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Prince Charles lays a wreath in Athens on first full day of visit to Greece


Charles and wife Camilla today watched a military parade to mark Greek Independence Day in Athens, after the Prince declared a profound connection to the country where his father was born nearly a century ago. 

The couple are are spending their second day in Greece where they are marking the country’s 200th anniversary of independence from Ottoman rule, following an invitation from Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. 

This morning, the pair attended the Greek Independence Day Military Parade at Syntagma Square in Athens. 

Charles and Camilla arrived at Athens International Airport on the government’s official RAF Voyager plane yesterday, only the second time it has been used following a controversial £900,000 makeover, including a Union flag tail.

They were greeted by officials before visiting the National Gallery and attending an official state dinner at the presidential mansion where Charles gave a speech to mark the 200-year anniversary in which he stressed that Greece ‘can count on her friends in the United Kingdom’.

In his speech, the Prince of Wales said he was ‘delighted’ to be back in Greece, as he paid tribute to the country where his father was born almost 100 years ago.

The heir to the throne hailed the ‘strong and vital’ ties between the UK and Greece, and gave a nod to the 99-year-old Duke of Edinburgh’s link to the country.

Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark, allegedly on the kitchen table of his family home, Mon Repos, on the Greek island of Corfu, in 1921. 

The Prince of Wales lays a wreath at the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square

A blanket was placed over the Duchess of Cornwall's lap as they prepared to watch the parade

A blanket was placed over the Duchess of Cornwall’s lap as they prepared to watch the parade 

In Athens, Their Royal Highnesses join representatives from Greece, Cyprus, France and Russia at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier for a wreath laying ceremony

In Athens, Their Royal Highnesses join representatives from Greece, Cyprus, France and Russia at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier for a wreath laying ceremony

Charles and Camilla with President of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who was sworn in as President of the Republic on 13th March 2020, and is the first woman to serve in the role

Charles and Camilla with President of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, who was sworn in as President of the Republic on 13th March 2020, and is the first woman to serve in the role

The couple later arrived at the Presidential Mansion and were greeted by The President of Greece, Her Excellency Katerina Sakellaropoulou and her partner Pavlos Kotsonis

The couple later arrived at the Presidential Mansion and were greeted by The President of Greece, Her Excellency Katerina Sakellaropoulou and her partner Pavlos Kotsonis

The Prince Of Wales was deep in conversation with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

The Prince Of Wales was deep in conversation with Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

In previous years, thousands of people waving Greek flags have lined the main streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 parade, which was a more subdued event due to the coronavirus pandemic

In previous years, thousands of people waving Greek flags have lined the main streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 parade, which was a more subdued event due to the coronavirus pandemic

Greek Air Force helicopters fly over the Parthenon in Athens to mark the event today

Greek Air Force helicopters fly over the Parthenon in Athens to mark the event today 

This morning, the couple attended the Greek Independence Day Military Parade at Syntagma Square in Athens

This morning, the couple attended the Greek Independence Day Military Parade at Syntagma Square in Athens

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, right, with Charles and wife Camilla during the parade in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, right, with Charles and wife Camilla during the parade in front of the Greek Parliament in Athens

Charles and and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived at Syntagma Square for the Wreath Laying ceremony early this morning

Charles and and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived at Syntagma Square for the Wreath Laying ceremony early this morning

As part of the Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations at Syntagma Square, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall - and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Grabowski - viewed a military parade by members of the Hellenic Armed Forces, followed by a flypast

As part of the Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations at Syntagma Square, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall – and Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Grabowski – viewed a military parade by members of the Hellenic Armed Forces, followed by a flypast

The Prince of Wales lays a wreath at the memorial, which is dedicated to Greek soldiers who died during conflict

The Prince of Wales lays a wreath at the memorial, which is dedicated to Greek soldiers who died during conflict

Charles at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial dedicated to Greek soldiers killed during war, where he took part in the wreath laying

