Charilaos Trikoupis
Charilaos Trikoupis (July 11, 1832 (O.S.)
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

 – April 1896) was a Greek
The Greeks, also known as the Hellenes , are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighboring regions. They also form a significant diaspora, with Greek communities established around the world....

 politician who served as a Prime Minister of Greece
Prime Minister of Greece
The Prime Minister of Greece , officially the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic , is the head of government of the Hellenic Republic and the leader of the Greek cabinet. The current interim Prime Minister is Lucas Papademos, a former Vice President of the European Central Bank, following...

 seven times from 1875 until 1895.

Born in Nauplion in 1832, with family ties to Missolonghi, he was the son of Spiridon Trikoupis
Spiridon Trikoupis
Spiridon Trikoupis was a Greek statesman, diplomat, author and orator. He was the first Prime Minister of Greece and member of provisional governments of Greece since 1826....

, a politician who was Prime Minister of Greece briefly in 1833, and Ekaterini Mavrokordatos, sister of Alexandros Mavrokordatos, who also served as a Prime Minister.


After studying law and literature in University of Athens and in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, where he obtained his doctorate, he was sent to London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 in 1852 as an attaché of the Greek legation. By 1863, he had risen to be chargé d'affaires
Chargé d'affaires
In diplomacy, chargé d’affaires , often shortened to simply chargé, is the title of two classes of diplomatic agents who head a diplomatic mission, either on a temporary basis or when no more senior diplomat has been accredited.-Chargés d’affaires:Chargés d’affaires , who were...

, but he aimed rather at a political not a diplomatic career. Trikoupis' family had been original supporters of the English Party
English Party (Greece)
The English Party , was one of the three informal Early Greek Parties that dominated the early political history of Modern Greece, the other two being the Russian Party and the French Party.-History and party development:...

; that and his reserved nature bestowed on him the nickname "the Englishman."

In 1865, after he had concluded the negotiations for the cession by United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

 to Greece of the Ionian Islands
Ionian Islands
The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece. They are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e...

, he returned to Athens and in 1865 he was elected to the Hellenic Parliament
Hellenic Parliament
The Hellenic Parliament , also the Parliament of the Hellenes, is the Parliament of Greece, located in the Parliament House , overlooking Syntagma Square in Athens, Greece....

, and in the following year was made Minister for Foreign Affairs
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Greece)
The Minister for Foreign Affairs is the senior minister at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Greece, established on 3 April 1833. The current Minister for Foreign Affairs, since 11 November 2011 is the former European Commissioner Stavros Dimas...

, at the young age of thirty-four.

"Who's to Blame?"

In 1872 he created his own party, called the Fifth Party (Πέμπτο Κόμμα) on a reformist agenda. On June 29, 1874 (Julian calendar
Julian calendar
The Julian calendar began in 45 BC as a reform of the Roman calendar by Julius Caesar. It was chosen after consultation with the astronomer Sosigenes of Alexandria and was probably designed to approximate the tropical year .The Julian calendar has a regular year of 365 days divided into 12 months...

) he published a manifesto in the Athens daily Kairoi entitled "Who's to blame?" (Τις Πταίει;), naming the King as the answer. Specifically, he condemned the king for bypassing public opinion expressed in elections in his selection of Prime Ministers. Trikoupis wrote that the political instability, which characterized the public life was due to the privilege of the crown as far as the appointment and ousting of governments was concerned. This privilege may have derived from the Greek Constitution of 1864
Greek Constitution of 1864
The Second National Assembly of the Hellenes took place in Athens and dealt both with the election of a new sovereign as well as with the drafting of a new Constitution, thereby implementing the transition from constitutional monarchy to a Crowned Democracy.Following the refusal of Prince Alfred...

, but it resulted in the formation of weak minority governments based exclusively on the royal favor.

Moreover, it underlined that if "a remedy is not applied", the country will revolt. In order to prevent this, the writer suggested the restriction of the royal privileges with the introduction of the principle of the "declared confidence" which, as he supported, would bring about the harmonization of the political life via the formation of a basically two-party parliamentary system: "When it (the kingship) sincerely decides to accept that it invites to power only the majority, there is doubt that in Greece, as elsewhere, this enviable honour will not remain exposed for long. Therefore, it is not the fault of the regime, it is not the fault of the representatives of the Nation, it is not the fault of the Nation, if the Parliament is divided in many parties and has not the majority when demanded… The vice lies elsewhere and it is there that a remedy should be sought".

