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OPINION: King Constantine should have a State Funeral – anything else is denying history

Constantine II, the last King of Greece, died on January 10th 2022, over four decades after the abolition of his country’s monarchy. The Greek government decided that he would not be given a State funeral. Here, Royal Central’s Senior Europe correspondent, Oskar Aamoen, explain why he believes that does no justice to the man who ruled Greece for a decade.

The fact that Greece does not give King Constantine a full state funeral is a disgrace! The monarchy remains a controversial issue in Greece, something I find strange myself. However, that does not change the fact that Constantine II WAS King of the Hellenes. He had to leave in 1967 after a military coup and couldn’t return for four decades. But former heads of state are usually given a state funeral in Greece. Now, it has become an honour denied to the country’s last king. Constantine II will be buried as a private citizen. There are several reasons I think this is wrong.

Firstly, and most importantly, nothing can change the fact that Constantine II was Greece’s Head of State during his reign. He became King in 1964 and was forced into exile in 1967. The monarchy ended in 1974 but for almost a decade, Constantine was Head of State. If every other person who has held that role is allowed a State Funeral in recognition of their role, why deny it to the last King?

Secondly, I want to discuss the 1974 Greek referendum which led to the final abolition of the Greek monarchy. Just under 70% of people voted to end royal rule. However, years later, the man who had been Greek Prime Minister at the time of the ballot, Constantine Mitsotakis, stated that although he was a republican, he believed way the referendum was conducted was “unfair”. This statement received significant criticism and media attention in Greece.

The referendum did not allow Constantine II to return to Greece to campaign. Instead, he was permitted to make one televised appeal during the run up to the vote. However, I do not believe that this was fair to the king. Ultimately, the people rejected royal rule. But I have to ask – were they given the chance to fully consider all the issues when the leader of the monarchy was barely allowed to speak?

Thirdly, I want to look at the way Constantine was treated after he was forced into exile. He often appealed to be allowed to return to Greece. By the early 1990s, other royal families who had lost their thrones in the latter part of the 20th centuries were being permitted to return home. But not Constantine. In 1994, what remained of the royal family’s property was confiscated. This was later declared illegal by the European Court of Human Rights which said the palaces belonged to Constantine, as a person, not as a representative of the state.  For years, Constantine remained loyal to the country he loved, even when it didn’t appear to love him. His devotion to Greece is undeniable. To deny his role in its history now seems petty to me.

Constantine was only able to return to Greece after 46 years of exile. He never wavered in his patriotism even when he was forced to travel on a Danish passport (he was born a Prince of Greece and Denmark) when citizenship of his former realm was denied to him. For him, Greece was everything. And yet, within hours of his death, his family were told they could only lay him to rest as a private citizen. I find this almost impossible to comprehend.

I understand that the monarchy in Greece remains a difficult and divisive issue. Other commentators have noted that elections loom in the country in the months to come and politicians from all parties have other issues to consider. But this isn’t about the future or even the present. Nothing can change the fact that Constantine II WAS King of the Hellenes. He was his country’s head of state. Every other person who has held that role is entitled to a State Funeral. Why deny him one because of his royal blood?

Royalty from across Europe will attend the funeral of the last King of Greece and all necessary protocols for visiting dignitaries will be observed, yet this is a private funeral? The service will be held in the huge and symbolic Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens with the world watching and a member of the Greek government in attendance but this is nothing more than a family farewell? This, to me, seems ridiculous.

I have to ask whether it is more important to hide the history of the monarchy than to honour a great man. To me, the answer is no. Honour Constantine with a State Funeral – to do anything else is to deny history.

About author

Senior Europe Correspondent Oskar Aanmoen has a master in military and political history of the Nordic countries. He has written six books on historical subjects and more than 1.500 articles for Royal Central. He has also interview both Serbian and Norwegian royals. Aanmoen is based in Oslo, Norway.