Why the restoration of the monarchy would be good for Greece?

The monarchy arouses strong emotions in Greece because of the unquestionable role it has played in modern history. In 1964 they crowned Constantine II as a constitutional monarch, although he had considerable influence. He was a dashing moderniser who had won a gold medal for sailing at the Rome Olympics four years earlier. In those days, Greek high society revolved around the royal family, and an invitation to the palace was a sign of social advancement, held in the highest esteem.

This brief three-year honeymoon between the young king and the Greeks ended abruptly in 1967 when a group of colonels overthrew the caretaker government a month before elections were due. The king, isolated and surrounded by tanks, didn’t know what else to do to gain time to organise an unsuccessful countercoup that failed to overthrow the junta, so he asked the coup leaders to form a government. He actively opposed the junta by organising a countercoup as soon as he had the opportunity. The new government’s legal sanction, given by the legitimate head of state, played a crucial role in the coup’s success. King Constantine later deeply regretted his decision, as his enemies falsely associated him with the coup, despite his vehement opposition to it.

The De Jure King & Queen of the Hellenes ©IG @greekmonarchy

Following the unsuccessful countercoup, forces compelled King Constantine II and his family to flee Greece into exile in Rome. While Constantine was in exile, the military junta ultimately abolished the Greek monarchy in 1973. They treated him contemptuously by stripping him of his titles and citizenship.

Prince Constantino of Greece, the future of the Greek monarchy. ©IG @greekmonarchy

On 24 July 1974, the overthrow of the junta took place. Senior army officers formed a new civilian government to restore democracy, headed by Constantine Karamanlis. This paved the way for democratic elections and a rigged referendum on the monarchy later in 1974. So, Greece abolished its monarchy. While the referendum followed democratic procedures on the surface, the playing field was very uneven. Most scholars consider that it was de facto rigged in favour of the abolition of the monarchy because of the suppression of the royalist camp and the lack of balance in the campaign. The king and other royalists also condemned it as an undemocratic process for the following reasons:

1. They had forced King Constantine II into exile after the 1967 military coup and prevented him from returning to Greece to campaign for the retention of the monarchy during the referendum.

2. The phrasing of the referendum question was biased towards abolition: “Crown or Republic?”

3.There were restrictions on monarchists campaigning and advocating their position before the vote.

4.The referendum took place shortly after the collapse of the military dictatorship, when anti-royalist sentiment was high because of King Constantine’s initial misperceived support for the coup plotters.

Many historians believe that the circumstances of the king’s exile and his inability to defend himself undermined the legitimacy of the trial in the eyes of many.

Prince Pavlos ©IG @greekmonarchy

Shortly afterwards, in January 1975, the government led by Constantine Karamanlis passed a law officially deposing Constantine and the Greek royal family. Following the junta’s steps, their Greek citizenship was also revoked, rendering them stateless for a period, the government confiscated what remained of the former royal family’s property and assets in Greece, and King Constantine was denied the right to return to Greece for almost 40 years, until the ban was lifted in 1993, but only as a private citizen. The King’s treatment by the new republican government was harsh – he was deposed, stripped of his citizenship and his remaining property confiscated.

After years of self-imposed exile, Constantine returned to Greece in 2013, aged 73, and settled in his private residence near Athens. The media widely reported his return, and monarchist supporters and ordinary Greeks warmly welcomed him in a public event. Opinion polls conducted at the time of his return revealed that Constantine still enjoyed personal popularity ratings of around 60% among the Greek public. They finally recognized him as a unifying figure who stood against the military junta.

During the last ten years of his life, the king and his family retained considerable personal popularity and visibility in Greek society, which did not sit well with the government, which was concerned about giving the royals too much deference or visibility, which could arouse nostalgia and support for the restoration of the monarchy. The government’s treatment of the royal family following the death of King Constantine II in January 2023 was widely criticised as disrespectful and petty. Although the government initially refused to allow Constantine’s body to lie in state for public viewing, it was forced to reverse this decision after a backlash.

