CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With King Constantine of Greece
Aired April 26, 2002 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, what's it really like to be royal? And can monarchy survive the 21st century? Exclusive insights from a king who lost a throne. He's Prince William's godfather, Prince Charles' third cousin, and brother to the queen of Spain. He's Greece's exiled King Constantine, and he's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It's a great pleasure to welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, as our special guest tonight, King Constantine of Greece. He has been in exile since being deposed by military coup in 1967. The Greek monarchy eventually abolished by referendum in December of 1974. And he resides in London. And there is much to talk about.
What is the hardest thing about being in exile, Your Majesty?
CONSTANTINE: I think definitely the worst thing of all is missing your country, missing the people in the country, missing taking your family and showing them the country, seeing your children grow up in your own homeland, living in your own house, being in your own environment. Those are the basic things that are the worst things of living in exile.
KING: Historically, Your Majesty, what was the reason that Greece overthrew its royalty?
CONSTANTINE: We had in 1967, unfortunately, a very dark period in our history when the military made a coup d'etat and took over the country. I had to swear in that government, because the government of the day -- and something in the range between 6,000 to 8,000 people, and all my staff, were arrested within probably under two hours.
And the first priority I had at the time was to try and prevent a civil war between units of the army. And therefore, I swore in the government and tried to figure out a best way possible to overthrow them as soon as possible and restore democracy.
The opportunity came on the 13th of December of that year, and unfortunately I was unsuccessful. But I at least did something about it, and then I had to leave the country. A lot of the offices in the armed forces from all sides -- air force, navy and army -- joined me and were very badly treated. But at least, we all made the major effort to free our country from that dictatorship.
KING: And you were only 26 years old, right?
CONSTANTINE: Then I went into exile in Italy.
KING: You were only 26 at the time?
CONSTANTINE: I was 26 years old, that's correct.
KING: And you went to Italy and now reside -- how long have you been in London?
CONSTANTINE: I came to London in 1974, because in 1973, the Greek Royal Navy made an uprising to restore the constitutional monarchy and democracy in Greece. That also failed. And then the Greek dictators abolished the monarchy, and then I went into exile into England. That was in '74.
KING: And what does a king in exile do? In other words -- are you -- who established -- what are you -- well, back to the original, what does an exiled king do in London?
CONSTANTINE: That's a good question. Basically, what I do -- if you can say that there's one benefit of being in exile, has been the fact that I have much more time to see my children grow up. This was a great opportunity for me, because if you are head of state, you are very busy, and you don't have all that chance. This way, I did have the chance to see my children grow up, go through schooling. We established a grade school in London. And then they went off to university.
And then my wife and I, we had two further children much later on in life, and they are now going through school. And in fact, they will probably be going to the States to study within the next year or so.
KING: And, Your Majesty, how are you supported? Are there funds made available to a king in exile?
CONSTANTINE: There are no funds made available to a king in exile. And that's something that I have to myself try to do, to look after my own family.
KING: And do you go to work?
CONSTANTINE: I have an office in London which basically keeps me in touch with what goes on in my own homeland. The reason this is happening is, first of all, there are a lot of people who want to come and see me from all walks of life from the country, and all ages. Predominantly, at the moment, it's young people. Just to give you an indication, the mail that I receive from Greece has now exceeded over 100,000 letters a year. So that's an enormous amount of work for a few people in a small office in London.
KING: Can we say then, Your Majesty, that if royalty were to return, if things changed, you would go home tomorrow?
CONSTANTINE: My intention is to go home as soon as possible, but it doesn't necessarily have to be because the monarchy's restored. At the moment, Larry, the Greek people in 1974 had a referendum. They decided they wanted to have a republic, and that is totally acceptable to me. And I have repeatedly said that I accept the republic and I accept the laws of the land, and that is not a problem for me.
What I would love to do now is to go back home with my family and live like normal Greeks and get on with life. This is the dream I have at the moment.
KING: And why can't you do that?
CONSTANTINE: Well, at the moment, I'm in the courts with the Greek government, because they have made every effort to take away my home, and I've been fighting that in the European court of human rights.
