Tuesday, December 14, 2010

December 14: Sorrowful date for Queen Victoria

During the lifetime of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom, December 14 stood out as a date that harbored much sorrow.

On this date in 1861, her beloved husband, Albert, the Prince Consort, died from typhoid fever at the age of 42. The Queen was shattered by his passing, and dressed herself in mourning attire that she would continue to wear for the rest of her long life. For many years afterward, she conducted her homes and the royal court in a permanent state of mourning for Prince Albert. She prohibited laughing, loud talking, balls or banquets of any kind and sequestered herself in one of her many homes, primarily Windsor Castle, Osborne House and Balmoral Castle. This earned her the popular epithet "The Widow of Windsor", and led to a downturn in public affection for the monarchy during the 1860s. She did not even attend the state opening of Parliament for five years. In 1872, after her eldest son, Edward, Prince of Wales, suffered a near-fatal illness, she gradually emerged from her isolation and returned to public duties and appearances.

Not only would December 14 mark the death of her husband, but the same date in the year 1878 also marked the death of one of her children. Queen Victoria's second daughter, Princess Alice, who had married Grand Duke Ludwig IV of Hesse, contracted diphtheria from her children and died shortly after. Her last words were reportedly "Dear Papa". Alice's youngest daughter would grow up to become Empress Alexandra, the ill-fated consort to Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Alice's great-grandson is Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

One happy event, however, took place on December 14 during Queen Victoria's lifetime. Her great-grandson, Prince Albert of York, son of Victoria's grandson, the future King George V, was born on this date in 1895. The boy's father was worried about how his grandmother would react to the child's birthday falling on such a hallowed date. When they decided to name him in honor of the late Prince Consort, however, Queen Victoria expressed that she was delighted by the news. Prince Albert of York would later become King George VI, and father of the present queen, Elizabeth II

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wedding of King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie

This is a clip of a Greek television broadcast of the 1964 wedding of King Constantine II to Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark:

Sadly we are unable to translate what the broadcaster is saying. However, we did catch at the 0:18 mark that he makes mention of "Don Juan Carlos" and "Prinkipessa Sophia". This is in reference to Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia, Constantine II's elder sister, who were married in Athens just two years before and are now the present king and queen of Spain.

At 0:28, the groom, King Constantine II and his mother, Queen Frederica, emerge in their carriage from the royal palace.

At 0:58, the bride, Princess Anne-Marie, with her father, King Frederick IX of Denmark, leave the royal palace.

At 0:19 the King and Queen Frederica arrive at the Mitropolis in Athens, where the wedding will be held.

At 1:32, Princess Anne-Marie and the King of Denmark arrive at the Mitropolis. Anne-Marie, who had just turned eighteen years old, famously turns and waves her bouquet at the cheering crowds.

As is customary in Eastern Orthodox weddings, the guests remain standing throughout the duration of the ceremony. The groom has groomsmen, called
; the bride had bridesmaids but they do not perform any official function in the wedding ceremony and do not walk with the bride down the aisle. Their primary function is to assist her with her gown and train. The Koumbari at the wedding of Constantine II were Crown Prince Harald of Norway (now King Harald V), Prince Charles of Great Britain (now the Prince of Wales) and

At 3:20, the tradition of crossing the crowns over the heads of the bridal couple. This is done by the groom's mother, Queen Frederica.

At 3:35 the bridal couple perform the ceremonial walk, symbolizing their first steps together as husband and wife.

At 3:53, the bridal couple kiss the Bible.

At 4:00, King Constantine receives kisses and blessings from his mother, who is now the Queen Dowager Frederica. She also kisses her new daughter-in-law; in a moment of awkward royal protocol, both queens bow to each other.

At 4:06, the bride receives kisses and blessings from her mother, Queen Ingrid of Denmark. King Constantine then kisses his new mother-in-law and kisses her hand as well, as is customary among royal men when they greet a queen.

At 4:13, the bride receives a kiss from her father, who kisses her hand as well.

The video ends with the King and the new Queen of the Hellenes parading through the streets of Athens receiving cheers and adulation from the public.

Notice at 5:13, the horses drawing the carriage are leaning in to one another. Queen Anne-Marie later recalled that they were startled by the noise from the crowds and by the rice being thrown into the streets. She admitted to being nervous at their leaning and feared that the carriage would be tipped over if they continued walking in such a manner.

This video is available on YouTube and on the Greek royal family's official website, www.greekroyalfamily.org.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Prince William's Engagement

HRH Prince William of Wales, eldest son of the Prince of Wales, formally announced his engagement to Catherine Middleton, his girlfriend of eight years, in a press conference held at St. James Palace on 16 November 2010. In a year that has seen an exceptional helping of royal weddings - the wedding of the Swedish crown princess in June, the wedding of the former Greek king's son in August - the long-awaited announcement of the British heir's engagement surely tops them all.

At the press conference, the prince disclosed that he had bestowed upon his fiancee the same engagement ring worn by his late mother, Lady Diana Spencer. Ms. Middleton explained her excitement about the marriage to journalists but admitted that she found her role as future queen to be "daunting".

No date has been set for the wedding, but Clarence House (the official residence of the Prince of Wales and his wife and sons) stated that the nuptials will most likely take place in the spring or summer of 2011.

Further speculation comes in the question of which titles Ms. Middleton will receive upon marrying into the royal family. Officially, she will be known as Her Royal Highness Princess William of Wales. Contrary to popular belief, her formal title will not be Princess Catherine, as she is not a princess in her own right and only inherits the title of princess through her husband; thus, Princess William. This applied to her late mother-in-law, Diana, who was frequently (albeit incorrectly) referred to as Princess Diana. Diana's formal title was The Princess Charles, Princess of Wales, though she was generally referred to as simply The Princess of Wales.

However, by tradition the reigning sovereign generally bestows titles of nobility upon their children and grandchildren at the time of their marriages. Prince William's uncles, Andrew and Edward, were both awarded the titles Duke of York and Earl of Wessex, respectively, upon their marriages. It is likely that the Queen will grant William such a title before his wedding.

William will not be able to use the title Prince of Wales until his father either succeeds to the throne or dies; however, he does not automatically inherit the title as he must be created Prince of Wales by the sovereign. The title Duke of York will become vacant upon the death of his uncle Andrew (as he only has daughters and no sons to inherit it); however, the title is traditionally reserved for the second son of the reigning sovereign and could potentially be passed onto William's brother, Prince Harry, if the current Duke of York dies and the present Prince of Wales succeeds to the throne.

