March 6 marks the 46th anniversary of the death of King Paul of Greece and his son's accession to the throne as Constantine II, King of the Hellenes.
King Paul had undergone surgery for stomach cancer in February 1964, but died within the subsequent week. His death took his family and country by surprise, and his twenty-four year-old son unexpectedly found himself King of the Hellenes. At first, many Greeks were enthusiastic about their new king. He was young, handsome, and had been the first Greek to win an Olympic gold medal since 1904 when he competed in sailing at the 1960 games. Constantine's wedding later that year to the beautiful Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark brought a wide range of press coverage to Athens and further enhanced his popularity.
However, the reign of Constantine II quickly soured. He was on shaky terms with the prime minister, George Papandreou, and after Papandreou's resignation in 1965, a series of crown-appointed prime ministers failed to earn the country's confidence and left Constantine's critics accusing him of acting unconstitutionally.
Problems in Greece came to a head on April 21, 1967, when Colonel George Papadopuolos led a coup d'etat and quickly took control of the government in Athens. With little military support, Constantine II swore in the colonels as the legitimate government in Greece but insisted that there be more civilian ministers appointed to the regime. Meanwhile, Constantine secretly orchestrated a counter-coup to overthrow the military junta, which was launched on December 13, 1967. The coup failed, and the Greek royal family fled in exile to Rome.