Birthday: August 2, 1868
Died At Age: 54
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Constantine I of Greece
Born Country: Greece
Born in: Athens, Greece
Famous as: King of Greece (1913-1917)
Emperors & Kings
Spouse/Ex-: Sophia of Prussia
father: George I of Greece
mother: Olga Constantinovna of Russia
siblings: Grand Duchess Alexandra Georgievna of Russia, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, Prince Christopher of Greece and Denmark, Prince George of Greece and Denmark, Prince Nicholas of Greece and Denmark, Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, Princess Maria of Greece and Denmark, Queen Sofía of Spain
children: Alexander of Greece, Duchess of Aosta, George II of Greece, Helen of Greece and Denmark, Paul of Greece, Princess Irene, Princess Katherine of Greece and Denmark
Died on: January 11, 1923
place of death: Palermo, Italy
Cause of Death: Heart Failure
Ancestry: Greek Italian
City: Athens, Greece
education: Heidelberg University
awards: Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour
Knight of the Order of the Golden Fleece
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Order of the Black Eagle
Order of St. Andrew
Who was Constantine I?
Constantine I was the King of Greece for several years between 1913 and 1922. He had also served as the commander-in-chief of the Hellenic Army during the Greco-Turkish War. Following the assassination of his father, King George I of the Hellenes, he took over the throne of Greece for the first time. He had been the leader of an army that failed to unite Crete with Greece. He had seen multiple wars during the time of his reign, including the Balkan Wars and World War I. Although he was committed to keep Greece neutral during World War I, the Prime Minister Eleuthérios Venizelos supported the Allied forces. This major disagreement between Constantine I and Venizelos, known as “The National Schism,” was so impactful that it had consequences that were felt in Greek politics even beyond World War II. Although he was in power, the Allied forces taking over Thessaloníki and Venizelos’ formation of a separate pro-Allied government led to his abdication. He turned over the throne to his second son, Alexander, without renouncing his titular right. When Venizelos fell out of power and Alexander died, Constantine I came back from his exile following a plebiscite. Due to a military revolt, he lost his throne a second time and handed over the power to his eldest son, who then became King George II.
Childhood & Early Life
Constantine I was born on 2 August 1868, in Athens. He was the eldest son of King George I and Queen Olga. Since he was the eldest son of the king, his birth was a celebrated moment in the country's history as he became the first Greek-born child of a modern Greek monarch. He had four brothers and three sisters.
Constantine studied at Heidelberg between the years 1884 and 1887. At a very young age, he was awarded the title of Duke of Sparta by his father, King George I.
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Early Military Career
Constantine I enrolled in the Hellenic Military Academy on 30 October 1882. He later went to Berlin for further military training and even served in the German Imperial Guard. He pursued political science and business studies in Heidelberg and Leipzig.
He became a major general in 1890, and took over the 3rd Army Headquarters in Athens, thus kick-starting his official military career.
The Greco-Turkish War & Aftermath
In 1897, Constantine I became the commander-in-chief of the Greek Army during the Greco-Turkish War. Following the defeat, he suffered a major setback as the popularity of monarchy fell and people wanted his dismissal.
The dissent eventually led to the Goudi coup in August 1909. Although Constantine was dismissed from the armed forces, he was reinstated by the new Prime Minister Venizelos. In October 1912, he was appointed commander-in-chief of the "Army of Thessaly" during the First Balkan War.
Accession & First World War
King George I was assassinated an anarchist, Alexandros Schinas, on 18 March 1913. Constantine I succeeded to the throne upon his father’s death. It was a period of great political turmoil in Greece.
In 1914, Kaiser Wilhelm, the Emperor of Germany, wanted Constantine I to take Greece into the ongoing World War I on the side of Austria and Germany. However, he took a neutral stance during the war and even blocked Venizelos' efforts to bring Greece into the war on the side of the Allies.
According to many, taking a neutral stance was based on his judgment that it was in the best interest of his country. However, Venizelos was intent on supporting the Allied forces.
With the Allied support, Venizelos confronted Constantine I and asked him to leave the throne in 1917. Under pressure, Constantine finally left the country and his son Alexander became the king in his place. However, Constantine I regained his throne in 1920.
Constantine I was forced to abdicate the throne again on 27 September 1922. This time, he was succeeded by his son, George II. He then went to exile in Italy.
Family & Personal Life
Constantine I, as the Crown Prince of Greece, married Princess Sophia of Prussia on 27 October 1889 in Athens. She was the granddaughter of Queen Victoria and sister of Kaiser Wilhelm II.
Out of their six children, three of their sons became the king of Greece. Their first son, George II, was born at Tatoi on 19 July 1890. Interestingly, there was a 23-year age gap between their eldest and youngest children.
Constantine I died from a brain hemorrhage in Palermo, Sicily, on January 11, 1923. He was 54. His remains were buried in the crypt of the Russian Church of Florence. He was later buried at the Royal Cemetery at Tatoi Palace.
After the monarchy was restored in 1936 in Greece, the government asked for the remains of his mother, Queen Olga, and his wife, Queen Sophia, to be sent back to the country. All three of them had died during their exile and the battleship carrying their remains reached Piraeus, Greece, on November 17, 1936.