Some sources are already speculating that Prince William will be created Duke of Cambridge, a royal title which has been vacant since the death of Prince George, Duke of Cambridge (a grandson of King George III) in 1904. Another vacant title is the Duke of Clarence (last borne by Prince Albert Victor of Wales, eldest son of King Edward VII, whose unexpected death in 1892 placed his younger brother, the future King George V, second in the line of succession). In the event that William inherits either of these titles, Ms. Middleton will take on their feminine forms (i.e. HRH The Duchess of Cambridge; HRH The Duchess of Clarence).

Though Clarence House announced that he sought the approval of Ms. Middleton's father for her hand in marriage, Prince William was not required to seek the permission of the Queen. According to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, members of the royal family under the age of 25 cannot marry without the consent of the sovereign. Prince William is 28 years of age and is therefore able to marry without his grandmother's consent.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Birthday of His Majesty King Michael

October 25, 2010 marks the 89th birthday of King Michael of Romania. He was born October 25, 1921 at the Peleş Castle in Sinaia, the Romanian royal retreat in the Carpathian Mountains. He was the only child born to Crown Prince Carol and Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark. Through both his parents, King Michael is descended from Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.

Michael's childho
od was less than idyllic. His parents' marriage had quickly soured, and when he was just four his father, Carol, abandoned the family and ran off with his mistress, Elena Lupescu. In the process he renounced his rights to the Romanian throne and his position in the royal family, making Michael the new crown prince. Following the death of his grandfather, King Ferdinand, in 1927, he succeeded to the throne as Michael I, King of the Romanians. Because he was just six years of age, a regency was established under his uncle, Prince Nicolae of Romania, the Romanian chief justice and a bishop in the Romanian Orthodox church.

In 1930, Michael's father Carol returned to Romania and swept into Bucharest to reclaim his throne. He was proclaimed King Carol II and demoted his son back to the rank of crown prince. Carol II removed Michael from his mother's custody, had her placed under virtual house arrest and filled her house with spies. In 1940, a coup d'etat ousted King Carol from Romania for the final time, and Michael, now aged nineteen, returned to the throne.

Romania during this time was under a military dictatorship led by Ion Antonescu, who was in close collaboration with the Nazis. On August 23, 1944, the King rallied pro-Allied politicians and troops and launched a coup against Antonescu's regime. He then sided Romania with the Allies, and by allowing Soviet troops to march through Romanian territory, it is believed that World War II was cut short by as much as six months. The events of August 23 became known as King Michael's Coup, and was regarded as his finest hour as sovereign of the Romanians.

In 1945, however, King Michael was forced to appoint a pro-Communist government, who were not the least-bit sympathetic to the monarchy, and his role was curtailed to nothing more than a puppet king. On December 30, 1947, troops loyal to the communists surrounded the royal palace and issued an ultimatum to the king: either he renounce the throne and the Romanian monarchy be abolished, or the army would launch a killing spree against those suspected of being royalists. Wishing to avoid bloodshed, King Michael abdicated and four days later fled Romania with his mother, Queen Helen.

Shortly after his abdication, he married Princess Anne of Bourbon-Parma in Athens at the invitation of his uncle, King Paul of Greece. They have five daughters - Margareta, Helen, Irene, Sophia and Marie. The exiled King and Queen of the Romanians spent much of their lives living in Switzerland, but in 1992, following the collapse of communism in Romania, they returned to Romania for the first time in decades amid scenes of national fervor. This visit alarmed the government of President Ion Iliescu, who banned the King from returning to Romania. Following Iliescu's defeat in 1997, however, this ban was lifted and the Romanian royal family have been allowed to return and were offered one of their former palaces as a permanent residence.

King Michael remains a popular figure in Romania, and although it doesn't seem likely the monarchy will be restored in the near future, he continues to attract the respect and attention of the Romanian people. The 50th wedding anniversary of King Michael and Queen Anne in 2008 was covered widely by the Romanian media, despite the fact that Anne never lived in Romania as a reigning Queen.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Birthday of Queen Anne-Marie

On August 30, Queen Anne-Marie celebrated her 64th birthday.

Born August 30, 1946 at Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, Anne-Marie was the youngest of three daughters born to Denmark's King Frederick IX and Queen Ingrid (formerly Princess Ingrid of Sweden). Raised in a seemingly close-knot family, this princess grew into a striking teenager and caught the attention of the Greek crown prince, Constantine, who was her third cousin twice-over (both Anne-Marie and Constantine are great-great-grandchildren of Britain's Queen Victoria and Denmark's King Christian IX). Crown Prince Constantine formally asked King Frederick's permission to marry his daughter, but was asked to wait until she was of age before marrying.

Constantine's sudden accession to the Greek throne upon the unexpected death of his father in 1964 hastened the couple's marriage. Anne-Marie became Queen of the Hellenes just three weeks after her eighteenth birthday in one of the grandest royal weddings ever held in Athens. Being the world's youngest queen (and one of the prettiest at that), Anne-Marie enjoyed an idyllic start to her life in Greece, and was initially viewed admirably by the Greek people. From a dynastic point of view, she delivered in full measure- a daughter, Alexia, was born in July 1965, and an heir to the throne, Pavlos, arrived in May 1967.

The political situation in Greece was much more dramatic than the cushioned lives led by its young monarchs. In April 1967, a colonel's coup seized control of the government and arrested most of King Constantine's supporters. The King launched a counter-coup in December of that year, but when the attack failed, the Greek royal family found themselves fleeing to Rome with barely enough fuel in their private plane. Queen Anne-Marie was pregnant with a third child at this time, but the stress of their exile caused her to miscarry shortly after their arrival in Rome.

The Greek royals remained in Rome for the next seven years, during which time Anne-Marie gave birth to her second son, Nikolaos. In 1973, the military junta in Greece declared the abolition of the monarchy. After the collapse of the junta in 1974, the newly-formed democratic government declared any laws passed by the junta null, including their abolishment of the monarchy. A plebiscite was held to decide the fate of Constantine and Anne-Marie's thrones, with the majority voting to do away with the Greek monarchy.

After the King's formal deposition in 1974, the Greek royal family purchased a home in the suburbs of London, where King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie continue to reside today. It was here that Anne-Marie's two youngest children- Theodora and Philippos- were born.

