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CommunityMemories of the Late Former King Constantine of Greece: 1990 Historic Interview

Memories of the Late Former King Constantine of Greece: 1990 Historic Interview

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By Catherine Tsounis

King Constantine of Greece passed away in Athens on Tuesday, January 10, 2023. He was the last king of Greece. He won a 1960 Gold medal for Greece in sailing, became King at 23 and went into exile after political problems. He was monarch from 6 March 1964 until the abolition of the Greek monarchy on 1 June 1973. Constantine remained in exile for forty years, In 2013, King  Constantine and Queen Anne Marie returned to reside in Greece.

He conducted a press conference  on May 22, 1990, in Greek with the Greek press. I was present and translated. I wrote the only English account in a Greek American newspaper since his exile in 1973. It was published by the Hellenic Chronicle, Boston, June 7, 1990, that closed 23 years ago. King Constantine, who I never met before, sat next to this journalist.

The late former King Constantine II and former Queen Anna Maria.
Photo Source; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:T.M._Constantine_%26_Anne-Marie_of_Greece_Allan_Warren.jpg

The interview follows:

“He stands out in a filled room with persons, towering overall. His physical appearance is that of the Olympic gold medalist he was in his youth. This warm, down to earth person looks like a business executive or real  estate lawyer in a dark navy-blue suit. King Constantine II of Greece gives this impression to one meeting him for the first time. Too many, he is all part of the Greece’s   past that must be forgotten. To others, he is the admired exiled King. To this journalist, he gave the impression of being an intelligent, effective public speaker who is sincere in his main purpose in life: furthering the economic, social, and cultural prosperity of Greece.

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King Constantine II held his first press conference in twenty years with the Greek press and mass media on Monday evening, May 22, at the Lowell Hotel in New York City. He introduced his heir,  Prince Pavlos. The interview was entirely in the Greek language for over two hours. The exiled monarch was in the United States for the unveiling of the Athena Parthenos in Nashville, Tennessee, during the weekend of May 20th, 1990.

“I have been equally impressed by the desire of Nashville to continue its role as the ‘Athens of the South’  by constructing the world’s only full-scale replica of ‘Athena Parthenos,” he said in regard to this Southern event. “I am never surprised by the American vitality and enterprise but this is quite something even by American standards. It will the bonds between the world’s oldest democracy and the world’s most powerful what Nash will democracy. It is an appreciation by all Greeks what Nashville…. Has done to produce a work of art that will do honor always to your city and my country.”

The most asked question was if he was planning to return to Greece. “As a Greek, I miss my country. I have a nostalgia and want to return home. I do not want to create problems. I shall return one day, but when the time is right. I am willing to return to Greece as our private citizen,” “ he answered. He believes the future of the monarchy  is not an issue. “We must help the country by encouraging its growth. As former head of state, I want to help my country. I have a Greek passport and am a Greek citizen. I can return any time.” He repeated continuously the statement, “I do not want to create problems.”

The king admits that he does enjoy exile in a foreign land. Him no more do I wish to change the Constitution of my country. It is necessary to help my country with all my abilities. It does not make a difference if one is a communist, or whether one belongs to the right or left. All must work together to help Greece. From my office in London, persons from all parts of Greece, They tell me what they perceive as the truth.”

He is distressed that he “sees Greece from four away. I follow all newspaper and know all about current affairs of Greece: problems current or past governments. I do not exist. I never congratulated the new prime minister (Mitsotakis). I see and follow Greek affairs from a distance. I maintain contacts with the State Departments of all government. Archbishop Iakovos and I have good relations. I do not support any particular political organizations.”

Catherine Tsounis (journalist) with the late former King Constantine II at the 1990 Greek press conference. Photo; Catherine Tsunis

The exiled king has a sense of humor and sustained steady eye contact with his lawyer. He has an Oxfordian accent. His candor too many questions was astonishing. “I speak the truth the way I know it. It saddens me that people take this attitude (negative)  towards me.”

In 1974 the Greek Constitution drafted a law upon by the people preventing the return of the monarchy. He recalled “a group of sixty persons of communist politics passed by my office in London and jubilantly greeted me. I asked why they have such warm feelings towards me. They replied we like you as a person. We never want to see the return of the monarchy institution  to Greece.

“I encourage people to invest in Greece, through my public relations effort. I have no political base in which to further these goals. I hope my personal influence will encourage foreign investment.” The exiled monarch has been working on the behalf of the interests of Greece in the Olympics.

“In Greece, everything is ready for the Olympics. It is Greece’s right to host the Olympics once in one hundred years. All must go and worship the ideal of the Olympics in its birthplace,” he believes. “In the next 3 to 4 months, the United States and Canada are trying to secure the 1996  Olympics. We must convince the foreign press that all political parties are united in this cause.” King Constantine is a member of the Olympics. He is one of three gold medalists from Greece. He won his Olympic gold medal in 1960 at the age of 20 years.