The article landed him briefly in jail but also boosted his popularity significantly. A year later, on May 8, 1875 he mustered a parliamentary plurality and King George I
George I of Greece
George I was King of Greece from 1863 to 1913. Originally a Danish prince, George was only 17 years old when he was elected king by the Greek National Assembly, which had deposed the former king Otto. His nomination was both suggested and supported by the Great Powers...

 reluctantly named him as Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Greece
The Prime Minister of Greece , officially the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic , is the head of government of the Hellenic Republic and the leader of the Greek cabinet. The current interim Prime Minister is Lucas Papademos, a former Vice President of the European Central Bank, following...

 as the leader of a new Reformist party called the New (or Modernist) Party (Νεωτεριστικόν Κομμα).

Political power and struggles

Among his first acts was the reform of election law and the establishment of the "dedilomeni principle" (αρχή της δεδηλωμένης): the "declared [confidence of Parliament]", obliging the king to appoint the leader of the party with a plurality of parliamentary votes as the Prime Minister. The dedilomeni principle may have contributed to Greece quickly becoming a two-party state as smaller parties merged in an effort to form a plurality. Initially observed by convention, the dedilomeni has been incorporated into all subsequent Greek constitutions and ushered Greece into modern parliamentary politics. The opposing party to Trikoupis's Modernist Party was the conservative Nationalist Party
Nationalist Party (Greece)
The Nationalist Party of Greece was the conservative and expansionist political party from 1865-1909. It was opposed primarily by the New Party of Charilaos Trikoupis....

 led by Alexandros Koumoundouros
Alexandros Koumoundouros
Alexandros Koumoundouros was a Greek politician. Born in Kampos Avias located in the Messenian side of the Mani Peninsula, he was the son of Spirìdonas-Galànis Koumoundoùros who was the Bey of the area during the last period of the administration of the region by the Ottoman Empire.He was a...


With ever-changing alliances in parliament and fluctuating election results, Greece went through twelve prime ministers in the next six years. Trikoupis headed three of these short-lived governments. The 1875 general election on October 4 was considered the most honest election held to that date in Greece: Trikoupis lost. His short period in office meant he had no opportunity to begin carrying out the aggressive reform program which he had in mind. His foreign policy was to develop the resources of his country so as to create an army and a fleet, and thus to give Greece the power to acquire a leading place among the nations of Southeastern Europe.

It was not until 1882 that he was able to take measures to this end. On March 15, 1882 he became prime minister for the third time (his second period of office, two years earlier, had lasted only for a few months), and at once set about the task of putting Greek finance upon a firmer basis, and of increasing the prosperity of the country by making roads, railways and harbours. Despite his vision of a progressive nation with modern infrastructure, Greece in the latter part of the 19th century was a poor and backwards country.

His government was relatively stable and lasted for more than three years. During that time, he was able to push through an aggressive program of reforms. Trikoupis was a strong believer in the need to create an infrastructure to support the economy, and to attract foreign investment. An progressive program of road and railroad construction significantly improved internal communications. The most important of the works he campaigned for was the digging of the Corinth Canal
Corinth Canal
The Corinth Canal is a canal that connects the Gulf of Corinth with the Saronic Gulf in the Aegean Sea. It cuts through the narrow Isthmus of Corinth and separates the Peloponnesian peninsula from the Greek mainland, thus effectively making the former an island. The builders dug the canal through...

. Another project that Trikoupis envisioned during that period was a bridge to connect the cities of Rion and Antirion across the Gulf of Corinth
Gulf of Corinth
The Gulf of Corinth or the Corinthian Gulf is a deep inlet of the Ionian Sea separating the Peloponnese from western mainland Greece...

. The bridge was beyond the technical and financial abilities of the young Kingdom at that time; construction began more than a century later. The bridge, officially named the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge
Rio-Antirio bridge
The Rion-Antirion bridge , officially the Charilaos Trikoupis bridge after the statesman who first envisaged it, is the world's longest multi-span cable-stayed bridge...

 in his honour, was completed in 2004.

His difficulties, however, were now increased by the large expenditure that had been incurred for military preparations while he had been out of office as the result of the union effected between Bulgaria
Principality of Bulgaria
The Principality of Bulgaria was a self-governing entity created as a vassal of the Ottoman Empire by the Treaty of Berlin in 1878. The preliminary treaty of San Stefano between the Russian Empire and the Porte , on March 3, had originally proposed a significantly larger Bulgarian territory: its...

 and Eastern Rumelia
Eastern Rumelia
Eastern Rumelia or Eastern Roumelia was an administratively autonomous province in the Ottoman Empire and Principality of Bulgaria from 1878 to 1908. It was under full Bulgarian control from 1885 on, when it willingly united with the tributary Principality of Bulgaria after a bloodless revolution...

