George II of Greece
George II reigned as King of Greece
Kingdom of Greece
The Kingdom of Greece was a state established in 1832 in the Convention of London by the Great Powers...

 from 1922 to 1924 and from 1935 to 1947.

Early life, first period of kingship and exile

George was born at the royal villa at Tatoi
Tatoi, located 5 km north of Athens's suburbs, and 27 km from the Athenian Acropolis was the summer palace and 10,000 acre estate of the former Greek Royal Family, and the site of George II of the Hellenes's birth...

, near Athens
Athens , is the capital and largest city of Greece. Athens dominates the Attica region and is one of the world's oldest cities, as its recorded history spans around 3,400 years. Classical Athens was a powerful city-state...

, the eldest son of King Constantine I of Greece
Constantine I of Greece
Constantine I was King of Greece from 1913 to 1917 and from 1920 to 1922. He was commander-in-chief of the Hellenic Army during the unsuccessful Greco-Turkish War of 1897 and led the Greek forces during the successful Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, in which Greece won Thessaloniki and doubled in...

 and his wife, Princess Sophia of Prussia
Sophia of Prussia
Princess Sophie of Prussia was Queen of the Hellenes as the wife of King Constantine I.-Princess of Prussia:...

. George pursued a military career, training with the Prussian Guard at the age of 18, then serving in the Balkan War as a member of the 1st Greek Infantry. When his grandfather was assassinated in 1913, George became the crown prince (Diadochos) as well as the Duke of Sparta.

After a coup deposed King Constantine during the First World War, Crown Prince George, by then a Major, followed his father into exile in 1917 (see National Schism); his brother Alexander was installed as king by prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos
Eleftherios Venizelos was an eminent Greek revolutionary, a prominent and illustrious statesman as well as a charismatic leader in the early 20th century. Elected several times as Prime Minister of Greece and served from 1910 to 1920 and from 1928 to 1932...

, an avowed Republican.

When Alexander I died following an infection from a monkey bite in 1920, Venezelos was voted out of office, and a plebiscite restored Constantine to the throne. Crown Prince George served as a colonel, and later a major general in the war against Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

. During this time he married his second cousin, on 27 February 1921 in Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

, Princess Elisabeth of Romania, daughter of King Ferdinand and Queen Marie of Romania. When the Turks defeated Greece at the Battle of Dumlupınar
Battle of Dumlupinar
The Battle of Dumlupınar Muharebesi or Başkumandanlık Meydan Muharebesi; literally "All-out battle of Supreme military commands") was the last battle in the Greco-Turkish War...

, the military forced the abdication of Constantine, and George succeeded to the Greek throne on 27 September 1922.

Following a failed royalist coup
Leonardopoulos-Gargalidis coup d'état attempt
The Leonardopoulos–Gargalidis coup attempt was a failed military coup launched on 22 October 1923 in Greece by pro-royalist military officers under the Lieutenant Generals Georgios Leonardopoulos and Panagiotis Gargalidis, and the Colonel Georgios Ziras...

 in October 1923, the Revolutionary Committee "asked" him to depart Greece while the National Assembly considered the question of the future form of government. He complied and, although he refused to abdicate, he left on 19 December 1923 for exile in his wife's home nation of Romania
Romania is a country located at the crossroads of Central and Southeastern Europe, on the Lower Danube, within and outside the Carpathian arch, bordering on the Black Sea...

. When a republic
Second Hellenic Republic
The Second Hellenic Republic is the term used to describe the political regime of Greece from 1924 to 1935. It followed from the period of the constitutional monarchy under the monarchs of the House of Glücksburg, and lasted until its overthrow in a military coup d'état which restored the monarchy...

 was proclaimed on 25 March 1924, he was officially deposed, stripped of his Greek nationality and his property confiscated.

His wife stayed in Bucharest
Bucharest is the capital municipality, cultural, industrial, and financial centre of Romania. It is the largest city in Romania, located in the southeast of the country, at , and lies on the banks of the Dâmbovița River....

 whilst he spent more and more time abroad visiting Britain
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...

, and his mother in Florence
Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany and of the province of Florence. It is the most populous city in Tuscany, with approximately 370,000 inhabitants, expanding to over 1.5 million in the metropolitan area....

. In 1932 he left Romania permanently and moved to Britain. Elisabeth and he had no children, and were divorced on 6 July 1935.

