Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Constantine I dead in Palermo


January 11, 1923

King Constantine I died "suddenly" earlier today in his room at the Hotel Villa Igeia in Palermo, Italy, reports the Los Angeles Times.  The cause of death was a cerebral hemorrhage.  He was 54 years old and had been suffering from arterial sclerosis and nephritis, but there had been "no expectation of a sudden and fatal ending."

He and his family were expected to leave for Naples tomorrow to stay at the Piazzo di Capodimonte, as the guests of the Duke of Aosta, and then go to Florence where the exiled king planned to settle permanently.

The king's wife, Queen Sophie, and their three daughters, Crown Princess Helen of Romania, Princess Irene, and Princess Katherine.

After the doctor declared the king was dead,  Crown Princess Helen exclaimed:  "Poor father, he died of a broken heart.   Constantine's favorite daughter, Princess Katherine was overcome with grief.

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 The late king was the eldest son of King George I of Greece and Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinova of Russia and was a grandson of the late King Christian IX of Denmark.   In 1863, Constantine's father, Prince Wilhelm of Denmark, was elected King of the Hellenes and took the name, George.

He was born in Athens on August 1, 1868.  His name honored his maternal grandfather, Grand Duke Konstantin Konstantinovich, and the "King who would reconquer Constantinople," the future Constantine XII.   After the firing of the cannons to announce the birth of an heir, large crowds gathered outside the palace, shouting the name Constantine.   The Diadoch (or Crown Prince) was the first Greek-born heir.

On October 27, 1889,  Constantine married Princess Sophie of Prussia, the daughter of the late Emperor Friedrich III of Germany, and his British wife, Princess Victoria, the eldest child of Queen Victoria.  He succeeded to the throne on  March 18, 1913, when his father was assassinated in Thessaloniki.

As a prequel to the outbreak of the first world war following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire,  Greece was involved in several Balkan wars with Turkey and Bulgaria, the latter war included a secret defense pact with Serbia.

Constantine tried to maintain neutrality during the first world war.  This proved difficult as the king was married to Kaiser Wilhelm II's sister.   Kaiser Wilhelm II wanted his brother-in-law to support Germany.  In a letter to Wilhelm II,  Constantine said he was sympathetic to the German side, but would remain neutral.  Greece's pro-allied Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos was anxious to bring Greece into the Allied side but was rebuffed by the king.  This action displeased Britain and France.

With the support of Britain and France, the prime minister forced the king to abdicate in June 1717.  Constantine's second son, Alexander, was named as king, as Venizelos did not want the eldest son, George, also believed to be pro-German, to succeed to the throne.   

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Constantine and his family settled in Switzerland.  Alexander died in October 1920 from sepsis.  The Greek throne was vacant as the government did not want to restore Constantine or name his eldest son to the throne.  Venizelos offered the throne of Prince Paul, who declined the offer as he supported his father and brother.  A referendum was held in December 1920. Constantine received 99% of the vote.

Neither the French nor the British supported the referendum.

At the time of Constantine's return to Greece, the military was involved in yet another with Turkey.  The Greek military will ill-prepared for war, and the war-weary, battled-scared Greek troops failed in an attempt to capture Ankara in Anatolia.  They returned to Greece in defeat.

Venizelos' supporters in the military devoted and blamed Constantine for the country's defeat. 

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 On September 27, 1922,  Constantine abdicated in favor of his eldest son, George.

Constantine spent the last four months of his life in Italy.

He is survived by his wife, Queen Sophie, his children, King George II, who is married to Princess Elizabeth of Romania,  Crown Princes Helen of Romania,  Prince Paul, Princess Irene, and Princess Katherine, and two grandchildren, Princess Alexandra, the posthumous daughter of King Alexander and his wife, Aspasia Manos, and Prince Michael of Romania.

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Andrea said...

Was he related to his wife?



Marlene Eilers Koenig said...

they were both descendants of George II