Frederica of Hanover (Frederica Louisa Thyra Victoria Margareta Sophie Olga Cécilie Isabelle Christa; 18 April 1917 – 6 February 1981) was Queen consort of the Hellenes as the wife of King Paul of Greece.
Frederica was born on 18 April 1917 in Blankenburg am Harz, Duchy of Brunswick, German Empire. She was the daughter of Ernest Augustus, Duke of Brunswick, and Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia. As daughter of a Hanoverian prince, she was born a princess of Hanover, Great Britain and Ireland, and also a duchess of Brunswick-Lüneburg. As a descendant of Queen Victoria, she was, at birth, 34th in the line of succession to the British throne.
Prince Paul of Greece, her first cousin once removed, proposed to her during the summer of 1936, while he was in Berlin attending the 1936 Summer Olympics. Paul was the son of King Constantine I and Frederica’s great-aunt Sophia. Their engagement was announced officially on 28 September 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 Villa 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.
At the peak of World War II, in April, 1941 the Greek Royal Family 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 the Greek people decided by referendum to restore King George to the throne. The Hereditary Prince and Princess returned to their villa in Psychiko.
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.
During the civil war, Queen Frederica set the Queen’s Camps or Child-cities 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 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 – 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 Paidopoleis.
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 forced her to temporarily seek refuge in a stranger’s house. Her interference in politics was harshly criticized and possibly the most significant factor in the strengthening of republican sentiments.
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 Royal 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.
In response she renounced her apanage and 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’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.
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 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. 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.