as "a provocation against democratic institutions. This is also true regarding his occasional statements, according to which he places himself at the 'disposal' of the nation and the people.....Historically the monarchy has caused a national schism. On the basis of the constitution and the expressed will of the Greek people, it is not possible for it to play any role in the future. Certain institutions are relics of the past."

A 101-gun salute announced the birth of the future King Constantine on June 2, 1940, at the same villa in the Athens suburb of Psychico where his sister, Sophia, the future Queen of Spain, had been born 18 months earlier. He was named after his grandfather, the late Constantine I. His uncle, George II, was then king, but since he was divorced and childless, his younger brother, Paul, Constantine's father, was crown prince. Constantine's mother, Crown Princess Frederica, was the favorite granddaughter of the last German Kaiser, Wilhelm II, and her mother's family, the Hanovers, had provided England with five kings who preceded Queen Victoria.

When Constantine was five months old, Mussolini's troops attacked Greece. The following April, Hitler's army invaded, and Frederica and her infant children were evacuated on a British warplane to Crete, where they were repeatedly strafed by the Luftwaffe. Several weeks later, Crete fell, and the royal family fled to Cairo. From there, Paul accompanied King George to London, where a government-in-exile was formed. Frederica and the children spent the next two and a half years in South Africa, where a third child, Princess Irene, was born in 1942. In 1944 they moved to Alexandria; Constantine and his sisters went to an English nursery school and spent their afternoons playing with King Farouk's children.

After the war, the Allies oversaw a plebiscite on the monarchy, which won 69 percent of the vote, and in September 1946, the royal family returned to Athens. On April 1, 1947, George II died suddenly of arteriosclerosis, and Paul and Frederica became King and Queen of the Hellenes. Civil war was raging with the Communist guerrillas in the North, and that spring the Truman Doctrine had been launched to prevent Greece and Turkey from coming under Communist control. Frederica set up the Northern Provinces Relief Fund to help resettle some 700,000 refugees, and traveled over dangerous roads to rally besieged troops.

When Constantine was eight, he began boarding at the Anavryta school, which his father had set up especially for him. "Paul took great care with the education of young Constantine," says British historian C.M. Woodhouse. "He had him sit in on meetings with ministers, not as a participant, of course, but to educate him."

At the 1960 Olympics in Rome, Constantine and his team became the first Greeks to win a gold medal-in yachting-since 1912. Two years later, at the wedding of his sister Sophia to Crown Prince Juan Carlos of Spain, Constantine danced all night with the achingly beautiful Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, the youngest daughter of King Frederick and Queen Ingrid. A few months later they were engaged.

It was a good time for the Greek royal family. In 1962, the king's allowance was $567,000, and the government had allotted a $300,000 dowry for Princess Sophia. The royals had villas on Petali and Rhodes, a hunting lodge on Mount Hymettos, three planes, a helicopter, several boats, and 18 cars. A special tax on cigarettes and movie tickets brought in millions of dollars annually for the Royal National Foundation, a charity completely controlled by Frederica. She also received donations from rich Greeks competing to curry her favor. Stavros Niachos was said to be among Frederica's most generous supporters. His rival, Aristotle Onassis, reportedly offered her a choice between two diamond tiaras for the wedding of Constantine and Anne-Marie and was stunned when Frederica took both. "Frederica was someone with Jeane Kirkpatrick's brain," says the poet and diplomat Yiorgos Chouliaras, "and Nancy Regan's mentality."

But there was a fly in the royal ointment: Constantine Karamanlis.

"Karamanlis is the lago of the whole story," says Taki Theodoracopulos, author of The Greek Upheaval. "He was an unknown when Constantine's father named him as prime minister in 1955. And he repaid the father's favor by screwing the son."

An austere, taciturn politician from a simple Macedonian family, Karamanlis heightened Greece's role in NATO and maintained a very close friendship with the U.S. He generally approved the royal family's escalating expenditures until 1962, when they requested another dowry, for Princess Irene. Karamanlis objected. It was the start of a feud between Paul and Frederica and their onetime protege which culminated in Karamanlis's resignation in June 1963, followed by his self-exile to Paris. He was succeeded by veteran leader of the liberal opposition, George Papandreou-father of the current prime minister, Andreas Papandreou.

