The story, posted on the ABC News website, makes for a very fascinating read: “For five very brief hours in 1981, Prince Nikolaos was allowed to enter the country his family once ruled. He was there to bury his grandmother, Queen Frederika, at the palace they used to own, almost an hour from Athens. Afterwards Prince Nikolaos, who was then aged 11, left immediately with his family. Those few hours were enough to let an ache take hold for a country he had never before visited. He vowed to return.”
Kudos to Danny Tran for this dramatic account of events in his report of the photo exhibition of Nikolaos, son of the former King of Hellenes Constantine, at the Hellenic Museum of Melbourne. One cannot but feel sympathy for this poor boy, whom the heartless Greek state had banned from entering the country. The story, of course, fails to mention why that had happened; the journalist did not seem to bother asking that question.
“His family had lived in exile since the late 1960s after a military uprising,” he writes.
Really, Danny Tran? The 21 April 1967 coup that installed a dictatorship in Greece, “a military uprising?” What about the role of Constantine himself in creating a fertile ground for the junta, having caused a constitutional crisis when he disrespected the elected PM George Papandreou? What about the fact that he initially condoned the regime, before his own failed counter-coup made him persona non grata for both dictators and the Greek people?
Sure, you cannot expect an Australian journo to know about recent Greek history, but he could at least Google it. Nor can you expect that people who live in a country that still has a monarchy (though this is bound to change, sooner or later), to understand why it is problematic to refer to him as ‘Prince Nikolaos’ – and even worse as HRH Prince Nikolaos as the ABC story photo captions do. It’s wrong, given that the Greek constitution does not recognise royal titles. But it is forgivable.
What is unforgivable is the same title, ‘His Royal Highness Prince Nikolaos’, appearing on the front page of a Greek newspaper in Melbourne, one which reprimands in its editorial those who believe that this adherence to royal relics and meaningless titles is an insult to democracy.
This debate should have been over by now and tensions should have simmered down. The opening of the exhibition was a hit, and the show is open to the public that wants to admire Nikolaos’ truly wonderful photos of Greek landscapes and seascapes. And apparently, there are a lot of people eager to do this: art lovers, philhellenes and royal family nostalgics. These last ones are the problem. Because, in order to justify their undemocratic beliefs, they verge to pure nonsense.
Take for instance Oakleigh councillor Theo Zographos, who sent an open letter to Neos Kosmos arguing for the reintroduction of monarchy to Greece, because it would boost tourism!
“It is fascinating to wonder what Greece would have achieved if there was stability at the top and the monarchy was allowed to continue with a symbolic yet stable king, one above the very robust domestic Greek politics we have seen since then,” writes Cr Zographos.
“I think if he had been given the chance King Constantine (ed. note: Cr Zographos forgot to add ‘former’ before the word ‘King’) would have done a very good job. Certainly, as one gets older he learns from youthful mistakes we all have made.
“Talk about an understatement! Creating a constitutional crisis that paved the way for the dictatorship and subsequently collaborating with the dictators (which is rather treasonous, one might think), is dismissed as a “youthful mistake” – not unlike getting drunk and crashing your father’s car.
“Reintroducing the monarchy in Greece would bring a rich vitality to the nation,” Cr Zographos stresses.
“The tourism dollars alone would make it worthwhile. No tourist goes to Greece to see the president.”
Yes, because the president of the Hellenic Republic is not a celebrity, nor a tourist attraction; he is the head of state and guarantor of democracy.
In his otherwise amusing letter, Cr Zographos mentions “Princess Theodora, the younger daughter of the former king and queen,” who “has done a reverse-Meghan Markle and is an actor with a long running stint on The Bold and the Beautiful.” Only when you look at the long list of the soap opera’s cast members, she is not referred as “Princess Theodora” but as “Theodora Greece”. So, there you have it. Here is a perfect – and perfectly Greek – last name, for any former royal who wants to actively show that they respect the Hellenic constitution and the fact that Greece has no royals anymore and does not acknowledge royal titles.
His father did not show the same inclination, not even as a show of remorse for his “youthful mistakes” – to apologise to the Hellenic Republic for his wrongdoing and accept the Greek states suggestion: that he should adopt a last name, any name (not necessarily Glucksburg or Christian, like it was suggested by his enemies and supporters) like every other citizen, and be able to return to the country, so that he does not deprive little Nikolaos from the opportunity to live at the former palace of Tatoi, play at the fabulous estate, and properly mourn his beloved grandma (whom the Greek people so despised).
Nikolaos himself, by the way, appears to be much less attached to the idea of royalty and titles, than his supporters in the media (both traditional and social). In a radio interview Jon Faine (who introduced him as ‘Prince Nikolaos’, opting to avoid the HRH nonsense) for ABC Melbourne, he was well-spoken, graceful, diplomatic, and witty. Asked “What is the modern purpose of a royal family in Greece?”, he responded: “The modern purpose of a royal family in Greece doesn’t exist. There isn’t a purpose per se. My existence in Greece is purely out of my love for my country. I’m extremely grateful to be able to be there. Very often I wake up in the morning and pinch myself.” He then went on offering praise for the country and the people, particularly for showing solidarity to the wave of refugees.
At the end of the interview, Jon Faine referred to him as “Prince of Greece and Denmark,” immediately stopping to ask: “How can you be a prince of two countries at the same time?”
“I’m not really,” Nikolaos answered, explaining that all descendants of King Christian IX of Denmark retained the title (despite his own mother Anne-Marie having renounced her succession rights to the Danish throne for herself and her descendants in order to marry Constantine). “You don’t often see it other than our tombstones,” he added, much to everyone’s amusement. And that’s how he settled the issue of the appropriate use of royal titles, once and for all.