King Constantine of Greece Abdicates Throne
The German conspiracies in the Balkans not only had alienated Greece and Bulgaria from their natural allegiance to the Allies and brought disaster both to Serbia and Romania, they had given free rein to the savage passions of the Turks as well.
These conspiracies came to an end on June 11, 1917, when King Constantine of Greece was compelled to abdicate his throne in favor of his son Alexander. King Constantine had been as wax in the hands of his wife Sophia, the sister of Emperor William of Germany. Through her contrivance, Greece had observed a spurious neutrality while secretly aiding Germany; the aspirations of the Greek people for complete freedom had been thwarted, and Greece betrayed into playing an ignoble part in the great War for human freedom.
Queen Sophia Seeks German Aid
Early in 1916, both Queen Sophia and King Constantine had implored the Kaiser to send an army into the Balkans and expel from Greek soil the Allied forces assembling at Salonika for the support of Serbia. A few weeks later, the royal conspirators ordered the Greek garrison at Fort Rupel to surrender to the Bulgarians. In December, 1916, after a band of Greek royalists in Athens had fired upon the representatives of the Allies, Queen Sophia exulted in a letter to the Kaiser over the "splendid victory" which Greek arms had achieved over "four great powers." At the same time, she again urged her brother to dispatch an army to Greece and rid the country of the presence of Allied troops.
To this appeal, Emperor William craftily replied that it were better that King Constantine should wage war against General Sarrail's forces at Salonika. Queen Sophia declared this impossible, owing to the lack of equipment and ammunition in the Greek Army. Emperor William then suggested the expediency of organizing Greek guerilla bands to operate in the Lake Ochrida Region in conjunction with the Austrian forces. Acting upon this suggestion, guerilla bands were organized under the general command of the Master of the King's House.
Queen Sophia Takes Fright
About this time the Allies decided to punish King Constantine by establishing a blockade of Greek ports. When starvation seemed imminent, Queen Sophia took fright and telegraphed to Gen von Falkenhausen:
"Owing to the continuance of the blockade, there is only bread left for a few days longer, and other foodstuffs are also growing scarcer. The idea of war against the Entente Allies is now out of the question. Negotiations are now proceeding on the note. I consider the game lost. If the attack is not made immediately, it will be too late."
The German Plot Proceeds
Nevertheless, the German plot to embroil Greece with the Allies was progressing. On December 10, 1916, Ambassador Theotokis from Berlin sent the following telegram to his liege lord at Athens:
"Let von Falkenhausen await at Berlin the decision which will be taken at Athens. In case it is neutrality, he will proceed to Podgradetz ; in case of rupture with the Entente, he will go by airplane to Larissa. In any case, it is of the greatest importance to develop as quickly as possible the question of Caravitis' bands and matters relative thereto. Pray inform me with all speed what assistance in the way of munitions, money and provisions you would want. The object of Caravitis should be to cut the railroad from Monastir to Salonika and harass Sarrail's rear. One should not lose sight of the fact that even this unofficial action by the bands will powerfully help Greece when the time for negotiations comes to put forward large territorial claims which, naturally, can be larger in case action is taken than in case of neutrality. Falkenhausen is awaiting instructions upon which he will act immediately."
King Constantino's Treachery Disclosed
Though Greece had declared her neutrality, and the sympathies of the nation were undoubtedly with the Allies in the War for freedom, still King Constantine persisted in secretly plotting to align Greece with Germany in the War against the Allies. On January 6, 1917, he sent the following telegram to General von Hindenburg :
"The present situation must be seriously considered, as it is probable that a declaration of war might come before mobilization could be affected. Probably the Entente desire to involve Greece in immediate war so is to destroy her before the German occupation could begin. Already Greece is faced with a fresh Entente note demanding her complete disarmament. The transport of the whole of the artillery and war material to the Pelopponesus is being maintained by the pressure of the blockade. The Government and the people are resisting with constancy, enduring all sorts of privations, but the situation is growing worse from day to day. It is urgent that we should be informed if German attack on the Macedonian front is contemplated, and when it is likely to begin."
Sophia Refers to Allies as "Infamous Swine"
When Queen Sophia's supplies of sauerkraut and limburger cheese were diminished during the blockade of the Greek ports, she wept bitter tears. "How I suffer!" she wrote to the Kaiser. "Thank you warmly for your welcome words. May the infamous swine receive the punishment they deserve. I embrace you heartily. Your exiled and unhappy sister who hopes for better times. (Signed) Sophia."
King Constantine Forced to Abdicate
Better times were to be denied Sophia, for Destiny had decreed that the "infamous swine" were to overturn her house of cards. The Allies, and particularly England, had been loath to dethrone King Constantine, but in June, 1917, they decided that the Greek King should no longer be permitted to carry on his intrigues with Germany. By authority of the French, British and Italian Governments, M. Jounart, former Governor General of Algeria, was sent to Athens to demand Constantine's abdication. The latter capitulated on June 11, 1917, designating his second son Alexander as his successor, and retiring to Switzerland. In his last proclamation to the Greek Nation, King Constantine said :
"Obeying the necessity of fulfilling my duty toward Greece, I am departing from my beloved country, accompanied by the heir to the crown, and I leave my son Alexander on the throne. I beg you to accept my decision with calm."
Greece accepted the King's abdication with wondrous calm and with the resolution to sever at once the cords which bound the nation to Germany. King Alexander, upon his accession, summoned Venizelos to form a Ministry. On June 21, 1917, the Greek Chamber, which King Constantine had illegally dissolved in 1915, was once again convened and Venizelos named as Prime Minister. Diplomatic relations with Germany ceased at once, and Greece prepared to enter the War on the side of the Allies.
Abdication Proclamation of King Constantine I
Yielding to necessity, accomplishing my duty towards Greece, and having in view only the interests of the country, I am leaving my dear country with the Crown Prince, leaving my son Alexander on the throne.
Still, when far from Greece, the queen and I will always preserve the same love for the Hellenic people. I beg all to accept my decision calmly and quietly, trusting in God, whose protection I invoke for the nation.
In order that my bitter sacrifice for my country may not be in vain, I exhort you, for the love of God, for the love of our country, if you love me, to maintain perfect order and quiet discipline, the slightest lapse from which, even though well-intentioned, might be enough to cause a great catastrophe.
The love and devotion which you have always manifested for the queen and myself, in days of happiness and sorrow alike, are a great consolation to us at the present, time. May God protect Greece.
At the moment when my venerated father, making to the Fatherland the supreme sacrifice, entrusts me with the heavy duties of the Hellenic throne, I pray that God, granting his wishes, may protect Greece and permit us to see it once more united and strong.
In the grief of being separated in such painful circumstances from my well-beloved father I have the single consolation of obeying his sacred command. With all my energy I shall try to carry it out by following along the lines which so magnificently marked his reign, with the help of the people on whose love the Greek dynasty rests.
I have the conviction that, in obeying the will of my father, the people by their submission will contribute to our being able together to draw our well-beloved country out of the situation in which it now is.