Death of an Iconic Princess.

At 11.40am on 27 August 1968, Princess Marina died peacefully in her sleep at her apartment in Kensington Palace, from an inoperable brain tumour. This had only been discovered by doctors, on 18 July, when she entered the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases for ‘various tests’, as Marina had increasingly found it difficult to put weight on her left leg, which kept giving way, causing her to stumble badly. This devastating news, along with the doctors’ prognosis that the Princess had only six or seven months left to live, was known only to her children, Edward, Alexandra and Michael. Even her beloved older sister, Princess Olga of Yugoslavia, was kept in the dark noting, ‘I can’t make it out exactly what is the cause…’ Marina herself thought it was rheumatism. Although, following her discharge from hospital, she needed daily assistance from a nurse, the Princess was still able to pay a visit to her daughter and grandchildren at Alexandra’s home, Thatched House Lodge, in London’s Richmond Park, on 23 August. Furthermore, on 25 August, Alexandra, her husband Angus Ogilvy and their children, James and Marina, lunched with the Princess at Kensington Palace. Marina’s close friend, Zoia Poklewski was also present. At this stage there seemed no immediate cause for alarm. However, in the evening, Marina suffered a brief blackout and, on the morning of 26 August, she said, ‘I feel tired. I think I will go to sleep.’ It was a sleep from which she would never awaken.

Thus, when word was released of her death, people both in Britain and the British Commonwealth (for the Princess had travelled extensively on official duties to Commonwealth countries both in the Far East, as well as-inter alia-to Canada, Australia and Ghana) were shocked by the news, for she was only 61 years of age. Many could still recall Marina’s arrival in Folkstone, in September 1934, as the chic future bride of the handsome and popular Prince George, youngest surviving son of King George V. Others remembered her as an enduring presence (for some 25 years) when, as President of the All England Tennis and Croquet Club (“Wimbledon” in everyday parlance), she presented the trophies to the champions and runners-up at the end of the famous tennis tournament. The Australian Women’s Weekly called her ‘the smartest of the royal women’ in terms of dress sense and, in England, the late Princess even had a colour named after her, Marina Blue.

It was announced on 28 August that the funeral would take place in private at St George’s Chapel Windsor. It was the height of the holiday season and most of the British Royal family travelled down from Balmoral on Royal Deeside for the service. The Princess’ mortal remains were carried into the chapel by eight officers from regiments of which she was Colonel-in-Chief, her personal standard and flowers atop the coffin. The service was conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Ramsey, assisted by Archimandrite Gregory Theodorus of the Greek Orthodox Church. The latter’s participation was particularly apt as Marina had been raised in the Greek Orthodox faith and had remained a regular attendee, during Holy Week, at the Orthodox Easter services at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint Sofia in London’s Moscow Road. The moving service also included the collect hymn of the Holy Orthodox Church, Give Rest, O Christ, to Thy Servant with Thy Saints. Marina was subsequently laid to rest at the Royal Burial Ground at nearby Frogmore. Interestingly, on the previous evening, the mortal remains of her late husband, Prince George, who died on active service in a flying accident in 1942, had been removed from the Royal Crypt at St George’s Chapel and transferred to Frogmore. Now husband and wife were once again reunited.

In addition to Marina’s three children and other royalties, also present was Marina’s sole surviving sister, Princess Olga of Yugoslavia. The latter had hastened over from her holiday home near Florence, after being told that Marina’s health had suddenly deteriorated, so as to be at her younger sister’s side for the final hours of her life. Olga wore Marina’s own mourning outfit and veil at the funeral for, in the rush, she had no chance to pack her own. The Duke of Windsor also made a rare appearance at Windsor, to salute a royal sister-in-law who was, after all, the widow of his favourite brother, George.

