Family Portrait, II

Me and my tank, military parade of the Greek National Festival, 25 March, 1962.

1Shortly after finishing my studies at the University of Political Sciences in Paris, I moved to Greece; I quickly enlisted in order to complete my military service. I was in the calvary, which is to say the modern day tank regiment. I knew nothing about them, and to this day still know nothing, but I took great pleasure in driving these enormous machines, and nearly burst with pride during the national parade… only, barely after passing the doorway of the barracks, my tank broke down… The thought that this disaster could have occurred only a half hour earlier, during the parade…


Presentation of my Officer’s Sword, the Athenian Royal Palace, 1962. 

2After completing my studies at the reserve officer’s training school, King Paul, in the throne room of the Royal Palace, presented me with my sword. Behind him is the Queen Frederika, and behind her, the Princes Sophie of Greek and her husband, the Prince Juan Carlos of Spain, the future King and Queen of Spain. In morning coats and in uniforms were the members of the royal court. To the right, the cross on a table and the Bible, upon which I would take my oath of fidelity. The black tunic belongs to the barely noticeable Archbishop of Athens.


Centenary of the Greek Royal Dynasty, Athens, 1863.

4In 1863, Prince William of Denmark, then aged 18, arrived in Athens after being chosen by the powers and elected by the people of Greece to rule under the name of George I. One hundred years later, his descendants honored this event with a large parade. On horses, from right to left, the Crown Prince Constantine, the future king, King Paul of Greece, Prince Pierre and myself. I have always hated horses. Mounting a horse was always a nightmare, particularly on this day. I was worried over the smallest mishap, and the ridicule that a fall might provoke. Fortunately, Queen Frederika, always sensible, had given me a few sedatives. In any event, I have never forgotten this ordeal. On the rostrum, we see the king of Denmark, Frederic IX, Queen Frederika in a white hat, and Queen Ingrid of Denmark.


Marriage of Princess Anne of France and Prince Amédée of Savoie Aoste, Naples, 1927.

5After the church ceremony, the mother of the bride, the Duchess de Guise, my beloved grandmother, and the Duke d’Aoste, the father of the groom, in a court carriage, passed through the portal of the Royal Palace where the reception was held. The wedding, which took place in 1927, had a great popular impact. An immense crowd welcomed and applauded the newlyweds.


Millenary of Mount Athos, 1963.

7In the north of Greece, the peninsula of Mount Athos appears as an immense forest peppered with twenty or so medieval monasteries and ends at the imposing peak of the Sacred Mountain. This community is the only true theocratic state in the world, which is to say that God alone is the head of state. It is a semi-independent state with its own traditions and privileges. The Greek royal family and the Orthodox prelates gathered to celebrate the millenary. Between the never-ending Orthodox ceremonies that took place in this or that monastery, we had a moment to relax on the balcony of one of the monasteries. King Paul in the black sunglasses, the Crown Prince Constantine with his back turned and myself mid-laugh facing the camera, chatting with some of the prelates. At lunch with the Orthodox Patriarchs, I was seated beside a representative of the Russian Church, Monsignor Nicodème. This personage, large, stocky, and red-haired, made me feel ill at ease; as I wrote then in my journal “I wouldn’t be surprised if he were a member of the KGB.” More than forty years later, I read an article in le Figaro confirming my suspicions; he was in fact a distinguished member of the Soviet secret service.


My first visit to Greece, 1953.

8My mother Françoise died in 1953, I was 14 years old. I came to Greece for her burial in the Greek Royal Pantheon in Tatoï near Athens. It was my first visit to my country. I was brought to the Acropolis, amongst other places, where I was photographed alongside a young boy, George Levidis, the son of the Grand Marshall of the Court. Although I arrived in Greece behind my mother’s coffin, I would find many years of happiness.


by  Prince Michael of Greece