Friday, March 18, 2011

Anniversary of King George I's Assassination

Today, March 18, marks the 98th anniversary of the assassination of King George I of Greece.

In March 1913, the King was in Thessaloniki in northern Greece, where troops under the command of his eldest son Crown Prince Constantine had recently taken control of the region from the Turks during the First Balkan War. The King's arrival in Thessaloniki had tactfully settled what could have been a disastrous dispute between the Greek and Bulgarian armies over who should oversee the city's occupation. King Ferdinand I of Bulgaria was insistent that the Bulgarians should claim victory over Thessaloniki, but the Greek monarch calmly disagreed and stated that in the rules of warfare, the conquering army assumes control, which rightfully belonged to Crown Prince Constantine's forces.

On the afternoon of March 18, 1913, King George insisted on taking his daily stroll unaccompanied by bodyguards. He was advised that due to the uneasy state of the recently liberated city, he should not go unprotected in the streets, but the King would not be deterred. While passing a cafe, a man later identified as Alexandros Schinas emerged from the cafe and shot the King in the back. The 67-year-old monarch collapsed in the street and died almost instantly. A messenger ran and informed the King's third-eldest son, Prince Nikolaos, who had the unfortunate task of telling his elder brother Constantine that he was now the new King.

King George's assassination came just weeks prior to the 50th anniversary of his accession to the Greek throne. He had informed his sons months before that after celebrating his Golden Jubilee later in the year, he hoped to abdicate in favor of Crown Prince Constantine and enjoy his twilight years in peace. Not only did the bullet of Alexandros Schinos rob King George I of that chance, but that bullet also robbed the Greek royal family of any stability it had previously known. None of George's predecessors on the Greek throne would enjoy a reign as continuous and stable as his own.

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