Wednesday, January 10, 2018

80th Anniversary of Greek Royal Wedding

 Eighty years ago, on 9 January 1938, Athens played host to a royal wedding that united the heir presumptive to the Greek throne, Prince Paul, with a princess of an ancient German royal house who was related to him several times over. 

It was a rainy day in the Greek capital when Crown Prince Paul of Greece, the 36-year-old brother and heir of King George II of the Hellenes, wed Princess Frederica of Hanover, age 20. Frederica was the only daughter of Ernest Augustus of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia. Paul's mother, Queen Sophie of Greece, was the sister of Frederica's grandfather, the exiled Kaiser Wilhelm II. The couple had met through mutual relatives in Florence, Italy, where Paul's widowed mother had purchased a property for herself and her family during the Greek royal family's exile in the 1930s. They met again in 1936 during the Olympic games in Berlin, at which point they became unofficially engaged. The formal engagement announcement was made in 1937. 


Frederica was in the line of succession to the British throne (the House of Hanover had been the reigning dynasty of the United Kingdom until the death of Queen Victoria in 1901), and pursuant to the Royal Marriages Act of 1772, she received the formal consent of King George VI to marry Prince Paul on 26 December 1937. 
Frederica and her parents arrived in Athens, and on the morning of the wedding the bride and her father set out for a carriage ride in the pouring rain to the Metropolitan Cathedral. The wedding was performed according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church, while a Lutheran ceremony (in deference to the bride's religion) was held later that day at the chapel of the Royal Palace. 

Though Greek Orthodox brides do not typically have bridesmaids, Princess Frederica appointed a group of princesses to assist her, including her new sister-in-law, Princess Katherine of Greece, and two of her cousins, Princess Cecilie and Princess Herzeleide of Prussia. The five crown bearers for Prince Paul included three Eastern Orthodox royals - his uncle, Prince George of Greece, his nephew, Crown Prince Michael of Romania, Grand Duke Dmitri of Russia - and his two new brothers-in-law, Prince Ernest Augustus and Prince Georg Wilhelm of Hanover. 



After the wedding ceremony, the new Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Greece boarded a state coach back to the Royal Palace and waved to the crowds that had gathered in the rain to see them. 

Paul and Frederica's first child, Princess Sophia of Greece (the future Queen Sofia of Spain), was born ten months after their wedding. Their only son, Constantine, arrived in 1940, and their last child, Princess Irene, was born in 1942. Following King George II's death in 1947, Paul and Frederica became King and Queen of Greece. They remained married until Paul's death in 1964, at which time their son Constantine II assumed the Greek throne. A military coup led the Greek royal family into exile in 1967, and Frederica died in 1981 of complications from eye surgery. 

Paul and Frederica are the grandparents of the reigning Spanish king, Felipe VI. 

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