APOLOGIES. CORRECT VERSION OF PREVIOUS MESSAGE WITH QUOTES AND LINKS
I'd like to intervene once more in this discussion. Francois writes:
I must say I'm not convinced that we can write a paragraph for the FAQ
on this topic that is both reliable and meaningful.
I beg to disagree. It's true we don't know everything about this "Duke
of Sparta" thing, but there are quite a few things we do know. I think
the doubts and contradictions are being exaggerated. I'll try to
explain my point of view, but first let me throw on the table two new
"pieces of evidence". First, the web site of the Greek royal family.
To be noted that Paul/Marie Chantal are called Crown Prince Princess
there, and there is no mention of them being Duke/Duchess of Sparta.
But, more importantly, I found this in the biography of King
Constantine I: "His father, King George I, had given him the title of
Duke of Sparta. This title was given at the request of the town of
Sparta, but as the Greek constitution does not allow titles, it was
only to be used outside the country"
I've also done a search for Duke of Sparta in Greek in google. This
has revealed only two entries. One from the on-line edition of a Greek
regional newspaper. It's an article relating the history of some land
and among other things it mentions that in 1888 it was given to the
then diadoch Constantine, the Duke of Sparta "as he was then called".
The newspaper may be quoting from the law ceding the land to
Constantine, so perhaps in 1888 this title was still in use officially
Link www.patris.gr/articles/37805 -
The other Greek entry is from the website of a radio station that
reports an interview Constantine II gave to the sunday inset of a
prestigious Greek quality paper (Vimagazino of "To Vima") in 2001. He
was asked there what he had to say about all that was written on the
internet (see? the real world is also reading us), about his sone
being Prince of Greece and Duke of Sparta. Constantine is reported to
have said that he does not wish to reply to such malicious talk(for
anyone understanding Greek, the word he used was "kakoithies")! This
is not much but perhaps it corroborates what he is said to have told
Now, let me deal with Francois' four numbered points:
1) We don't even know to whom the title was originally granted, and we
won't have the text of the decree any time soon.
It's true we don't have the actual text of the decree. But we do know
that the title was originally granted to the future Constantine I.
Francois and Mr. Buyers have very admirably shown that the other two
elder sons of Greek monarchs, George II and Constantine II have also
used the title in a foreign context (more on that last aspect a bit
further down). I think we may safely assume that the original grant
allowed that, or at least was so construed as to allow that.
2) The Times articles from the 1920s strongly suggest to me that the
title was not confined to use abroad. The title is used
matter-of-factly, even in accounts of interviews with king Constantine
although there is no direct quote of him using it). It does seem
that, of the three heirs apparent that Greece has known, all three
have used it or let it be used abroad, and the first two certainly or
very likely used it in Greece.
This throws up several points. First of all, I think perhaps use in a
foreign context is more precise than use abroad. I distinguish between
on the one hand use in a context where the likely "recipients" (for
want of a better term) are Greeks living in Greece. This would
primarily, if not exclusively, be use in the Greek language. There is
no doubt that up to a certain point the title was used for Constantine
I in such a context. But is there evidence to show that the title was
used by (or for) George II in this context? I don't think anyone has
so far provided anything of the sort. I would gladly be corrected.
On the other hand there is use in a foreign context. I think the Times
articles clearly fall in this category. Whoever they were written by,
they were intended to be read abroad. Even a direct quote of King
Constantine II using the title in conversation with a foreign
journalist would not make any difference, to my mind, as long as
everybody studiously avoided to use the title in conversation with
Greek journalists writing for the Greek press.
3) I take it as a fact that the legality of the title was questioned
in 1868,but the grounds for doing so are a bit nebulous. Duke of
Sparta seems to fall in the category of non-hereditary royal titles
and ranks, like prince, rather than hereditary titles of nobility
which is probably what the constitution was intended to rule out. And
the continued use of the title for decades after that initial debate
suggests that any abandonment of its use, if it did happen, is not
necessarily related to those initial doubts. So that fact is not
I don't think they are that nebulous. In any case, let me try to
dispel these fogs. And if this turns into a long diatrebe well, sorry!
First of all let me remind all of you that it is the 1864 Greek
constitution that is relevant, not the 1911 one although I don't think
this makes any difference, this particular clause was not changed in
the 1911 amendments. Let us look a little at the context: Greece did
not have a tradition of native nobility. Areas under Venetian rule
aside (there can be no talk of native "Greek" titles there, they were
Venetian and were never officially recognised when those areas came
under Greek rule) there were no Greek nobles. Let me correct Mr.
