On This Day: Birth of the First King of Modern Greece

  June 1, 2015 at 9:00 pm by

Today marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of the first King of Modern Greece, the Bavarian Prince Otto.

His Royal Highness 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, following Greece gaining 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 for a suitable King. They offered the throne to 17-year-old Prince Otto (Saxe-Coburg and Gotha’s Prince Leopold having previously declined the position as he felt the country was too politically unstable). 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, endeared the new King to his people. 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, though 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 from his throne 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.

Otto, who used the title King of Greece in pretence after he left the country, died on July 7, 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.

You can read more about King Otto here.

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