A public memorial service (which was televised to millions) was held in Westminster Abbey on 25 October. Among the two thousand present were representatives of the British, Greek, Danish, Yugoslav and Russian Royal Families. The presence of the latter was particularly prescient as Marina was (through the maternal line) a great-granddaughter of Tsar Alexander II of Russia. However, in a nod to the Princess’ down-to-earth character, also present were two representatives of a garage in Iver, where she lived for so many years on the Coppins estate. The Dean of Westminster summed up Marina’s salient characteristics succinctly: ‘her grace and beauty, her spirit of spontaneity, her courage in adversity, her unswerving service to this land of her adoption, her faithfulness in friendship…[and] not least do we thank God for the mutual affection which was established between her and our people…’ And that was Marina’s secret-the British people had taken her to their heart almost from the first; yet equally she had reached out to them. In essence, it was a case of ‘mutual admiration’.

As the years have moved on, Marina is still remembered with great affection. This warmth has long been extended towards her children, particularly Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Princess Alexandra, the Hon. Lady Ogilvy who, although in their late eighties, continue to carry out a wide range of official engagements, for dedication to duty was at the heart of their late mother’s ethos.

Robert Prentice is a biographer and regular contributor to ‘Majesty’ magazine in the United Kingdom. His biography of the late Princess Marina’s sister, ‘Princess Olga of Yugoslavia: Her Life and Times’ is available to purchase in hardback or as an e-book through Amazon.

Queen Mother Helen of Romania-part 2: Marriage, Motherhood and Divorce.

In October 1920, the engagement of Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark’s brother George to Princess Elisabetha of Romania was announced. Elisabetha’s mother, the ethereal Queen Marie, was delighted with the proposed marriage and decided to invite George and his sisters Helen and Irene (who were currently living in exile in Lucerne) to her summer residence, Castle Pelisor in Sinaia, for a royal get-together. Also present was Elisabetha’s brother, 27-year-old Crown Prince Carol, who had just returned from a world tour, the purpose of which was to help him to overcome his sorrow at the annulment (by the Romanian courts) of his first (morganatic) marriage to his First World War sweetheart, Joanna Marie Valentina ‘Zizi’ Lambrino.

As Carol’s unsuitable union to a commoner had also met with strong opposition from his parents, so it was with some relief that Queen Marie observed that her eldest child was attracted to the tall, slender and charming Princess Helen. Nevertheless, ‘Sitta’ was still somewhat naïve in the ways of the world and seemed totally unaware of Carol’s reputation as a coureur . However, the news that her favourite brother, King Alexander, had died, on 25 October, from sepsis as a result of being bitten by a monkey, left Helen devastated and in an emotionally vulnerable state. She and her sister Irene therefore decided to return to Switzerland to be with their parents, ex-King Constantine and Queen Sophie.

By sheer coincidence, word then arrived that Queen Marie’s mother, the Duchess of Coburg and Edinburgh, had also passed away at the Hotel Dolder Grand in Zurich. Marie therefore joined the Greek Princesses on their journey back to Switzerland as did her son Carol. Although the Crown Prince was supposedly there to support his mother, Queen Marie felt that he and Helen were on the verge of ‘coming to an understanding.’ Indeed, within a few days of their arrival in Switzerland, Carol asked Sitta to marry him. Helen’s father, Constantine, was wary and would only permit the marriage after receiving an assurance from Carol that he had completely finished with Zizi. The couple’s path was somewhat smoothed by the fact that the royal houses of Romania and Greece were already about to be linked in matrimony.

Thereafter, Helen accompanied her parents and siblings back to Athens where there were scenes of public jubilation following the restoration of King Constantine to the Hellenic throne in December. Carol visited Sitta in Athens in the New Year and the betrothed couple motored together through the surrounding countryside. The Crown Prince was a cultured individual with an interest in antiquities and found the architectural sites of classical Greece particularly enthralling.