Sayers, the princes of Samos were not noble, Samos was an autonomous
area from 1830 to 1912 under Ottoman rule and the title of its rulers
(appointed by the Porte) was "Hegemon" in Greek, translated as Prince
in English. But "Hegemon" is not a nobility title, or indeed any sort
of title, it just means Ruler and could just as well be translated as
Governor or the like. In any case, the Samos Princes were neither
nobility nor royalty. As for Ypsilantes, I'm not quite sure what sort
of title (if any) he was given by the Russian Czar but, again, this
was never recognised in revolutionary Greece and seems in fact to have
been used against him by his enemies in the various intrigues that
beset Greek revolutionary politics.
So, you have a country with absolutely no tradition of native nobility
and you have its people going up in arms in 1821 inspired from the
ideals of the French revolution. Indeed the first Greek constitutions
(1822, 1823, 1827) are fiercely republican and egalitarian. It is
there that one finds for the first time the clause "
are neither awarded nor recognised to Greek citizens". For reasons
that one cannot go into here in detail (suffice it to say that the
republic looked very good on paper but soon disintegrated into civil
war, and that in the Europe of those times anything but a monarchy was
anathema to the Powers) Greece entered the international stage as a
monarchy in 1830. In the first years it was ruled without a
Constitution. Nevertheless Otto seems to have created no nobility. In
1843 there was a revolt and a first constitution was adopted in 1844.
The same clause appeared there and has been carried over to all Greek
constitutions ever since.
This is the context in which one must approach the 1868 controversy on
the title Duke of Sparta. In a country that has never had nobility,
that does not know the difference (nor does it care about it) between
Royal Dukes, noble and non-noble Dukes and what-have-you, someone is
created a Duke. I'm sure everyone would agree that a Duke is, quite
often, part of the nobility. This was enough for the Greek progressive
elements of the time to cry foul, hence the whole controversy. From a
legal point of view I think they were right. In the Greek context
there was no room for fine distinctions between noble and non-noble
titles. It was clearly a privilege to have an appenage such as Duke of
Sparta and this was not allowed under the constitution. I think the
equality clause would catch the thing even if it was expressly stated
that it was NOT a nobility title. If you are given a title (be it
"Duke of Sparta" or "your excellency" to answer another of Mr. Sayers'
points) it means that everyone is supposed to call you that, therefore
it is a privilege and that's a no-no for the Greek constitution. I
suppose theoretically the King could "invite" anyone who cared to do
so to use a certain title for a certain person purely on a voluntary
basis, but I don't think he could do that by decree, which is an act
intended to have legal consequences. In any case, this was never the
intention. Not even the argument that Duke of Sparta is NOT a title of
nobility was used. I have read a detailed account of the debates in
parliament at the time in S. Markezinis history, and the
counter-argument was that, even though the constitution did not make a
difference, nevetheless members of the royal family (who, under Greek
law were Greek citizens, see our VERY LONG past discussion on this
matter) were exempt. As I said, legally very weak.
Since you seem to want details of what the debate was about, it was a
debate on an early-day motion, if I may call it that, a device used
then in Greece and in many other Parliaments I suppose, to discuss
current matters without taking a legally binding decision. The
resolution carried was not legally binding, a legally binding act of
the Greek Parliament was then, and still is, called a Law. A Law is
enacted by the King/President, numbered and published in the Gazette,
a resolution isn't.
When I wrote that because of the controversy use of the title was
tacitly dropped in Greece, this was not my own conclusion. It is what
I read both in Markezinis history and in G. Drosos history, which also
deals with these events. In other words this is the historians' own
impression. Of them Markezinis would to my mind carry more authority,
since, apart from writing history he was, early in his life, legal
advisor to King George II (1936) and had even published,l around that
period, a small tract on the legal position of the Greek royal family
(I have a photocopy somehwer in Greece. Nothing exciting there). He
was also involved in politics, becoming Prime Minister in the brief
and unsuccesful attempt to liberalise the Greek junta in 1973.
The quote from Constantine's site seems to confirm the fact that use
of the title was abandoned in Greece although, perhaps typically for
Constantine, the whole thing is "touched up" and it is made to sound
as if use of the title abroad was the initial intention, when in fact
it was not. The whole controversy in Parliament is "tactfully" swept
under the carpet. But it is also interesting to note that the Greek
version of the same page merely says that his father had given
Constantine the title "Duke of Sparta", without saying that it was
only for use abroad (ATTENTION: CORRECTION FROM PREVIOUS MESSAGE
POSTED). I'm not quite sure what to make of the Greek version, but
generally speaking the English version of the site is much more
"complete" than the Greek one.
4) as for current usage by the royal family, testis unus, testis
nullus. I would also like to have further confirmation.
I think the fact that in their own site the Greek royal family make no
mention of the title would be at least an indication that they do not
care to use it any more.
I would be inclined to hold off on including anything in the FAQ. At
best we could say that the heir apparent was customarily called duke
of Sparta, and that it is not clear whether the custom still holds.