But unlike for previous Greek leaders, the government officials did not hold an official state memorial service and made dismissive public comments about the king’s death, lacking in courtesy. Many Greeks saw this perceived avoidance of traditional honours and protocol for a former head of state, including republicans, as mean-spirited and unworthy of the country. Commentators argued that whatever one’s views on the monarchy, Constantine deserved basic respect for his place in Greek history. People criticized the government’s actions, stating that it set back the international image of modern Greece. Ultimately, the heated controversy over the official funeral arrangements highlighted the surprising bitterness that still exists in certain political circles towards the former royal family more than 40 years after the abolition of the monarchy. The government’s pettiness gave the impression that lingering personal vendettas were taking precedence over basic civic decency and international embarrassment.

The Greek Royal family ©current.afphila.comcurrent.afphila.com

A sizeable crowd of Greeks gathered at Constantine’s funeral to honour him, showing the unwavering support he still held even years after being removed from power. Prince Pavlos, the rightful king, also enjoys this level of support, as indicated by recent polls which show him having 40% of the people’s backing.

So why would the restoration of the monarchy be good for Greece? For the monarchy to be restored, it would probably require another referendum and constitutional changes approved by the Greek parliament, and for Prince Pavlos to spend most of his time in Greece, as with his presence and that of his family, he would be subtly campaigning for the restoration of a constitutional monarchy that would ensure stability and national unity.

Key issues would be the role and powers of the monarch, the cost to the Greek taxpayer, the settlement of property seized after abolition, and wider public and political support. The monarch ensures the continuity of the democratic system, while formally separating the roles of head of state and head of government. This can prevent too much power being concentrated in one person or party. The Crown is an enduring national symbol and heritage that transcends politics and can help unite the country around shared history and traditions. As a non-partisan figurehead, King Pavlos II would represent the entire nation, both domestically and internationally, in a way that a politically connected president can never do.

Although symbolic, the king can constitutionally act as a check and balance to prevent democratic backsliding or power grabs by one faction. Of course, the global fascination with royalty would be a potential tourist draw for Greece, especially with such a notable royal family. Queen Marie Chantal would undoubtedly be an asset. Her humanitarian efforts, public persona and connection to Greek culture and Orthodoxy have helped make her a popular public figure in her own right, much respected in Greece and around the world. The young generation of princess also represent a very positive image of the new Greece. The royal family would be the best ambassadors to the world, giving an air of tradition, statesmanship and legitimacy to Greece’s image and diplomacy on the world stage.

Greeks should know that studies have shown that the annual cost to the taxpayers of European monarchies such as Spain, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc. is typically only a few million euros per year. In contrast, the presidencies, and associated bodies/services in European republics such as Germany, Italy and France cost hundreds of millions of euros annually. For example, the German presidency is estimated to cost around €370 million a year, while the Spanish monarchy costs just €36 million.

Monarchies can generate revenue from things like estate rentals, admission to royal sites, merchandise sales, etc. This helps to offset what they cost the public purse. The British monarchy is estimated to contribute around £1.8 billion a year to the UK economy through tourism alone. Royal weddings and events also provide an economic boost to monarchies. Monarchies thus provide these ceremonial functions at a lower relative operating cost, while their heritage status helps to boost tourism revenues.

The net cost to Greek taxpayers of restoring the monarchy would be lower than maintaining a republican system, while potentially providing other economic benefits that Greeks currently miss out on. From a strictly fiscal perspective, the potential cost-effectiveness of a constitutional monarchy appears to be supported by available European data. In Greece, royal palaces, ceremonies, and heritage sites can attract tourists and generate revenue, and the monarchy would become a recognisable national brand that can help tourism, trade and soft power, as members of the royal family can help promote business and charity abroad. This is the time of King Pavlos and Queen Marie Chantal. They are the best assets Greece can have and it would be sad if the politicians did not recognise this fact, plus they would not lose their power with a constitutional monarchy. The politicians would only be serving the Greek people under a much more prestigious regime than the flawed republic.

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