Danish Prince William of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg was born December 24, 1845 in Copenhagen.
When the Greek National Assembly deposed the unpopular King Otto on March 30, 1863, they elected the 17 year old Prince William to become King George I of Greece.
The new King George toured Saint Petersburg, Russia before departing for Greece. While visiting the court of Tsar Alexander II, King George met the 12 year old Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna.
He then visited London and Paris before departing for Greece from the French port of Toulon on October 22, 1863 aboard the Greek flagship Hellas.
He arrived in Athens on October 30, 1863, after docking at Piraeus the previous day.
King George was determined not to make the mistakes of his predecessor, so he quickly learned the Greek language.
The new king was seen frequently and informally in the streets of Athens, where his predecessor had only appeared in pomp.
King George found the palace in a state of disarray, after the hasty departure of King Otto, and took to putting it right by mending and updating the 40-year-old building.
He also sought to ensure that he was not seen as too influenced by his Danish advisers, ultimately sending his uncle, Prince Julius, back to Denmark with the words, “I will not allow any interference with the conduct of my government”.
Then in April of 1867, King George traveled to Russia to visit his sister Dagmar who had married into the Russian imperial family. On this trip he spent more time with Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna.
While King George was a Lutheran, the Russian Romanovs were Orthodox Christians like the majority of Greeks, and he thought a marriage with a Russian grand duchess would re-assure his subjects on the question of his future children’s religion.
Olga was just 16 years old when she married King George in Saint Petersburg on October 27, 1867.
After a honeymoon at Tsarskoye Selo, the couple left Russia for Greece on November 9th. Over the next twenty years, the couple would have eight children.
Upon the death of Britain’s Queen Victoria on January 22, 1901, King George became the second-longest-reigning monarch in Europe.
First Balkan War
When the First Balkan War broke out October 8, 1912, King George was on vacation in Denmark, so he immediately returned to Greece via Vienna, arriving in Athens to be met by a large and enthusiastic crowd on the evening of October 9, 1912.
The First Balkan War pitted the Balkan League of Greece, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bulgaria against the Ottoman Empire.
The results of this campaign differed radically from the Greek experience at the hands of the Turks earlier in 1897.
The well-trained Greek forces, some 200,000 strong, won victory after victory.
The combined armies of the Balkan states overcame the numerically inferior and strategically disadvantaged Ottoman armies and achieved rapid success.
On November 9, 1912, Greek forces commanded by Crown Prince Constantine rode into Thessaloniki just a few hours ahead of a Bulgarian division. Three days later King George rode in triumph through the streets of Thessaloniki, the second-largest Greek city and capital of Greek Macedonia, accompanied by the Crown Prince and Venizelos.
Just as he did in Athens, King George went about Thessaloniki without any meaningful protection force.
Then while out on an afternoon walk near the White Tower on March 18, 1913, he was shot at close range in the back by Alexandros Schinas, who was “said to belong to a Socialist organization” and “declared when arrested that he had killed the King because he refused to give him money”.
The King died instantly, the bullet having penetrated his heart.
The Greek government denied any political motive for the assassination, saying that Schinas was an alcoholic vagrant.
Schinas was tortured in prison and six weeks later fell to his death from a police station window.
King George I’s body was taken to Athens on the Amphitrite, escorted by a flotilla of naval vessels.
For three days the coffin of the King, draped in the Danish and Greek flags, lay in the Metropolis in Athens before his body was committed to a tomb at his palace in Tatoi.
Unlike his father, the new King Constantine was to prove less willing to accept the advice of ministers, or that of the three protecting powers (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the French Third Republic and the Russian Empire).
Then World War I broke out on July 28, 1914.
In sharp contrast to the the reign of King George I, the reigns of his successors proved short and insecure.
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