Given the past year has featured less travel than any in recent royal history, the news that the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall have arrived safely in Athens is nothing short of thrilling. The Royal Couple, at the request of the British Government, have travelled to Greece to celebrate the bicentenary of Greek Independence on the invitation of the Prince Minister of Greece, Kyriakos Mitsotakis.
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall last visited Greece in May 2018 and Prince Charles has only visited Greece on two occasions in an official capacity. Of course, the trip will have additional resonance given Charles’s father, the Duke of Edinburgh, was born in Greece into the Greek and Danish Royal Family (but he and his family were exiled from the country when he was an infant).
The Greek War of Independence was waged by Greek revolutionaries against the Ottoman Empire between 1821 and 1830, 200 years ago. The Greeks were later assisted by Great Britain, France and Russia, while the Ottomans were aided by their North African vassals, particularly the eyalet of Egypt. The war has led to the formation of modern Greece – and, two centuries on, it is certainly something worthy of celebration (even against the backdrop of the pandemic).
Prince Charles and Camilla were greeted at Athens International Airport by Her Majesty’s Ambassador to Greece, Kate Smith, with a red carpet outstretched for a suitably royal welcome.
The Independence Day celebrations will tie in with the Official Ceremony to celebrate the reopening of Greece’s National Gallery. Their National Gallery is home to a collection of art bequeathed to the State by Alexandros Soutzos, a wealthy 19th century Greek jurist. Extended reconstruction and renovation works began nearly six years ago, in 2015, and the project was completed at the beginning of this year (with the official opening held off to time with the 200 years of Independence celebrations). At the gallery, Charles and Camilla were met by the Greek Prime Minister and his wife, Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki, where they enjoyed speeches by Greece’s culture minister and the director of the gallery, Professor Marina Lambraki-Plaka. After, their Royal Highnesses were given a tour of the National Gallery by its director to view the paintings by British artists, amongst many others, including Thomas Gordon and Frank Abney Hastings.
Their Royal Highnesses will then make their way to an official state dinner and reception at the Athens Presidential Mansion hosted by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Katerina Sakellaropoulou and her partner, Pavlos Kotsonis. The Prince of Wales will contribute to the speeches, given by the President and the official guests. After dinner there will be a short musical performance by Greek Violinist, Leonidas Kavakos, who will perform four pieces, each by composers from the three signatories of the Treaty of London (and Greece). They will include Skalkotas, Five Greek Dances; Stravinsky, Italian Suite (Russia); Debussy, Violin Sonata (France) and Elgar, Violin Sonata in E Minor, Op 82 (UK).
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