On 27 February 1921, Helen and Carol both attended the wedding of Elisabetha and George in Bucharest. The royalties of Greece and Romania then reassembled in Athens on 10 March for the nuptials of Helen and Carol. Thousands of Greeks lined the main boulevards as the bride-to-be processed to the Metropolitan Cathedral in a gold coach attired in a white satin dress trimmed with gold and accessorised with a deco diamond tiara rumoured to be worth 1 million French Francs. Queen Marie was ecstatic that her son had married a great-granddaughter of ‘Grandmama Queen [Victoria]’.

After a honeymoon spent at Tatoi and Sinaia, the newlyweds set up a temporary home with the King and Queen at Cotroceni Palace where Helen soon established that she was pregnant. Following a difficult confinement (when she was attended by her old family doctor and nurses from Greece), the Crown Princess gave birth to a son Michael on 25 October 1921. Thereafter, the little family moved into a villa on Bucharest’s fashionable Chausee Kiseleff. It was around this time that Helen noticed that Carol possessed some disturbing character traits: Although he could be caring and kind, the Crown Prince displayed a fiery temper and was often arrogant and dismissive of his wife. Yet, the problem was far from one-sided for Helen loved nothing better than to visit her homeland-often for months at a time-where she enjoyed the familiarity and close ‘cosy’ bonds of her Greek family circle. Meanwhile, Carol was left behind in Romania to amuse himself as he thought fit and rumours soon circulated that he was being unfaithful to his wife. Furthermore, even when in Bucharest, the Crown Princess habitually invited her Greek relatives for extended visits. Indeed, following the death of King Constantine in 1923 (when the Greek royals were enduring yet another period of exile from their homeland), Helen’s mother Queen Sophie and her younger sisters were omnipresent, leaving the couple with little time alone together. Carol had also discovered that his wife was no intellectual, with little interest in reading or music or the arts. Both parties to the marriage began to acknowledge that they seemed to have little in common.

However, Helen had much to offer both to her new family and her new country: She was polite, neat, worthy, well-organised and conscientious. She also took great care over the running of her home and, unlike many royal mothers of that period, showed great concern over the day-to-day care of her son and the running of the nursery. Similarly, the Crown Princess took great trouble over her official patronages, particularly in relation to nursing care. An accomplished horsewoman, Sitta’s skills were highly evident (and favourably commented on) at the many official parades. To her mother-in-law’s surprise, Helen also possessed a highly-developed sense of humour and a gift for mimicry, something she shared with her Greek cousins, Olga, Elisabeth and Marina.

But behind the duty and laughter, by the mid-1920’s the marriage had soured. Sitta was by now all too aware of Carol’s many paramours but, like many royal wives before her, she might have turned a blind eye had it not been for the arrival of a teasing redhead, Elena Lupescu. This gay divorcee with her swaggering gate and cheeky demeanour was the complete antithesis of Helen. She was also ambitious and self-assured, deliberately positioning herself at events attended by Carol so better to attract his attention. The ruse worked and the adulterous Crown Prince was soon coaxed into her tangled web. Sitta reacted by withdrawing into herself and the marriage disintegrated just as her father-in-law King Ferdinand of Romania’s health was waning. Perhaps in a bid to save his son’s marriage, the King momentarily toyed with the idea of banishing Lupescu into exile.

On November 7, 1925 Helen and Carol appeared together in public for the final time at a flower exhibition. Thereafter, the Crown Prince departed for England to attend the funeral of Helen’s Great-Aunt, Queen Alexandra. He later made for Paris and the ample arms of Elena. The duo then journeyed to northern Italy. Carol now decided to renounce his rights to the throne so that he could remain with Lupescu. He informed Sitta and his parents of his intentions by letter, claiming to be ‘misunderstood [and] misjudged’ . Despite a hand-written plea from his mother delivered in person by the Marshal of the Court, General Angelescu, Carol held fast to his decision. Meanwhile, Helen tormented herself over the failure of her marriage and offered to travel to Milan to reason with her husband. However, in a rare moment of decisiveness, King Ferdinand instead held a meeting of the Crown Council and, after revealing the details of his son’s renunciation, proposed that a Regency Council should be formed in the event of his death. The three-man Council would rule until young Michael reached the age of majority. This proposition seemed to meet with general approval and was ratified by the Romanian Parliament on 4 January, 1926. Michael was now officially the heir to the throne in place of his father. Ordinary Romanians were astonished at this turn of events.