Restoration of monarchy and the Metaxas regime

In Greece between 1924 and 1935 there were 23 changes of government, a dictatorship and 13 coups. General Georgios Kondylis
Georgios Kondylis
Georgios Kondylis was a general of the Greek army and Prime Minister of Greece. He was nicknamed Keravnos, Greek for "Thunder" or "Thunderbolt".-Military career:...

, a former Venizelist
Venizelism was one of the major political movements in Greece from the 1900s until the mid 1970s.- Ideology :Named after Eleftherios Venizelos, the key characteristics of Venizelism were:*Opposition to Monarchy...

, overthrew the government in October 1935 and appointed himself Prime Minister. He then arranged a plebiscite
Greek plebiscite, 1935
The Greek plebiscite of 1935 was held to decide whether the monarchy should be restored.In 1935, prime minister Georgios Kondylis, a former pro-Venizelos military officer, became the most powerful political figure in Greece. He compelled Panagis Tsaldaris to resign as prime minister and took over...

 both to approve his government and to bring an end to the Republic. On 3 November 1935, almost 98% of the reported votes supported restoration of the monarchy. The balloting was not secret, and participation was compulsory. As Time
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

described it at the time, "A voter one could drop into the ballot box a blue vote for George II and please General George Kondylis... or one could cast a red ballot for the Republic and get roughed up."

George, who had been living at Brown's Hotel in 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...

, returned to Greek soil on November 25. Almost immediately he and Kondylis disagreed over the terms of a general amnesty the King wanted to declare, and George appointed an interim Prime Minister, Professor Konstantinos Demertzis
Konstantinos Demertzis
Konstantinos Demertzis was a Greek politician. He was a Prime Minister of Greece from November 1935 to April 1936. Demertzis died during his mandate, of a heart attack, on April 13, 1936....

. New elections were held in January, which resulted in a hung parliament
Hung parliament
In a two-party parliamentary system of government, a hung parliament occurs when neither major political party has an absolute majority of seats in the parliament . It is also less commonly known as a balanced parliament or a legislature under no overall control...

 with the Communists (who were anti-monarchist) holding the balance of power. A series of unexpected deaths amongst the better-known politicians (including Kondylis and Demertzis) as well as the uncertain political situation, led to the rise to power of Ioannis Metaxas
Ioannis Metaxas
Ioannis Metaxas was a Greek general, politician, and dictator, serving as Prime Minister of Greece from 1936 until his death in 1941...

. On 4 August 1936, George endorsed Metaxas's establishment of dictatorship - the "4th of August Regime
4th of August Regime
The 4th of August Regime , commonly also known as the Metaxas Regime , was an authoritarian regime under the leadership of General Ioannis Metaxas that ruled Greece from 1936 to 1941...

", signing decrees that dissolved the parliament, banned political parties, abolished the constitution, and created a "Third Hellenic Civilization. The King, ruling with Prime Minister Metaxas, oversaw a fascist regime in which political opponents were arrested and strict censorship was imposed. An Index of banned books during that period included the works of Plato
Plato , was a Classical Greek philosopher, mathematician, student of Socrates, writer of philosophical dialogues, and founder of the Academy in Athens, the first institution of higher learning in the Western world. Along with his mentor, Socrates, and his student, Aristotle, Plato helped to lay the...

, Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 and Xenophon
Xenophon , son of Gryllus, of the deme Erchia of Athens, also known as Xenophon of Athens, was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher and a contemporary and admirer of Socrates...


World War II

Despite the regime's quasi-fascist tendencies and strong economic ties to Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany
Nazi Germany , also known as the Third Reich , but officially called German Reich from 1933 to 1943 and Greater German Reich from 26 June 1943 onward, is the name commonly used to refer to the state of Germany from 1933 to 1945, when it was a totalitarian dictatorship ruled by...

, King George was known to have pro-British feelings at the start of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. On 28 October 1940 Metaxas rejected an Italian ultimatum demanding the stationing of Italian troops in Greece, and Italy invaded, starting the Greco-Italian War
Greco-Italian War
The Greco-Italian War was a conflict between Italy and Greece which lasted from 28 October 1940 to 23 April 1941. It marked the beginning of the Balkans Campaign of World War II...

. The Greeks mounted a successful defense and eventually occupied the southern half of Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

, but when the Germans invaded from Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

 on 6 April 1941 the Greeks and the British Expeditionary Force were overrun, and mainland Greece occupied.
On April 23 the King and the government left the Greek mainland for Crete
Crete is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, and one of the thirteen administrative regions of Greece. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits...

 but after the German airborne attack
Battle of Crete
The Battle of Crete was a battle during World War II on the Greek island of Crete. It began on the morning of 20 May 1941, when Nazi Germany launched an airborne invasion of Crete under the code-name Unternehmen Merkur...

 on the island he was evacuated to Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

. Once again he went into exile to Great Britain, seemingly at the behest of King Farouk of Egypt
Farouk of Egypt
Farouk I of Egypt , was the tenth ruler from the Muhammad Ali Dynasty and the penultimate King of Egypt and Sudan, succeeding his father, Fuad I, in 1936....

 and Farouk's pro-Italian ministers.