. The Greeks had demanded a compensation for this shifting of the balance of power from the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 and had prepared to enforce their demand by an appeal to arms. The Great Powers, however, interfered blockading the Piraeus
Piraeus is a city in the region of Attica, Greece. Piraeus is located within the Athens Urban Area, 12 km southwest from its city center , and lies along the east coast of the Saronic Gulf....

 to make Greece remain quiet. Trikoupis nevertheless believed that he could raise the value of Greek paper currency to par in a short time, and all his calculations were based upon that assumption. Unfortunately for him and his country, he was not able to make it happen.

He was defeated at the 1885 general election, but in the following year he resumed office and again took up the cause of economic and financial reform.

Anti-athletic Olympic Games

Despite the Greek government receiving more than generous funding from Evangelis Zappas, back in 1856, for Athens to host athletic Olympic Games at the Panathinaiko Stadium
Panathinaiko Stadium
The Panathinaiko or Panathenaic Stadium , also known as the Kallimarmaro , is an athletic stadium in Athens that hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896...

, in perpetuity, members of the Greek government, notably Trikoupis and Stephanos Dragoumis
Stephanos Dragoumis
Stephanos Dragoumis was a judge, writer and Prime Minister of Greece in January-October 1910. He was the father of Ion Dragoumis.-Early years:...

, were resoundingly against them being athletic games. Trikoupis preferred an agro-industrial Olympics instead. The Zappeion
The Zappeion is a building in the National Gardens of Athens in the heart of Athens, Greece. It is generally used for meetings and ceremonies, both official and private.-Constructing the Zappeion:...

, built to honor Zappas, was intended, by Trikoupis, to host agro-industrial competitions. Despite Trikoupis' anti-athletic politics, the Zappeion not only was the first indoor Olympic arena, hosting fencing in 1896, it also became the first Olympic Village
Olympic Village
An Olympic Village is an accommodation centre built for an Olympic Games, usually within an Olympic Park or elsewhere in a host city. Olympic Villages are built to house all participating athletes, as well as officials, athletic trainers, and other staff. Since the Munich Massacre at the 1972...

 in 1906. Coincidentally, Trikoupis died during the first week of the Athens 1896 Olympics.

"Regretfully, we are bankrupt"

His sixth turn in office (June 22, 1892–May 15, 1893) was a dramatic one. The country's treasury had been depleted by overspending and systemic corruption
Systemic corruption
Systemic corruption is corruption which is primarily due to a weaknesses of an organisation or process.It can be contrasted with individual officials or agents who act corruptly within the system....

 often caused by political campaigns in which parties promised massive spending programs. Trikoupis stood before parliament and made the most famous statement of his career: "Regretfully, we are bankrupt") (Greek: "Δυστυχώς επτωχεύσαμεν"). The servicing of foreign loans was suspended, and all non-essential spending was cut.

Trikoupis was again in power from November 11, 1893 until January 24, 1895. It was during that time that the planning for the 1896 Summer Olympics
1896 Summer Olympics
The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, was a multi-sport event celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first international Olympic Games held in the Modern era...

 was begun. Trikoupis was skeptical about the games as he feared that the country could not shoulder the cost. He was convinced, eventually, to host them and made the needed arrangements. This would be his last term in office.

Trikoupis tried to make terms with the creditors of his nation, but he failed in that too. The taxation measures he proposed aroused great hostility, and in January, 1895 he resigned. At the general election, four months later, he and his Modernist Party were defeated, and he even lost his own seat.

Withdrawal from politics and death

After 1895, in poor health and poor finances, he moved to France. In the 17 March 1896 elections, his political friends managed to vote him into Parliament again, but Trikoupis never returned to Greece: he died in Cannes on 30 March 1896. He was buried in Athens.


Trikoupis is considered as one of the greatest modern Greek politicians for his reformist and modernising programs as well as for the introduction of the dedilomeni principle. Roads in all major Greek cities, as well as the Rio–Antirrio bridge, have been named after him.


  • Tsokapoulos, Βιογραφία Χαριλάου Τρικούπη, Athens, 1896.
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