While Carol would later profess his ‘highest esteem’ for Helen, both as a wife and mother, the shock and humiliation took its toll on Sitta’s wellbeing. Always in the background lurked the nagging feeling that Carol might still somehow inveigle his way back into the frail King and exuberant Queen Marie’s ‘good books’. This was not such a fantastical notion for there were certainly many Carlists who were only too ready to provide support for the former Crown Prince’s return and reinstatement. Indeed, even Queen Marie, at times, found herself torn over whether she would be able to support such a future bid should it happen.

In the spring of 1927, King Ferdinand suffered a bad attack of flu. As he was heavily weakened by this (as well as an on-going battle with cancer), it was feared that his death was imminent. He passed away at Pelisor on 19 July. The ramifications for Helen were great: She was now the mother of the five-year-old King of Romania and, heavily-veiled in black, accompanied Michael to the Romanian Parliament where he was seated on a throne-like chair to receive the acclamation of the country’s political representatives. However, the power actually lay elsewhere with the Regency Council, one of whom was Sitta’s brother-in-law, Prince Nicholas, who certainly could not be relied upon to champion his sister-in-law’s cause.

Carol received the news of his father’s death at his rented home, which he shared with Elena Lupescu, in Neuilly, a suburb of Paris. He subsequently attended a Memorial Service at the city’s Romanian Orthodox Church, where some devotees greeted him with a defiant ‘Vive Le Roi!’ Thereafter, Dowager Queen Marie continued to correspond with her eldest son and various family members, including Prince Nicholas, visited him. Meanwhile, over time, the Dowager Queen began to resent Helen’s increasing influence and new position as ‘Princess Mother of Romania’, even accusing Sitta of separating her from her grandson, whom she felt was a ‘stranger’ to her. Certainly, Helen-perhaps wary of her in-laws intentions and determined to protect her son at all costs from familial machinations-tended to put her trust, as always, in her extended Greek family. Regular visitors to Bucharest included her cousin Princess Olga of Yugoslavia. As King Alexander of Yugoslavia was married to Carol’s sister, Marie (Mignon), Olga was ideally placed to act as a listening ear and gentle voice of reason. In due course Helen petitioned the courts for a divorce. The formal announcement that the marriage was finally dissolved was reported by the Associated Press on 21 June 1928. However, if Helen imagined that she was now completely free of her former husband’s, she was in for a rude awakening.

Part 3-Queen Mother of Romania-will follow soon.

Queen Mother Helen of Romania.

With the recent news that the mortal remains of Her Late Majesty Queen Mother Helen of Romania are to be brought from Lausanne, Switzerland to Romania, in October, to be reinterred in the New Metropolitan Cathedral at Curtea de Argeș, alongside her son King Michael, I feel the time is right to examine the life of the Greek-born Queen Mother.

Part 1-Childhood into Womanhood.

Princess Helen of Greece and Denmark was born in Athens on 2 May 1896, the third child of Crown Prince Constantine and his wife Sophie (a daughter of the German Emperor, Frederick III). The Greek royal family-a misnomer if ever there was one, as not one member possessed Greek blood-were unusually close and were presided over by Helen’s paternal grandfather, King George I of the Hellenes and his Russian-born wife, Queen Olga. George (born Prince Wilhelm of Denmark and second son of the future King Christian IX) had been ‘imported’ from his native Copenhagen, some thirty-three years earlier, to occupy the vacant Hellenic throne at the request of the Great Powers of France, Great Britain and Russia. ‘Willi’ hated pomp and ceremony and liked nothing better than to walk the streets of Athens, often stopping to talk to his subjects. Unsurprisingly, the Greek Court soon gained the reputation of being the most democratic in Europe.