During the war he remained the internationally recognized head of state, backed by the exiled government and Greek forces serving in the Middle East. In occupied Greece, however, the leftist partisans of the National Liberation Front (EAM)
Ethniko Apeleftherotiko Metopo
The National Liberation Front was the main movement of the Greek Resistance during the Axis occupation of Greece during World War II. Its main driving force was the Communist Party of Greece , but its membership throughout the Occupation period included several other leftist and republican groups...

 and National Popular Liberation Army (ELAS)
ELAS may refer to:*The Greek People's Liberation Army, World War II Greek Resistance group*The Equitable Life Assurance Society, a life insurance company in the United Kingdom...

, now unfettered by Metaxas' oppression, had become the largest Greek Resistance
Greek Resistance
The Greek Resistance is the blanket term for a number of armed and unarmed groups from across the political spectrum that resisted the Axis Occupation of Greece in the period 1941–1944, during World War II.-Origins:...

 movement, enjoying considerable popular support. As liberation drew nearer, however, the prospect of the King's return caused dissensions both inside Greece and among the Greeks abroad. Although the King effectively renounced the Metaxas regime in a radio broadcast, a large section of the people and many politicians rejected his return on account of his support of the dictatorship. In November 1943 George wrote to the Prime Minister-in-exile Emmanouil Tsouderos
Emmanouil Tsouderos
Emmanouil Tsouderos was a political and financial figure of modern Greece, serving as Prime Minister of the Greek government in exile during World War II.-Early life:...

, "I shall examine anew the question of the date of my return to Greece in agreement with the Government". Either deliberately or accidentally, the version released for publication omitted the words "of the date", creating the impression that George had agreed to a further plebiscite on the monarchy, even though a retraction was issued.

After two changes of Prime Minister, the establishment of a rival Communist-led government
Political Committee of National Liberation
The Political Committee of National Liberation , commonly known as the "Mountain Government" was a communist-dominated government established in Greece in 1944 in opposition to both the collaborationist German-controlled government at Athens and to the royal government-in-exile in Cairo...

 in occupied Greece and a pro-EAM mutiny among the armed forces in the Middle East, it was agreed in the May 1944 Lebanon conference that the fate of the monarchy would be decided in a national referendum. Bowing to Allied pressure, George was forced to appoint Archbishop Damaskinos
Archbishop Damaskinos
Archbishop Damaskinos Papandreou was the archbishop of Athens and All Greece from 1941 until his death. He was also the regent of Greece between the pull-out of the German occupation force in 1944 and the return of King Georgios II to Greece in 1946...

 of Athens as Regent
A regent, from the Latin regens "one who reigns", is a person selected to act as head of state because the ruler is a minor, not present, or debilitated. Currently there are only two ruling Regencies in the world, sovereign Liechtenstein and the Malaysian constitutive state of Terengganu...

 in January 1945. Damaskinos immediately appointed a republican-dominated government. Being ill, exhausted and powerless, George bought a lease on a house in Chester Square
Chester Square
Chester Square is a small, residential garden square located in London's Belgravia district. Along with its sister squares Belgrave Square and Eaton Square, it is one of the three garden squares built by the Grosvenor family when they developed the main part of Belgravia in the 19th century.Chester...

, Belgravia
Belgravia is a district of central London in the City of Westminster and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Noted for its immensely expensive residential properties, it is one of the wealthiest districts in the world...

 and made a home there with his long-time mistress.

Return to Greece and death

In elections
Greek legislative election, 1946
These elections were marked by:* The marked abstention of voters, caused by the abstention of Communist Party of Greece, and the effects of the civil war , because of which many citizens either could not or chose not to vote....

 held on 31 March 1946 the monarchist parties won a clear majority of the parliamentary seats, aided by the abstention of the Communists, and the referendum on the monarchy
Greek plebiscite, 1946
In 1946, a new plebiscite took place regarding the form of Greece's regime and whether the Greek people would once again decide upon a king or not. For the third time the royal position of George II was at stake. Nonetheless, the final result constituted an expected triumph that cannot be analyzed...

 was set for 1 September. Between then and the plebiscite, the electoral registers were revised under Allied supervision. The announced results claimed 69% in favour of the King's return on a 90% turnout.