Although Greece's current constitution does not recognize titles of nobility, international precedent allows former holders of certain titles or offices (particularly former monarchs or former heads of state) to enjoy the style and dignity of their previous station, albeit purely out of courtesy.
In her native Denmark, where her sister Margrethe is the reigning Queen, Anne-Marie is simply styled Queen Anne-Marie as opposed to Queen Anne-Marie of Greece or Queen of the Hellenes. Anne-Marie travels internationally on a Danish passport, which addresses her as "Anna-Maria de Grecia".

She holds the unique distinction of being a princess of Denmark both by birth and by marriage, as all dynastic members of the Greek royal family are male-line descendants of King Christian IX of Denmark and are therefore princes/princesses of Denmark. Therefore, since her husband is a prince of Denmark as well as the former King of the Hellenes, Anne-Marie is a princess of Denmark by virtue of her marriage to King Constantine as well as being a Danish princess by birthright.

Queen Anne-Marie is president of the Anna-Maria Foundation, which is named in her honor. It was established in 2003 following the ruling of the Greek courts to compensate King Constantine and members of the Greek royal family for their private properties in Greece, such as Tatoi Palace. The money granted by the courts was instead used to form the Anna-Maria Foundation, whose funds are aimed at helping villages and towns in Greece affected by natural disasters such as fires and earthquakes. All five of Anne-Marie's children sit on the board for the Anna-Maria Foundation.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wedding of Prince Nikolaos

Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark, the second son of King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, married his fiancee Tatiana Blatnik on Wednesday, August 25 at the St. Nicholas church on the Greek island of Spetses. The wedding was attended by members of the Greek royal family - King Constantine, Queen Anne-Marie, and the groom's siblings - Princess Alexia, Crown Prince Pavlos, Princess Theodora and Prince Philippos.

Royals from across Europe also arrived for the wedding, including th
e groom's aunts, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Sofia of Spain, and the crown princes and princesses of Spain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands.

Since the wedding, Ta
tiana Blatnik is now officially known as Her Royal Highness Princess Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark. Though the Greek constitution no longer recognizes titles of nobility, many foreign countries continue to recognize the titles of the Greek royal family out of courtesy. Since all dynastic members of the Greek royal family are male-line descendants of King Christian IX of Denmark, they are also legally titled as Princes/Princesses of Denmark, a dignity Ms. Blatnik has inherited through her marriage. Tatiana Blatnik has married into one of Europe's most prominent royal families. Though the Greek monarchy itself only lasted for a little over a hundred years, the dynasty that sired the current generation of Greek royals traces its lineage through the Danish royal house and through marriages into countless other European royalties.

Prince and Princess Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark depart the church after their wedding.

Crowds cheer as King Constantine, Queen Anne-Marie and Prince Nikolaos enter the church.

King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie, former monarchs of Greece, attend the wedding of their son, Prince Nikolaos.

Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece arrives with one of his children at the wedding of his brother, Prince Nikolaos.

Prince Philippos and Princess Theodora arrive at the wedding of their brother, Prince Nikolaos.

Princess Alexia, sister of Prince Nikolaos, arrives with her husband and children at the wedding.

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Sofia of Spain arrive at the wedding. Prince Nikolaos is a mutual nephew of both queens- Margrethe II is the sister of Queen Anne-Marie, while Queen Sofia (formerly Princess Sophia of Greece) is the sister of King Constantine.

Prince and Princess Michael of Kent (members of the British royal family) arrive at the wedding. Prince Michael is closely related to the Greek royal family- his mother, Princess Marina of Greece, was a cousin of Prince Nikolaos' grandfather, King Paul of Greece.

Farah, former Empress of Iran, arrives at the wedding.

Felipe, Prince of Asturias, and Letizia, Princess of Asturias (son and daughter-in-law of the King and Queen of Spain) arrive at the wedding of Felipe's cousin, Prince Nikolaos.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Denmark's Crown Princess Expecting Twins

The Danish court announced on Friday, August 6 that Her Royal Highness The Crown Princess Mary, wife of His Royal Highness Crown Prince Frederik, is expecting twins. The couple already have two children- Prince Christian, age 4, and Princess Isabella, age 3. The Crown Princess is due to give birth in January 2011.

The birth of the twins will bring the number of grandchildren for Queen Margrethe II up to seven. In addition to the Crown Prince and Princess' two children, the Queen also has three grandchildren by her son Prince Joachim.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Birthday of King Alexander of Greece

August 1 marks the 117th anniversary of the birth of Alexander I, who was King of the Hellenes from 1917-1920 and the third monarch of the House of Glucksburg.

Prince Alexander (Alexandros) of Greece and Denmark was born August 1, 1893 at Tatoi, the royal family's private estate outside of Athens. He was the second child of Crown Prince Constantine of Greece and Princess Sophie of Prussia. Born during the reign of his grandfather, King George I, Alexander was third in the line of succession to the Greek throne, behind his father and his elder brother, George. Crown Prince Constantine became King of the Hellenes upon his father's assassination in 1913, moving Alexander to second place in the line to the throne.

In 1917, Alexander's relatively easygoing life changed abruptly when, following months of political intrigues, King Constantine I was forced to step down from the throne under overwhelming pressure from the Allies, who believed the King was a German sympathizer. The Allies refused to accept Constantine's elder son, Crown Prince George, as his successor, and so the crown unexpectedly fell to Alexander. Just 24 years old, Alexander had not been trained at all to become king and was completely bewildered by the prospect. Before leaving Greece, King Constantine advised his son that he was merely holding the Greek crown in place of his father and his elder brother, and the family prayed that they would return in a few years' time and restore the proper order.

King Alexander's first few months on the Greek throne were miserable. With his entire family driven into exile, he was surrounded day and night by political enemies who merely used him as a puppet king by Prime Minister Venizelos, his father's arch-rival. The King was constantly under surveillance by secret police, and none of his friends were allowed to work as members of his household, instead being replaced by known rivals of his family.

Alexander's piteous existence was made bearable by a young woman named Aspasia Manos, the daughter of a colonel and a descendant of one of Greece's most illustrious families. The King fell deeply in love with Aspasia, but when he announced his intentions to propose to the girl, he was faced with opposition from nearly all sides. Greek society being what it was, it was considered extremely controversial for any member of the royal family to marry a Greek national. The King and Aspasia Manos instead eloped, infuriating Prime Minister Venizelos and causing a major scandal within Greece. Aspasia was forced to temporarily flee Greece until the scandal had settled, and once she returned the Greek government agreed it would be viewed as a morganatic marriage, where the marriage was deemed legitimate but Aspasia would not be permitted to share her husband's rank and become Queen.