Helen’s childhood was spent at the newly-constructed Crown Prince’s Palace in Athens. The ‘clannish’ household had some strange habits; lunch was served at 11am while dinner was eaten at 3pm prompt. Each Tuesday, all of the royal family dined together at the home of Prince Nicholas, while on a Thursday it was the turn of the Crown Prince to act as host. As Queen Olga was devout, she ensured that her eldest granddaughter received religious instruction according to the rites of the Greek Orthodox Church. Helen was also required to attend Sunday service in her grandmother’s private chapel at the Royal Palace (during Holy Week and Easter attendance was on a daily basis). This was followed by a stroll through the Royal Gardens in the company of the King and Queen and other family members. Furthermore, from a young age, the Princess was driven in an open carriage, accompanied by liveried footmen, through the streets of Athens, the Evzone sentries ‘presenting arms’ as she passed through the palace gates. Although such excursions may have brought Helen some pleasure, the exercise was also designed to instil a sense of royal dignity in the child, for the tall, elegant and dutiful Crown Princess Sophie was a stickler for protocol and good manners. This extended to instructing her eldest daughter on how to return military salutes and acknowledge the greetings of bystanders.

Yet, the emphasis was also on fun: Summer afternoons were invariably spent swimming with her siblings and cousins at Phaleron or learning to ride under the instruction of an English groom. However, as with all the royal children of her generation, the warm summer months were spent at the royal family’s country residence at Tatoi, a wooded estate some 27 kilometres north of the Greek capital. The estate was far from Greek in character and reflected the heritage of both the King and Queen. The main residence was modelled on the Gothic Cottage at Peterhof Palace, on Russia’s Baltic coast, while the estate also boasted a Danish dairy overseen by a Danish manager. The cattle producing the milk also came from King George’s homeland. However, Helen was more impressed by the roar of the stags in the nearby mountains or the annual feudal feasts attended by local people in native dress to celebrate Queen Olga’s birthday. The Princess also delighted in joining her grandfather for his anniversary festivities. These invariably involved sailing on the royal yacht to a different port each year, where the royal party would then disembark to attend a celebratory Te Deum service at the local church, followed by a reception hosted by the Mayor at the local Town Hall.

War and tragedy also pervaded Helen’s childhood. The Greek nation had fought hard to obtain its independence from Ottoman rule and the King and his advisors were determined to maintain the status quo. As early as 1897, the Greeks had engaged Turkish forces over the future status of the island of Crete which, although under Ottoman rule, had a Christian majority desirous of union with Greece. This contretemps ended in a heavy defeat for Greece. Then, in 1912, there were further clashes with the Turks in the Balkans, over Ottoman oppression of the Christian section of the population in Thrace and Macedonia. Helen’s father was Commander-in-Chief of the Greek military and she could only look on helplessly as he headed northwards to lead his troops into battle against the Ottoman forces. Following a prolonged but successful campaign, Constantine entered Salonika, on 10 November, at the head of his troops. He was joined there, two days later, by a proud and joyful King George, who decided he would take up residence there for a while in a villa overlooking the Gulf of Thermai.

In the spring of 1913, the King was on the cusp of celebrating his Golden Jubilee and contemplating abdicating his throne in favour of Helen’s father. However, on the afternoon of 18 March, while strolling along a street in Salonika, he was shot at close range from behind, the bullet piercing his heart. King George was immediately rushed to a nearby military hospital, where his son, Prince Nicholas (the local Military Governor), arrived to find him lying lifeless on a bed in a private room. Helen’s father, Constantine, happened to be at army headquarters in Janina, and on receiving news of his father’s death, he immediately returned to Athens, as King, to take the oath of allegiance to the Constitution. He then travelled to Salonika in the royal yacht to bring back the late king’s body for burial.

