No VAT will be charged on the hammer price, but VAT at 15% will be added to the buyer's premium which is invoiced on a VAT inclusive basis.
Please be aware that this lot will require a CITES licence in order to be exported outside the EU. Please call Leah Heneghan on (020) 7389 2828 for further details.
King George I of the Hellenes
By Hugo Vickers
King George I of the Hellenes descends from King Christian IX of Denmark, who was variously described as the 'father-in-law' and 'grandfather' of Europe. He was the father of King Frederik VIII of Denmark, Queen Alexandra (wife of King Edward VII) and Princess Dagmar, who became Empress Maria Feodorovna of Russia, and many royal dynasties descend from him.
King Christian's second son, Prince William George, who was born in Copenhagen in 1845, was offered the crown of Greece in 1863, when he was a mere 17 years old. This came about in a curious way. Greece had been declared an independent kingdom by the London Protocol of 1830. The crown was first offered to Prince Leopold of Saxe-Coburg, who declined it, later becoming King of the Belgians. In 1832 it was accepted by Prince Otto of Bavaria, 2nd son of King Ludwig I of Bavaria. He mounted the throne in 1833 (under a regency until he reached the age of 20) but was ousted following an insurrection in October 1862.
The Greeks then voted for a new King. Almost unanimously they chose Queen Victoria's second son, Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, but he was declared ineligible as coming from the royal house of one of the Protecting Powers (Britain, Russia and France). So instead they chose a prince closely related to Britain, young Prince William of Denmark, the brother of the future Queen Alexandra, hoping that this would ensure a stronger measure of British protection. The young prince learned of his possible destiny when he read it in a Danish newspaper, wrapped round the sardines he was taking in to the Danish Naval Academy. The young prince was fired with a spirit of adventure and obtained his father's permission to accept and become King of the Hellenes.
Prince William assumed the name of King George I of the Hellenes. He arrived in Greece, with the gift of the Ionian Islands, secured from the British. The new King was under no illusions as to how difficult it would be to hold his throne. He was frequently homesick, but he never left Greece once in his first four years in the country. He travelled far and wide through Greece to know his country and for his countrymen to know him.
The new King was astute and straightforward and soon commanded the respect and affection of his people, the more so when he married Grand Duchess Olga, the niece of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1867. She arrived in Greece, a mere sixteen years old, wearing a dress of blue and white which were the Greek national colours, and with her childhood dolls in her suitcase. Throughout the vicissitudes of the Greek royal house, she never lost the love of the Greek people.
The King and Queen had a large family and they ensured that their children all grew up as true Greeks. His third son, Prince Nicholas, recalled: 'Though Greece was but his adopted country, my father impressed upon our minds, in and out of season, that we were Greeks, and that we were born and educated to serve Greece alone. He had accepted the Crown with solemn vows to serve his adopted country and my mother loyally aided him to devote every moment of their lives to the responsibilities they had together undertaken. He lived, he worked and he died for Greece.' As their sons and daughters married, so they brought a cosmopolitan flavour to Athens, though this came with some disadvantages due to unions with brides from countries with which they were not always on good terms politically. King George I's eldest son, Crown Prince Constantine, married Princess Sophie of Prussia, a sister of the Kaiser and a granddaughter of Queen Victoria who was unfairly accused of exercising a pro-German influence on her husband.
In his turn, King Constantine was the father of three Greek Kings, George II (who reigned between 1922 and 1924, and 1935 and 1947), Alexander I (who reigned from 1917 until his death in 1920, caused by a chimpanzee bite), and Paul I (who reigned from 1947 to 1964), not to mention Queen Helen of Romania, wife of King Carol, and two other daughters, Princess Irene and Princess Katharine.
Prince George, the second son of George I, married Princess Marie Bonaparte, who was an important psychoanalyst in her own right having studied with Freud.
Prince Nicholas married Grand Duchess Helen of Russia, a formidably grand Imperial and Royal Highness. She was the mother of three beautiful daughters, including Princess Marina, Duchess of Kent.
The fourth son, Prince Andrew, married Princess Alice of Battenberg, the elder daughter of Prince Louis of Battenberg, and Princess Victoria of Hesse. Princess Alice was a great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, and became the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.
