Interesting facts about Bavaria are many and some of them amaze visitors. Besides my tours across the city of Munich, there are more themes that I would like to write about. King Otto I, a Bavarian Prince is one of the most extravagant personalities I have ever heard about.
And that brought me several ideas about the article devoted to this man.
We all know pretty well how many heroes and leaders my country possessed through its reach history. A lot of kings and princes were the leaders of my beautiful country, Germany.
I am aware that the most famous person who had the status of the leader in Germany was Adolf Hitler. But this man King Otto I was truly one of a kind.
Because of that, it will be a pleasure for me to share the things that have been happening while he was alive.
Greek King Otto’s first steps
The one who became the first King of Greece was a Bavarian prince, King Otto I. He became the leader in 1832, while he was only 17 years old. He succeeded to keep his throne until 1862.
Well known king from the past, Ludwig I of Bavaria had two sons. Well, King Otto was his second one. Otto managed to ascend the newly created throne of Greece while he was still a minor.
He was one of the rare which government has been contained of a three-man regency council. It was made up of Bavarian court officials. But King Otto didn’t like this type of leading the country very much. So, when he was at his peak, he decided to remove the regents when they proved to be unpopular among people. After that, he was keeping his role as an absolute monarch.
Something that was a huge problem for Greek during that time was its poverty. King Otto was struggling to keep economy stable but he was unable to stop its meddling from the outside though.
What was a base of Greek politics in this period were affiliations with the three Great Powers that guaranteed Greece the independence.
All that was guaranteed by the sides of France, Russia, and Britain.
A key of his remaining power lied in successfully maintaining the support of these three Great Powers. To remain stable, King Otto had to play the interests of each of the Great Power’s Greek disciples against the others.
But Otto’s reign had to come to an end someday.
Greece was blockaded twice by the British Royal Navy and stopped attacking the Ottoman Empire. As a result, there was an assassination attempt on Queen Amalia and Otto was deposed in 1862.
Early days of King Otto’s governance
As we know, Otto was born as a prince as the second son of Crown Prince Ludwig I of Bavaria and Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. He was born in the city of Salzburg at Schloss Mirabell while it belonged to the Kingdom of Bavaria.
An interesting fact is that Otto was also a descendant of the Byzantine imperial dynasties of Komnenos and Laskaris.
As many historians say, the Great Powers from that time extracted a pledge from Otto’s father. They also were against his title to be called a King of the Hellenes. Instead, they insisted to be King of Greece because the latter would imply a claim over the millions of Greeks then still under the rules of Turkey.
As a very young prince then, Otto arrived in Greece with 3500 Bavarian troops. Even though his ability to speak Greek was bad, he managed to become like himself to his adopters. The reason for that is adopting the Greek national costumes and Hellenizing his name to Othon, which Greeks seem to like.
What is also characteristically for King Otto is that his reign was divided into three periods. The first one is Regency Council, the second one is The years of Absolute Monarchy and the last being The years of Constitutional Monarchy.
King Otto’s creed and moving the capital of Greece
King Otto was known as a Roman Catholic. But his religion determination had its own prejudices and circumstances. By many pious Greek, he was viewed as a heretic. However, according to some researches of ‘teacher of life’ suggest that his heirs would have to be Orthodox.
But there were some powerful people who liked to oppose to Bavarian-dominated regency. The ones that have to be mentioned about this are general Theodoros Kolokotronis and Yiannis Makriyiannis.
They were used to be known as popular heroes and the leaders of the Greek Revolution. But, unfortunately for them, they were charged with treason and eventually sentenced to death. They had their own supporters and as famous heroes, it wasn’t easy to give them a death penalty, even if they deserved it.
Some of the Greek judges didn’t want the death warrants for those two. I presume they were on their side.
What left the biggest influence from King Otto’s reign was his moving the capital of Greece from Nafplion to Athens. That was truly a notable thing and eventually, it proved as a great move.
This city was chosen to be capital because of its historical and sentimental reasons, not because of its size. During this time, Athens was a town consisting of only 400 houses at the foot of the Acropolis.
And it had many significant buildings built too. The most famous are the University of Athens, the National Gardens of Athens and the National Library of Greece. Popular were also the Athens Polytechnic University, the Old Royal Palace and the Old Parliament Building.
Putting all this aside, Otto’s first task as king was to make a detailed archaeological survey of new capital. Consequently, he assigned Gustav Eduard Schaubert and Stamatios Kleanthis to solve this which they managed to do.
Love life and marriage
I assume that every one of you dreamed about your wedding day. Girls (or some boys) are dreaming about their prince on the horse like at some fairy tale while guys never stop looking for the prettiest girls. I hope this change someday because I ever dreamed to be the prince and in my fairy tales I married the toughest guy in town.
This usually starts a completely new era in people’s life. When people do marriage, the first thing they thought was about kids. In past times, they meant the heirs. Every king and emperor wanted a male child to inherit his legacy. It was the same with King Otto. Sorry about equal rights.
On one occasion, Otto visited Germany in the year of 1836. He liked one very attractive and young women and he saw her as a potential mother of his future heir. That girl was Duchess Amalia of Oldenburg. They got married. The wedding celebration took place in Oldenburg (near to Hannover) from where this girl was, not in Greece as you probably expect.
The reasons are unknown indeed.
It wasn’t everything perfect as it might seem. They couldn’t produce an heir so the new queen made herself really unpopular by interfering in the government. Because of that King Otto wasn’t happy at all.
So, he started an affair with Jane Digby, a notorious woman his father had taken as a lover previously.
The end of an era
A Provisional Government was set up in Peloponnese in 1862 while the visit of King Otto took place. That led to his and his wife’s refuge on which they were forced not to resist.
They took refuge on a British warship and returned to Bavaria aboard. Also, they had to take with them the Greek royal regalia which they had brought 30 years ago. In the following year, Prince William of Denmark was elected by the Greek National Assembly at the age of 17.
Although they had problems with producing an heir, it has been suggested that Amelia and Otto bore an heir. But, as we know that never truly happened.
We are all aware of how would this possible child have an impact on King Otto’s status either. Probably, the king would not have been overthrown, as succession was also a major unresolved question at the time.
Unfortunately, King Otto took a final breath in the palace of the former bishops of Bamberg, Germany. He was buried in the Theatiner Church in Munich.
Unforgettable is that he would still wear the Greek traditional uniform which is worn only by the evzones today. They are known nowadays as Presidential Guards.
The last words of this great leader will stay remembered forever. According to many witnesses, those were ‘Greece, my Greece, my beloved Greece’.