The initial stage, we had to go through the commission in the European court, and that voted -- 30 judges voted unanimously that I had a case. That was sent to the court in November of 2000, and there, 15 judges to two, decided that that property, that house is mine. And therefore, I've been doing every effort I can to find ways to get the house back.
Unfortunately, I have had no success in trying to persuade the government to negotiate. Because if they don't return it, the court will impose a compensation fee, and I hate the idea that the Greek people will have to -- or the Greek taxpayer will have to pay money for that, where all they've got to do really is give me my home back.
KING: And why don't they?
CONSTANTINE: It's a very difficult question to answer. I think, you know, the result of this will be that I will just have to go and buy something else. And I have no idea why they're so adamant not to allow my wife and children and myself to live back in our own house. It's very sad, and I've tried everything I can. And I still hope that they will do it.
Of course, the answer -- you know, it's a very difficult battle for one individual like myself to fight against a whole state. Government newspapers, for instance, in 1999, produced an extraordinary figure of $1.5 billion that I am asking for in compensation. In fact, I am asking for nothing in compensation.
The problem is that the court said to the Greek government and to me, "Please tell us what you think is the value of this man's home." They went to a very reputable firm who said that my property is worth $470 million.
And I went to another firm, and they said my property is worth $400 million. So mine was less than theirs.
But I still believe that it is unnecessary to go through this, that all we have to sit down around the table and have a discussion about it and see if we can't come to some sensible accommodation.
KING: One would think all things are negotiable. You are -- I want to get this right -- related to most of European royalty. Your wife, Princess Anne Marie of Denmark. Your sister Sophia is married to King Juan Carlos of Spain. You're second cousin to Prince Phillip, third cousin to Prince Charles, godfather to Prince William. How did all this happen?
CONSTANTINE: It's part of European history, I think. There is an interesting thing that -- a lot of people felt that Queen Victoria was a sort of grandmother of Europe and King Christian IX was considered to be the grandfather figure of Europe, because their children married different kings and different queens.
And there's a very famous story, that a lot of royalty would meet in the Royal Park in Copenhagen for their summer holidays in the late 1800s. And as they were walking and joking like every family, they met a gentleman who was completely lost. So he said to the old king of Denmark, "Can you show me the way out of this place?" And he said, "Sure, just follow us."
So as they walked through the park, he noticed that they were all very happily joking and laughing, and when they came out of the park, he said to the king, "Thank you for this. Who do I have the pleasure of talking to?" And the old king said, "Well, I'm actually the king of Denmark, and that's my elder son, the crown prince of Denmark. And that's my second son, the king of Greece. And that's my grandson, the crown prince of Greece. And that's my daughter, the queen of England. That's my other daughter, the empress of Russia. And that's my third daughter, the duchess of Cumberland." And the man looked at him in amazement and took his hat off and said, "Thank you, sir. I'm Jesus Christ." And he walked straight away.
KING: We will take a break and come back. Lots more to talk about with King Constantine of Greece, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. It's our privilege to have as our special guest tonight King Constantine of Greece.
We know you're very close to the British family. You just attended a memorial service for Princess Margaret. And we know you know Prince William rather well; you're one of his godfathers. How's he doing? How's he going to do in life, this young, handsome man with all the focus on him?
CONSTANTINE: The young man is doing extremely well. And, you know, Larry, the great thing for me is that I'm extremely proud of him, and it's nice to be proud of somebody for whom you have absolutely no responsibility.
(LAUGHTER) He's a wonderful young man, and he's taking after his father and his mother. He's doing extremely well. And, you know, I think in the future it's only good horizons in front.
You're right that I did go today to the memorial service for Princess Margaret. And as you probably know, about a week ago we had the funeral of the Queen Mother.
She was a great figure. It's an interesting thing, when she first married her husband, who was then the duke of York, and she came into the family, into the royal family from nobility in England, she very quickly, without realizing this was going to happen, became the queen when her husband became king when his brother abdicated. Fairly quickly after that, she became the mother figure of this country, and when she lost her husband, she became the grandmother figure.
