King Charles III and his enduring affection for Greece

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The death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8, just three months after her unprecedented Platinum Jubilee, sent shockwaves around the world. Regardless of what one thinks of the institution of the monarchy, she was undeniably an extraordinary woman, a national matriarch (mother, grandmother, great-grandmother) whose long reign and selfless devotion to duty have provided stability and inspiration; an anchor of constancy for 70 years era changes.

According to John Kittmer, president of the Anglo-Hellenic League and UK ambassador to Greece from 2013 to 2016, the Queen was “an impeccable constitutional monarch in an open and democratic era”. For millions of people in the UK, the 56 Commonwealth countries and around the world, Queen Elizabeth II was the Queen, and her death at the age of 96 resulted in a deep sense of loss. Amid the public outpouring of grief and tightly choreographed pageantry over the past few weeks, a new monarch has taken his place as head of state, HRH King Charles III.

We are familiar with the new king’s views on organic farming, architecture and the natural environment, and his passion for philanthropy – as Prince of Wales, he established the prince’s trust, raising over £100million a year for charities related to youth education, arts, heritage and environmental sustainability. We also know that he has a deep-rooted affection for Greece, its people, its centuries-old culture and history and, above all, its Orthodox Christian Faith. But where does all this come from? And what can we expect in Greece from the reign of King Charles III?

[InTime News]

shared history

2021 has been a symbolic year for Greece. Commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the 1821 insurrection which will lead to independence, the Greeks celebrated with a series of spectacular events, flyovers and parades. In the early morning of March 25, as the blue and white flag was hoisted over the ancient Acropolis, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis proclaimed: “Two centuries ago, a handful of determined fighters inside and outside outside Greece raised the banner of independence… with the help of their allies, they fought heroically and won their freedom.

The allies he spoke of were Britain, France and Russia, whose support in the nearly decade-long struggle proved crucial. On October 20, 1827, in what historians have described as “the last great battle of the age of sail”, a combined Allied fleet routed the Ottoman and Egyptian forces in Navarino Baywhich made the victory of the Greek cause, in the face of almost impossible odds, much more likely.

Charles, then Prince of Wales, who, accompanied by his wife Camila, the Duchess of Cornwall, became visibly emotional as the Greek Army played “God Save the Queen” during a wreath laying ceremony in front of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

“My wife and I couldn’t be happier to be back in Greece, which has long held the most special place in my heart,” he told dignitaries at an official state dinner. , hosted by the President of the Hellenic Republic. He went on to praise the “extraordinary courage and fortitude” shown by the Greeks during the 1821 revolution and his own. “deep link” for the country.

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[InTime News]

“Greece is in my blood”

Ahead of his official visit last year, Charles and Camila traveled to Greece in May 2018 amid the complex backdrop of bilateral negotiations following Britain’s impending departure from the European Union. During the three-day tour, he expressed his heartfelt affection for the country, “my grandfather’s land; and the birth of my father.

“Apart from anything else, Greece is in my blood, and I have long been fascinated by its ancient culture and history,” he told Kathimerini during the visit. “I had the chance to visit some of the many beautiful and unique places in Greece.” Charles’s father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died aged 99 on April 9, 2021, was born in Mon Repo Palace on the island of Corfu. The fifth child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Aliki (Alice) of Battenberg, and baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church, young Philip’s grandparents were King George I and Queen Olga of Greece. Following the Asia Minor crisis of 1922 and his father’s subsequent banishment, the family was forced to flee the country. It is said that the young prince was placed in a wooden fruit box during the rushed evacuation.

Charles’s father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, who died aged 99 on April 9, 2021, was born in Mon Repo Palace on the island of Corfu. The fifth child of Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Aliki (Alice) of Battenberg, and baptized in the Greek Orthodox Church, young Philip’s grandparents were King George I and Queen Olga of Greece. Following the Asia Minor crisis of 1922 and his father’s subsequent banishment, the family was forced to flee the country. It is said that the young prince was placed in a wooden fruit box during the rushed evacuation.