“Greece can offer the Olympics something special that no other country can. She is capable of producing an Olympics superior to that in Korea. I know. I have seen what Greeks are capable of doing. Greeks can do it better than others,” he said with feeling.

As private citizen, the exiled king has expressed the Greek viewpoint in relation to the Turkish occupation of Cyprus. “Years have passed and the world forgets the occupation of Cyprus by the Turks. We must remind the world,” he emphasized. “I spoke before the Public Relations Committee of the United States during the Carter administration. I spoke as a Greek and not as a head of state. Carter won the Greek American vote by promising not to give aid to Turkey. I posed the following question to the Carter administration: Americans are concerned with human rights. How are Americans taking care of the human rights of homeless Cypriots?

He expressed the view of a changing Europe. “The world is changing very rapidly. There is a new atmosphere. Europe has become more open. That is why we as Greeks must unite to seize the opportunity that is now opening up. Otherwise, we will be left behind. It has been proven in history that when Greeks unite, they are unbeatable. We must all unite. Factions on the left and right must work to make sure Greece prospers in this new openness in Europe…”

A journalist asked the exiled king why he waited so long me with the Greek press. “It was my  fault. I should have communicated with the press sooner. I have remedied the situation with this press conference. I will form better relations with the press.

King Constantine expressed the opinion “Greece never was never more united than the period between 1967 through 74. It was a period of unity. All of us in a small and bigger way  contributed to this unity. The issue of the King’s income was mentioned. “In 1974, when I left, I never received any financial his son compensation from Greece. I sold the property in Tatoi in order to survive. I live with difficulty. My family members in England and Spain have helped,” he explained

King Constantine, as most parents, is proud of his three children who attend excellent institutions. When a journalist addressed his son as Paul, the exiled king said, “his name is Pavlos and talk to him in Greek.” Prince Pavlos left Greece when he was six months old. His command of the Greek language is fluent.

This journalist asked how he has been able to perpetuate the Hellenic culture and language among his children in an English-speaking country. He explained that “in England life is different than here in the United States. In the United States, one immigrates, becomes an American citizen, and is accepted as American. This does not take place in any other country in the world. In England, we are accepted as Greeks only. Everything is fine and we are accepted as long as we maintain our Greek ethnicity. Prince Pavlos speaks fluent Greek because of excellent education at Hellenic College in England.”

“I was unable to further my graduate studies. I ascended the throne at an early age, upon the death of my father King Paul.” He further pointed out, “I enrolled in a correspondence course and postgraduate studies at Trinity College in Cambridge during my stay in London.”

The exiled Greek monarch will be celebrating his 50th birthday in June. “I do not want gifts. I want all my friends to donate gifts to the Greek Red Cross.”

Former King Constantine II believes strongly that a lobby should be formed to further the interests of Greece. He would like to be perceived in the 1990s as a lobbyist furthering the Greek viewpoint concerning: the Cyprus issue; bringing the Olympics to Greece; encouraging the return of American tourism in Greece and stimulating foreign investment. King Constantine II and institution of monarchy creates positive and negative feelings among modern Greeks. This is a chapter of Greek history as Ottoman occupation, rule of Byzantium and Athenian democracy. This is a. that cannot be obliterated from the Greek past. The Modern Greek must face and accept the monarchy as his/her past. Past prejudices must be put aside. The Greek nation must move ahead in the 1990s and develop new economic opportunities.”

This article was written 33 years ago. Dimitri Filippidis, radio anchor/international Greek American journalist, expressed my viewpoint on January 11 and 12. Mr. Filippidis strongly believes “Eternal His Memory. He gave Greece a gold Olympic medal. He went into exile to avoid a civil war. I have no interest in monarchy or kings. I know this: he did not steal or destroy Greece. The late former King Constantine II is a part of Greek history. Our politicians will not be present at his funeral, possibly because national elections are coming. His tomb is in burnt out, barren ground. Many, who are not monarchists, have sympathy for his family. The community is divided over honors for the late King Constantine II.”

Journalist Filippidis believe “Politicians destroyed our country, Greece. They gave away Macedonia. We are not honoring this man? The winner of the TV series of ‘Survivor’ will be honored, but not the former King of Greece. History will be the judge of the Late former King Constantine II’s honors. He was a leader, general and member of the Greek armed forces. He accepted the people’s will and left Greece. We gave up the monarchy, but that does not mean we can erase history.”

Dan Brown, author of the “Da Vinci Codes” says it best: “History is always written by the winners. When two cultures clash, the loser is obliterated, and the winner writes the history books-books which glorify their own cause and disparage the conquered foe. As Napoleon once said, ‘What is history, but a fable agreed upon?”1

Special appreciation to Demetrios P. Sassos, PharmD, for editing suggestions.

Reference:
1.     https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/148791-history-is-always-written-by-the-winners-when-two-cultures
Links:
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The copyrights for these articles are owned by the Hellenic News of America. They may not be redistributed without the permission of the owner. The opinions expressed by our authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Hellenic News of America and its representatives.

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