My Meetings With Former King Konstantine

by Christopher Xeneopoulos Janus

I I'm spending a lot of time these days thinking and writing about world news­makers I've met during the past 50 years.

Today I'm writing about a delightful person and good friend former King Constantine of Greece.

I first met him in Greece during one of the annual seminars sponsored by the GREEK HERITAGE QUARTERLY which I published. This particular seminar was hosted by Dr.

Robert Hutchings, former President of Chicago University and at the time head of the Fund for the Republic. It was co-sponsored by Supreme Court Justice Douglas. And the theme was the Free Society.

The Greek Government generously offered the Greek Parliament building for the seminar which we very happily accepted.

We invited King Constantine to be one of our speakers which he accepted but Queen Frederica objected to his attending the seminar because she said Robert Hutchings was a Communalist which, of course was far from the truth.

King Constantine did not attend the seminar but we got a copy of his proposed speech which contains a fine and inspiring statement about the Olympics (and congratulations to Mayor Daley and Chicago for getting the future Olympics for Chicago.)

Following is a portion of his remarks:

"Now that humanity has the power to destroy itself with unclear weapons, we should ponder the original importance of the Olympic Games.

Armed warriors shed their armor and I brought fought not for military supremacy but for athletic excellence, while their elders conferred to settle those differences which led to war.

Thus the Olympic Games were both a peaceful channel for the passions of human conflict and a method for the negotiated

settlement of disputes. They were, in fact, a first seasoned step in mankind's search for peace and a lesson for peacemakers even today."

Our second meeting with King Constantine was in Rome where he took up residence after he escaped from Greece during the Papadopoulos dictatorship.

I use the word "escape" which is not exactly true because the Greek dictatorship actually wanted Constantine to leave Greece.

We were planning another seminar in Greece and planned a stop in Rome on our way to Greece.

Valerie Valentine called Constantine and asked if there was something we could bring him from the States. He told her his son would appreciate a Baseball from the Cubs.

We were able to get a Cub's baseball signed by some of the members of the team and included was a Cub's glove to go with 'the baseball. Anna Marie told Valerie she would like a pair of panty hose and Valerie added a Jolly Jumper for the baby and we included an electric hair curler which was very much appreciated.

My third meeting with King Constantine was about 5 years ago at Claridges in London. He had just returned from a visit with Castro in Cuba. And he described the meeting in great detail. Castro invited him to come to his home for dinner.

Now I'm quoting from Constantine:

King Konstantine gave me this favorite picture taken shortly after he won the Olympic Gold Medal for Yachting.

Castro met me at his front door saying it was a great honor to see me. I thanked him and then said: "Sir, you are president of your country and I am the former King of Greece. But, I want to speak to you man to man and ask a great favor". "Whatever it is, your Majesty, it is done:

-Mr. President, years ago the Greek community in Cuba had their own church which was taken away from them. Mr. President, please give back their church.

"Your Majesty, it is done."

Just then one of his Golleagues said: "That is not so easy. The church is now a very successful nightclub".

Castro said:

"I don't care what it is. I want the Greeks to have their church".

And so it happened much to the satisfaction of the Greek community and to Constantine.

Toward the end of our meeting, Constantine told an amusing story.

He and the king of Romania were driving from Virginia on the way to Washington to visit the President when he went through a stop sign. And were pulled over by the police. "I'm a guest and we have been invited to meet with the President. I'm the King of Greece and this is the King of Romania. The officer said,

'Yeah right.. and I'm the King of Prussia! "Now get your royal assess in the car and follow me to the station".

Fortunately The officer in charge at the police station fortunately recognized me and apologized and let us go, but it was a close call!

(Posting date 1 June 2007)

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