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Frederica of Hanover

Frederica of Hanover Queen consort of Greece as the wife of King Paul; daughter of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick

Queen consort of Greece as the wife of King Paul; daughter of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick
The basics
Quick Facts
Intro Queen consort of Greece as the wife of King Paul; daughter of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick
A.K.A. Friederike Luise von Griechenland
Countries Germany
Gender female
Birth 18 April 1917 (Blankenburg)
Death 6 February 1981 (Madrid)
Star sign AriesAries
Mother: Princess Victoria Louise of Prussia
Father: Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick
Siblings: Prince Christian Oscar of HanoverPrince Welf Henry of HanoverPrince Ernest Augustus of Hanover (1914–1987)Prince George William of Hanover (1915–2006)
Spouse: Paul of Greece
Children: Queen Sofía of SpainConstantine II of GreecePrincess Irene of Greece and Denmark
The details

Frederica of Hanover (Friederike Luise Thyra Victoria Margarita Sophia Olga Cecilia Isabella Christa; Greek: Φρειδερίκη της Ελλάδας; pronounced [friðeˈrici ˈtis eˈlaðas]; 18 April 1917 – 6 February 1981) was Queen consort of Greece as the wife of King Paul.

Early life

Born Her Royal Highness Princess Frederica of Hanover, of Great Britain and Ireland, and of Brunswick-Lüneburg on 18 April 1917 in Blankenburg am Harz, in the German Duchy of Brunswick, she was the only daughter of Ernest Augustus, then reigning Duke of Brunswick, and his wife Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, herself the only daughter of the German Emperor Wilhelm II. Both her father and maternal grandfather would abdicate their crowns in November 1918 following Germany's defeat in World War I, and her paternal grandfather would be stripped of his British royal dukedom the following year. As a descendant of Queen Victoria, she was, at birth, 34th in the line of succession to the British throne.

In 1934, Adolf Hitler, in his ambition to link the British and German royal houses, asked for Frederica's parents to arrange for the marriage of their seventeen-year-old daughter to the Prince of Wales. In her memoirs, Frederica's mother described that she and her husband were "shattered" and such a possibility "had never entered our minds". Victoria Louise herself had once been considered as a potential bride for the very same person prior to her marriage. Moreover, the age difference was too great (the Prince of Wales was twenty-two years Frederica's senior), and her parents were unwilling to "put any such pressure" on their daughter.


Prince Paul of Greece, her mother's paternal first cousin, proposed to her during the summer of 1936, while he was in Berlin attending the 1936 Summer Olympics. Paul was a son of King Constantine I and Frederica's grand-aunt Sophia. Their engagement was announced officially on 28 September 1937, and Britain's King George VI gave his consent pursuant to the Royal Marriages Act 1772 on 26 December 1937. They married in Athens on 9 January 1938. Frederica became Hereditary Princess of Greece, her husband being heir presumptive to his childless elder brother, King George II.

During the early part of their marriage, they resided at a Villa in Psychiko in the suburbs of Athens. Ten months after their marriage, their first child, the future Queen Sofia of Spain, was born on 2 November 1938. On 2 June 1940, Frederica gave birth to the future King Constantine II.

War and exile

At the peak of World War II, in April 1941, the Greek Royal Family was evacuated to Crete in a Sunderland flying boat. Shortly afterwards, the German forces attacked Crete. Frederica and her family were evacuated again, setting up a government-in-exile office in London.

In exile, King George II and the rest of the Greek Royal Family settled in South Africa. Here Frederica's last child, Princess Irene, was born on 11 May 1942. The South African leader, General Jan Smuts, served as her godfather. The family eventually settled in Egypt in February 1944.

On 1 September 1946, after the war, the Greek people decided by referendum to restore King George to the throne. The Hereditary Prince and Princess returned to their villa in Psychiko.

Queen consort

On 1 April 1947, George II died and Frederica's husband ascended the throne as Paul I, with Frederica as queen consort. Communist political instability in Northern Greece led to the Greek Civil War. The King and Queen toured Northern Greece under severe security to try to appeal for loyalty in the summer of 1947.

Queen Frederica was constantly attacked for her German ancestry. Left-wing politicians in Greece repeatedly used the fact that the Kaiser was her grandfather, and that she had brothers who were members of the SS, as propaganda against her. She was also criticized variously as "very Prussian" and "was a Nazi". When she was in London representing her sick husband at the wedding of his first cousin Prince Philip to King George VI's elder daughter Princess Elizabeth in November 1947, Winston Churchill remarked on the Kaiser being her grandfather. Queen Frederica had replied acknowledging the fact, but reminding him that she was also descended from Queen Victoria, and that her father would be the British king if the country had operated under Salic Law (allowing only males to inherit the crown).

Queen Frederica with King Paul, while visiting the USS Providence (CL-82), at Athens, circa May 1947
Queen Frederica's personal standard

During the civil war, Queen Frederica set the Queen's Camps or Child Cities (translation of: Παιδο(υ)πόλεις / Paidopoleis or Paidupoleis) a network of 53 camps around Greece where she would gather mostly orphans and children of poor families. These camps provided much needed shelter, food, and education to these children who were aged 3 years old to adolescence.