On March 6, 1964, Paul died of cancer and his son was proclaimed King Constantine II. On September 18, Constantine married Anne-Marie in Athens, and their honeymoon seemed to be the nation's as well. At first the Old Fox, as the elder Papandreou was known, got along fine with the new king, but within a year they were in open conflict over control of the armed forces, a conflict exacerbated by Papandreou's son, who was much further to the left than his father.

Andreas Papandreou had lived in the United States for 20 years, where he had earned a doctorate at Harvard and headed the economics department at Berkeley. Shortly after entering his father's Cabinet as deputy minister of economics, he gave an interview to the French newspaper Le Monde, calling Greece a NATO satellite and praising the Soviet Union, which caused such an uproar in Athens that his father forced him to resign. Soon after, however, Papandreou Sr. appointed Papandreou Jr. minister to the prime minister, the equivalent of chief of staff.

In March 1965, George Papandreou exposed the Pericles Plan, which he claimed was the scheme right-wing officers had used to rig the 1961 election. A subsequent investigation by Defense Minister Petros Garoufalias, a devoted royalist, uncovered a conspiracy of left-wing officers called Aspida ("Shield") and claimed it was linked to Andreas Papandreou. Papandreou Sr. dismissed the defense minister and proposed taking over the post himself, but Constantine refused to sign the required decree.

On July 15, the Old Fox went to the palace to confront the young king. For the first time on the record, Constantine recounted the conversation to me: "I strongly advised against him becoming minister of defense. I brought up the conflict of interest with the Aspida investigation and offered to let him take it after the investigation was concluded. He said he couldn't do that. I think he was under colossal pressure from his son. I realized we had come to a major crisis. So I said, 'Prime Minister, an idea has just come into my mind. Could you sign a piece of paper saying that you transfer this Aspida investigation from the Ministry of Defense to the Ministry of Justice?' 'I can't,' he said. 'I think I am going to have to resign.' I said, 'Prime Minister, I have to accept it with great, great regrets'......The next day he went to the balcony and said to the people, 'Who is governing the country? The people or the king?'"

The remaining two and a half years of Constantine's reign would be rocked by riots, strikes, fistfights in Parliament, diatribes in the tabloid press against Queen Mother Frederica, and finally the colonels' coup. Week after week, crowds of hundreds of thousands, whipped up by the oratorically gifted Papandreou, surrounded the palace, shouting "Take your mother and go!," "Out with the German woman!," and "Yankees out!"

A Papandreou landslide looked likely in elections set for May 1967, and the royal family, the military, and the Americans were worried that he would not only purge the armed forces of royalist officers but also pull Greece out of NATO. According to Peter Murtagh, in The Rape of Greece, the fear was so great that the Greek high command, with Constantine's complicity and American support, was planning a coup to prevent Papandreou's victory. When I questioned Constantine about this, he denied participation in- but not the existence of- plans for this so-called "generals' coup." In the early-morning hours of April 21, the colonels struck.

"I was taken completely by surprise," said Constantine. "I was woken up at two o'clock in the morning (at Tatoi) by a call from my private secretary, who whispered, 'I'm being shot at.' I could hear the submachine guns firing into his house....I, like every other Greek, put on the radio to find out what the hell was going on, and I heard that I had done a coup! I tried to mobilize different people, but the colonels had, in just over an hour, arrested something like 8,000 people. They took over the country by cheating, by saying the king had done it."

At eight that morning, the coup leaders-Colonel George Papadopulos, Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos, and Colonel Nicholas Makarezos-presented themselves at Tatoi. Constantine insisted that they remove their pistols before he would receive them, and refused to give them his approval. He then drove to the military headquarters in central Athens, where he finally caved in, and that evening swore in the junta cabinet. "My whole aim was to avoid civil war," Constantine told me. "I tried to gain time by swearing in these people, so I could later overthrow them and restore them democratic process."

