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InsightPrince Charles and Camilla

Prince Charles and his Greek Ancestry

Prince Charles, The Prince of Wales
Northern Ireland Office via Flickr

Last week it was announced that Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall would travel to Greece later this month and attend its Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations. 

This will be Charles’s third visit to a country where his royal ancestry goes back three generations. 

The Prince of Wales’s great-grandfather, King George I of Greece, was the second king of modern Greece, reigning from 1863-1913. Born in Denmark in 1845, King George, originally named, Prince William of Denmark, was appointed to the Greek throne by Britain, France and Russia after the first king of Greece, Otto, was removed. King George helped form Greece into a modern European country during his 50 years on the throne. After his Golden Jubilee, King George planned on abdicating the throne for his son Prince Constantine. Sadly, a few weeks before the celebration, King George went on his daily walk in Thessaloniki and was assassinated by an anarchist. Dying instantly, his body would lie in state before being buried at the Greek Royal Family summer palace, Tatoi.

King George’s seventh son, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, is the Prince of Wales’s grandfather. Born in 1882, Prince Andrew began military training at a young age, eventually joining the Greek army as an officer and fought in the Balkan Wars. His brother, King Constantine I, took a neutral position in World War I that resulted in the family being exiled to Switzerland. When King Constantine returned to the Greek throne in 1920, Prince Andrew was reinstated in the army. He commanded troops during the Greco-Turkish War, though he refused to follow orders, instead doing his own battle plan that resulted in his troops having to retreat. The loss of the Greco-Turkish War led to the September 11, 1922 revolution and Prince Andrew was arrested for disobeying orders and acting on his own initiative. He and his family were banished for life from Greece and stripped of their nationality. Prince Andrew, his wife, Princess Alice of Battenberg and their five children settled in the outskirts of Paris. 

During Prince Andrew’s second exile, his wife suffered a nervous breakdown, his four daughters were married to Germans, and his son was in boarding school. Alone and with his marriage in ruins, Prince Andrew began a relationship with Countess Andrée de La Bigne. In 1936, Greece overturned his exile, and he was allowed to return, which he did only briefly. The last years of Prince Andrew’s life were not happy ones. In 1937, his daughter Cecile, her husband and two children died in a plane crash. When World War II broke out, Prince Andrew was stuck in Vichy, France, while his son, Philip, fought for the British; they were not allowed to see or communicate with one another. His estranged wife was living in Greece, working for the Red Cross, helping refugees and orphans. In 1944, Prince Andrew died in Monte Carlo of heart failure. Like his father, Prince Andrew is buried at Tatoi Palace. 

Charles’s father, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born as Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. Born in Greece in June of 1921, he was only an infant when his family was sent into exile. As mentioned earlier, Prince Philip rarely saw his family and spent his youth being educated in France, Germany and the United Kingdom. When he turned 18, Prince Philip joined the British Royal Navy and fought in World War II. That same year he began corresponding with then Princess Elizabeth. In 1947, Prince Philip renounced his Greek and Danish titles and became a British subject. He and Princess Elizabeth married later that year, and he became Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Prince Philip was granted the title of prince in 1957 by his wife, now Queen Elizabeth II. Together they have four children, the eldest being Prince Charles, whose Greek ties will undoubtedly make the celebration of 200 years of Greek independence all the more meaningful.