Charles at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier, a memorial dedicated to Greek soldiers killed during war, where he took part in the wreath laying

Prince Charles and wife Camilla are spending their second day in Greece where they are marking the country's 200th anniversary of independence

Prince Charles and wife Camilla are spending their second day in Greece where they are marking the country’s 200th anniversary of independence

Charles and Camilla's two-day visit to Greece is at the request of the British Government following an invitation from the country's prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

Charles and Camilla’s two-day visit to Greece is at the request of the British Government following an invitation from the country’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis

The Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at the Greek Independence Day Military Parade at Syntagma Square

The Prince of Wales and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall at the Greek Independence Day Military Parade at Syntagma Square

People watched the spectacle from balconies of a nearby building overlooking the square

People watched the spectacle from balconies of a nearby building overlooking the square

Prince Philip’s Greek ancestry and how he ended up marrying the Queen  

Prince Philip as a toddler in Greece

Prince Philip as a toddler in Greece

Prince Philip was born on June 10, 1921, on the kitchen table at his family home Mon Repos on the Greek island of Corfu.

He was the fifth child, and only boy, of parents Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark and Princess Alice of Battenberg.

His ancestry is a mix of Greece, Denmark, Russia and Prussia on his father’s side, and his maternal grandmother, Princess Victoria of Hesse, was a granddaughter of Queen Victoria, making him Elizabeth II’s third cousin.   

Philip’s father, a Lieutenant-General in the Greek army, was accused of high treason after allegedly disobeying an order and abandoning his post with his cavalry regiment in the face of attack during the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922.

The family managed to escape on British naval vessel HMS Calypso, with the newborn prince carried to safety in a cot famously crafted from an unused fruit box.

They were taken to France where they settled in a leafy suburb in Paris in a house loaned to them by his wealthy aunt, Princess George of Greece and Denmark. 

From then on, the Duke’s childhood was incredibly unsettled as he was without a permanent home.

At the age of eight, Philip was sent to Cheam school in Surrey for three years – but moved to Germany where all four of his sisters had married.

His stint in Germany proved brief when he moved back to Britain and was sent to Gordonstoun, a boarding school in Scotland. 

After leaving school, Philip joined the Royal Navy, beginning at the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, in May 1939, and was singled out as best cadet.

He stayed in the Royal Navy and served on several ships – firstly on HMS Ramillies – and saw active service against German, Italian and Japanese forces. The next year he became a midshipman. 

At Christmas 1943, with ‘nowhere particular to go’, as he nonchalantly put it, Philip went with his cousin, David Milford Haven, to stay at Windsor Castle. 

Princess Elizabeth, then 17, was animated in a way ‘none of us had ever seen before’, wrote her governess, Marion Crawford. 

That weekend of dinner parties, charades, films and dancing to the gramophone proved to be a turning point.

After a subsequent visit to Windsor in July, Philip wrote to the Queen of ‘the simple enjoyment of family pleasures and amusements and the feeling that I am welcome to share them. I am afraid I am not capable of putting all this into the right words and I am certainly incapable of showing you the gratitude that I feel.’ 

Late that summer, the Queen asked him to Balmoral for three weeks to shoot grouse and stalk. It was probably during this holiday that he proposed.  

In previous years, thousands of people waving Greek flags have lined the main streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 parade.

But this year the route was much more muted due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the public encouraged to stay at home and watch the event on television amid a strict lockdown.

The parade featured Evzone guards – the elite light infantry units of the Greek army – in traditional uniforms.

The Evzones are known for their distinctive uniform which originates from the clothes worn by Greek irregulars who fought against the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution in the 1821-1827 period.

Evzone guards kicked off the parade on horseback – a sight said to be unfamiliar to Greek people and especially arranged for the bicentenary celebrations.

Soldiers on horseback wearing army uniforms from different periods of history paraded past followed by dozens of people in traditional Greek dress.

This was followed by a variety of military vehicles including tanks.

