‘The land of my grandfather’ – Prince Charles & Camilla start two-day visit to Greece

‘The land of my grandfather’ – Prince Charles & Camilla start two-day visit to Greece

For the first time since the second lockdown, The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cambridge have travelled to Greece, to mark Independence Day celebrations with the nation. The couple are attending the celebrations at the request of the British Government.

Prince Charles and Camilla touched down at Athens International Airport in the evening, with the Duchess wearing a very eye-catching mask, featuring the feathers of The Prince of Wales! The mask was sent to Camilla as a gift from a member of the public.

The couple were greeted by a guard from the Hellenic Armed Forces, which lined the red carpet rolled out for the couple. They then met with a delegation of officials, which included Kate Smith, the British Ambassador to Greece.

The British Royal Family have a strong connection to Greece through Prince Philip. Philip was born in Corfu as a member of the Greek Royal Family, the only son of Prince Andrew and Princess Alice. Alice was still in Greece during the Second World War, when she sheltered a Jewish family, and assisted the Red Cross.

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Due to the Greco-Turkish war, King Constantine I (Philip’s uncle) was forced to abdicate and Philip’s father, a commander of a division in the army, was among those arrested by the military government, which took charge in . He was subsequently banished from Greece for life and he and his family – including Philip – left the country for France.

The Duke of Edinburgh has previously said that he does not speak fluent Greek due to leaving the country as a baby, and that he more identifies with his Danish heritage.

The first engagement of the visit saw the Prince and Duchess joined by Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife, Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotakis, at the National Gallery in Athens. There, the couple celebrated the opening of the newly renovated gallery, which was originally founded in 1900. The gallery has a collection of more than 20,000 paintings, sculptures, engravings and other art forms.

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The couple – with the Duchess wearing one of the Queen Mother’s brooches – were given a tour of the gallery by its director, Professor Marina Lambraki-Plaka, where they viewed the paintings of Thomas Gordon and Frank Abney Hastings, both British artists.

Gordon was born in Aberdeenshire in 1788. He served an officer in the Scots Greys but left service in 1810 and traveled extensively in the Ottoman Empire. He also took part in the campaign and battles of 1821 in the Peloponnese during Greece’s War of Independence.

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Prince Charles and Camilla are taken on a tour of the Athens National Gallery on the first day in Greece (@UKinGreece)

Abney Hastings was born in 1794 and was a member of the British Navy. He left the Navy in 1819 after 14 years of service. In 1822, he sailed to Greece to join the insurgents in the War of Independence and spent two years conducting naval operations. He was injured during a battle of the besieged town of Missolonghi in May of 1828, and died days later.

During the tour of the gallery, ‘The Army Camp of General Karaiskakis’ by artist Theodoros P. Vryzakis seemed to be of interest to the Prince, who is a watercolour painter himself. The painting features both of the above mentioned artists alongside other figures of the War of Independence.

To end the first day of their two day visit, the Royals attended and official state dinner at the Presidential Mansion in Athens. The dinner was held by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Ms. Katerina Sakellaropoulou, and the couple took a photo with her and her husband before proceedings got underway, in their masks.

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After signing the official guest book, Charles and Camilla entered the dining hall, where they were seated at the high table.

The Prince of Wales gave a speech to the invited guests where he referred to Greece as ‘the land of my grandfather; and of my father’s birth, nearly one hundred years ago’.

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He also reminded those present that Athens was where ‘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’.

The Prince admitted that he feels ‘a profound connection to Greece’ and that the country holds ‘the most special place in my heart,’ and paid tribute to ‘Britons, deeply moved by this spirit of Philhellenism, who joined the struggle’ of freedom for Greece.

“Together with Kolokotronis, Karaiskakis, Miaoulis, Kanaris and Bouboulina, we read of Gordon, Cochrane, Church and Codrington.” He said.

The future King doesn’t just have a connection to Greece through his family, but also through the Prince’s Trust. He said that: “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.”

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It’s very hard these days to not recognise what is happening in the world and Charles didn’t hold back from speaking about what was to come.

“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.”

The Prince told those listening that he is doing what he can by working ‘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’.

Following the dinner and speeches, there was a short musical performance by Greek Violinist Leonidas Kavakos, who performed four pieces – each one by composers from the three signatories of the Treaty of London (and Greece).

Today saw the main engagements of this two-day visit and, as the Prince said in his speech, “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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