Aspasia Manos (4 September 1896 – 7 August 1972), was a Greek commoner who became the wife of Alexander I, King of Greece. Due to the controversy over her marriage, she was styled Madame Manos rather than Queen Aspasia, until recognized as Princess Alexander of Greece and Denmark after Alexander’s death and the restoration of King Constantine I, on 10 September 1922.

Daughter of Colonel Petros Manos, aide of King Constantine I of Greece, Aspasia grew close to the royal family. After the divorce of her parents, she was sent to study in France and Switzerland. She returned to Greece in 1915 and met Prince Alexander, with whom she began and became secretly engaged to, due to the expected refusal of the royal family to recognize the relationship of one Alexander with a woman who didn’t belong to one of the European ruling dynasties.

Meanwhile, the domestic situation of Greece was complicated by World War I. King Constantine I was forced to abdicate in 1917 and Alexander was chosen as sovereign. Separated from his family and subjected to the Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, the new ruler only found comfort in Aspasia. Despite the opposition of his parents (exiled in Switzerland) and Venizelists (who wanted the King marry a British princess), King Alexander I secretly married Aspasia on 17 November 1919. The public revelation of the wedding shortly after caused a huge scandal, and Aspasia was forced to temporarily leave Greece. However, she reunited with her husband after a few months of separation and was then allowed to return to Greece without receiving the title of Queen of the Hellenes. She became pregnant, but the Alexander died on 25 October 1920, less than a year after their marriage.

At the same time, the situation in Greece was deteriorating again: the country was in the middle of a bloody conflict with the Ottoman Empire, Constantine I was restored (19 December 1920) only to be deposed again (27 September 1922), this time in favor of Diadochos George. First excluded from the royal family, Aspasia was gradually integrated after the birth of her daughter Alexandra on 25 March 1921 and later recognized with the title of Princess Alexander of Greece and Denmark after a decree issued by her father-in-law. Nevertheless, her situation remained precarious due to the dislike of her sister-in-law Elisabeth of Romania and the political instability of the country. As the only members of the royal family to be allowed to stay in Greece after the proclamation of the Republic on 25 March 1924, Aspasia and her daughter chose to settle in Florence, with Queen Sophia. They remained there until 1927 then divided their time between the United Kingdom and Venice.

The restoration of the Greek monarchy in 1935 didn’t bring great change in Aspasia’s life. Sheltered by her in-laws, she made the Venetian villa Garden of Eden her main residence, until the outbreak of the Greco-Italian War in 1940. After a brief return to her country, where she worked for the Red Cross, the Princess spent World War II in England. In 1944, her daughter married the exiled King Peter II of Yugoslavia, and Aspasia became a grandmother with the birth of Prince Alexander in 1945. Once peace was restored, Aspasia returned to live in Venice. Her last days were marked by economic hardship, illness and especially worry for her daughter, who made several suicide attempts. Aspasia died in 1972, but it wasn’t until 1993 that her remains were finally transferred to the royal necropolis of Tatoi.

 

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