C.M. Woodhouse takes a harder line: "Constantine simply lost his nerve. He was afraid they would bump him off. I don't think they would have. They were stupid, but not that stupid." Constantine's attempted countercoup on December 13, 1967, Woodhouse says, "had no chance of succeeding. Poor Constantine was a gentleman. He didn't know how to deal with these gangsters." Within 24 hours of Constantine's urging the nation to rally to his side in a radio speech from an air-force base in northern Greece, he gave up without a fight and flew with his family into exile in Rome.

Constantine had one more chance to show his mettle, in 1974, when the military regime disintegrated during the Turkish invasion of Cyprus and former prime minister Karamanlis was asked back to form a government. "Karamanlis called me from Paris, absolutely hysterical, asking me what he should do," Constantine revealed. "I said, 'Look, the most important thing for you to do is to calm down and find a plane and go back to Greece, because we are on the verge of war with Turkey. The colonels have collapsed; we need to have a serious, proper, sensible government to take over.' He said, 'I'll think about it and I'll call you back.' He did call me back and said, 'Sir'-he was now quite calm-'I have not said anything on the issue of the monarchy to the colonels on the telephone, because it's obvious the last thing they want is the king back. I will wait until I get into the country, and then I will issue the statement to them to swear my allegiance to the head of state.'.....And I said to him, 'That's fine.' He said, 'Would you please wait by the telephone, sir, and as soon as I get into the country, I'll call you to come back.' And I'm still waiting."

Elli Antoniades, a close friend of Farah Diba, the former Empress of Iran, describes the same historical moment from a different vantage point. She was at the Shah's summer palace on the Caspian Sea. King Hussein of Jordan and his late wife, Queen Alia, were also houseguests. Antoniades recalls a telephone conversation between the two Middle Eastern potentates and Constantine, who was in London. "The Shah and Hussein together were telling him, 'Go! Go back to Greece. Now! Even if they put you in jail. Go!'" For better or for worse, he didn't. 'In a way, Tino-that's what Constantine's friends call him-is the luckiest man there is," says Princess Firyal of Jordan. "He has his freedom, no responsibility, but still the glamour of being 'king.'"

To a large extent, he still lives like one. Constantine has always refused to discuss how he maintains his royal lifestyle, saying, "That is my private business." It is assumed that Constantine's parents had investments outside of Greece, and as Vincent Meylan, a writer for the French royalist magazine Point de Vue, notes, "the first thing royalty does when they go into exile, if they have no money, is sell the jewels. The Greeks didn't, and they have a lot of jewels, mostly from (Constantine's grandmother) Queen Olga, including fabulous rubies and emeralds....I'd say the best set of emeralds in the world, except for Iran." For a while Constantine reportedly represented a company that made armored cars, but a well-informed source says that many of his expenses are covered by loyal diaspora Greeks: "It gives these tycoons a feeling of power to cough up- not much, no more than a quarter of a million dollars a year each."

Every summer, Constantine, Anne-Marie, and their children spend a few weeks with the Spanish royal family at their summer palace on Majorca. They also spend a few weeks in Denmark with Anne-Marie's sister Queen Margrethe and her husband, Prince Henrik, and Queen Mother Ingrid gave Constantine and Anne-Marie a party for their silver wedding anniversary at the Kronborg fortress outside Copenhagen-Hamlet's Elsinore.

Of course, having a sister and a sister-in-law on European thrones has aided Constantine immeasurably in maintaining his high-level international prestige and access. According to Taki Theodoracopulos, "When he goes to Madrid, Juan Carlos includes him in all the official briefings. Because when he was king, he helped Juan Carlos a lot. He talked to Franco on behalf of Juan Carlos when things were still unsettled. I remember a birthday dinner for Constantine at Alecko Goulandris's house in London. Juan Carlos had just become king a couple of years before, and he made a toast to Constantine, saying, 'I almost owe you my throne. You were there for me when no one else was.'"

Constantine was devoted to the late Shah of Iran until the bitter end, and he remains a very good friend of King Hussein of Jordan. And then there's his intimacy with the British royal family. Prince Charles and Princess Diana put Constantine at the top of the list of Prince William's six godparents in 1982. Queen Elizabeth is Theodora's godmother, and Prince Charles and Princess Diana are godparents of Philippos. Every August, Constantine races at Cowes as co-helmsman of Prince Philip's yacht. He was with Princess Anne when her separation from Mark Phillips was announced in 1989. And it was Constantine who arranged a "second honeymoon" cruise for Charles and Diana in 1991, aboard the 400-foot yacht of Captain John Latsis, reputedly the richest Greek shipping tycoon of them all. The 85-year-old Latsis, who made headlines a month later when his secret $3.5 million donation to the British Conservative Party was exposed, is thought to have become one of Constantine's leading financial supporters in recent years.

