King Otto

King Otto

King Otto was a German Bavarian Prince and the first King of Greece following its liberation from the 400 years of Turkish occupation (1832-1862). Prince Otto Frederick Ludwig of Bavaria (Kronprinz Otto Friedrich Ludwig von Bayern) was born on June 1st, 1815 in Salzburg (which then belonged to Bavaria, but now is a part of Austria).

He was the second son of the Philhellene King of Bavaria Ludwig I, who belonged to the Vitelsmpach Dynasty, and Queen Theresa, daughter of the Duke of Saxe-Altenburg. Through an ancestor, the Duke John II (1341-1397), Otto was linked to kinship with the Byzantine Imperial House of Komninon and Laskaris.

Otto received careful general education, but not adequate enough for a Prince destined to reign. He was taught Greek and Latin, both of which he spoke fluently, ​​and was a talented horseman and an excellent swimmer. He began learning the Greek language just right after his father accepted the Hellenic throne on his behalf. His parents intended for him to follow the path of an ecclesiastical career and particularly cared about his weak immune system leading to his fragile health. He also had lost part of his hearing and, when he spoke, was somewhat unclear and slurred.

In 1832, at the age of 17, the three Great Powers elected him (England, France, Russia) as King of the Greeks, during the London Conference (April 25th - May 8th). A year later, on February 6th, 1833, he landed in Nafplio, which then was the temporary capital of the newly established Hellenic State. He was whole-heartedly welcomed by the people who had struggled enough with the anarchy that was plaguing the country after the assassination of Prime Minister Kapodistrias in 1831 and hoped for better days. A task force of transfer-tracks accompanied him, carrying part of the power of the Bavarian army (3,500 men), who would replace the retiring last forces of the French army.

By the time Otto reached adulthood (June 1st, 1835), the so-called Regency exercised its  royal power in the country. They were the Bavarians Armansperg officials, Maurer, and Chaintek. On November 10th, 1836, while Otto was in his home country, he married Princess Amalia (1818-175), daughter of the Grand Duke of Oldemburg Frederick August, in a glorious wedding - surprising the Greek government, which was informed of the ceremony a month later.

Before he reached full maturity, Otto undertook official royal duties, but retained Bavarian officials in principal positions, despite the fact that they were disliked by the local political class and the people, who viewed them as oppressors. In the beginning, Otto ruled with an absolutist "divine right". Indeed, for a long time, he declared himself also as the Prime Minister of Greece (December 8th, 1837 - February 10th, 1841 and August 10th, 1841 - September 3rd, 1843).

On September 3rd, 1843, a military coup occurred under Kalergis and Makrigiannis (Revolution of September the 3rd), because of general dissatisfaction with both the domestic and foreign policies of the Monarchy. On the same day, Greece had signed the London Economic Agreement, which bound the Hellenic State in such a way so as to use almost all of the profits from its resources to repay the loans.

King Otto was then forced to create a new Constitution, appoint a local politician as Prime Minister, removed the Bavarian officials from military and political positions, and called for elections - much to  the satisfaction of the Greek citizens.

From then until his dethronement in 1862, Otto ruled according to the constitution, with large or small interferences in the exercise of his power. This, however, created a wave of discontent towards him, which was also pushed by foreign forces for their own vested interests. In addition to this general spirit of distress was vexation of the interventions by Queen Amalia and the fact that she did not give birth to the successor of the throne.

In May 1859, Athens was shocked by the "umbles", the first dynamic event against the authoritarian systems of the regime. Later in March 1861, an anti-royalist conspiracy took place between Othonos University students. (The first University in the newly established Hellenic State and the wider area of ​​the eastern Mediterranean). Founded by Otto on May 3rd 1837 the University was in his honor and received the "Othoneio" name.

On the 6th of September of the same year, law student Aristides Dosios attempted to assassinate Amalia, without  success. This created a temporary stream of sympathy for her, but this incident was the last drop of compassion the Greek people had for these rulers. So while the royal couple was on tour in the Peloponnese region, an upheaval broke out in Athens. This time, the revolution was fortuitous, forcing Otto and Amalia to depart permanently from Greece on October 12th, 1862.

Otto was a proponent of the Great Idea, aimed to incorporate not yet liberated territories to the Hellenic Kingdom (such as Asia minor). The term "Great Idea" was coined by politician Ioannis Kolettis (1773-1847), who favored Otto. Upon leaving Greece, Otto first went to Munich, and from there, to Bamberg, where he lived for the rest of his life - that was neither great nor remarkable.

There, he kept company with a small group of people who were still faithful to him and was thus able to live with a dominant feeling of nostalgia for Greece until the bitter end. He was particularly interested in the Cretan Revolution and helped the 1867 revolution, by financing fighters with 200,000 gold francs. Unfortunately, the same year he fell ill, and died suddenly of the measles on July 26th, at the age of 52. He was buried, according to his final wish, to be dressed in the Greek traditional costume (foustanela), in the church of Saint Kayetanou in Munich, where his body still lies to this day.

▶︎ Theodoros Kolokotronis
▶︎ Giorgios Karaiskakis
▶︎ Ernst Ziller
▶︎ Christian & Theophilus Hansen
▶︎ Laskarina Bouboulina
▶︎ King Otto


▶︎ More: Ancient Period of Athens, Figures of Ancient Period, Byzantine Period of Athens, Figures of Byzantine Period, Modern History of Athens, Figures of the 19th Century, Figures of the 20th Century, Greek Mythology, Historical Specials