Alexander I of Greece

Alexander I of Greece

Alexander, King of the Hellenes ( _el. Αλέξανδρος, Βασιλεύς των Ελλήνων; 1 August 1893–25 October 1920) ruled Greece from 1917 to 1920 until his unusual death as the result of sepsis contracted by being bitten by two monkeys.

Early life

He was born on 1 August 1893 (21 July O.S.) at Tatoi near Athens, the second son of Constantine I and his wife, Sophie of Prussia.


In 1917, Constantine I insisted that Greece remain neutral in World War I, while Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos was determined to go to war in support of the Triple Entente. At Venizelos' invitation, French and British troops entered Greece and forced Constantine I and his first born son Crown Prince George into exile (see National Schism). Young Alexander, a proponent of the Megali Idea, was enthroned as King; in reality he had absolutely no power and was a rubber stamp for the Prime Minister, and his only real task was to visit the front frequently and rally the troops.

On one major issue, however, he did defy Venizelos: on 4 November 1919 he eloped with Aspasia Manos (1896-1972) (who was considered a commoner), [Aspasia was not a member of any Western European royal or princely house. However, she descended from, for example, several reigning princes of Moldavia and Wallachia. Alexander himself was descended from several Roman Emperors of Constantinople; see Byzantine descent of Danish royals of Greece.] daughter of Colonel Petros Manos, causing a scandal and infuriating Venizelos. Aspasia was forced to flee Athens until the crisis was resolved and the wedding was legalized without Aspasia being recognised as queen, she was to be known as "Madame Manos". Six months later, the young couple left for Paris, on condition that they neither travel nor appear at official functions together. [John Van der Kiste, "Kings of the Hellenes" (Alan Sutton Publishing, Stroud, Gloucestershire, England, 1994) ISBN 0-7509-0525-5 p. 119]

Soon after, the Treaty of Sèvres was signed in August 1920. The Treaty was extremely favourable to Greece giving her large territories in Thrace and around Smyrna in modern-day Turkey. Alexander became King of a much-enlarged Greek state. [Van der Kiste, p.120]


Although history has unfairly described King Alexander as a careless pet owner who died from a bite "from his pet monkey",Fact|date=October 2007 the 27-year-old monarch actually died after defending his pet dog from an attack during a walk through the Royal Gardens, and he suffered wounds from two of the monkeys. The attack occurred on 2 October 1920. ["King of Greece Dies/ Monkey Bites Inflicted Oct. 2 Fatal to Alexander" "Daily Herald" (Chicago), 21 October 1920, p.2] In the report dispatched from Europe, it was stated that the King had been walking in the park with a pet dog, when the dog was attacked by a monkey. The King beat off the monkey with a stick but in the fight the monkey bit him on the hand slightly. "Another monkey rushed to the defense of his mate, and in beating it off, the King received another bite which severely lacerated a gland. The infection which set in following the bites gradually poisoned the King's entire system..." ["King of Greece Reported Dead As Result of Monkey Bites" "San Antonio Express", 20 October 1920, p.1] Both animals were found to have been diseased after they were destroyed. ["Monkey Bites King of Greece" "The Portsmouth Herald", 14 October 1920, p.1; Van der Kiste, p.122] Within days, he developed a severe reaction to the infection, and after initial signs of improvement, became critically ill on 12 October. ["King Bitten By Monkey Has New Shivering Fit" "Syracuse Herald", 13 October 1920, p.1]

On 25 October 1920 King Alexander died at Athens, of sepsis. [Van der Kiste, p.122] His father Constantine I was permitted to return to Greece as King. Eventually, King Constantine would lead the Greeks to engage in the Greco-Turkish War which resulted in Greece's defeat, a quarter of a million military and civilian casualties and the end of the Megali Idea. Winston Churchill would later write that "it was a monkey bite that caused the death of those 250,000 people." [David Fromkin, "A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East" ) 2nd Rep edition (Owl Books, NY, 2001) ISBN 0-8050-6884-8] The territory gained on the Turkish mainland during Alexander’s reign was lost. King Alexander's only child, born after his death, was Princess Alexandra of Greece (1921-1993), who later married Peter II, King of Yugoslavia. Her mother, Madame Manos, was granted the style "Princess Alexander" by the restored King Constantine. [Van der Kiste, p. 132]

The city of Alexandroupolis (formerly Dedeagatch), near the river Evros on the Greco-Turkish border, was renamed after him in 1920 on the occasion of his visit there. He was the first King of Greece to visit the city since its capture by the Hellenic Army during World War I, and the official change of guard between Bulgarian and Greek officials on 14 May 1920.

Alexander is unusual among monarchs as he ruled in exception to standard primogeniture tradition. He assumed the throne upon the abdication of his father, though his older brother George still lived. In addition, his older brother would later become King of the Hellenes in his own right, providing a rare case where an older brother would succeed a younger one to the throne (though in this case not directly).


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1= 1. Alexander I, King of the Hellenes
2= 2. Constantine I, King of the Hellenes
3= 3. Princess Sophia of Prussia
4= 4. George I, King of the Hellenes
5= 5. Grand Duchess Olga Konstantinovna of Russia
6= 6. Frederick III, German Emperor
7= 7. Victoria, Princess Royal
8= 8. Christian IX of Denmark
9= 9. Princess Louise of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel)
10= 10. Grand Duke Konstantine Nicholaievich of Russia
11= 11. Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg
12= 12. William I, German Emperor
13= 13. Princess Augusta of Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach
14= 14. Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
15= 15. Victoria of the United Kingdom
16= 16. Frederick William, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
17= 17. Princess Louise Caroline of Hesse-Kassel (or Hesse-Cassel)
18= 18. Prince William of Hesse
19= 19. Princess Louise Charlotte of Denmark
20= 20. Nicholas I of Russia
21= 21. Princess Charlotte of Prussia
22= 22. Joseph, Duke of Saxe-Altenburg
23= 23. Amelia of Württemberg
24= 24. Frederick William III of Prussia
25= 25. Duchess Louise of Mecklenburg-Strelitz
26= 26. Charles Frederick, Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach
27= 27. Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia
28= 28. Ernest I, Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha
29= 29. Princess Louise of Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg
30= 30. Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn
31= 31. Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld



Footnotes and references

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