On October 2, 1920, King Alexander was walking in the gardens of the royal palace in Athens when his favorite dog was attacked by a pair of wild monkeys. Alexander attempted to drive the monkeys away from his dog but was bit during the scuffle. At first, he was more embarrassed by the scene than alarmed, but within hours infection had set in and he became seriously ill.

For weeks Alexander suffered from agonizing pain and went into fits of delirium, imagining himself to be driving along the roads at Tatoi and claiming to have seen visions of his assassinated grandfather, King George I. Finally, on October 25, King Alexander died at the age of 27.

The only member of his family to attend his funeral was his grandmother, Queen Olga of Greece. When King Constantine and Queen Sophie received word of their son's illness, Queen Sophie begged the Greek government to let her see Alexander. Her requests were cruelly denied, but the government did grant permission for Queen Olga to return to Greece. Due to bad weather, her ship was delayed, and she arrived in Athens just hours after her grandson's death. Shortly after Alexander's death, Constantine I was recalled to the Greek throne.

At the time of his death, Alexander's wife Aspasia was pregnant. Five months after his death, his daughter Alexandra was born. Queen Sophie, devastated by her son's death, found herself deeply attached to Aspasia and the baby Alexandra, and convinced her husband to pass a decree declaring the legitimacy of Alexander and Aspasia's marriage. Aspasia was created Princess Alexander of Greece, and Alexandra was created Princess Alexandra of Greece and Denmark. Alexandra would later marry King Peter II of Yugoslavia.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The House of Windsor is born

On July 17, 1917, King George V of the United Kingdom issued a royal decree announcing that the name of the British royal family would henceforth be known as Windsor.

1917 was a critical year for the Allied powers in World War I. That summer, it appeared as if the German forces would punch through and overrun the Allies. With anti-German feelings running rampant throughout Britain, the King grew anxious about his own position.

King George belonged to the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, which came to the British throne with his father, Edward VII, whose father was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. George's wife, Queen Mary, was a princess of Teck by birth, a morganatic branch of the royal house of the German kingdom of Wurttemburg. Summing up the suspicions of many Britons, novelist H.G. Wells declared that King George reigned over "an alien and uninspiring court", to which the king retorted "I may be uninspiring, but I'm damned if I'm an alien".

It became clear that the royal family would have to discard their German ties if they were to retain the support of the British people. In a stroke of political genius, George V's advisers suggested he change the name of the royal house from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor. Thus, on July 17 it was declared by order of the King that all male-line descendants of Queen Victoria would henceforth belong to the House of Windsor.

Anniversary of the Romanov Family Executions

92 years ago, on July 17, 1918, the last Russian tsar was murdered with his wife and children on the orders of the Russian Bolshevik government.

Nicholas II, the last emperor of the imperial Romanov dynasty, abdicated in March 1917 in the midst of political and social turmoil. Since then, his family had been placed under house arrest by the new republican government, first at their primary home, the Alexander Palace, and then in a mansion in the Siberian province of Tobolsk. Though they faced occasional jeering and gruff behavior from disgruntled soldiers, the imperial family's captivity was initially bearable. But in October 1917, a second revolution led by the Bolsheviks and Vladimir Lenin seized Russia practically overnight, and suddenly the position of the former tsar turned delicate.

In April 1918, the family was transferred to Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains - where the local Soviet was known to harbor fierce Bolshevism - and held inside a local merchant's house. The two months they spent in Yekaterinburg were enough to crush the family's spirits. The guards were lecherous and frequently insulted the family, and their windows were white-washed with paint and had prison-styled iron bars installed on the outside.

Shortly after midnight on July 17, Yakov Yurovksy, the commandant of the Romanovs' guard, awoke the family's physician, Dr. Eugene Botkin, who had joined the tsar's family in captivity. Dr. Botkin was instructed to rouse the family, dress and report downstairs.

The tsar, his wife, Empress Alexandra, their four daughters- Grand Duchesses Olga, Tatiana, Marie and Anastasia- and their only son, Tsarevitch Alexei, along with Dr. Botkin, the family's cook, the empress' maid and the emperor's valet, emerged from their rooms and were led into the cellar of the house. There, Yurovsky told them to wait momentarily. He returned a few minutes later with a group of his guards, and read the following statement aloud:

"Your relatives have tried to save you. They have failed, and we are now obliged to shoot you all."

Nicholas II stood up, bewildered, and asked "What?" Yurovsky then pulled out a pistol and shot the former emperor point-blank in the head. The rest of the guards followed suit and began firing at the family. The tsar and his wife were both killed instantly from the initial volley of bullets, but their children did not die so easily. Alexei had fallen to the ground from the force of his father collapsing backwards onto him, and he was silenced with a bullet straight into the ear. The four sisters suffered the most. For weeks, they had been sewing jewels into their corsets to use for money in case they should escape. Their bejeweled corsets acted as bulletproof vests against their assassins' gunfire, and they were finished off brutally with the dull bayonets from some of the guards' Winchester rifles.

When the massacre had ceased, the seven imperial corpses and the bodies of their four faithful retainers were hauled into a truck and taken into the woods outside Yekaterinburg. They were dismembered, partially burned, and thrown into a shallow pit near a spot known as the Four Brothers, where they remained undiscovered until the 1970s.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, the scientists who discovered the burial ground were able to publicly reveal its location. They were exhumed and sent to laboratories in Moscow and London for DNA analysis. The remains were compared with DNA samples from a number of the family's royal relatives, both living and deceased. These included DNA samples from Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh (whose maternal grandmother was Empress Alexandra's sister) and the remains of the tsar's brother, Grand Duke George, who was interred in St. Petersburg. The results proved a match, although the remains of Alexei and one of his sisters- disputed to be either Anastasia or Marie- were not found.

On July 17, 1998, exactly 80 years to the day of their murder, the last Russian imperial family and their retinue were interred in an official ceremony presided over by President Boris Yeltsin in St. Petersburg's Cathedral of Peter and Paul. Nine years later, in 2007, scientists discovered remains near the original burial site outside Yekaterinburg, and DNA testing further confirmed that they belonged to the two missing Romanov children.