The fifth son, Prince Christopher, married twice, first to an American, Nancy Leeds, and after her death to Princess Francoise, daughter of Prince Jean, Duke of Guise, Head of the Royal House of France.
King George also had three daughters, Princess Alexandra, who married Grand Duke Paul and whose son was involved in the plot to assassinate Rasputin, and Princess Marie who married Grand Duke George of Russia. Princess Olga died in infancy.
The King and Queen had a palace in Athens, built by King Otto, for formal entertainment. It rose, a large yellow block with marble porticos and fine pediments, high above the white houses of Athens, but they found this uncomfortable and bitterly cold in winter. In the vast formal ballroom court balls were held, always opening at 10pm with the King and Queen dancing a quadrille. When not the scene of formal entertainment, the ballroom served as a kind of indoor arena through which the young King and Queen, followed by their family in strict precedence of seniority, either roller-skated or cycled, slaloming around the grand pillars.
The private rooms of the Palace were decorated with pictures depicting scenes of Greek history. In one room, which had a fine view of the Acropolis, there was a platform with wicker chairs. Here the King used to sit in the evenings, surveying the view through his binoculars.
The Greek Royal Family also lived in Mon Repos on Corfu, where the Duke of Edinburgh was born in 1921, but most of all they loved Tatoï, originally a pair of small shooting boxes owned by the Soutzo family, in a heavily pine wooded estate at the foot of Mount Parnitha 15 miles outside Athens. The King bought the estate in 1871 with money from his own pocket and it soon became a refuge and family retreat. The King laid out new roads and made it a more viable agricultural property, even growing his own grapes for wine called Chateau Décélie. In 1886 he built himself a new house, large and handsome, copied from a cottage in the English style belonging to Tsar Alexander II near Peterhof. It was modestly concealed among the pine trees, cypresses and plane trees. Peacocks roamed about the gardens, despite foxes, stags, deer and jackals.
Here the family enjoyed their freedom, indulging in the traditional royal pastimes, replete with many romps and jolly jokes. Prince Nicholas described it: 'Of all the places where I have lived, either in Greece or any other country, Tatoï will always stand out as the dwelling round which are centred the happiest recollections of my life as a child and as a man. For my parents, as well as for us children, Tato·i represented our real home.- the place that belonged to us, where everyone was free to do as he liked.… It was myf ather's own n beautiful creation, and he loved it as only those can love who have created. Love that creates can never die.' Prince Nicholas also recalled that the youngsters liked to bait wild stags, 'which always ended, of course, in literally running for our lives and climbing again over the wooden fence.' Many royal visitors came there, including King Edward VII and Empress Frederick of Germany.
King George I was assassinated in March 1913, as he approached the Golden Jubilee of his reign. He had always made a point of walking unattended amongst his people, and did the same when he visited Salonika recently liberated from the Turks following the Balkan War of 1912 by his son, Crown Prince Constantine, Field Marshal in the Greek Army. As he strolled in the streets one evening, a scruffy individual emerged from a cafe and shot the King in the back at close range.
The King was buried at Tatoï, in what became the family graveyard, on a hill called Palaeokastro, about half a mile from the summer residence. From there can be seen the plain of Attica with Athens, Phaleron and the Piraeus, the Acropolis in full view.
In 1922, after the Asia Minor Campaign, the Greek Royal Family went into exile. Prince Nicholas wrote: 'Had I realised that this was soon to be goodbye for ever, and that we were to be driven out of our home and land, I do not think I could have loved Tatoï with a deeper affection than during those last days I spent there'.
Much of the furniture, silver, Fabergé and pictures in the current sale was formerly the property of the late King George I and came from Tatoï, that much loved family home. The items on sale symbolise the taste of a cosmopolitan King, who nevertheless loved the countryside and a simple way of life. As with all royal lives, many items are presents given by other royal families, and there is plate, glass and silver inherited from the Danish Royal Family. Some lots, such as the suite of chairs from the Royal Palace, evoke the grander and more formal life of Athens, but many more would as well fit into an English country house. It is a diverse collection - the property of a kind and well-loved King.