Philip’s mother, diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1930 and confined to a sanatorium in Switzerland, later returned to Greece and dedicated the rest of his life to charity. She remained in Athens during World War II, sheltering Jewish refugees and distributing rations, and later established an Orthodox nursing order of nuns known as the the Christian Fellowship of Martha and Mary.

During the events of the last year, Charles spoke of the enduring affection for his grandmother: “It was in Athens that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice, during the dark years of the Nazi occupation, sheltered a Jewish family – an act for which she is counted in Israel. as ‘Righteous Among the Nations’.

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Charles’ father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, with his first cousin King Constantine II of Greece inspecting an Evzones honor guard at Athens Airport, March 1965. [AP]

Spiritual commitment to Orthodoxy

There has been much speculation about the new king’s relationship with Greek Orthodoxy over the years. As Prince of Wales he was a frequent visitor to the all-male monastic republic of Mount Athos (the Holy Mount) in northern Greece – the holiest site in the Orthodox world – where, hidden from the world, he is said to have found much-needed peace and spiritual serenity amidst its beauty natural hilly.

Following a visit in May 2004, an Athonite monk said: “There is no doubt that the British King is Orthodox at heart. Unfortunately, he is very constrained by his position. Prior to the visit, one of the monasteries – Chelandari Monastery – was badly damaged by fire. The prince at the time launched the idea of ​​creating the “Friends of Mount Athos” in Great Britain, which raised funds for its restoration.

Throughout his life, Charles showed an unprecedented interest in the religions of the world, including Islam, Buddhism and other Christian denominations, but his relationship with Orthodoxy is both deep and profoundly significant – part of his royal estate at Highgrove, Gloucestershire, is adorned with Byzantine icons, many believed to be gifts from the monks of Mount Athos.

Now assuming the role of Head of the Church of England, Defender of the Faith, the new King has reaffirmed his commitment to inter-religious dialogue and harmony between people of different faiths in a Britain increasingly multicultural. Strong supporter of religious freedomhe seems unlikely to renounce his intellectual and spiritual commitment to Greek Orthodoxy.

Ephraim, Abbot of Vatopedion on Mount Athos – Charles’ Adoptive Monastery – has been a frequent visitor to Highgrove over the years, teaching him about Eastern Christianity. In a statement to the Guardian in 2004, Archbishop Grigorios de Thyateira, who heads Britain’s Orthodox community of 500,000, reminded readers that “Orthodoxy runs in his family”.

“One of Charles’s aunts, Grand Duchess Eugenia, was proclaimed an Orthodox saint after she was murdered in Moscow where she had established a monastery. His paternal grandmother, Aliki [Alice], was a nun for most of her life. She spoke Greek very well and in her later years, when she came to live in London, she kept an Orthodox chapel at Buckingham Palaceadded the prelate. “Aliki was a very powerful woman who I’m sure had a very strong influence on Charles in his early years.”

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[InTime News]

Support for young Greeks

Although Queen Elizabeth did not visit Greece again during her 70-year reign, it has been said that she was deeply concerned about the Greek people during the decade of economic crisis. His son Charles, however, beyond his keen interest in Greek Orthodoxy, personally reached out to help the country’s unemployed youth.

Founded in 2015, the Prince’s Trust International – the global version of the British charity he set up in 1976 to support vulnerable young people – has a strong presence in Greece. Over a five-year program, the Trust aims to support more than 2,200 young people (18 to 30 years old) in Athens and other cities in Greece to train in key skills and find a job.

During his visit in 2018, he spoke about the initiative: “Knowing that Greece, and so many Greeks, have been going through such a difficult time in recent years, I wanted to find a way – however small and inadequate – to ‘helping young Greeks realize their full potential, whether through vocational training or by helping them start their own business’

At an official reception at St James’s Palace in London in 2019, the then Prince of Wales welcomed the Greek beneficiaries of the scheme alongside prominent Greeks from the British business world. In fluent Greek he says: “Together we can help young Greeks build a better future for themselves and their country.”

It looks like the new King Charles III’s close personal connection to Greece is set to continue long into the future.

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