Prince Charles and Camilla have spent their second day in Athens, celebrating the Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations for the nation, concluding a two-day visit to Greece. The day of engagements comes after a visit to the national art gallery yesterday, and a formal dinner with the President.
The day of packed engagements began with The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall joining representatives from Greece, Cyprus, France and Russia at the Monument of the Unknown Soldier for a wreath laying ceremony.
Charles laid at wreath at the memorial, which is dedicated to all Greeks who have died during conflict, before inspecting the front rank of the Presidential ‘Evzone’ Guard.
The Monument of the Unknown Soldier in Syntagma Square is normally surrounded by thousands of people who have come to watch a military parade take place. This year, due to COVID restrictions, the occasion was obviously more muted – with the Greek government advising people to stay at home and watch events on their television. But the Independence Day Military Parade went ahead as usually, and the Prince and Duchess were there to view it, along with a fly past featuring the RAF Voyager aircraft.
Following the official Independence Day celebrations, Charles and Camilla travelled to the Presidential Mansion where they had tea with The President of the Hellenic Republic of Greece, Katerina Sakellaropoulou and her partner Pavlos Kotsonis. The couples posed for photos for the media before retreating into a private room for the tea.
Charles and Camilla were last in Greece in 2018, ahead of the royal wedding in May that year, where the Duchess spent time at a winery, and the couple had a go at traditional dancing.
Once the tea had finished, the two couples traveled from the Presidential Mansion to the Presidential Guard Barracks. The couples were greeted by The Commander of the Presidential Guard and invited to inspect the first rank of the guard.
The Royals were told of the history of Guards by the Commander. The Evzones are the elite light infantry units of the Greek Army and were first established in 1833 as Light Infantry battalions by King Otto. Under King George I in the 1870s, they became the core body of the Royal Guard.
The Evzones are known especially for their distinctive uniform, which originates from the clothes worn by Greek irregulars, who fought against the Ottomans during the Greek Revolution. The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall got to view view a display of some of historical ceremonial uniforms during their visit.
During the visit, The Prince was gifted a miniature blue Evzones uniform but the Guards. In return, The Prince gifted them a photo of his father dressed as an Evzone when he was a child. The same photo hangs in the British Embassy in Athens.
It was then time for the Prince and Duchess to go their separate ways for some solo engagements. Charles traveled to the Prime Minister’s office at the Maximos Mansion for a meeting with Prime Minister Mitsotakis. He then made his way the Athens City Hall for a special ceremony.
Charles was greeted on arrival by the Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis and the Greek Minister for Foreign Affairs, Nikos Dendias. The party then made their way to the Mayor’s Office, where the future King was gifted a silk tie and a replica of a 1790s engraving depicting a polo match taking place on ground below the Acropolis.
The party moved on to a more public room, where Charles was also bestowed with the Gold Medal of Honour for services to the city of Athens and to Greece. The Gold Medal of Honour is the highest distinction of the City of Athens and is usually conferred upon Heads of State, Heads of Government or other senior dignitaries for services to the City or to the Greek nation more widely, following a decision by the City Council. This is the second medal bestowed upon Charles by Athens, in 1998 he received the Medal of The City.
The Prince gave a speech on the occasion, joking that he ‘didn’t realise that people of my age might actually win a gold medal!’
He expressed how ‘surprised but hugely grateful’ he was to receive ‘the magnificent honour’.
At Athens City Hall, the Mayor of Athens Kostas Bakoyannis presents The Prince of Wales with the Gold Medal of Honour for services to the city and to Greece.#RoyalVisitGreece pic.twitter.com/uRQhoESJ07
— The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (@ClarenceHouse) March 25, 2021
“I will wear this medal with great pleasure and pride, as you will always remain, as something I shall treasure as a result of this visit to Athens but also of your great kindness and consideration to me after all these years”.
And he once again spoke of his Greek heritage by saying he knows ‘there is quite a bit of Greek blood that’s flowing around me so this will always remind me of my connections to this remarkable country’.
During his visit to City Hall, the 72-year-old also met with business leaders in the City Council Chamber who have signed up to his Tera Carta initiative – which provides a roadmap to 2030 for businesses to move towards a sustainable future.
The Duchess of Cornwall, meanwhile, was meeting with representatives from Diotima. Diotima is a charity which is working to end discrimination against women and provide support to domestic violence survivors.
Camilla also met with members of the police service’s newly established Domestic Violence Unit. The Duchess has done a lot of work in the UK to help those who have survived domestic violence and to help put an end to it, when traveling overseas she likes to see the work other countries are carrying out in that sector.
The royal couple were reunited once again at Athens International Airport, where they waved goodbye to sunny Athens and a successful two day visit at the request of the government.