Charles and Camilla were joined by other officials including Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin to watch the parade, which was topped off with a flypast featuring the RAF Voyager.

The event took place beneath sunshine and clear skies, although Camilla – wearing a blue satin dress and coat by Bruce Oldfield – held a blanket over her legs to keep warm at one point.

Earlier, the couple were joined by President Katerina Sakellaropoulou and her partner Pavlos Kotsonis at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier – a memorial dedicated to Greek soldiers killed during war – to take part in the wreath laying.

Speaking at the dinner last night, which had 45 guests in total and was hosted by Ms Sakellaropoulou, Charles said: ‘My wife and I could not be more delighted to be back in Greece, which has long held the most special place in my heart.

‘After all, Greece is the land of my grandfather; and of my father’s birth, nearly one hundred years ago, in the centenary year of Greek Independence.

‘Later, it was in Athens that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice, during the dark years of Nazi occupation, sheltered a Jewish family – an act for which in Israel she is counted as ‘Righteous Among The Nations’.’

Charles also said that Athens wants to enact his ambitious Terra Carta, or Earth Charter, which has parallels with the Magna Carta.

It aims to encourage the private sector to safeguard the planet by adopting sustainability and to invest 10 billion dollars (£7.3 billion) in ‘natural capital’ by 2022. 

Greece is aiming to reopen its borders to foreign tourists from May 14. Visitors will be required to have been vaccinated, had a recent negative Covid-19 test or have coronavirus antibodies.

Charles has previously described Greece as ‘the land of my grandfather’, a reference to Prince Philip’s father, Prince Andrew of Greece and Denmark, whose own father was the assassinated King George I of Greece.

Andrew’s elder brother, Constantine, became king but was forced to abdicate and most of the royal family, including Andrew, were exiled.

Charles recalled how his first visit to Greece more than five decades ago had left a ‘vivid impression’ on him.

He also emphasised the need to work together to rebuild society after the pandemic, particularly when it comes to the environment, saying: ‘As we all work to rebuild our societies and our economies from this year of previously unimaginable upheaval, and to set our world on a more sustainable path, perhaps we can take some inspiration from the courage, determination and ambition of 1821.

‘Once again, the stakes could hardly be higher. The choices we make will determine the fate not only of our nations, but of this singular planet which we all share.’

A military helicopter flies past the Parthenon temple atop the Acropolis

A military helicopter flies past the Parthenon temple atop the Acropolis

From left: French Defence Minister Florence Parly, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his wife Andri Anastasiades, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Grabowski

From left: French Defence Minister Florence Parly, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades and his wife Andri Anastasiades, Greek President Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Prince Charles, the Duchess of Cornwall, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Grabowski

Greek presidential guards are seen during the changing-of-the-guard ceremony

Greek presidential guards are seen during the changing-of-the-guard ceremony

Military jets fly over the Parthenon during celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence

Military jets fly over the Parthenon during celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence

In previous years, thousands of people waving Greek flags have lined the main streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 parade. But this year the route was much more muted due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the public encouraged to stay at home and watch the event on television amid a strict lockdown

In previous years, thousands of people waving Greek flags have lined the main streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 parade. But this year the route was much more muted due to the coronavirus pandemic, with the public encouraged to stay at home and watch the event on television amid a strict lockdown

Charles and Camilla, left, joined Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, second right, and Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis

Charles and Camilla, left, joined Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, second right, and Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis 

Charles and Camilla were joined by other officials including Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin to watch the parade, which was topped off with a flypast featuring the RAF Voyager

Charles and Camilla were joined by other officials including Russian prime minister Mikhail Mishustin to watch the parade, which was topped off with a flypast featuring the RAF Voyager

The Evzones are known for their distinctive uniform which originates from the clothes worn by Greek irregulars who fought against the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution in the 1821-1827 period

The Evzones are known for their distinctive uniform which originates from the clothes worn by Greek irregulars who fought against the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution in the 1821-1827 period

