UK

Charles to miss memorial service for second cousin the last king of Greece

The Queen will lead the royal family at St George’s Chapel on February 27 in honour of Constantine II, who died last year.

King Constantine of the Hellenes was close to the British royal family
King Constantine King Constantine of the Hellenes was close to the British royal family (Kirsty Wigglesworth/PA)

The King is to miss a thanksgiving service for his close friend and second cousin King Constantine of Greece as he continues his treatment for cancer.

The Queen will lead members of the royal family as they gather in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, on February 27 in honour of the former ruler and last King of Greece who was toppled from the throne decades ago in a military coup.

Constantine II – a first cousin once removed and sailing partner of Prince Philip, the late Duke of Edinburgh – died at the age of 82 in January last year.

Charles and Camilla greet King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie at Buckingham Palace in 2012
Sovereign Monarchs Jubilee dinner Charles and Camilla greet King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie at Buckingham Palace in 2012 (Sean Dempsey/PA)

Charles had a close friendship with Constantine, choosing him as a godfather for son William, now the Prince of Wales.

The former monarch was also godfather to Prince and Princess of Michael of Kent’s daughter Lady Gabriella Kingston.

Charles, 75, who was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer just over a fortnight ago, is not carrying out public duties while he has treatment.

Camilla and other family members will be joined by the late King’s widow Queen Anne-Marie, their eldest son Crown Prince Pavlos, other members of the Greek royal family and foreign royals for the UK memorial service in the nave of the 15th century chapel in Berkshire.

Prince Philip and ex-King Constantine of Greece aboard a launch off the Isle of Wight in 1986
Royalty – Royal Yacht Britannia – Duke of Edinburgh – Cowes Prince Philip and ex-King Constantine of Greece aboard a launch off the Isle of Wight in 1986 (Ron Bell/PA)

Charles was unable to attend Constantine’s funeral in Athens last year due to commitments including meeting the president of Cyprus, and his sister the Princess Royal represented him at the ceremony.

Constantine, who died in an Athens hospital, acceded to the throne at the age of 23 in 1964.

The youthful monarch, who had already achieved glory after winning an Olympic gold in sailing, was initially hugely popular.

By the following year, he had squandered much of that support with his active involvement in the machinations that brought down the popularly elected Centre Union government of prime minister George Papandreou.

William and Kate talk to Constantine II at Windsor Castle
Sovereign Monarchs Jubilee lunch William and Kate talk to Constantine II at Windsor Castle (John Stillwell/PA)

The episode, still widely known in Greece as the “apostasy” or defection from the ruling party of several politicians, destabilised 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 and a referendum after democracy was restored in 1974 dashed any hopes Constantine had of reigning again.

He lived in exile for many years in Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London, before returning to his home country in 2013.

King Constantine (back left) with the royal family on the day of Prince William’s confirmation in 1997
Prince William’s Confirmation – St. George’s Chapel, Windsor King Constantine (back left) with the royal family on the day of Prince William’s confirmation in 1997 (John Stillwell/PA)

The service will be led by the Dean of Windsor, the Right Rev Christopher Cocksworth.

Queen Sofía of Spain is one of Constantine’s sisters, while the abdicated Queen Margrethe II of Denmark was his sister-in-law.