On This Day: Death of Otto – A Greek King, A Bavarian Prince

  July 26, 2017 at 3:00 am by

Today is the 150th anniversary of the death of Otto, the Bavarian Prince who reigned as King of the Hellenes from 1832 to 1862.

Prince Otto Friedrich Ludwig of Bavaria was born on June 1, 1815 at Mirabell Palace in Salzburg; his parents were the future King of Bavaria, Ludwig I, and Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen.

In 1832, after Greece gained independence from the Ottoman Empire, the Great Powers (Great Britain, France and Russia) declared that Greece would become a monarchy and looked towards the plethora of German royal houses to find a suitable King. They offered the throne to 17-year-old Prince Otto, the second choice after Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha declined the position as he felt the country was too politically unstable (he would later become King of the Belgians). The position was confirmed by the Greek National Assembly in August that year, and Prince Otto arrived as King in February 1833.

King Otto brought with him a large Bavarian contingent – a Regency council and 3,500 troops. Their actions, nor the implementation of high taxes in an effort to rebuild the Kingdom, did not help the new King earn the respect of his people (though they appreciated his efforts at ‘becoming Greek’ – changing his name to the Greek spelling and wearing the national costume). The Regency was dissolved in 1835, and Otto ruled as an absolute monarch until 1843 when Greece became a constitutional monarchy following a populace revolt.

His reign even then was not an easy one, as the Greek people had little trust in their King, mostly stemming from the belief that his loyalties lay elsewhere, a belief that was not helped by Otto remaining a Roman Catholic instead of converting to Greek Orthodoxy. In the later years of his 30-year reign, King Otto’s support for Austria in the Italian War of Independence and the failed attempt at expanding Greek territory in the early 1860s saw the monarch’s popularity drop further.

Otto married Duchess Amalia of Oldenburg in late 1836; the couple’s marriage was childless. The new Queen was initially popular with the Greeks, however when she began meddling in politics, her fate was similar to that of her husband.

The King was officially deposed on October 23, 1862. He and Queen Amalia left Greece the way the King had first arrived – on a British warship. They settled in Germany, where they lived the remainder of their lives. The Greek throne was later given to Prince Wilhelm of Denmark, who took the name George.

Otto, who used the title King of Greece in pretence after he left the country, died on July 26, 1867 in Bamberg. He was buried in the Prince’s Tomb at the Theatine Church in Munich, wearing his Greek uniform, showing the love he had for the country he once ruled over.

NB: A version of this post was published on June 1, 2015.

Filed under Greece, Historical Royals
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