And I think that came also because of both of them played this crucial role during the Nazi bombardment of this country and lifted the morale of the people. So she had this -- you know, she had this thing that a lot of people have who, it doesn't matter if they're a queen or not, are the center of attention. She had that kind of a personality, that kind of gentleness that became immediately a magnet.
KING: Someone who changed the room when they entered the room.
Back to Prince William...
CONSTANTINE: That's right. KING: Back to Prince William, there's so much expectation about him, Your Majesty. He's supposed to save the British royal family. First of all, is that too much to expect? And how much is he up to?
I think that the young man, when his time comes, and it's hopefully a long way away, will do extremely well. He is now just going through his university. He then probably will have a stint in the armed forces, I don't know what exactly.
But all the signs are that this is a young man who's going to do extremely well. And he's got an exceptional father who will guide him through it. That's a man who will be, in my opinion, the philosopher king when his time comes.
KING: And he has grown. When Princess Di -- when that tragedy happened, there was a lot of down feelings toward your friend Prince Charles. That has changed quite a bit, his image has gone way up. Were those who were critical wrong about him, or has he changed?
CONSTANTINE: No, I think that, because I know him that well, it's not a question that he has changed. He's the same man. He's a very sensitive and hardworking man. He's a man of great sense of humor and great intellect. And I think that it's just that the circumstances in his life have been such that you now see this coming forward. But I do believe that he will be the personification of what I call the philosopher king.
One has to take into consideration in this the fact that he has got also the luck of exceptional parents. Now, the day after tomorrow will be, on the 21st, will be the birthday of the queen, and I think this country is extremely lucky to have such a stabling force as the queen is herself.
KING: Do you expect, is there a possibility she might step down and hand the throne over to your friend Charles? Do you think that is a distinct possibility?
CONSTANTINE: I have no knowledge of that. I have no knowledge of that. But I would have thought that that is not something that is really in the tradition in this country. It does happen in some of the constitutional monarchies in Europe, but it's not a tradition here. And it's only happened, I think, in one or two countries in Europe that have constitutional monarchies.
KING: Do you expect him to marry Mrs. Bowles?
CONSTANTINE: I have no idea. Honestly, I really don't have any idea about that.
KING: Do you know her well, Your Majesty?
CONSTANTINE: I have met her on many occasions, and she's a charming lady.
KING: What was the impact on all of the royals, and you were there, of Princess Di?
CONSTANTINE: Well, she had a great impact in this country, and I think that's common knowledge. And she was a very nice lady that I knew very well, and she had a great impact in this country, there's no question about that.
KING: How about Prince Philip, a strong man, but he has to walk behind the queen? That must be one of the toughest, if it can be called jobs, there is, is it not?
CONSTANTINE: Well, I suppose that that's something that he realized from the day he fell in love with her and married her. And being a good Greek prince, he's doing his job extremely well.
KING: He sure did.
Are you very fond of this queen?
CONSTANTINE: Extremely fond of her. And I value her counsel. She's a lady who's got enormous experience. And she's really quite a remarkable lady, and this country, I think, is extremely lucky to have her as the head of state.
KING: Your Majesty, is royalty a burden?
CONSTANTINE: You get used to it. You're born into it, so one gets -- in fact, you do get used to it. And it's not something that is -- it might be more difficult coming into it.
I can tell you that on that particularly point, you know how quite old people remember easily things that happened a long time ago? And I remember once the Queen Mother was telling me that when she married the duke of York, she met my great grandmother, Queen Olga of Greece, who was the daughter of Grand Duke Constantine of Russia, who was the younger brother of Czar Alexander II. And she married my great grandfather, King George I of Greece, at the age of 16.
And she came to England just after Queen Mother married the duke of York, and realized that the Queen Mother was sitting quite quietly in a corner, and called her over, and gently started to tell her what people would expect of her as being now a princess.
And she said to me, "You know, I will always be very grateful to your great grandmother, who realized that I had some anxieties in the new role that I was going to play." Now, that's a little anecdote of my family that I haven't said before.
KING: Very interesting. Why is it important for a country to have a king or a queen?