Now THAT would be misleading, since it would give the misleading
impression that the title was also used inside of Greece. Where is the
evidence that George II and Constantine II ever used the title "in a
In any case, I understand an FAQ to be just that: Frequently Asked
Questions. We've had this question several times, that's why I thought
you might agree to put something in the FAQ about it. I freely admit
that we do not have ALL the answers to the Duke of Sparta thing, but
would this be the only item we do not have all the answers to in the
FAQ? I would suggest we do know quite a enough to enable us to write
a meaningful entry. This does not mean that we may not have to revise
it later, but isn't that what is regularly done with an FAQ?
Now, some explanations about Royal and Presidential decrees and the
points I was trying to make. From bitter experience I suspect Mr.
Sayers will again dispute that, but perhaps someone else might find it
The Greek legal system is a Civil Law system, as opposed to Common law
legal systems such as England & Wales, South Africa, the law of most
states of the US, Australia etc. One of the differences is that in a
civil law system there is conceptually no room for "unwritten" law. At
the very least, there isn't in Greece. With small and (for our
purposes) insignificant exceptions, a legal act, a legal right etc.
always has to be based on some written rule of law somewhere, however
old or broadly formulated. Not so in a common law system where there
is "Common law" i.e. rules which may only be found in (mostly old)
case law. In a constitutional context the UK at least also has "royal
prerogative" a set of unwritten powers the Sovereign enjoys. There is
no such thing under Greek consitutional law. In fact there was/ is an
article in the Constitution saying that the King/President only has
the powers ascribed to him in the Constitution.
A decree is a legal act promulgated by the King/President. It may
either contain a generally applicable rule of law (secondary
legislation authorised by a Parliamentary Law) or it may exercise, in
the case of one or a finite number of individuals a power granted to
the King/President either directly by the Constitution or by a Law.
For instance, the Constitution says that the King appoints the Prime
Minister, therefore when appointing the Prime Minister the King issues
a decree. The fact that decrees have to be countersigned by a minister
(a device ensuring that, in reality, it is the minister issuing the
decrees and not the King) does not mean that just because a minister
has countersigned, the King may issue any decree he likes. There still
has to be a legal basis for it.
The point I was making was that there was absolutely no legal basis
for the decree granting the title Duke of Sparta. There is nothing in
the constitution to say that the King may grant titles, even titles
that are not noble. On the contrary, there are provisions in the
Constitution saying that the King can exercise powers that elsewehere
may be considered as coming under royal prerogative. E.g. there is an
article saying that the King may strike coinage. Therefore, what I was
saying is that, quite remarkably, the "Duke of Sparta" decree was
based on nothing and, because of that and from a strictly legal point
of view it was invalid, i.e. had no legal effect. Still, I hasten to
add that this argument does NOT seem to have been used in the 1868
Parliamentary controversy. Combined with the 1863 decree on arms and
flags perhaps, in the back of everyone's mind, there was then a notion
that the King may enjoy some unwritten powers. In any case, that was
the point I made.
A few more points that came up in this discussion. The point I was
trying to make (and I have made before) about vasilopais meaning
"King-child" is that it literally means that. Prince does not
literally "mean" that in English, it is a word derived from the Latin
Princeps meaning "first". Of course since it has been given as a title
to the children of Kings, one may argue that now it "means" that. I
don't want to be drawn into discussions of semantics, but I think a
difference does exist. It's a bit like saying that the King/Queen in
Britain has the title "Sovereign". It's not a title, it's what they
are. As I said PERHAPS the word "vasilopais" was chosen intentionally
for the children of King George I, to avoid using a "title" such as
Prince. That I don't know, I'm only hazarding a guess. It is just as
likely that in the climate of that time, when everyone was trying to
be as purely Greek as possible, including using a "purified" version
of Greek (katharevousa), they thought more appropriate to use a word
of pure Greek origin.
A propos that, if I'm not mistaken the Queen is mentioned as such in
the constitution, somewhere in the provisions telling you what happens
if the King is a minor. On this basis one could say that the "title"
of Queen is recognised by the constitution.
And last but not least, Princess Aspasia (Manos) was not granted the
title princess of Greece by a decree of 10.9.1922, as Mr. Sayers
claimed. This decree merely retrospectively approved her marriage to
Alexander. Under the "tradition" of the Greek court she was then
considered (and styled) a "Princess" but that does not mean that the
title was granted by the decree. The decree merely approved her
marriage. And, before anyone asks, yes there was a legal basis for it,
a law that was passed a couple of months earlier allowing the King to
retrospectively approve royal marriages (under the previous
legislation approval had to be prior to the marriage).
There. Hope you find until some parts of this helpful/interesting and
I apologise for the length.
And apologies for having to post a "new and improved version". I
posted the previous one forgetting that I meant to first fill in the
quotes and links, and check what I said about the Greek version of
Constantine I's biography, when next I went online.