The Wittelsbachs and Greek debt

October 21 2011

Independent Greece was a monarchy until 1973: from 1832 to 1924 and from 1935 to ’73. There was a short republican interlude. For the first thirty years the king was a Wittelsbach: Otto. Afterwards the ruling house was Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, a Danish cadet branch of the house of Oldenburg.

Bavaria did not take part in the war of independence, when the supporters of Greece had been the UK, France and Russia. The Duke of Edinburgh is a Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg.

Otto was the second son of the Bavarian philhellene Ludwig I. Ludwig and others lent Greece money to keep it going. (The eldest son, Maximillian II, succeeded his father in Bavaria and was the father of mad King Ludwig II.)

“‘You will certainly not want me to lose the larger part of my own capital because of having saved Greece,’ King Ludwig wrote in April [1849] to his son Otto […].

‘Couldn’t you pay back the interest on the loan at least? … things are becoming impossible for your mother and your siblings.’”

From a piece by Alexandra Hudson at Reuters.

Otto loved his adopted country, but was not loved in return. Thomas Gallant quoted in Wikidepdia: he “was neither ruthless enough to be feared, nor compassionate enough to be loved, nor competent enough to be respected”.

He espoused the Great Idea (Μεγάλη Ιδέα), the dream, which died with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923, of uniting all the Greek populations of the Ottoman Empire with Christian Greece and reestablishing Constantinople as the Greek capital.

He was styled King of Greece. His Oldenburg successors were Kings of the Hellenes.

Portrait by Gottlieb Bodmer

Prinz Otto von Bayern, Koenig von Griechenland, 1833

Portrait by Joseph Stieler 

7 Responses to “The Wittelsbachs and Greek debt”

  1. […] The Wittelsbachs and Greek debt […]

  2. davidderrick Says:

    The FAZ had a piece in February about La Grèce contemporaine (1855) by Edmond About, which has more to say about some unchanging aspects of Greece.

  3. davidderrick Says:

    Greek monarchs (with various regencies):


    Otto, 1832-63 (married Amalia of Oldenburg), exiled

    Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg, cadet branch of house of Oldenburg

    George I, 1863-1913
    Constantine I, 1913-17
    Alexander, 1917-20
    Constantine I again, 1920-22
    George II, 1922-24

    George II again, 1935-47
    Paul, 1947-64
    Constantine II, 1964-73

    Philip was born in Corfu in 1921. His father was Prince Andrew of Greece. His mother was Princess Alice of Battenberg, daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg and sister of Earl Mountbatten of Burma. His family was exiled in 1922 after the abdication of his uncle Constantine I.

    Prince Louis, his maternal grandfather, had become a naturalised British subject in 1868, joined the Royal Navy, and rose to become First Sea Lord in 1914. He changed the family name to Mountbatten and was created Marquess of Milford Haven. He died a few weeks after Philip was born. Prince Philip adopted the name of Mountbatten when he became a naturalised British subject. So Philip is not “Greek”. He is if anything Danish or German.

    The military junta known as the Colonels ruled 1967-74. In 1973 the Colonels called a referendum, which abolished the monarchy.

  4. davidderrick Says:

    The political style of Tsipras and Varoufakis is in one way a breath of fresh air. But in another way, they are vain and arrogant.

  5. […] The Wittelsbachs and Greek debt (old post): but that is a trivial comparison. […]

  6. […] There’s a list of Greek monarchs at the end of this post. […]

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