Friday, April 1, 2011

Death of King George II of Greece and Accession of King Paul

On April 1, 1947, King George II of the Hellenes died suddenly at the Royal Palace in Athens.

The 56-year-old monarch had been recalled to the Greek throne just a year before, following a lengthy exile in London during the Nazi occupation of Greece. His reign had been controversial and plagued with multiple exiles and restorations. He ascended the throne in 1922 after his father, King Constantine I, was driven into exile for a second time. The following year, however, George II found himself packing his bags and fleeing Athens, and in 1924 a republic was proclaimed in Greece. The Greek republic lasted for 13 years, during which time Greece underwent even more instability and political upheaval than it had ever known under the monarchy. Disillusioned with the republic, the Greeks voted to restore King George II, and he returned to Athens in 1935. During his second tenure, George appointed General Ioannis Metaxas as prime minister and gave him permission to declare military rule in Greece so that the country would not fall victim to a Communist takeover. Though constitutional rights were abolished during the dictatorship, the Greeks were not subjected to the brutal circumstances of similar dictatorships of the era-- Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Nonetheless, the Metaxas dictatorship remains a controversial subject for many Greeks, on behalf of both the general and the king.

George II and his family went into exile during the Nazi occupation of Greece from 1941-1944, and after the Nazi withdrawal the Greeks pondered whether to continue the monarchy, fearing that the restoration of George II would also spell the return of the military dictatorship. After much debate, the Greeks voted for the return of the king in March 1946. Barely a year later, after complaining of headaches and chest pains, the king was found unconscious on his drawing room floor by his sister, Princess Katherine.

When the announcement was made that George II had died, many Greeks believed it to be an April Fools joke. Later that evening, the king's brother Crown Prince Paul (George II had no children of his own) went to the parliament to accept the oath of the crown and swear his allegiance to the constitution, thus formally becoming King of the Hellenes.

1 comment:

  1. The plebiscite on the Greek monarchy took place in September 1946 - the March date you quote in the article was the date of the general election.

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