Shot in the once upon a time city of dreams, now one of nightmares, the sweeping solipsism expressed made paranoia a kind of totalising faith. Behind the nauseating self-promotion, a so-called prince and his Hollywood diva hogged the headlines. Far, far east lay a dead man, one who had absolutely nothing in common with the self-absorbed, egotistical and narcissistic Englishman. On the contrary, King Constantine II went to meet his maker the same way he had lived his 82 years: uncomplaining, dignified and deserving of much more than he ever received from his people.
I write this with a heavy heart because I’ve been a friend of the dead king since my youth, and the enduring friendship lasted despite my having written favourably about the colonels – the very ones who caused him to lose his throne. King Constantine’s cannot have been a happy life after the loss of his throne, yet there’s never been a hint of self-pity, nor criticism of his enemies. This I can attest to having lunched, dined and spent so much leisure time with him. Even during the Andreas Papandreou-inspired vengeful inquisition against the Greek monarchy, I could never get him to agree that Andreas was a rotten and corrupt demagogue. Whenever I would fly off the handle about the radical left and Andreas, he’d give me a rueful smile and say things such as: ‘Politics make for strange behaviour.’
As every Greek of my generation knows, Constantine became king aged 23. He was handsome, athletic and Greece’s first post-war gold medal winner in the 1960 Rome Olympics. He was immensely popular, his zest for living endearing him to hot-blooded Greeks. And when he married the most beautiful young Danish princess Anne-Marie, the sight of the old man of Greek politics, 76-year-old Premier George Papandreou, walking arm-in-arm with the radiant young couple occasioned genuine rejoicing.