CONSTANTINE: It's, in my opinion, important for a country to have the type of government that they want. And I'm absolutely convinced that where you have, for instance, in my country, or for that matter your country, where you have a republic, the people are extremely happy with a republic and they should, you know, get on with it and enjoy it. But there are a lot of countries around the world that have constitutional monarchies, and they are very progressive and extremely democratic. And we have examples of that in this country and in Europe, like in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, the Benelux countries.
So where the people want that system, it seems to work, and it should be good to let them have it. Where the people have republics and they're successful, that's fine with me.
KING: As President Kennedy once said, what most people would probably like is a kind king.
We'll take a break and come back with King Constantine of Greece. He is in exile in London. Fascinating. Don't go away.
KING: We're back on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Our honored guest is King Constantine of Greece. He comes to us from where his current residence is, which is London.
The polls show that there's now a great increase in Great Britain to support its monarchy, especially since the death of the Queen Mum. There was a time when that was on the decrease. Does that surprise you?
CONSTANTINE: No, it doesn't surprise me. But when I'm not very much in favor of following polls on these sort of issues, because it doesn't really make much sense. It's nice to see a nice poll, and it's upsetting to see a bad poll. But you have to get on with your life and do the work that you know you have to do for the benefit of the people.
The basic thing for a sovereign king or a queen of a country is service to the people. And other than that, there is no agenda, and you don't have what a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) politician would have, who has to strive to get to that chair and be in power. The sovereign doesn't have that and doesn't need that.
KING: Why do you think Americans -- and I know you've visited the United States; I want to talk some about that -- are so fascinated with royalty, especially British royalty?
CONSTANTINE: I don't know. It's very hard to say. I do remember as a very young child, when I was about 12, that my father and mother paid a state visit to your country, and I remember they were telling me, and I got it from a lot of sources, of the excitement that was in the United States -- because they travelled through the whole country -- when they met them.
There is this phenomenon that you describe. It's very nice to see it. I don't know why it's there. Probably you would know better.
But they did go throughout the whole country, and they even ended up in Hollywood. And I remember, as a small boy, the film came out which was called "White Christmas." And...
CONSTANTINE: Rosemary Clooney?
KING: That's right.
CONSTANTINE: And I remember at the end of the film, on the stage, as the film ends, you can see my father and my mother. And that was a special clip that they had done in the studio for them, and we, as children, thought that was very exciting.
KING: Boy, we're learning a lot here tonight.
You visited the United States as a prince. I understand you met President Eisenhower. You got a speeding ticket and the president knew about that? What's that story?
CONSTANTINE: Well, the president of the United States, Eisenhower, was a very close personal friend of my father. And my father called me one day into his office, and he said, "Pack your bags and go to the United States." And I said, "What am I going to do there?" I was about -- just 18. And he said, "You're going to be a guest of Eisenhower, and you're going to travel throughout the whole of the country and see all the industrial and military complexes. You're going to go to all the universities and see them, and spend the next year doing just that."
And I was extremely lucky because that was -- I had to grow up very quickly. I was not allowed to take anybody from my homeland with me. I had never written a speech by myself before. I had never given a press conference before. In fact, I had never cashed a check or bought an airline ticket before.
And so, when I arrived in the United States I had to do all that, and you grow up very quickly then.
And one day I was driving a car with a cousin of mine, and we skidded across a red light, and we collided with another car which a lady was driving. Thank goodness no harm was done to her, but I had smashed the lamp on the left side, and she said, "Let's exchange papers," and we did. And then the police turned up. I told them who I was, but they wouldn't believe me.
So I was locked in with my cousin in jail until the sergeant on duty released us. When I went to say goodbye to the president at the White House, the most influential man next to him was a gentleman by the name of Haggerty.
KING: Jim Haggerty.
CONSTANTINE: I came there with the Greek ambassador, aged -- yes. He was the press secretary. And they both told me that I had only 20 minutes with the president as a courtesy protocol visit, and in and out. And I said, "Fine, but I have a message from my father, the king, on the negotiations between Greece and Turkey on Cyprus." And they said, "I'm afraid you can't give any messages. This is a courtesy call and you're out."