Below is a dramatization of the execution as shown in the British television miniseries, The Lost Prince. In this scene, the tsar and empress' first cousin, King George V of Britain, is told of the murders by his private secretary. George V had asked his secretary to convince the prime minister to deny asylum for the Romanov family, fearing their appearance in England would ignite a left-wing protest against the monarchy. Many historians believe that the king's rejection of his Russian cousins shut the door on their chance of escape and sealed their doom.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Prince Albert II of Monaco Engaged

Monaco's sovereign, Prince Albert II, has finally become engaged. The 52-year-old prince will marry South African Olympian swimmer Charlene Wittstock, ending decades of speculation over the prince's seemingly endless bachelorhood.

This comes as a sigh of relief to the 700-year-old Grimaldi dynasty. Albert has acknowledged in 2005 and 2006 that he is the father of two children both born out of wedlock to different mothers, though neither of them are eligible to inherit the throne. Presently, Albert's elder sister Caroline, Princess of Hanover, is the heiress to the throne, followed by her children Andrea and Charlotte Cashiragi.

Albert II is the only son of Prince Rainier III and American film actress Grace Kelly. Princess Grace died following a car accident in 1982, and Rainier III passed away in 2005.

Birthday of Edward VIII

Today, June 23, marks the 116th anniversary of the birth of King Edward VIII of the United Kingdom, later the Duke of Windsor.

Edward Albert Christian George Andrew Patrick David was born June 23, 1894 at White Lodge in Surrey. He was named in honor of his late uncle, Prince Albert Victor, Duke of Clarence (who was always known as "Eddy" by his family) as well as his grandfather, King Edward VII. However, to friends and family he was always known by the last of his names, David.

Edward's father became king in 1910 and he was created Prince of Wales in 1911. During World War I, he enlisted in the military and was keen to serve in ba
ttle, but the government refused to send him to the front for fear of his being captured.

After the war, he undertook a number of royal duties and extensively toured the British empire. He was frustrated with the rituals of royalty
, however, and before long he became frustrating to members of the Establishment for his cosmopolitan lifestyle and numerous liaisons with married women.

Edward became king upon his father's death in 1936. By this time, he had fallen deeply in love with the American socialite Wallis Simpson, nee Warfield, who was married to a prominent British businessman and had already been divorced once before. Over the subsequent months following his accession, Edward stirred the frustrations of his family and his cabinet by continuing his relationship with Mrs. Simpson.

In November 1936, Edward met with Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin and announced his intentions to marry Wallis Simpson once her divorce had become final. Aghast, Baldwin informed the king that such a marriage would be unacceptable. Mrs. Simpson was a commoner, yes, but then his younger brother Albert had married Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. However, Mrs. Simpson was once divorced and currently seeking a second divorce, and as head of the Church of England and Defender of the Faith, the king could not marry a divorcee.

This resulted in a constitutional crisis. Members of the cabinet threatened to resign if the king married Mrs. Simpson, and the heads of the British realms and territories also threatened to resign. The king was forbidden from appealing directly to the people, for if the people expressed their support for the king's decision, he would be creating a breech between the crown and Parliament- something he was bound by the structures of a constitutional monarchy from doing.

Finally, Edward accepted the inevitable - if he were to remain on the throne, he would have to give up his romance with Mrs. Simpson. Edward decided instead to abdicate, and on December 10, 1936, he became the first British monarch to ever do so. His younger brother Albert succeeded in his place, becoming King George VI.

After the abdication, Edward was granted the title "His Royal Highness The Duke of Windsor". When he married Wallis Simpson in June 1937, she became the Duchess of Windsor but was denied the official usage of the style "Royal Highness". Edward remained bitterly resentful of this for the remainder of his life, and in private asked that his household and friends address the Duchess as "Her Royal Highness".

Edward died of cancer in 1972, twenty years after the relatively young death of his brother, the unexpected and reluctant king.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Swedish Royal Wedding

Her Royal Highness Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden, Duchess of Västergötland, married Daniel Westerling on Saturday in the most lavish royal celebration Sweden has seen since the wedding of the bride's parents thirty-four years earlier.

On the eve of the wedding, a concert was given at the Stockholm Concert Hall, featuring performances from a number of Swedish artists including the pop band Roxette.

The wedding on Saturday was attended by a number of royals, man
y of whom are relatives of the Swedish royal family. The monarchs of Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Jordan, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Monaco attended with their families, along with the former monarchs of Bulgaria and Greece.

Upon marrying Victoria, Daniel Westerling took the title His Royal Highness Prince Daniel of Sweden, Duke of Västergötland. There was slight controversy over the bride's decision to be escorted down the aisle by her father. The Church of Sweden has discouraged this practice for many years now, claiming it sexist, and prefers that the bride and groom walk down the aisle together. However, the palace defended the bride's decision and insisted the practice was meant to be symbolic of the monarch passing his blessing onto his heir. Prince Carl Philip, the crown princess' younger brother, acted as best man.

The wedding was celebrated on the same day as the nuptials of the bride's parents, King Gustav XVI Adolf and Queen Silvia. The year 2010 also marks the 200th anniversary of the accession of the Bernadotte dynasty.

Princess Madeleine and Prince Carl Philip, younger siblings of Crown Princess Victoria, arrive at the pre-wedding concert.

The King and Queen of Sweden

The King and Queen of Norway

The Queen and Prince Consort of Denmark

The Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark

The Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Norway

Members of the deposed Greek royal family: Princess Alexia, her husband Carlos Morales, Prince Philippos, Prince Nikolaos and his fiance Tatiana Blatnik, and Queen Anne-Marie and King Constantine.

Princess Margarita, eldest daughter of former King Michael of Romania, with her husband Radu.

The Crown Prince of Japan

Former King Simeon of Bulgaria and his wife, Margarita

Former Crown Prince Alexander of Yugoslavia and his wife arrive behind the Grand Duke and Grand Duchess of Luxembourg.

Felipe, Prince of Asturias, heir to the Spanish throne, and his wife Letizia.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Birthday of Sophie of Prussia

June 14 marks the 140th anniversary of the birth of Sophie of Prussia, Queen of the Hellenes.

Sophie Dorothea Ulrike Alice is born on June 14, 1870 in Potsdam, the seventh child of Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia and Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom.

Sophie's father succeeds to the throne as Emperor Frederick III in 1888. He is terminally ill from throat cancer, however, and dies after a reign of just 99 days. A bereaved Sophie, who has just turned eighteen the day before her father's death, turns to the comfort of Crown Prince Constantine of Greece, eldest son of King George I. The couple falls in love and are married in Athens in October 1888.

