Skip to main content

The Wedding of King Constantine I of Greece and Princess Sophie of Prussia

King Constantine and Queen Sophie with their family.

On October 27, 1889, Crown Prince Constantine (later King) of Greece and Princess Sophie of Prussia were married in Athens, Greece.  The heir to the Greek throne, then known as the Duke of Sparta, was born in 1868, the first child of King George I of Greece and Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia. The bride, meanwhile, was born in 1870, the seventh child of then-Crown Prince Frederick of Prussia and Victoria, Princess Royal, the first child of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. In 1888, Sophie’s father succeeded as German Emperor and King of Prussia, albeit he reigned for all but only three months.

The wedding was the biggest gathering that Athens had seen for centuries and everyone was in an upbeat mood. It gathered royal guests from Germany, Denmark, Great Britain and Russia. Among the royals present for this grand occasion included the bride’s mother, the Empress Frederick, together with the Kaiser Wilhelm II, Empress Augusta Victoria, and Prince Henry of Prussia.  The Danish delegation was led by the groom's grandparents, King Christian IX  and Queen Louise, while from Russia, the Czarevitch (and future Czar) Nicholas, represented his father Czar Alexander III. The Prince and Princess of Wales also took the long trip from London to the Greek capital, together with their children, Prince Albert Victor, Prince George, Princess Victoria, and Princess Maud. Other royals who went to Greece for the wedding were the Prince of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and the Hereditary Prince and Princess of Saxe-Meiningen.

Athens, however, proved too small for the huge flock of royals and their retinue who swarmed to the Greek capital. King George I could not accommodate them all in his palace so he requested members of the Greek high society to receive some of his guests in their mansions. The king also turned to his subjects to lend him horses and carriages to transport all visitors during the festivities. Additional liveries for the lackeys at the service for the foreign visitors were hastily purchased in time for the wedding [4]

The ceremonies commenced at 11 in the morning, with the royal procession headed by a squadron of royalty. The carriages paraded from the Royal Palace to the Cathedral of Athens. The bride, accompanied by Queen Olga, was transported by a "gorgeous state carriage… drawn by six black horses, covered with silver trimmings," and was escorted on horseback by King George I on one side and by the Duke of Sparta on the other. [1]

The route of the wedding procession was lined by soldiers and behind them were a throng of adoring Greeks eager to catch a glimpse of their prince and new princess.

The kaiser and kaiserin draw significant attention; he was wearing a "handsome uniform and jewelled orders", while his wife displayed her magnificent diamonds. [1]

The New York Times described the scene at the cathedral as "a brilliant one, the uniforms of the assembled dignitaries and the super dresses and jewels of the ladies forming a splendid spectacle. The centre aisle of the church was strewn with roses." [1]

The Orthodox service ran for more than an hour and it was necessary for those who held the golden coronets on the heads of the bride and groom to alternate. Prince Henry of Prussia, Prince Victor and Prince George of Wales alternated in holding the groom's coronet above his head; while the Czarevitch Nicholas, Prince Waldemar and Prince George of Greece swapped in keeping the bride's crown. [1]

After the ceremony, the wedding party returned to the Royal Palace where the marriage was also solemnized in the Lutheran rites at the king's private chapel.

The couple proceeded to the crown prince's villa and while along the way, the locals cheered their new princess, who responded with endless smile and nod. They made a balcony appearance before a rejoicing citizenry who waived and shouted their approval to Princess Sophie.

A gala banquet was hosted at the Royal Palace that evening, the grounds glowing with "a blaze of illuminations and Bengal fires." [1] Athens' nighttime skyline brightened with pyrotechnic spectacle displayed at the Acropolis and the Champ de Mars. At the Syntagma Square, Greeks gathered and celebrated for hours after the ceremonies.

