Charles: Greece has a special place in my heart

Catherine Wylie, PA, in Athens
·5-min read

The Prince of Wales said he is “delighted” to be back in Greece, as he paid tribute to the country where his father was born almost 100 years ago.

Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall were guests at an official state dinner at the presidential mansion in Athens for the country’s Bicentenary Independence Day celebrations.

The heir to the throne hailed the “strong and vital” ties between the UK and Greece, and gave a nod to the 99-year-old Duke of Edinburgh’s link to the country.

Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark, allegedly on the kitchen table of his family home, Mon Repos, on the Greek island of Corfu, in 1921.

Speaking at the dinner, which had 45 guests in total and was hosted by the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, Charles said: “My wife and I could not be more delighted to be back in Greece, which has long held the most special place in my heart.

Royal visit to Greece – Day 1
The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive at Athens International Airport (Victoria Jones/PA)

“After all, Greece is the land of my grandfather; and of my father’s birth, nearly one hundred years ago, in the centenary year of Greek Independence.

“Later, it was in Athens that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice, during the dark years of Nazi occupation, sheltered a Jewish family – an act for which in Israel she is counted as ‘Righteous Among The Nations’.”

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The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arrive at Athens International Airport in Greece for a two-day visit (Victoria Jones/PA)

The couple’s official two-day visit to Greece, at the request of the British Government following an invitation from Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, comes eight days after Philip left hospital following a month-long stay receiving treatment.

The duke, who turns 100 in June, spent 28 nights as an in-patient – his longest ever stay.

He was initially receiving care for an infection then underwent heart surgery for a pre-existing condition.

In his speech, Charles said: ​”In feeling a profound connection to Greece – her landscapes, her history and her culture – I am hardly alone: there is something of her essence in us all.

“As the wellspring of Western civilisation, Greece’s spirit runs through our societies and our democracies.

“Without her, our laws, our art, our way of life, would never have flourished as they have.”

Duke of Edinburgh admitted to hospital
The Duke of Edinburgh left King Edward VII’s Hospital, London, on March 16 (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Charles said that Athens wants to enact his ambitious Terra Carta, or Earth Charter, which has parallels with the Magna Carta.

It aims to encourage the private sector to safeguard the planet by adopting sustainability and to invest 10 billion dollars (£7.3 billion) in “natural capital” by 2022.

Charles said: “As we all work to rebuild our societies and our economies from this year of previously unimaginable upheaval, and to set our world on a more sustainable path, perhaps we can take some inspiration from the courage, determination and ambition of 1821.

“Once again, the stakes could hardly be higher.

“The choices we make will determine the fate not only of our nations, but of this singular planet which we all share.

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The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit the National Gallery in Athens (Chris Jackson/PA)

“For my part, to support this vital endeavour, I have worked with hundreds of CEOs around the world to develop a road map that places people, planet and nature at the heart of our economic transition.

“I have called this plan the ‘Terra Carta’, and I am deeply touched that Athens wishes to enact the ideas it offers.”

He concluded by saying: “Your Excellency – today, as in 1821, Greece can count on her friends in the United Kingdom.

“The ties between us are strong and vital, and make a profound difference to our shared prosperity and security.

“Just as our histories are closely bound together, so too are our futures.”

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The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall with Greece’s prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki (Chris Jackson/PA)

Camilla wore a blue silk evening gown by Anna Valentine to the dinner after disembarking the plane wearing a blue and white dress by Fiona Clare topped with an Anna Valentine cape.

Earlier on Wednesday evening, Charles and Camilla were at the official ceremony celebrating the opening of the National Gallery, and were shown around by Mr Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Grabowski-Mitsotaki.

They viewed the paintings of British artists Thomas Gordon and Frank Abney Hastings.

With hand-shaking still ruled out due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Charles greeted people with a namaste welcome, clasping his hands together and bowing his head.

On Thursday, the couple will attend a wreath laying at the Memorial of the Unknown Soldier and watch the Independence Day Military Parade which marks Greece’s uprising against the Ottoman Empire in 1821.

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The Duchess of Cornwall in the National Gallery in Athens (Chris Jackson/PA)

In previous years, thousands of people waving Greek flags have lined the main streets of central Athens to watch the March 25 parade.

The brief tour will be Charles’ third official visit to Greece following his first in 1998 and a further trip in 2018 with Camilla, her first official visit to the country.

The couple have already travelled overseas during the pandemic, visiting Germany in November for a brief two-day trip to attend commemorations marking the country’s National Day of Mourning.