Shortly after marrying Constantine, Sophie visits Berlin to attend the wedding of her sister Victoria. There, she announces to her family that, as the wife of the future king of Greece and the mother of potential heirs to the throne of Greece, she considers it appropriate to become Greek Orthodox. Her mother and sisters accept this decision, but her brother, Kaiser Wilhelm II, reacts abominably. Declaring himself the head of her family and the head of the Prussian Lutheran Church, he disapproves of Sophie's change of religions and bans her from returning to Germany for three years. The already distant relationship between Sophie and her elder brother would never recover from this episode.

Sophie and Constantine have six children- George, Alexander, Helen, Paul, Irene and Katherine. All three of their sons will become king of Greece, their daughter Helen will become queen of Romania, and their daughter Irene will briefly become the titular queen of Croatia.

In 1913, King George I is assassinated shortly after the Greek armies liberate Salonika from the Turks. Sophie's husband becomes Constantine I, King of the Hellenes, and Sophie herself becomes Her Majesty The Queen of the Hellenes. At first, the new monarchs are enormously popular among their subjects. Constantine is the victorious commander in the recently-concluded Balkan Wars, and the Greeks praise their new king with a wild fervor. However, following the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Constantine is plagued by intrigue when he declares that Greece shall remain neutral despite overwhelming pressure from both the Allies and the Central Powers to join their sides.

Because Sophie is the German Emperor's sister, she and her family are accused by the Allies of harboring pro-German sentiments. Sophie is even suspected of having stabbed King Constantine with a knife during an argument over his refusal to join the Germans. In July 1916, arsonists set the woods surrounding the royal estate at Tatoi ablaze, nearly killing the royal family. French and British troops impose a blockade upon Greece and launch a bombardment upon Athens in December 1916.

Finally, the Allies demand Constantine's abdication in June 1917. Sophie and Constantine's eldest son, Crown Prince George, is forbidden from becoming king due to his suspected German sympathies; instead, their second son, Alexander, succeeds to the throne. While the family goes into exile in Switzerland, Alexander remains bitter and alone in Athens, surrounded by enemies of his father and acting as a mere puppet ruler.

Sophie is devastated when Alexander dies suddenly in 1920. He had been bitten by a wild monkey while out in the palace gardens and died of blood poisoning. While Alexander lays dying in agony, Sophie pleads with the Greek government to allow her to come to his bedside. They cruelly refuse her requests, but do allow her mother-in-law, Queen Olga, to see him. Queen Olga arrives at Athens just hours after her grandson's death.

In a twist of history that could only occur in the Balkans, the Greek people vote on a referendum to restore Constantine I to the throne. Sophie and Constantine return to Athens, but just two years later they are thrown out again when Greece suffers a humiliating defeat in the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922.

This time, Sophie and her family go into exile in Italy. Constantine dies less than a year after his second abdication; bewildered, Sophie purchases a private villa in the Italian countryside where she remains for the rest of her life.

Her eldest son succeeds to the throne as King George II, but like his father he is forced into exile twice, once from a revolution and a second time from the Nazi occupation of Greece in World War II. His marriage to Princess Elisabeth of Romania, daughter of Sophie's first cousin Queen Marie of Romania, is a pitiful failure. Likewise, the marriage between Sophie's daughter Helen and Queen Marie's eldest son King Carol II of Romania will also end bitterly. When Carol humiliates Helen by abandoning her and their son for his married mistress, Sophie comforts her daughter by offering her refuge at her Italian villa.

Ironically, in spite of the brutal treatment Sophie suffered at the hands of her brother, Wilhelm II, her son Paul will one day marry Wilhelm's granddaughter, Princess Frederica of Hanover.

Sophie dies of cancer in 1932 at the age of 61. She is initially buried in Germany, but following the restoration of the Greek monarchy, her son King George II orders her remains and the remains of her husband Constantine to be returned to the royal crypt at Tatoi.

Sophie's legacy lives on through her granddaughter, the present Queen of Spain, Sofia, the eldest daughter of Paul and Frederica who was named in her honor. A fashionable boulevard in present-day Athens bears the name Queen Sophia Avenue (Greek:
Leoforos Vassilissis Sofias). Sophie's other grandchildren include King Michael of Romania, King Constantine II of Greece, the late Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, and Amadeo, Duke of Aosta (disputed pretender to the Italian throne).

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Queen Elizabeth II's Official Birthday

Though her actual birthday is April 21, the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II was celebrated today with pomp and splendor.

The official birthdays of British monarchs have been celebrated in June since the 18th century, so that there would be good weather for the event. The defining part of the celebrations is the Trooping the Color, where various regiments of the armed forces parade past the queen while displaying their flags and colors.

Trooping the Color is capped off by a fly-over show from military aircraft. They fly over Buckingham Palace while the queen and the royal family w
atch from the palace balcony.

Queen Elizabeth II and members of the British Royal Family gather on the balcony of Buckingham Palace to watch the fly-over portion of Trooping the Color on the sovereign's official birthday.

Friday, June 11, 2010

93rd anniversary of King Constantine I's first abdication

On June 11, 1917, King Constantine I of the Hellenes went into exile in Switzerland. Constantine I had been in a precarious situation since the outbreak of World War I three years earlier. Despite close family and political ties to both the Allies and the Central Powers, Constantine had no desire to drag Greece into the war, especially since his kingdom had just concluded the victorious though costly Balkan Wars.

Both belligerents of the war were particularly insistent that Constantine allow Greece to join on their respective sides. The Allied Powers, made up of Britain, Russia and France, argued that Greece owed her very existence to them; indeed, it was the Great Powers that had established an independent Greece following its war of independence from Turkey, and in particular they were instrumental in placing Constantine's late father, King George I, on the Greek throne.

The Central Powers, dominated by the German Empire, felt Constantine also owed his loyalty to their cause. The Greek king attended military school in Germany, and, most glaringly, his wife Sophie was the Kaiser's younger sister. Though Constantine had expressed his admiration for the German military machine and its organized style of government, he had little personal affection for the Kaiser (the Kaiser had mercilessly bullied and threatened Sophie when she announced her intention to become Greek Orthodox shortly after marrying Constantine).

King Constantine's international standing took a beating as the war progressed. When the Germans attacked Serbia, Greece's decision to remain neutral instead of aiding their fellow Orthodox neighbors was viewed as cowardly by the rest of Europe. The Greek prime minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, defied his monarch by openly campaigning for Greece to join the Allies; this schism between crown and government left Greece's political situation in turmoil.

