Prince Charles and the Dutchess of Cornwall are arriving in Athens on a three-day visit, upon the invitation of President Prokopis Pavlopoulos.
This is Prince Charles’ second official visit to Greece – the first was in 1998 – and the first for the dutchess.
The royal couple has in the past vacationed on the Greek islands.
“Apart from anything else, Greece is in my blood and I have long had a fascination for her ancient culture and history,” Charles told the daily Kathimerini.
At the same time, Charles announced that the Prince’s Trust charity will help “the young people of Greece achieve their full potential, whether through skills training or assisting them to set up their own enterprises”.
While Pavlopoulos will host an official dinner for the royal couple – though officially not a state dinner – Charles will be received by Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and all Greece.
Much has been made of the fact that Queen Elizabeth has never visited Greece as queen, a fact attributed to bitterness over the Greek people’s decision to depose King Constantine of the Hellenes in a December, 1974 referendum. For the seven years before that Greece was under military dictatorship.
Charles’ visit will stress historic British-Greek ties and continuing cooperation, and attempt to paper over the stresses of the past.
It is well known that the prince has long harboured an attraction and fascination with the mystical monastic tradition of Mount Athos, a 1,000 year-old monastic colony that may be visited only by men, which he has repeatedly visited for spiritual retreats.
It is equally well known that Charles has a longstanding association with Vatopedi Monastery, one of the oldest and richest on Athos, and with its Abbot Ephraim, a Greek Cypriot with a large following that consider him a charismatic spiritual leader. Indeed, Ephrain had created a modest, small two –room suite with a desk for the prince’s use during his visits.
The Greece-born Prince Philip
The relations of the British royal family with Greece run deep, but have also been tumultuous.
Charles’ father, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was born in the small but beautiful palace of Mon Repos on Corfu, and baptised into the Greek Orthodox faith, though he was later received in the Church of England in 1947.
But after the disaster of the Asia Minor War, his uncle, King Constantine was forced to abdicate, and his father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, was banished from Greece, along with his family.
Royal historian Hugo Vickers has suggested that Philip harbours an antipathy for Greece due to the fact that his father was put on trial and nearly executed due to his role in the Asia Minor debacle.
The inglorious end of the monarchy in Greece, through its abolition by referendum, and perhaps the fate of the prince consort’s family, is considered the reason that Greece is not among the nearly 200 countries that Queen Elizabeth has visited during her exceptionally long reign.
Princess Elizabeth did, however, visit Greece in 1950, prior to her accession to the throne, upon the invitation of her cousin, King Paul of Greece, then the reigning monarch.
Princes William and Harry have vacationed in Greece, and Princess Diana paid an informal visit in 1996, for the funeral in Evia of a man named Yannis Kalyviotis, whom the princess had visited and consoled in a British hospital.