Evzone guards kicked off the parade on horseback - a sight said to be unfamiliar to Greek people and especially arranged for the bicentenary celebrations

Evzone guards kicked off the parade on horseback – a sight said to be unfamiliar to Greek people and especially arranged for the bicentenary celebrations

Soldiers on horseback wearing army uniforms from different periods of history paraded past followed by dozens of people in traditional Greek dress

Soldiers on horseback wearing army uniforms from different periods of history paraded past followed by dozens of people in traditional Greek dress

The couple observed the Independence Day Military Parade as part of the country's Bicentenary celebrations, marking Greece's uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821

The couple observed the Independence Day Military Parade as part of the country’s Bicentenary celebrations, marking Greece’s uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821

The Prince of Wales has watched the military parade to mark Greek Independence Day in Athens, after declaring a profound connection to the country

The Prince of Wales has watched the military parade to mark Greek Independence Day in Athens, after declaring a profound connection to the country

Charles and Camilla observe the Independence Day Military Parade which marks Greece's uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821

Charles and Camilla observe the Independence Day Military Parade which marks Greece’s uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821

The Prince of Wales watching a military parade to mark Greek Independence Day after declaring that the country has "the most special place in my heart".

The Prince of Wales watching a military parade to mark Greek Independence Day after declaring that the country has "the most special place in my heart".

The Prince of Wales watching a military parade to mark Greek Independence Day after declaring that the country has ‘the most special place in my heart’.

Prince Charles lays a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence

Prince Charles lays a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence

In a speech last night, the heir to the throne hailed the "strong and vital" ties between the UK and Greece, and gave a nod to his 99-year-old father's link to the country

In a speech last night, the heir to the throne hailed the ‘strong and vital’ ties between the UK and Greece, and gave a nod to his 99-year-old father’s link to the country

Charles also said that Athens wants to enact his ambitious Terra Carta, or Earth Charter, which has parallels with the Magna Carta. It aims to encourage the private sector to safeguard the planet by adopting sustainability and to invest 10 billion dollars (£7.3 billion) in "natural capital" by 2022

Charles also said that Athens wants to enact his ambitious Terra Carta, or Earth Charter, which has parallels with the Magna Carta. It aims to encourage the private sector to safeguard the planet by adopting sustainability and to invest 10 billion dollars (£7.3 billion) in ‘natural capital’ by 2022

Charles and his wife arrived at Athens International Airport on the government's official RAF Voyager plane (pictured), only the second time it has been used following a controversial £900,000 makeover, including a Union flag tail

Charles and his wife arrived at Athens International Airport on the government’s official RAF Voyager plane (pictured), only the second time it has been used following a controversial £900,000 makeover, including a Union flag tail

The couple at the Independence Day Military Parade at Syntagma Square in Athens this morning

The couple at the Independence Day Military Parade at Syntagma Square in Athens this morning

Charles and Camilla landed at Athens International Airport at just before 5.30pm local time on Wednesday.  

The brief tour will be Charles’ third official visit to Greece following his first in 1998 and a further trip in 2018 with Camilla, her first official visit to the country.

The couple have already travelled overseas during the Covid-19 pandemic, visiting Germany in November for a brief two-day trip to attend commemorations marking the country’s National Day of Mourning. 

Last July, Charles said he hoped to visit Greece again after the pandemic. Clarence House announced the visit to Athens last week in a statement.

In an opinion piece for Ta Nea, a daily newspaper in the country, he sent his ‘heartfelt wishes to the people of Greece at this very difficult time’.

He added: ‘The resilience of Greece and her people has been tested before, and I hope that the country will once again emerge with renewed vigour and optimism.

‘When that moment comes and the world has made its way through this challenging time, my wife and I do so hope to visit Greece and to see you all again. Until we meet again.’ 

