1964: The Last Greek King was an Athlete who won an Olympic Gold Medal

Story Highlights

  • Historical event
  • 6. March 1964
  • Actually of German origin
  • Successful athlete in his youth

The last king in the history of Greece – Constantine II – acceded to the throne on this day in 1964. He is actually of German origin, a member of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty. Namely, after Greece won its independence from the Ottoman Empire, its throne was taken by members of German ruling houses. The Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty came to the Greek throne back in 1863, and simultaneously held the Danish throne. They later also became the kings of Norway.

Constantine II – the last Greek king – has some truly enviable dynastic family ties. He is a descendant of the famous British queen Victoria and the great-grandson of German emperor Wilhelm II, and is also a descendant of Russian emperor Nicholas I and Danish king Christian IX.

It is interesting that the current Spanish queen, Sofia, is actually the sister of King Constantine II. Similarly, Danish queen Margrethe II is his sister-in-law. The husband of Princess Caroline of Monaco is his first cousin, as were Michael of Romania, the last Romanian king, and the last Yugoslav queen. Prince Charles, the current heir to the British throne, is also a member of the same family as Constantine II (the mentioned many-branched Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty), although his surname was artificially changed to Windsor.

An interesting fact about Constantine II was that he was a successful athlete in his youth. He won the Gold Medal for Greece at the Olympic Games in Rome in 1960. This was the first Olympic medal won by Greece in 48 years. At that time he was only a prince, and 20 years old. King Constantine II also has a black belt in karate, and also trains tennis, riding, and swimming. He was deposed in 1974.

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