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OBITUARY: Constantine II, the last King of Greece who spent 40 years in exile

King Constantine II has died at the age of 82. Born on 2 June 1940 in Athens, Constantine was the only son of King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece.

Constantine was only one-year-old when Italy and Germany invaded Greece, and he spent the next four years in exile in Egypt and South Africa before returning to Greece after the country’s liberation in 1945.

A true sportsman, In 1960, at the age of 20, when he was Crown Prince, Costantine won an Olympic gold medal in sailing for Greece.

King Constantine was the last reigning monarch of Greece. He followed succeeded his father to the throne in 1964 when he died of cancer. Aged just 23-years-old, the young King led a country that was still feeling the effects of the Civil War of 1944–49 between communists and monarchists.

The same year Constantine became King, he married Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, the sister of the reigning Queen Margrethe of Denmark. Together they had five children: Princess Alexia, Crown Prince Pavlos, Prince Nikolaos, Princess Theodora and Prince Philippos.

In June 1973, dictator Geórgios Papadopoulos condemned the King as an enemy of the Greek people. In May, the same year, officers of the majority royalist navy staged a military coup, although Constantine himself was not involved. Papadopoulos retaliated by declaring Greece a republic after fighting back the royalists. A referendum was held to remove the monarchy. The vote was widely acknowledged to be rigged.

Constantine remained in exile for almost forty years. He did not return until February 1981 when the government only allowed him to go back to attend the funeral of his mother, Queen Frederica, in the family cemetery of the former Royal Palace at Tatoi.

Despite the abolition of the Greek monarchy that many believe was done through an illegal referendum that was rigged, Constantine has repeatedly stated that he recognises the Hellenic Republic.

Various health problems marred Constantine in his final years, including a series of strokes and Covid-19. Concerns for Constantine’s health arose last autumn when he did not attend the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. It was Queen Anne-Marie, Crown Prince Pavlos, and his wife, Crown Princess Marie-Chantal, who represented the Greek Royal Family at the funeral.

King Constantine is survived by his wife, Queen Anne-Marie, their five children, and nine grandchildren.

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