For Helen, the death of her beloved grandfather came as a great shock and it is not difficult to imagine her distress as she watched the late King being laid to rest at Tatoi on 30 March. As a sixteen-year-old, she was sufficiently mature to realise that her family’s life would now change, as the responsibility for the future of Greece lay firmly on the shoulders of her father, aided of course by her mother, Queen Sophie. Following his recent military successes, King Constantine was hailed as ‘Son of the Eagle’ and initially enjoyed a high approval rating.

However, unlike his father, the new King distrusted the Prime Minister, Eleftherios Venizelos. Following the outbreak of the First World War, in the summer of 1914, the two clashed. Constantine was adamant that Greece should remain neutral, while Venizelos wished to enter the war on the side of the Entente powers (France, Great Britain and Russia). It was a difficult time for Helen as her father (who had once served in the German Imperial Guard) and German-born mother (who was also a sister of the German Kaiser, Wilhelm II) were now both accused of being pro-German and face open hostility from many of their subjects for their failure to back the Entente cause. Indeed, such were the pressures on the King, that in the summer of 1915, he succumbed to pneumonia and, for a time, his life was in grave danger from blood poisoning following surgery to remove two ribs. Helen did what she could to comfort her mother who was beset by rumours that she had stabbed her husband during a violent argument over his failure to side with Germany. Then, in October, the King dismissed Venizelos and appointed the seasoned politician Alexandros Zaimis to succeed him as Prime Minister. Yet, for Helen and her family, worse was to follow. On 14 July, 1916 the royal estate at Tatoi was set ablaze by arsonists intent on eliminating the King and his family. Constantine and Sophie (and their youngest child Katherine) were minutes from being consumed by the fire as they fled from the flames. Eighteen people-mostly loyal estate workers-perished in the blaze which also engulfed the King’s residence.

As December dawned, French and British forces landed near Athens. The French government, in particular, were now intent on unseating the King, taking control of the capital and reinstalling Venizelos (who had established a pro-Entente National Defence Government in Salonika in direct opposition to Zaimis’ neutral government) at the centre of power in Athens. To help achieve this, on 1 December, French ships in Piraeus harbour bombarded the Greek capital for three hours. As shrapnel rained down on the adjoining Royal Gardens, Helen, her mother and other family members sought shelter in the Palace basement. However, the Athenians remained stoical and so the French forces imposed a blockade on the city in an attempt to weaken Greek resolve.

In March 1917, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicated after bread riots broke out in Petrograd and the majority of the military garrison mutinied and stormed the Winter Palace. This ‘revolution’ proved a severe blow for the beleaguered Greek royal family who had close family links to the Romanovs. However, for Helen, the greatest worry was the whereabouts and safety of her Russian grandmother Queen Olga, who had earlier returned to her homeland to set up a military hospital at Pavlovsk.

By May, the Entente powers had gained control of most of Greece, including the rail network. The French now sent an envoy, Charles Jonnart, who was tasked with issuing an ultimatum to King Constantine: abdicate or Entente forces will destroy Athens. Constantine could not face further bloodshed and realised that if he did not comply, Greece would be plunged into a civil war between royalists and supporters of Venizelos. He informed a shocked Helen and Queen Sophie of his decision to go. Fortunately, the monarchy was not to be abolished as an agreement was reached with Jonnart whereby Constantine’s second son, Alexander, would be accede as King pro tem.

However, as Helen prepared to depart Athens with her parents and siblings for exile in Switzerland, word of the King’s departure spread like wildfire through Athens and thousands of Constantine’s subjects besieged the Palace in a touching display of loyalty, for they were determined that their King should not leave. After an overnight stand-off, by indulging in a little deceit, involving the use of decoy cars, the royals finally managed to flee the palace. A heartbroken Constantine and his family departed Greece on 14 June from the little East Coast fishing village of Oropos. The new King, 23-year-old Alexander, cut a forlorn figure as he waved off his nearest and dearest. The young monarch was subsequently prohibited from having any contact with his family.

