Thursday, September 2, 2010

Feuding Queens

September 2, 1916

By an-Ex-Attache writing for the Brentwood Company, and published by the Chicago Daily Tribune.

The ex-Attache (believed to Frederick Cunliffe-Owen) writes: "We have been hearing so much about the masterful Queen Sophia of Greece and of the manner in which for two years she has been exercising her powerful influence over her husband to defy the wishes of his people in connection with the present war" that many have forgotten that there is another Queen of Greece, Olga, who will celebrate tomorrow her 65th birthday.

The birthday celebrations will not take place in Athens, but in Petrograd, where Queen Olga has lived for the past eighteen months. She has refused to "sanction by her presence in Greece, the hostile attitude of her son," King Constantine, and of her German-born daughter-in-law, Sophia, towards Russia, and Russia's allies.

Queen Olga was born in Russia, the daughter of the late Grand Duke Constantine Nicolaivitch, the "sailor brother" of Alexander II, and "probably "the most gifted and liberal minded prince of the House of Romanoff."

Queen Olga believes "Greece owes everything to Russia," as Russia was "largely responsible" for Greek independence, in 1863, when Prince Wilhelm of Denmark was elected King of the Hellenes.
Until King Constantine's marriage. "the reigning house and the people of Greece looked upon Russia as their protector and bulwark." Greece could rely on Russia against the Turks, and the "relations between the courts of Athens and Petrograd were of the most intimate character." This was due to a series of marriages within the family. Queen Olga is a Romanoff, while the Dowager Russian Empress, Marie Feodorovna, a princess of Denmark by birth, was an older sister of King George I of Greece. Two of Olga's daughters, Princesses Alexandra and Marie, married the Russian Grand Dukes Paul and George, and Olga's son, Prince Nicholas is married to Grand Duchess Helen Vladimirovna.

Constantine did not look to Russia for wife. He married Princess Sophia of Prussia, a younger sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II, and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. Sophia, according to this ex-attache, "set to work to endeavor to diminish the predominate Muscovite influence in Greece." In other words, she devoted "all her energies to the Germanizing of the Hellenic court, the government, and the nation."

This naturally brought Sophia into conflict with her mother-in-law, and with her husband's siblings. As she grew "surer of her position" as Crown Princess, Sophia becames "more aggressive, and it was largely owing to her tactics that the army rose in revolt about eight years ago," an action that compelled King George to deprive his son of the "chief command of the army and of all his other military dignitaries."

The antagonism between Olga and Sophia, "initiated by the latter, became more and more pronounced as time went by." If Queen Olga supported a cause, Sophia tried to "combat it." In the last twelve years of his reign, King George "had been busy keeping the crown princess in check," but after his assassination in 1913, his son, Constantine, succeeded as king.
Sophia, as Queen consort, "assumed a degree of arbitrariness bordering on tyranny." It should not come as a surprise that Olga found the situation in Athens to be intolerable. As the dowager queen, she was now "subject to the commands and the will of her eldest son, the king, who was completely under the sway of her German daughter-in-law."
This is why Olga departed for Russia, which "constitutes an additional grievance which the Greeks have against Sophia."
If the Queen leaves is Greece, which is now probably, she will be remembered for the gift she gave to Athens, "of a model slaughterhouse bearing her name." Sophia had been "shocked by the methods of killing cattle and sheep," and by the insanitary conditions of the slaughterhouses. She made "a study of all the different kinds of abattoirs, even sending to the United States," and decided on a method that appeared to be up to date. The new slaughterhouse was constructed and "properly equipped" in Athens and then presented to the Athens government.

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