The role of these Queen's Camps is disputed as a means of propaganda by the monarchy through the educational program. The Queen's Camps were a way to care for the children who were victims of the civil war. There were allegations, generally by opposition or communist sources, which held that children were illegally adopted by American families while they were in the Queen's Camps.

The Greek Civil War ended in August 1949. The Sovereigns took this opportunity to strengthen the monarchy, they paid official visits to Marshal Josip Broz Tito in Belgrade, Presidents Luigi Einaudi of Italy in Rome, Theodor Heuss of West Germany, and Bechara El Khoury of Lebanon, Emperor Haile Selassie I of Ethiopia, Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari of India, King George VI of the United Kingdom, and the United States as guest of President Dwight D. Eisenhower. However, at home in Greece and abroad in the United Kingdom, Queen Frederica was targeted by the opposition, because as a girl she had belonged to the Bund Deutscher Mädel (League of German Girls), a branch of the Hitler Youth group for young women; her supporters argued that evading membership in the group would be difficult under the existing political climate in Nazi Germany at the time.

Her 16 November 1953 appearance in Life as America's guest was taken on one of the many state visits she paid around the world. Also that year she appeared on the cover of Time. On 14 May 1962 her eldest daughter Sofia married Prince Juan Carlos of Spain, (later King Juan Carlos I of Spain) in Athens.

Frederika has been described as "inherently undemocratic". She was notorious for her numerous arbitrary and unconstitutional interventions in Greek politics and clashes with democratically elected governments. She actively politicked against the election of Alexander Papagos. At home in Greece and abroad in the United Kingdom, she was targeted by the opposition. In 1963 while visiting London, rioting by Greek leftists demonstrating against the situation with the political prisoners of the Greek civil war, forced her to temporarily seek refuge in a stranger's house. Her interference in politics was harshly criticized and possibly was a significant factor in the strengthening of republican sentiments.

On the cover of Time, 1953

Queen dowager

On 6 March 1964, King Paul died of cancer. When her son, the new King, married Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark later that year on 18 September, Queen Frederica stepped back from the majority of her public duties in favor of her daughter-in-law. She remained a figure of controversy and was accused in the press of being the éminence grise behind the throne.

She retired to the countryside where she lived an almost reclusive life. However, she continued to attend Royal events that were family-oriented, such as the baptisms of her grandchildren in both Spain and Greece.


King Constantine II's clashes with the democratically elected Prime Minister George Papandreou Sr. were blamed by critics for causing the destabilisation that led to a military coup on 21 April 1967 and the rise of the regime of the colonels. Faced with a difficult situation, King Constantine initially collaborated with the military dictatorship, swearing in their government under a royalist prime minister. Later that year he attempted a counter-coup in an attempt to restore democracy, whose failure forced him into exile. Following this, the junta appointed a Regent to carry out the tasks of the exiled Monarch.

In 1971, Frederica published an autobiography, A Measure of Understanding.

On 1 June 1973 the junta abolished the Greek Monarchy without the consent of the Greek people and then attempted to legitimize its actions through a 1973 plebiscite that was widely suspected of being rigged. The new head-of-state became President of Greece George Papadopoulos.

The dictatorship ended on 24 July 1974 and the pre-junta constitutional monarchy was never restored. A plebiscite was held on 8 December 1974 in which Constantine (who was able to campaign only from outside the country) freely admitted his past errors, promised to support democracy, and in particular, promised to keep his mother Frederica away from Greece and out of Greek politics. However, 69% of Greeks voted to make Greece a democratic republic.


Frederica died on 6 February 1981 in exile in Madrid during ophthalmic surgery. In its obituary of the former Queen, The New York Times reported that she died during "eyelid surgery," which led to frequent but unsubstantiated rumours that she died while undergoing cosmetic surgery. Other sources state that her cause of death was a heart attack while undergoing the removal of cataracts.

She was interred at Tatoi (the Royal family's palace and burial ground in Greece). Her son and his family were allowed to attend the service but had to leave immediately afterwards.


National honours

  • Kingdom of Greece House of Glücksburg-Greece: Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Redeemer
  • Kingdom of Greece House of Glücksburg-Greece: 2nd Former Grand Mistress Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Saints Olga and Sophia
  • Kingdom of Greece House of Glücksburg-Greece: 1st Former Grand Mistress Dame Grand Cross of the Royal Order of Beneficence, Special Class
  • Kingdom of Greece House of Glücksburg-Greece: Knight of the Royal Decoration of the Greek Royal House, 1st Class

Foreign honours

  •  Denmark: Knight of the Order of the Elephant
  •  Italy: Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic
    •   Vatican
      •  Holy See: Recipient of the Benemerenti Medal
  •  Thailand: Dame Grand Cordon with Chain of the Order of the Royal House of Chakri


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