On 26 September George returned to Greece to find the Royal Palace looted, the woods at Tatoi
Tatoi, located 5 km north of Athens's suburbs, and 27 km from the Athenian Acropolis was the summer palace and 10,000 acre estate of the former Greek Royal Family, and the site of George II of the Hellenes's birth...

 chopped down for fuel and corpses buried in shallow graves outside. His country faced economic collapse and political instability.

He died of arteriosclerosis
Arteriosclerosis refers to a stiffening of arteries.Arteriosclerosis is a general term describing any hardening of medium or large arteries It should not be confused with "arteriolosclerosis" or "atherosclerosis".Also known by the name "myoconditis" which is...

 on 1 April 1947, after he was discovered unconscious in his room at the Royal Palace
New Royal Palace
The Presidential Mansion in Athens, Greece, is the official residence of the President of the Hellenic Republic. It previously served as the Royal Palace, until the abolition of the monarchy by referendum in 1974.- History :...

 in Athens. When the news was announced some thought it to be an April Fool's joke.

His funeral was held on 6 April at the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens
Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens
Annunciation Cathedral, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Athens, popularly known as the "Mētrópolis", is the cathedral church of the Archbishop of Athens and all Greece....


He was succeeded by his younger brother, Paul
Paul of Greece
Paul reigned as King of Greece from 1947 to 1964.-Family and early life:Paul was born in Athens, the third son of King Constantine I of Greece and his wife, Princess Sophia of Prussia. He was trained as a naval officer....

. On account of his many exiles, he is said to have remarked that "the most important tool for a King of Greece is a suitcase."

Honours and awards

Grand Master of the these Greek orders: Order of the Redeemer
Order of the Redeemer
The Order of the Redeemer , also known as the Order of the Savior, is an order of Greece. The Order of the Redeemer is the oldest and highest decoration awarded by the modern Greek state.- History :...

, Grand Master of the Order of George I
Order of George I
The Royal Order of George I is a defunct order of Greece.- History :The order was founded in 1915 by King Constantine I in honor of his father, George I. It was only the second Greek order to be created after the Order of the Redeemer in 1833, and remained the second senior award of the Greek...

 and Order of the Phoenix.
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order
    Royal Victorian Order
    The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry recognising distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys...

     (GCVO); 1909 (United Kingdom)
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Red Eagle
    Order of the Red Eagle
    The Order of the Red Eagle was an order of chivalry of the Kingdom of Prussia. It was awarded to both military personnel and civilians, to recognize valor in combat, excellence in military leadership, long and faithful service to the kingdom, or other achievements...

    , with swords; 1913.
  • Order of the Annunciation; 1935
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
    Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
    The Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus is an order of chivalry awarded by the House of Savoy, the heads of which were formerly Kings of Italy...

     - 1935
  • Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Crown of Italy
    Order of the Crown of Italy
    The Order of the Crown of Italy was founded as a national order in 1868 by King Vittorio Emanuele II, to commemorate the unification of Italy in 1861...

     - 1935
  • Supreme Knight of the Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
    Order of the Most Holy Annunciation
    The Supreme Order of the Most Holy Annunciation is an order of chivalry, or knighthood, originating in mediæval Italy. It eventually was the pinnacle of the honours system in the Kingdom of Italy, which ceased to be a national order when the kingdom became a republic in 1946...

     - 1935
  • Order of the White Eagle
    Order of the White Eagle
    The Order of the White Eagle is Poland's highest decoration awarded to both civilians and the military for their merits. It was officially instituted on November 1, 1705 by Augustus II the Strong and bestowed on eight of his supporters: four Polish magnates, three Russian field marshals , and one...

    ; 1937
  • Distinguished Service Order
    Distinguished Service Order
    The Distinguished Service Order is a military decoration of the United Kingdom, and formerly of other parts of the British Commonwealth and Empire, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service by officers of the armed forces during wartime, typically in actual combat.Instituted on 6 September...

    ; 1941 (United Kingdom); for the courage he showed under fire from the enemy. (George is the first and only King to have received this decoration.)
  • War Cross (Norway); 1942
  • Knight of the Order of the Garter
    Order of the Garter
    The Most Noble Order of the Garter, founded in 1348, is the highest order of chivalry, or knighthood, existing in England. The order is dedicated to the image and arms of St...

  • Bailiff Grand Cross of the Venerable Order of St. John


External links

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