Though the Germans have often been portrayed as ruthless, it was the Allies that were particularly brutal in their treatment of Greece and its royal family. All across Europe, newspapers published defaming stories of King Constantine and Queen Sophie - they reported that the queen had a direct telephone line in her sitting room to her brother, Kaiser Wilhelm (similar stories plagued Sophie's cousin, Empress Alexandra of Russia, who was also perceived as vehemently pro-German during the war). In 1915, Constantine fell seriously ill from pneumonia and had to have some of his ribs surgically removed; gossip-mongers viciously reported that Constantine had actually been stabbed in a fit of rage by his wife during an argument where she fumed about his unwillingness to join the Germans. These stories were deeply painful for the royal family to bear, but they were mere sticks and stones compared to what happened in July of 1916.

In the early morning hours of July 14, 1916, the woods surrounding the royal family's private estate at Tatoi erupted into flames. The royal family were notified by a servant, and the household frantically rushed to escape. Several servants and members of the household were burned alive, and the royal family themselves barely escaped with their lives. Queen Sophie, in particular, had to run for nearly two miles on foot with her four-year-old daughter, Princess Katherine, cradled in her arms. It was later discovered that the fire was the result of arsonists, and that the Greek royal family's situation was quickly becoming more dangerous.

On December 1, 1916, a scuffle between Greek soldiers and occupying French and British forces escalated into a full-on shelling of Athens. The royal family were forced to hide in the wine cellars of the Royal Palace while bombs and shells flew across the city.

Finally, in early 1917, French and British ships weighed anchor in Athens harbor and set Greece under a blockade. By June, it was clear that there was no other solution- the Allies would lift the blockade only if Constantine stepped down from the throne and left Greece. His eldest son, Crown Prince George (later King George II) could not be his successor because he too had been educated by the German army, so Constantine's second son Alexander took his father's place.

King Constantine, Queen Sophie, all their children except the new king Alexander, and Constantine's brothers and their families boarded a ship in Athens harbor, surrounded by hysterical Greeks begging their king not to leave. They returned to Greece just three years later, when King Alexander suddenly died of blood poisoning from a monkey bite. However, Greece's defeat in the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922 cost Constantine his crown, and he went into exile for the second and last time in September 1922.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

80th Anniversary of Carol II's proclamation as King

June 8 marked the 80th anniversary of the proclamation of Carol II as King of the Romanians. In 1925, it had been discovered that Carol was having an affair with Elena "Magda" Lupescu, a Romanian commoner. This hastened the collapse of Carol's marriage to Princess Helen of Greece and deeply upset his parents, King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie. Because of the scandal that ensued, and due to a Romanian law that forbade members of the royal family from marrying Romanian citizens, Carol was obliged to renounce his claim to the throne and go into exile.

Following Carol's renunciation, King Ferdinand declared Carol and Helen's son Prince Michael as heir to the throne. When Ferdinand I died in 1927, five-year-old Michael ascended the throne, albeit under the regency of his uncle, Prince Nicholas.

On June 7, 1930, Carol unexpectedly returned to Romania. He reversed his renunciation and proclaimed himself King of the Romanians. Michael was reverted back to Crown Prince, but the situation with his mother was far more difficult. Princess Helen had been deeply humiliated by Carol's affair and eventual abandonment of his country, their marriage and their son. The marriage had been dissolved by the Romanian supreme court in 1928, but upon Carol's return the prime minister declared that by right, upon Carol's ascension as king, Helen rightfully became Her Majesty The Queen of the Romanians. Carol refused to allow this title for his wife and on the official decree he scribbled out the title "Queen of the Romanians" and instead declared she should be titled as Her Majesty Helen.

The government expressed concern that the divorce of 1928 should be reversed, but Carol refused to allow this. When Helen also agreed that their divorce should be annulled, he had her placed under virtual house arrest and kept soldiers at her doors. A humiliated Helen eventually left Romania and spent the next years in Florence, where her mother, Queen Sophie of Greece, had purchased a private villa.

Carol II's reign is extremely controversial among Romanian historians. He reigned virtually as a dictator for the next ten years. Carol II was ousted from his throne by General Antonescu, going into exile in Portugal with his mistress, Magda Lupescu.

His son Michael ascended the throne for a second time following his father's abdication, but his reign would last until 1947, when he was ousted by a Communist coup. Michael refused to ever meet his father again. Carol II died in Portugal in 1953.

89th Birthday of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh will celebrate his 89th birthday tomorrow, June 10. Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark (Philippos in Greek) was born on the Greek island of Corfu on June 10, 1921 (Old Style: May 28, 1921- Greece continued using the Julian calendar until 1923; on his birth certificate, Philip's birthdate is listed as May 28). He was the fifth child and only son of Prince and Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark. Through his father, Philip is a grandson of King George I of Greece and a great-grandson of King Christian IX of Denmark. Through his mother, who was born Princess Alice of Battenberg, he is a great-great-grandson of Queen Victoria.

Prince Philip with his mother, Princess Andrew of Greece (nee Princess Alice of Battenberg).

At the time of Philip's birth, his father Andrew served as a commanding officer during the Greco-Turkish war of 1919-1922. Following Greece's defeat and the abdication of Philip's uncle, King Constantine I, a number of senior military officers were arrested and tried by a military tribunal, including Prince Andrew. Fearing (rightfully so) for her husband's life, Princess Andrew appealed to government officials and foreign leaders to intervene. Prince Andrew was found guilty but, through diplomatic appeals, was sentenced to banishment from Greece. Thanks to his cousin King George V of Britain, Andrew's family were rescued from Corfu by a British warship; an infant Philip was reputedly carried aboard in a makeshift crib fashioned out of an orange crate.

Prince and Princess Andrew settled in Paris' Saint-Cloud district. There, along with a number of other exiled Greek royals, they relied on the financial generosity of Andrew's wealthy sister-in-law Princess Marie Bonaparte, who was married to Andrew's brother Prince George of Greece.

Philip experienced a rather unstable childhood. In the early 1930s, Princess Andrew was diagnosed as a schizophrenic and committed to an asylum in Switzerland. This permanently ruptured his parents' marriage, and his father moved to the south of France where he lived with his mistress. Philip also found himself an only child as his four sisters all went off to marry German aristocrats. From then on, P
hilip's primary guardians were his maternal grandmother, Victoria, Marchioness of Milford-Haven, and his mother's brothers, George, Marquess of Milford-Haven and Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma. Philip attended school at Cheam, and then at Schlue Schloss Salem in Germany, which was owned by his sister Theodora and her husband. However, the rise of Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930s prompted Philip's English relatives to transfer him out of Salem, and he went to Gordonstoun in Scotland, founded by Salem's Jewish headmaster Kurt Hahn, who fled Germany due to Nazi persecution. Philip thrived at Gordonstoun and has often recalled his memories at the school with pride.

