Eight Bells: King Constantine II
Published on January 10th, 2023
Constantine, the last king of Greece, who won an Olympic gold medal before becoming entangled in his country’s volatile politics in the 1960s as king and spent decades in exile, has died on January 10, 2023. He was 82.
Doctors at the private Hygeia Hospital in Athens confirmed to The Associated Press that Constantine died late in the day after treatment in an intensive care unit but had no further details pending an official announcement.
When he acceded to the throne as Constantine II 1964 at the age of 23, the youthful monarch, who had already achieved glory as an Olympic gold medalist in sailing, was hugely popular.
His victory, the only sailing medal for Greece at the Rome 1960 Olympics, was in the 27-boat Dragon fleet with crew Odysseus Eskidioglou and Georgios Zaimis. The Dragon was sailed in seven Olympics, from 1948 to 1972, and remains a popular one design keelboat class.
But the following year after his ascension, he had squandered much of that support with his active involvement in the machinations that brought down the elected Center Union government of prime minister George Papandreou.
The episode involving the defection from the ruling party of several lawmakers, still widely known in Greece as the “apostasy,” destabilized the constitutional order and led to a military coup in 1967. Constantine eventually clashed with the military rulers and was forced into exile.
The dictatorship abolished the monarchy in 1973, while a referendum after democracy was restored in 1974 dashed any hopes that Constantine had of ever reigning again.
Reduced in the following decades to only fleeting visits to Greece that raised a political and media storm each time, he was able to settle again in his home country in his waning years when opposing his presence no longer held currency as a badge of vigilant republicanism. With minimal nostalgia for the monarchy in Greece, Constantine became a relatively uncontroversial figure. – Full report
Report by World Sailing:
Constantine, the last king of Greece, was a lifelong and dedicated sailor and his service to World Sailing spanned more than 60 years.
He first became involved with the federation in 1960, the same year he won an Olympic gold in the Dragon class at the Olympic Games in Rome, at just 20 years of age.
This gold medal was of huge significance for Greece as it was the first for the country since 1912 in any sport and the only medal for the Greek team at those Games.
The former His Majesty first took a seat on a World Sailing Committee in 1961 when he joined the Class Policy and Organisation Committee (CPOC) and the new Catamaran Technical Committee.
In 1964, the year he acceded to the throne of Greece, His Majesty was appointed as Vice-President of Honour at World Sailing, a position which engaged him directly with the Council and Executive Committee. In 1994 he became President of Honour, a role he held until his passing.
King Constantine became president of the Hellenic Olympic Committee in 1957 demonstrating his strong commitment to the Olympic Movement, and in 1963 he was elected as a member of the International Olympic Committee where he was actively involved in all aspects of the movement. He was elected an Honorary Member for life in 1974.
In 2010, King Constantine was awarded the Beppe Croce Trophy by World Sailing in honour of his outstanding voluntary contributions to the sport of sailing.
He is survived by his wife, the former Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, three sons, two daughters and nine grandchildren.
Our thoughts are with his family at this time, and we join the rest of the sailing world in mourning his passing while also celebrating his contribution to the sport.