Helen and her family travelled via Italy and crossed the frontier into Switzerland at Chiasso. To her consternation, crowds subjected her parents to jeers and taunts, while in Lugano, ex-King Constantine was forced to seek shelter in the Lloyd Hotel after being recognised and attacked in the street. He later returned to his quarters at the Palace Hotel under police protection. Helen’s family later moved to Zurich where they were joined by Prince Nicholas and Prince Andrew, their wives and children. For Helen this was fortuitous as she was close to all of her Greek cousins, particularly 14-year-old Princess Olga. However, life was not easy: money was tight and, in such a confined environment, petty family squabbles were not infrequent. The royalties were also subject to endless petty humiliations, including the censorship of correspondence. Worse still, the family’s sense of isolation was intensified when former friends openly snubbed Helen’s parents even, on occasion departing a room when they entered. Nor did it help that the international (pro-Entente) press remained hostile and had taken to describing the little group as ‘discarded royalty’ who were ‘hard-up’ and could not pay their hotel bills. Queen Sophie was allegedly even reduced to selling some jewels. Unsurprisingly, Helen’s father’s health suffered and he was fortunate indeed to recover from an attack of pleurisy.

The family were temporarily uplifted by the arrival of Queen Olga in July of 1918. Although this proud Romanov Grand Duchess had survived the revolution (unlike the former Tsar Nicholas who, on 17 July, was murdered along with his immediate family in the basement of a house in Ekaterinburg in the Urals), Helen was horrified to learn that the Dowager Queen-who was ‘a ghost of her old self’-had lived for many months on dry bread soaked in oil at her home at Pavlovsk. The marriage, on 1 February 1920, of her Uncle, Prince Christopher to the rich American heiress Mrs Nancy Leeds (the widow of William Leeds the American “Tin Plate King”) at the Russian Orthodox Church at Vevey was another highlight. But just around the corner further tragedy awaited…

In early October 1920, King Alexander (whose wife Aspasia was four months pregnant) was bitten by a monkey while walking in the gardens at Tatoi. Sepsis sent in and a frantic Queen Sophie (currently in Lucerne) asked permission to travel to Greece to be with her son. Venizelos denied her entry but indicated that Queen Olga could come in her stead. Sadly, rough seas meant that the Dowager Queen arrived in Athens only hours after the King’s death on 25 October. Helen was distraught when she received the news of her brother’s premature death. Her grief was compounded by the fact that neither she nor any of her family were allowed to return to Greece for the funeral on 29 October. Queen Olga represented the family.

In November, Eleutherios Venizelos was defeated in the general election and fled into exile. Soon newspaper reporters were besieging Helen and her family with the news that the fickle Athenians were calling for Constantine’s return. Helen was anxious for both of her parents who were pale of complexion and racked with sorrow. How would they cope with returning to Tatoi which was filled with so many memories of Alexander? Meanwhile, Constantine insisted on a plebiscite to reaffirm his position as monarch and this was held on 5 December. Nearly one million people voted in favour of his return, with just over ten thousand against. Helen was delighted for her father whom she joined aboard the ship Averon at Venice, on 15 December, to sail home to Athens.

The royal family landed in Greece on 19 December. King Constantine’s subjects went wild with enthusiasm. The royal carriage was besieged with cheering well-wishers as it made its was slowly through the streets to the Palace where all of the extended royal family later appeared on the terrace. Yet, for Helen-as for the others-the return was bittersweet. The fact of Alexander’s absence was suddenly brought home, particularly when she observed the grief-stricken face of her mother. Aged 24, Helen also realised that the time had come to settle down and make a suitable marriage. As a tall and attractive brunette with an excellent royal pedigree there was no shortage of suitable candidates. But whom would she settle on?