In a way, Constantine's real role is to be an elegant, convenient, and discreet go-between for moguls who want to meet monarchs. Princess Firyal recalls when her son Prince Ghazi was at Princeton in the 1980's, "Tino turned up and took all the royal children going to school there-Kyril of Bulgaria, Ali Reza of Iran- to John Kluge's place in Virginia for a fabulous weekend."

In February 1981, Constantine was allowed into Greece for his mother's funeral at Tatoi, but his stay was restricted to a humiliating five hours. A thousand royalists made it through the security cordon, chanting, "Constantine, stay here forever!" while leftist demonstrators set off bombs in downtown Athens. Andreas Papandreou, who was now the leader of the socialist Pasok Party, condemned the conservative New Democracy government, which had been in power since the colonels' exit. Ten months after the funeral, Pasok won control of Parliament, and Papandreou, following in his late father's footsteps, became prime minister. Meanwhile, Karamanlis, who had been elevated to presidency, showed his true feelings toward the Greek monarchy by canceling his plans to attend the July 1981 wedding of Charles and Diana because the British royal family had addressed Constantine's invitation to the "King of the Hellenes." For the next eight years, the Greek government wrangled with the former king over taxes on his three properties in Greece. By 1989, when Papandreou resigned in the aftermath of the most enormous corruption scandal in Greek history, the unpaid tax bill had grown to more than $2 million.

The new conservative prime minister, Constantine Mitsotakis, was more receptive to reaching a settlement with Constantine. In 1991 he gave the former king permission to remove from Greece 70 tons of what Constantine calls "my chattels," including 5,500 rare books, 110 paintings, furniture, and silver. In 1992, the Mitsotakis government negotiated a deal, reportedly brokered by Latsis, to settle Constantine's tax bill: in exchange for paying nearly $1 million and turning over about 10,000 acres of Land at Tatoi to the government, he would retain ownership of his house and 400 acres there, as well as Mon Repos and his forestlands. When Parliament approved it, Pasok and Communist deputies walked out in protest, and the mayor of Corfu ordered the local authorities to break into Mon Repos, declaring it a public tourist site. Constantine's lawyers responded with a lawsuit, which is one of six still pending in Greeks courts.

The former king, however, was now free of the threat of arrest on tax charges should he visit Greece, and in February 1993 he gave the first interview of his exile on Greek television. "I stopped the country," Constantine told me. "It had the highest ratings on Greek TV ever." It was time, he and his handlers decided, to carry their 20-year-long P.R. campaign to the home front.

"I came out of the plane," Constantine said of his landing at Salonika on August 9, 1993, "and it was as if I had never left. It was very emotional. And this might sound funny to you, but I had to remind myself, Be careful. You are not head of state."

The historic moment was recorded by Antenna TV, which is owned by the reputedly pro-royalist Minos Kyriakou, as well as Selina Scott's crew from Sky TV, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. A large crowd cheered the former royal family at the Salonika marina as they boarded the 90-foot yacht Myrine to sail for the monastic republic of Mount Athos, where Scott told her viewers, "He is still king, his portrait hangs in all the monasteries, and the monks having been praying for him every day of his 26 years in exile."

In Athens, Papandreou, now leader of the opposition, declared, "Glucksburg is persona non grata, and his passport should have been withdrawn." The next day, Constantine helicoptered to then northern town of Florina and led a caravan of his supporters toward the border with the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, which the Greek government has refused to recognize until it changes its name. Police blocked the road, and Prime Minster Misotakis issued a warning to Constantine from Athens to keep his stay strictly private. He also demanded that the former king clearly state his recognition of Greece's presidential democracy.