Philip saw little of his parents during this time. His mother was eventually released from the asylum but embarked upon a nomadic existence across Europe. In 1937, Philip's sister Princess Ce
cilie was killed in a tragic plane crash in Belgium; her husband, their two sons and her unborn child also perished in the accident. Cecilie's funeral marked the first time Philip had seen either of his parents in years.

During World War II, Philip served in the Royal Navy and became one of its youngest first lieutenants. In 1947, Philip proposed to Princess Elizabeth, elder daughter and heiress to King George VI of Britain. He and Elizabeth were both great-great-grandchildren of Queen Victoria, making them third
cousins (Philip's great-grandmother, Princess Alice, was the sister of Elizabeth's great-grandfather, King Edward VII) while they were second cousins once-removed through King Christian IX of Denmark (Philip's grandfather, King George I of Greece, was the brother of Elizabeth's great-grandmother, Queen Alexandra). Before their marriage, Philip was obliged to renounce his titles as Prince of Greece and Denmark. He also adopted a new surname- Mountbatten, the English translation of his mother's family name, Battenberg. (his father's family name, Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, was deemed inappropriate; particularly for its German roots in a post-World War II society).

Philip and Princess Elizabeth were married in 1947, and he was cr
eated Duke of Edinburgh by King George VI. George VI died in 1952, and Elizabeth succeeded to the throne as Queen Elizabeth II. Though Philip holds no constitutional role, he consistently accompanies the Queen on various official engagements and visits, as well as accompanying her to the official state openings of Parliament.

Philip has championed environmental causes- he was the international president of the World Wildlife Fund from 1986-1991, and he has also taken an acute interest in the prese
rvation of Antarctica. He has set up the Duke of Edinburgh's Award to honor exceptional young people.


In spite of his numerous charities, foundations and environmental causes, Philip is often viewed as a controversial figure due to his outspoken nature that has landed him in a number of high-profile "gaffes". In 1986, he infamously joked with a group of British students studying in China not to stay too long otherwise they'd all "become slitty-eyed". He also told a group of deaf youngsters at a rock concert "No wonder you're deaf listening to this music" (the Duke later said it was taken out of context, and pointed out the fact that his mother, Princess Andrew, was actually born deaf). When it was suggested that he and the Queen pay a state visit to the Soviet Union, he replied "those bastards murdered half my family" (this was in reference to the 1918 murders of the Russian imperial family- Empress Alexandra of Russia was the sister of Philip's maternal grandmother).

At the present time, Philip is the longest-lived consort of a British monarch and is also the longest-serving royal consort in British history. He is also the second-busiest member of the royal family; only his daughter, Princess Anne, carries out more royal engagements and duties.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

King Constantine Celebrates 70th Birthday

Constantine II, the deposed king of Greece, celebrated his 70th birthday on June 2.

Prince Constantine of Greece and Denmark was born June 2, 1940 in Psy
chiko, a suburb of Athens. He was the second child and only son of Crown Prince Paul of Greece and Princess Frederika of Hanover. At the time of his birth, his uncle King George II was on the Greek throne, but because his marriage to Princess Elisabeth of Romania had produced no children, Constantine's father was the heir presumptive.

In April 1941, when Constantine was barely a year old, his family fled into
exile as the Nazis marched into Greece. Constantine went to Cairo and eventually South Africa with his mother and elder sister Sophia, while his father went to London, where George II established the Greek government-in-exile.

Crown Prince Constantine with his mother, Queen Frederica, and his sister, Princess Sophia, the present Queen of Spain.

The royal family returned to Greece in 1946, and Constantine became crown prince when his father, Paul, ascended the throne upon the sudden death of George II in 1947. Constantine served in all three divisions of the Greek armed forces and studied law at Athens University. In 1960, 20-year-old Crown Prince Constantine competed in sailing at the Olympic Games in Rome, where his team won a Gold medal in sailing, Dragon Class.

Constantine became engaged to Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, yo
ungest daughter of King Frederick IX, in 1964. In March of that year, King Paul died, and Constantine ascended the throne as Constantine II, King of the Hellenes. He and Anne-Marie were married in Athens in September 1964; the wedding was one of the largest gatherings of European royalty Greece had ever seen.

Queen Frederica, the future Queen Sophia of Spain, Queen Anne-Marie with her son Crown Prince Pavlos, Princess Irene, King Constantine and his daughter Princess Alexia at the christening of Crown Prince Pavlos in 1964.

A military coup in April 1967 placed Constantine in a precarious position. He swore in the military junta as the legitimate Greek government, but in December of that year he staged a counter-coup to overthrow the regime. The coup failed, and Constantine fled with his wife, their two elder children, his mother and his younger sister to Rome. Constantine remained the de facto head of state of Greece until 1973, when the junta declared Greece a republic and abolished the monarchy. When the junta collapsed a year later, the democratic prime minister Karamanlis returned from exile and, since the junta was generally regarded as an illegal government who took their power by illegitimate means, ordered a plebiscite to officially decide the fate of the monarchy. The Greek people voted 2 to 1 for the abolition of the monarchy, and since officially being deposed as king of Greece, Constantine and his wife have lived in exile near London.

King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie have five children- Alexia, Pavlos, Nikolaos, Theodora and Philippos.

King Constantine is related to most of Europe's royal families. His elder sister, Soph
ia, is the Queen of Spain, while his wife Anne-Marie is the sister of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark. Through both of his parents, Constantine is descended from both Queen Victoria of Britain and King Christian IX of Denmark (Queen Anne-Marie is also their descendant). King Constantine is a close friend of Charles, Prince of Wales (Charles' father, Prince Philip, is a first cousin of Constantine's late father King Paul) and Constantine is also godfather to Charles' son, Prince William. The 1995 wedding of Constantine and Anne-Marie's eldest son Pavlos saw the gathering of more crowned heads of Europe than the storybook wedding of the Prince of Wales to Lady Diana Spencer.

King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie at the 2004 wedding of Anne-Marie's nephew, Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark.

From left: Crown Princess Pavlos, Crown Prince Pavlos, Queen Anne-Marie, King Constantine and Constantine's sister, Princess Irene, in Madrid at the 2004 wedding of Constantine's nephew, Felipe of Spain.