The crown prince and princess received an outpour of presents from every part of Europe. From Czar Alexander III, they received "valuable brilliants, a silver and crystal set, and a captain's uniform of the Neva regiment." [1]

The Empress Frederick reported the entire ceremony to Queen Victoria, telling her mother that: "My darling Sophie looked so sweet and grace and calm, my little lamb... her neck and throat looked so white and pretty, and the wreath fitted so nicely and close round her head. The gown was of white satin with a tablier of cloth of silver trimmed with lillies on lace and garlands of orange blossom and myrtle... The only contretemps was the veil, having  disappeared... she had to wear a plain tulle one..." [2]

Foreign presses also extended their congratulations to the couple. The North German Gazette published a poem in Greek, while Vossiche Zeitung praised the princess for having "followed the wishes of her heart." In Vienna, the Fremdenblatt found the wedding to be a union that served as "another bond among European nations." [1]

Never before had the shores of this Balkan kingdom welcomed yachts and ships from the most powerful countries in Europe, not because of war, but because of royals trying to outdo each other in greatness and grandness. The presence of Kaiser Wilhelm II and Empress Augusta Victoria, in particular, caused tension among those present, especially with the Greek hosts. Wanting to showcase the might of Germany (or the kaiser’s boisterous nature), the couple brought more than 20 attendants for the trip and took every chance to offend the king and queen. The empress snobbed Queen Olga, who the Greeks loved for her affable and pious nature. The empress never forgot that Queen Olga was a Russian grandduchess and remembered how the Romanov court snobbed her husband in one of his visits. The kaiser fared worse, angering King George after the former brought his own Lutheran pastor and insisted that the couple be married on Lutheran rites as well. Insulted, the king refused to meet his German guests face-to-face while the Hohenzollern couple felt slighted by the seeming haughtiness of the Greek pair. [3]

 [1] Under Golden Crowns: The Royal Wedding in the Capital of Greece (1889, October 28). The New York Times .

[2]Holden, A. (1937). Four Generations of our Royal Family. London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., p148.

[3]Vovk, J.C. (2014). Imperial Requiem: Four Royal Women and the Fall of the Age of Empires. Bloomington, Indiana: iUniverse, p.71.

[4]Van der Kiste, John (1994). Kings of the Hellenes : The Greek Kings, 1863-1974.  


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Popular posts from this blog

The Truth about “Princess Qajar,” the Royal Lady with the Mustache

Princesses Qajar: Princess 'Esmat  (left) and Princess Fatemah of Persia (right).  A Persian princess viral news websites baptized as Princess Qajar has lately become a stuff of legends. She was presented as a royal lady with a facial hair that made her so attracted that 13 men claimed their own lives because she couldn’t love them. The truth is, there was no “Princess Qajar,” only the Qajar dynasty  that ruled over Persia for more than a century. The only fact about this historical meme is that at that time, it was fashionable for Persian women to wear mustache. “Many Persian-language sources, as well as photographs, from the nineteenth century confirm that Qajar women sported a thin mustache, or more accurately a soft down, as a sign of beauty,” explained Dr. Afsaneh Najmabadi. The memes and fake stories circulating online refer not to a single princess, but actually to two female dynasts: Princess Fatemah Khanum"'Esmat al-Dowleh" and her half-sister

A Day in the Life of The Queen: How Queen Elizabeth II Spends Her Day

Queen Elizabeth II. Image: Flickr Queen Elizabeth II is a stickler for order, and so routine is a part of Her Majesty’s day-to-day life. She rises at around 8.30 am and would be greeted by a piper who plays at 9am on the terrace beneath her apartment at Buckingham Palace. When longtime attendant and confidante Margaret MacDonald was still in service, Don Coolican noted that  Bobo, as The Queen affectionately called MacDonald, would awaken her, “bringing in a cup of tea and a plate of biscuits handed over by the footman.” The Queen’s corgis are the first creatures to grace The Queen , who would also beg to be given biscuits, Coolican writes.

A Rose Named Alexandra: The Story of Europe's Most Beautiful Queen

Queen Alexandra’s singular beauty and charm endeared her to the British people the moment she stepped foot on the English soil in 1863. In fact, the arrival of the Sea King’s daughter was anticipated as it was celebrated that Tennyson penned a poem for her, “A Welcome to Alexandra.”