Two days later, on Antenna TV, Constantine did, and then helicoptered his family to Tatoi. Pasok politicians called for his sons to be arrested and drafted, and left-of-center newspapers ran headlines such as ROUND UP GLUCKSBURG and KING CONSTANTINE OUT QUICKLY BEFORE THERE'S A BLOODBATH IN THE LAND. One tabloid claimed there was a conspiracy, which dubbed it Operation Crown, allegedly involving King Juan Carlos and Queen Sophia of Spain, Prince Philip, Latsis, younger members of the Niarchos and Chandris families, Alecko Papmarkou, the New York-based Archbishop Iakovos, and Rupert Murdoch, to restore the "Vampire League" of former kings Simeon of Bulgaria, Michael of Romania, Alexander of Serbia, and Leka of Albania, as well as Constantine.

After Constantine defied the government order not to go ashore in populated areas by taking his family to dinner and a disco on Spetses, "the battle was on," as Selina Scott put it, "war machine versus publicity machine." The next day, a C-130 Hercules transport plane from the Greek air force flew over the Myrine at a very low altitude, and a pair of Greek-navy torpedo boats began trailing the yacht. The government was determined to stop him from reaching the port of Yithion, where some 15,000 royalists had gathered. For three days its torpedo boats prevented the Myrine from refueling, and when Constantine finally gave up, the crowd pelted a coast-guard vessel with watermelons. On the day the former royal family left, President Karamanlis uttered his first public words about their visit: "At some point a definitive end must be put to the issue, so that there are no recurrences, which, while not threatening the republic, make a mockery of this country."

Constantine had more than succeeded in thrusting himself back into Greek consciousness. A poll taken last summer showed that support for the monarchy had risen up to 32.5 percent, up from 10 percent at the time of Frederica's funeral. Moreover, a small group of New Democracy parliamentarians publicly called for a new referendum.

Two months after his trip, the Mitsotakis government fell, and Papandreou was elected prime minister again. In April 1994, he fulfilled his campaign pledge to punish the former king by taking away his property, passport, and citizenship. In March of this year, Constantine's ancient nemesis, Karamanlis, 88 and hard-of-hearing, stepped down as president two months early. In order to avoid a new election, the Pasok majority in Parliament replaced him with Costis Stephanopoulos, the 60-year-old, former leader of a defunct minor party. This maneuver allows Prime Minister Papandreou, who, at 76, needs help getting around after a 1988 triple-bypass operation, to remain in office until 1997. The ailing prime minister's third wife, Dimitra Liani, a 40-ish former Olympic-airline stewardess, is now official chief of staff.

Former ambassador John Sossidis, who is widely seen as Constantine's man in Athens, says, "We are living in the dinosaur age of Greek politics. There is a vacuum of power, and we are left with ineffectual and old politicians. The king looks more attractive every day."

Dimitris Genelos, the press counselor at the Greek Mission the U.N. in New York, dismisses any such notion: "Maybe Constantine thinks Greece is closer to the East European model, where he has a chance. But it's really more like Italy or France, and he has no chance. That point is very often missed by the diaspora Greeks. They like to look down on the barbarians back home. But over the years the barbarians have acquired bigger houses, more cars, better educations-and middle classes don't go for kings. Peasants and aristocrats go for kings."

"A lot of people in Greece have reached such a point of frustration with the political system," says the young publisher of Odyssey magazine, Gregory A. Maniatis, "that they say we need to bring some order. Which is why the idea of the monarchy is vaguely appealing to some people, even if Constantine himself doesn't inspire people, because he never sacrificed for his country. He didn't sacrfice during the coup or the countercoup. And what has he done in the past 28 years apart from publicizing himself?"

When I asked Constantine if he saw himself ever returning to the throne, he answered, "I would never advocate that course of action. But I'm not ruling it out, because I think it would be totally undemocratic to pre-empt the Greek people's wish.....There is only one sovereign, and that is the people. They can decide."


|| Start || Meet the Sisters || Articles || Mentions || Picture Pages || Genealogy || Links ||
|| Welcome || About Me || Site Information || Guestbook || Feedback || Message Board ||

This page was created on March 13, 2001 by Alex B.
URL: http://www.angelfire.com/celeb/millers/start.html
and all pages on this site are maintained by Alex B.
© Copyright 2000 - 2001