So I got there, and the president was very kind to me. And I sat with the ambassador, Mr. Haggerty, and we talked about my visit. And then slowly, slowly -- you know, he had this very gentle way of talking to young people, and he gave me courage. And I turned around to him and I said, "You know, sir, I have a message from my father, the king." "You do?" And he looked at Haggerty and the Greek ambassador and said, "You both can leave the room right now."
And I stayed alone with him, gave him the message which took 30 seconds, and he kept me there for about 40 minutes, talking to me about the war, about the leaders he had met. You know, I never opened my mouth; I just listened.
And when I left the Oval Office, at the door he called me back, and he said, "Young man, come here." And I came back and I said, "Yes, Mr. President?" And he said, "What's this I hear about you going to jail?" I said, "Mr. President" -- I had no idea that he knew about that. And he said, "I don't mind you being picked up by the police in my country. What I want to know is, are you going to tell you dad or am I?"
I said, "No, I think I better tell him."
KING: You were in the United States in 1990 for an unveiling of a statue. You've been to South Carolina early in the year with Prince Charles. You visited Ground Zero. And the one church destroyed at Ground Zero in the terrorism of 9/11 was a Greek Orthodox church.
What was that like for you to go to that spot in New York?
CONSTANTINE: I think it's probably easily to say the most devastating thing to see. It just -- I mean, it's virtually impossible to describe it in words, the horror of what we saw. And I can imagine the horror of what people went through there. I mean, it's just a nightmare.
And you're right to say that was the only place of worship that was destroyed.
I've been in touch, actually yesterday, with the Greek Archbishop Demetrius (ph) of America. And he told me that Governor Dukakis has been very helpful in letting them start again.
I know that the Greek government has given half a million dollars. The mayor of Athens has given $400,000. I know that the town of Badia (ph) has given money. Qatar has given money. Even, I'm told, that there's a little town in Connecticut, which has a street called St. Nicholas, and the people there, who have come from all denominations and all ethnic backgrounds, felt so much for the fact that we lost our church there that they also contributed just because their street was called St. Nicholas. And that, I think, is a very touching thing that they have done.
And one thing I have asked the archbishop, and I think he's quite agreed upon, that we should have in the area next to the church when it's rebuilt a place for all religious denominations to be able to go and worship and pray.
KING: We'll be right back with more of King Constantine of Greece on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Stay right there.
KING: We're back with King Constantine of Greece.
And by the way, it is Governor Pataki of New York. We mispronounce many things...
CONSTANTINE: That's correct.
KING: ... in our country, as well.
And I know you have great love for our country. Your children have gone to a university in this country, have they not? CONSTANTINE: Yes. Two of my sons have been to university in your country. One was in Georgetown, the other one was in Brown. And my youngest daughter is coming over shortly to university, and my little boy is coming over to finishing school there.
My wife and I, we were very lucky. We had three children to begin with, and then they all left the house. And then, we had a choice of either selling the house or starting a family again. So we started again, so we've not got a young daughter, 18; a young boy of 15.
KING: Now, not many people may know this, but you are an Olympic gold medalist. You won the gold medal for sailing in the 1960 Olympics in Rome. The Olympics where Cassius Clay won the heavyweight boxing title. It was the first gold medal Greece had won in 50 years. You remain very close to the Olympics. You attended it in Salt Lake.
What was it like to win the gold?
CONSTANTINE: It's interesting that you mentioned Cassius Clay or Muhammad Ali, because I remember watching him win his gold medal the day after I had won mine.
It is an amazing feeling for a young man, or a young girl for that matter. I mean, anybody at that age that I was -- 18, 19 or 20 -- to see the Greek flag go up, to hear the national anthem of your country, to feel that you have won a medal for your country, not for yourself, is probably the most wonderful feeling I've ever had, other than getting engaged to my wife.
KING: Do you still sail?
CONSTANTINE: I do sail but not very often anymore, because where I live is quite far from the sea, and it is not very practical for me to have a boat here. If I'd lived, let's say, in Athens or in any other part of the world where I'm on the sea, and especially the Mediterranean Sea, which is warmer than it is up here, then I would probably be sailing now still.
