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Fredericka (1917–1981)

Fredericka (1917–1981)

Queen of Greece. Name variations: Frederika or Frederica; Fredericka Louise of Brunswick; Queen of the Hellenes. Born Fredericka Louise Thyra Victoria Margaret Sophia Olga Cecily Isabel Christa on April 18, 1917, in Blankenburg, Hanover, Lower Saxony, Germany; died on February 6, 1981, in Madrid, Spain; the third of five children and only daughter of Victoria Louise (1892–1980) and Ernest Augustus of Cumberland, duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg; attended North Foreland Lodge Girls' School, near Broadstairs, Kent, England; attended schools in Obernkirchen, Germany and Florence, Italy; married Paul I, king of the Hellenes, January 9, 1938 (died, March 6, 1964); children: Sophia of Greece (b. 1938), queen of Spain; Constantine II (b. 1940), king of Greece (r. 1964–1973); Irene (b. 1942).

Called "passionately charitable" and "almost irresistibly charming," Queen Fredericka, the German-born consort of Paul I, king of Greece, from 1947 until his death in 1964, was devoted to her adopted country, particularly during and after World War II and during the Communist war when she played a crucial role in the country's rehabilitation. "We must put ourselves at the disposal of the people," she once said. "We are not to be served, but to serve."

The only daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg, Fredericka was born in Blankenburg, Germany, on April 18, 1917, and christened Fredericka Louise Thyra Victoria Margaret Sophia Olga Cecily Isabel Christa. She grew up in Gmunden, Austria, where her family moved when she was one year old. Described as "a bright, alert, gay and affectionate tomboy," she received her early education at home and, at 17, was sent to the North Foreland Lodge Girls' School, near Broadstairs, Kent, in England. After two years, she went to a girls' agricultural school in Germany, then later attended a school in Florence, Italy. While there, she frequently visited her relatives, Princess Helen of Greece (1896–1982) and Princess Irene (b. 1904), sisters of George II, then king of the Hellenes. It was there that the dimpled, blue-eyed princess caught the attention of the king's brother, Crown Prince Paul, whom she wed on January 9, 1938, in a splendid royal ceremony attended by 55 princes and princesses and 40 bishops.

Following the wedding, Fredericka learned the language of her new country and was received into the Greek Orthodox Church. The prince and princess first resided at a small villa at Psychico, outside Athens, where their first two children were born: Sophia of Greece (b. 1938) and Constantine (b. 1940). When the war broke out in 1940, the family went first to Crete, then to Egypt, and finally settled in South Africa, where their third child, Irene , was born in 1942. While in South Africa, Fredericka organized the Crown Princess' Relief Fund, which had branches throughout the Western world. The funds raised were used for the immediate relief of the Greek people following the liberation of the country in October 1944, although the Royal Family was unable to return to Greece until 1946, when a plebiscite restored King George II to the throne. Fredericka arrived home to find her country completely devastated and under a new threat from the Communists.

Following the death of King George on April 1, 1947, Paul succeeded him as king and Fredericka became queen. The royal couple now devoted themselves to ending the war with the Communists and creating solidarity between the Greek people and their government. Fredericka, in addition to her welfare projects, traveled with the king throughout Greece, even to the battle front. In 1948, while the king was ill with typhoid fever, the queen visited the Greek troops in his place and was the first to enter the town of Kónitsa, after a fierce but successful battle against enemy forces. The tired Greek soldiers greeted her with cheers. "My husband is sick and I belong at his bedside," she told them, "but I think he must love you more than he does me, for he sent me to be with you in his place."

In 1949, the Communist rebellion was put down and peace was restored. Fredericka then embarked on a massive effort to rehabilitate her country, coordinating philanthropic organizations and taking an active role in establishing hospitals and social institutions to serve the needs of orphaned children. Later, calling education in her country "prehistoric," she led a campaign for a more modern Greek School that would instill a personal responsibility to the community. "In our country, freedom has come to be considered as a piece of personal property of the citizen, rather than as a personal responsibility," she told Look magazine (October 20, 1953). "An ideal democracy is one in which every person carries his share of the burden." In educating their son Constantine, the immediate heir to the throne, the queen and king endeavored to balance his book learning with practical life experiences. In addition to military school, they sent him to work in the mines and factories in order to learn about the lives and problems of the Greeks. The two princesses attended a school in Germany.

In 1962, when the United States cut off economic aid to Greece, the royal family began to be viewed as a drain on an already depleted treasury, and they suffered a sharp decline in popularity. By 1964, when the king died of stomach cancer and Constantine succeeded to the throne, the country was entering a volatile period under the newly elected prime minister George Papandreou, a liberal parliamentarian. As queen-mother, Fredericka had little influence in her country, now in the grip of conflict. Following the Greek military coup d'état in 1967, she fled to Rome with her son where she continued to live in self-imposed exile following the overthrow of the monarchy in 1973. Fredericka died in Madrid on February 6, 1981, while visiting her daughter, Sophia of Greece, now queen of Spain.

sources:

Candee, Marjorie Dent, ed. Current Biography 1955. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1955.

Moritz, Charles, ed. Currently Biography 1981. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1981.

suggested reading:

Frederica, Queen of the Hellenes. A Measure of Understanding. London: 1982.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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