Greeks warn off their former king

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The Independent Online
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THE former King Constantine of Greece was home on a private visit this week, but far from being welcomed home by his former subjects he was subjected to a barrage of criticism, writes Leonard Doyle.

He was boycotted by mayors wherever he went, and was warned by the Prime Minister, Constantine Mitsotakis, that action could be taken against him if he failed to keep his nose out of domestic politics.

Constantine has been venting his frustration at not being able to live in his homeland as a private citizen. But he has also given the Greek public mixed signals about his ultimate intentions. In February he told a Greek television station that he had 'never renounced his rights to the Greek throne'.

Such was the outrage caused by this latest visit home the second in 26 years of exile that Mr Mitsotakis called on Constantine to declare his recognition of the Greek government.

Half the European Community's states are still monarchies, and at a time when Greece's relations with its Balkan neighbours are growing increasingly heated the former king may believe he still has a role to play in the increasingly nationalist mix of Greek politics.

Mr Mitsotakis banned Constantine from carrying out a planned visit to the Greek-Macedonian border town of Niki, and warned him against travelling to Vergina, a symbolic ancient Greek site in Macedonia, which now has deeply troubled relations with Greece.

Constantine had not visited Greece since attending the funeral of his mother, Queen Frederika, in 1981. On arrival he said: 'I am very moved to be back in Greece, my homeland, after all these years.'

Born in 1940 and crowned king at the age of 23, Constantine was never popular with his subjects. He was accused of abusing his powers during his three and half years on the throne and blamed for failing to stand up to the 1967 military coup which ultimately triggered the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

Constantine went into exile in December 1967 after an abortive counter-coup against the military dictatorship which ruled Greece between 1967 and 1974.