A survey of the Kings of modern Greece, from George I (reigned 1863-1913) to Constantine II (reigned 1964-67)
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When the volatile Greeks deposed their unpopular, childless German-born ruler Otho in 1862, they chose a new King. Their first choice of Queen Victoria's second son Alfred was politically impracticable, and instead they chose the 17-year-old Prince William of Schleswig-Holstein. Despite the instability of Greece, William - who took the regnal name George - was a popular and effective monarch, coping with tensions in the Balkans and defeat by Turkey in the war of 1897. His family became well-connected with the major European dynasties; his father Christian became King of Denmark, two of his sisters married a future King of England and a future Tsar of Russia respectively; he himself married a Russian Grand Duchess, and their eldest son and heir married a sister of the German Kaiser.
In 1913 King George was assassinated, and succeeded by his son as Constantine I. He endeavoured to remain neutral during the First World War, but was forced to abdicate after pressure from his own government and from both sides. His second son Alexander was chosen to succeed him as a puppet King, but died three years later from a monkey bite. Constantine was recalled, but abdicated a second time after a disastrous war with Turkey in 1922 led to total defeat.
His eldest son King George ruled for only a year before Greece was declared a republic, but he was recalled from exile to reign again and wear the crown during the Second World War. His youngest brother Paul, and the latter's son, another Constantine, both wore the crown before Greece was declared a republic again and a referendum in 1974 brought the final curtain down on the monarchy.
"I saw before me a slight, active figure with the elasticity of youth, dressed in a tight-fitting khaki uniform; the face beamed with pleasure, the eyes sparkled with life, and about the mouth, half-hidden by the fair moustache, played the smile I remember so well, in which kind-heartedness, humour and a hint of good-natured mockery were wonderfully combined."
Walter Christmas on King George I, 1913