Duke of Nemours, Kingdom of Greece, Kingdom of the Hellenes, London Protocol of 1831, Prince Charles Theodore of Bavaria, Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Prince Louis of Orléans, Prince Otto of Bavaria, The Great Powers
The Kingdom of Greece was established in 1832 and was the successor state to the First Hellenic Republic. It was internationally recognised by the Treaty of Constantinople, where Greece also secured its full independence from the Ottoman Empire after nearly four centuries of Ottoman rule.
The Greek-speaking Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantine Empire, which ruled most of the Eastern Mediterranean region for over 1100 years, had been fatally weakened since the sacking of Constantinople by the Latin Crusaders in 1204.
The Ottomans captured Constantinople with ease in 1453 and advanced southwards into the Balkan peninsula capturing Athens in 1458. The Greeks held out in the Peloponnese until 1460, and the Venetians and Genoese clung to some of the islands, but by 1500 most of the plains and islands of Greece were in Ottoman hands. While in contrast, the mountains and highlands of Greece were largely untouched, and were a refuge for Greeks to flee foreign rule and engage in guerrilla warfare.
Preparation of the Greek War of Independence
In the context of ardent desire for independence from Turkish occupation, and with the explicit influence of similar secret societies elsewhere in Europe, three Greeks came together in 1814 in Odessa to decide the constitution for a secret organization in freemasonic fashion. Its purpose was to unite all Greeks in an armed organization to overthrow Turkish rule.
The three founders were Nikolaos Skoufas from the Arta province, Emmanuil Xanthos from Patmos and Athanasios Tsakalov from Ioannina. Soon after they initiated a fourth member, Panagiotis Anagnostopoulos from Andritsaina.
Prince Louis d’Orléans, Duke of Nemours
Many revolts were planned across the Greek region and the first of them was launched on March 6, 1821, in the Danubian principalities. It was put down by the Ottomans, but the torch had been lit and by the end of the same month the Peloponnese was in open revolt.
Greek War of Independence
In 1821, the Greek-speaking populations of Peloponnesus revolted against the Ottoman Empire. Following a region-wide struggle that lasted several months, the Greek War of Independence led to the establishment of the first autonomous Greek State since the mid-15th century.
In January 1822, the First National Assembly of Epidaurus passed the Greek Declaration of Independence (part of the country’s First Constitution), which affirmed the sovereignty of Greece. However, the new Greek State was politically unstable and lacked the resources to preserve its territoriality in the long-term. Most importantly, the country lacked international recognition and had no robust alliances in the Western world.
Prince Frederick of the Netherlands
Following the recapture of the Greek territories by the Ottoman Empire, the Great Powers of that time (the British Empire, the Russian Empire and the Kingdom of France) saw the Greek counter-offensive as an opportunity to weaken the Ottoman Empire further and in essence increase their influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Great Powers supported Greece to regain its independence and following a decisive battle in the Navarino Bay a cease fire was agreed in London (see Treaty of London (1827)). The autonomy of Greece was ultimately recognised by the London Protocol of 1828 and its full independence from the Ottoman Empire by the Protocol of London of 1830.
Prince Charles Theodor of Bavaria
In 1831, the assassination of the first Governor of Greece, Count Ioannis Kapodistrias, created political and social instability that endangered the country’s relationship with its allies.
At the end of Greek War of Independence, the three Great Powers formulated the London Protocol of 1829, which established an autonomous Greek state under the rule of a “Hereditary Christian Prince.” To avoid escalation and in order to strengthen Greece’s ties with the Great Powers, Greece agreed to become a Kingdom in 1832 (see Treaty of London (1832)).
Numerous candidates were considered for the vacant Greek throne.
As early as 1825, while revolutionaries were still engaged in the Greek War of Independence, attempting to establish a Kingdom of Greece, Prince Louis, Duke of Nemours, the second son of King Louis-Philippe I of France, and his wife Maria Amalia of Naples and Sicily, was mentioned as a possible candidate as the first modern King of Greece.
In 1829 Prince Frederick of the Netherlands, Prince of Orange-Nassau, was the second son of King Willem I of the Netherlands and his wife, Wilhelmine of Prussia, was a candidate for the Greek throne, but he declined because he did not want to be king of a country whose language and traditions were foreign to him.
Prince Otto of Bavaria’s uncle, Prince Charles Theodor of Bavaria, the second son of King Maximilian I of Bavaria and his first wife Princess Augusta Wilhelmine of Hesse-Darmstadt, was also considered for the Greek throne.
Even an Irishman named Nicholas Macdonald Sarsfield Cod’d put himself forward, claiming descent from the Byzantine Palaiologos dynasty.
Ultimately, they settled on Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, who was the widowed husband of Princess Charlotte of Wales, the only daughter of King George IV of the United Kingdom and in the amended London Protocol of 1830 made Greece into a fully independent Kingdom under his rule.
Although initially enthusiastic, Leopold was discouraged by the gloomy picture of the country’s stability painted by Ioannis Kapodistrias, Greece’s governor, and so rejected the crown, concerns that would prove well-founded when Kapodistrias was assassinated a year later.
In 1832 British Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston convened the London conference. The convention offered the throne offered the crown to the teenage Prince Otto of Bavaria which he happily accepted.
They also established the line of succession which would pass the crown to Otto’s descendants, or his younger brothers should he have no issue. It was also decided that in no case would there be a personal union of the crowns of Greece and Bavaria.
Otto was born as Prince Otto Friedrich Ludwig of Bavaria at Schloss Mirabell in Salzburg (when it briefly belonged to the Kingdom of Bavaria), as the second son of future King Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. His father served there as the Bavarian governor-general.
Through his ancestor, the Bavarian Duke Johann II, Otto was a descendant of the Byzantine imperial dynasties of Komnenos and Laskaris. His father was a prominent Philhellene, and provided significant financial aid to the Greek cause during the War of Independence.
The Bavarian House of Wittelsbach had no connections to ruling dynasties of any of the Great Powers, and so was a neutral choice with which they were all satisfied. The Greeks were not consulted, but Greece was in chaos and no group or individual could claim to represent it anyway.
Otto arrived at the provisional capital, Nafplion, in 1833 aboard a British warship.