Today marks the 75th Anniversary of the Death of King George II of Greece, who died on this day in 1947! The second son of King Constantine I of Greece and Princess Sophia of Prussia, he was the brother of King Alexander and King Paul of Greece, Queen Helen of Romania, the Duchess of Aosta (the short-lived Queen of Croatia), and Lady Katherine Brandram, the cousin of the Duke of Edinburgh, Princess Margarita, Princess of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Princess Cecile, Grand Duchess of Hesse, Princess Theodora, Margravine of Baden, Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent, Princess Paul of Yugoslavia, Princess Sophie of Greece and Hanover, Princess Eugenie of Greece, and Prince Michael of Greece, and was also the uncle of Queen Sofia of Spain, King Constantine II of Greece, King Michael of Romania, Queen Alexandra of Yugoslavia, and the Duke of Aosta.
Training with the Prussian Guard, and then serving in the Balkan Wars as a member of the 1st Greek Infantry, the Crown Prince became a Major in the Army during the First World War before following the Royal Family into exile in 1917, when his brother, King Alexander, was made a puppet King under Allied pressure, due to the Crown Prince (and the King and Queen’s) position as germanophiles. King Constantine was restored after King Alexander’s death in 1920, and the Crown Prince served as a colonel, and later a major general in the Greco-Turkish War, until the Greek defeat forced the King’s Abdication, and the accession of King George II in 1922. In 1921, he married Princess Elisabeth of Romania, daughter of King Ferdinand of Romania and Princess Marie of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, and the couple did not have any children. Following a failed coup in October 1923, the King was forced to go into exile, while Greece became a Republic, settling in the Queen’s native Romania.
In Bucharest, King George II was honoured as a monarch but felt idle and bored after years of action in the military and in government. Meanwhile, the King and Queen’s marriage has deteriorated, with Queen Elisabeth embarking on a series of public affairs, leading the King to spend part of the year with his family in Italy and then permanently moving to London in 1932, staying at Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair. In 1935, Greece voted 98% in support of a restoration of the monarchy after 23 changes of government in the previous eleven years as a Republic, with the King returning to Greece, soon after his divorce was finalized as the former Queen wished to remain in Romania. In the years after, Crown Prince Paul married Princess Frederica of Hanover, while their sister, Princess Irene, married Prince Aimone, Duke of Aosta.
During the Second World War, the Greeks were able to repel an Italian invasion but when Germany invaded in 1941, the Prime Minister committed suicide and left the King as Head-of-State, Head-of-Government, and Head of the Armed Forces, forming a government right as they fled the Greek mainland to Crete and then going into exile in Egypt, soon returning to London, where he established the Greek Government in Exile, though political instability prevented the King’s return to Greece until 1946, when a referendum voted 68.4% in favour of the King’s return. Just months later, after attending a Gala in Athens, the King passed away from a Heart Attack at the age of 56, being succeeded by his brother, King Paul. The new Queen Frederica described the day:
On the 1st of April we were sitting at our house and having lunch, when the phone rang. He was the king’s servant who asked to speak to my husband. It immediately occurred to me that something bad had happened to my brother-in-law. Why should the servant call and not the king himself? Turning from the phone, Paul said to me: ″ George suffered something. I can not understand what the servant is telling me. We must go immediately ″. We got in the car and my husband drove very fast. ″ If something has happened ″, he told me, ″ the first thing I have to do is make sure that the army does not suffer much shock ″. His first thought was in the army. As soon as we entered the palace the servant said to us: ″ the king is up ″. My husband cried: ″ Is he dead? ″ The servant answered: ″ So we think ″. We ran upstairs to his office, where we found the king lying on the couch, very serene, with his arms crossed and a pillow under his head. He had died of a heart attack. We were told what had happened. As soon as the king finished listening to him, he went up to his desk. There was a maid there, from whom she asked to bring him a glass of water. He must have felt unwell, because he lay on the couch as we found him; the maid had found him dead when she returned. “