‘Greece is the land of my grandfather; and of my father’s birth’: Prince Charles’ speech at the Greece Bicentenary Dinner, Presidential Mansion in Athens 

Charles described Greece as 'the land of my grandfather' and recalled how his first visit there more than five decades ago had left a 'vivid impression' on him

Charles described Greece as ‘the land of my grandfather’ and recalled how his first visit there more than five decades ago had left a ‘vivid impression’ on him

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I begin by thanking you, Madame President, for the great pleasure and honour to be present at this wonderful national celebration.

My wife and I could not be more delighted to be back in Greece, which has long held the most special place in my heart. After all, Greece is the land of my grandfather; and of my father’s birth, nearly one hundred years ago, in the centenary year of Greek Independence. Later, it was in Athens that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice, during the dark years of Nazi occupation, sheltered a Jewish family – an act for which in Israel she is counted as ‘Righteous Among The Nations.’.

In feeling a profound connection to Greece – her landscapes, her history and her culture – I am hardly alone: there is something of her essence in us all. As the wellspring of Western civilization, Greece’s spirit runs through our societies and our democracies. Without her, our laws, our art, our way of life, would never have flourished as they have.

It was because of this, perhaps, that Lord Byron’s 1812 poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, in which he first championed the cause of Greek self-determination, struck such a chord with European audiences. The Greek struggle came to be seen, not as the concern of a foreign people, but as our common cause. As Byron’s friend, Percy Shelley, declared in the preface to his poem ‘Hellas’: ‘We are all Greeks’.

Thus, in the pages of history, alongside the Greek heroes of the revolution, are recorded the names of Britons, deeply moved by this spirit of Philhellenism, who joined the struggle. Together with Kolokotronis, Karaiskakis, Miaoulis, Kanaris and Bouboulina, we read of Gordon, Cochrane, Church and Codrington.

However, it was not to any one hero that Greece’s triumph was due, but to the extraordinary courage and fortitude of her people – and to what one British historian called the ‘divine flame lit in the soul of the Greeks’. Had it not been for the determination of the Greek people to fight on, in the face of terrible suffering, and against overwhelming odds, independence could never have been won.

On our last visit to Greece in 2018, in a speech in this very room, I told the story of the steam-powered warship Karteria, commissioned from an English shipyard by a certain Captain Hastings, to aid the Greeks in their struggle. In joining the fleet of the revolutionary Hellenic Navy, the Karteria became the first steam-powered warship ever to see combat, and played a decisive role in the war.

Karteria, of course, means Perseverance or Endurance. It was a name that was particularly apt for those times, but which, if I may say so, continues to resonate to this day – through the desperately difficult years of the economic crisis, and now through this dreadful pandemic which has disrupted so many lives and livelihoods. I have such admiration for the fortitude of the Greek people, and have been particularly touched by the remarkable resilience of her youth. It gives me special pride that my Prince’s Trust International has been able to help so many young people in Greece into work, training, or to start their own enterprises, empowering them to achieve their potential and to contribute to their country’s prosperity and strength.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, as we all work to rebuild our societies and our economies from this year of previously unimaginable upheaval, and to set our world on a more sustainable path, perhaps we can take some inspiration from the courage, determination and ambition of 1821. Once again, the stakes could hardly be higher. The choices we make will determine the fate not only of our nations, but of this singular planet which we all share. For my part, to support this vital endeavour, I have worked with hundreds of CEOs around the world to develop a roadmap that places people, planet and Nature at the heart of our economic transition. I have called this plan the ‘Terra Carta’, and I am deeply touched that Athens wishes to enact the ideas it offers.

Your Excellency – today, as in 1821, Greece can count on her friends in the United Kingdom. The ties between us are strong and vital, and make a profound difference to our shared prosperity and security. Just as our histories are closely bound together, so too are our futures. In this spirit, tomorrow, stood beside you once again, your British friends will take great pride in Dionýsios Solomós’s rousing exhortation:

Χαίρε, ω χαίρε, ελευθεριά

[Hail, O Hail Liberty].

Ζήτω η Ελλάς!

[Long live Greece].



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