On This Day: Abdication of Greece’s Constantine I

  June 11, 2017 at 5:00 am by

One hundred years ago today, the first reign of King Constantine I of the Hellenes came to an end as he was forced into exile by the British and French Allied forces.

Constantine, who had ascended the throne in March 1913, was determined to keep Greece neutral during the First World War – a stance that was not agreeable to either the Allied or the Central Powers; nor the Greek Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos, who wanted Greece to enter on the side of the Allies. After several disagreements with the King, Venizelos resigned in 1915 but a year later set up a revolutionary government in Thessaloniki supported by the Allies.

In the early months of 1917, a blockade was set up in the Athens Harbour by British and French forces in an attempt to force King Constantine’s hand – they succeeded in June, when Constantine agreed to step down and leave the country, which he did to protect the people of Athens.

The King, his wife Sophie, five of their children and other members of the Greek Royal Family left Athens on June 11, 1917 aboard a liner, destined for three years of exile in Switzerland. Constantine’s second eldest son, Alexander, was left in Greece as ‘caretaker’ of the throne; the Allied forces would not accept the heir, Crown Prince George, taking over for his father.

Upon Constantine’s abdication, Greece entered the war on the side of the Allies. Despite coming in to the war quite late in the game, the country would remain in conflict for several years after the Great War was over. During this time, King Alexander was merely a puppet. He died in October 1920 after a monkey bite turned septic.

King Constantine was returned to the throne in December 1920, after a plebiscite overwhelmingly voted to restore the popular King to his throne. His second reign was shorter than his first: Constantine was again forced to abdicated in September 1922.

Filed under Greece, Historical Royals
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