KING: How well did Salt Lake City do, in your estimation, in presenting the Olympics?
CONSTANTINE: In my estimation, Salt Lake City was a great success. The organization was absolutely stupendous.
You know, Larry, one of the -- well, probably the two most important things for an Olympics to succeed -- and we are going through that now ourselves -- is first, that the home team does well. That is a very important thing, because that brings in all the public.
And the second thing is the volunteers. Now, that was a resounding success in Sydney and it was a great success in Salt Lake City, because all these people give their own time and their free will. And they're all professional people who do hard work. And they do that just to help their own city and help the Olympic spirit.
KING: What did you make, Your Majesty, of the fuss over the figure skating and the judging?
CONSTANTINE: I didn't make too much about it. I think that the decision was correct. I mean, when you come to the situation where you find that one particular judge says herself that she did something wrong, then I think that the decision to give the next group the gold medal is the correct one. And these things happen, and I think that the federation is now going to look into it very carefully and see what they can do about all these problems.
But in major Olympic games like that, you're going to have these little hiccups. But I think that the Games can be considered a great success.
KING: Now, you're going to have Olympics coming in Athens. Wouldn't that be a nice time for you to be home?
CONSTANTINE: I'll be there. And I feel, you know, Larry, as a Greek and as a person who won a gold medal for my country, I will be there in my homeland. And I'm absolutely convinced they're going to do a superb job in the games.
We are, in some aspects, actually, way ahead of schedule. We have a very good team in place organizing it. It's led by an extraordinary lady. And her team of young people -- I've met them all -- they are really doing a superb job. The government is working very hard. A lot of the works are progressing very well. And I'm actually very optimistic that the whole thing will be superbly done. No question that we lost a little time, but they're catching up very, very quickly.
KING: So you will go whether you're back home in your house or not?
CONSTANTINE: I will go, yes, no matter if I have my home given back to me or not. I will be back in my country for the Olympics. And I couldn't even dream of not being there.
And you probably know that the Olympic Games were started by a French nobleman by the name of Pierre de Coubertin. And he actually went to my great-grandfather, King George I, and discussed it with him, because he couldn't start Olympic Games without Greeks supporting it. And when he saw that the king and the crown prince were in favor, and that a lot of other people in Greece were in favor, then he realized that we have a good change of doing this.
And the interesting thing is that there was a famous German architect called Phillip (ph). And he bought the whole area near the Olympic stadium in Athens. And shortly after that, he had some financial problems, and my great-grandfather bought it from him. And that whole land, he gave it as a gift to the Greek Olympic Committee so they could finish the stadium.
I don't know, Larry, if you've been to Athens, but...
KING: I have not.
CONSTANTINE: ... it's a marvelous stadium which is next to where the presidential palace is.
KING: I've never been to Greece, but I'd love to go to the Olympics, and I think I will. That's the perfect place for an Olympics to be held, by the way, of course. Athens is so logical.
What about stories about cities and bribes and payoffs to get the Olympics to come to their city? Didn't that bother you?
CONSTANTINE: No, it didn't, because there were no bribes and no payoffs in the election and selection of Athens. None whatsoever.
KING: Oh, I know that, but I mean in other ones.
CONSTANTINE: In other ones, yes, you're right. We went through that. And it was a very depressing period of the International Olympic Committee.
The one thing that I did approve of was how quickly the International Olympic Committee dealt with that problem. They immediately summoned groups of people who were outside the Olympic family to help to change all our rules. And we've rewritten the charter, and in fact we're going, in November, to Mexico to ratify all that. And I think that the president of the International Olympic Committee at the time, Mr. Samaranch, worked very, very fast and very effectively to clean out all that very disagreeable period.
We are now actually, as you know, we've got a new president, a young man -- and I say young because he's younger that I am, anyway -- who is a sailor and a very, very good president. And I think we are on the right track to move ahead, and I'm very optimistic.
KING: Back with more of King Constantine of Greece on this special edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: We're back with King Constantine.
I'm sorry I had to interrupt your thought. Do you want to finish the thought about the Olympics?
CONSTANTINE: I was just going to say that in 1965 the International Olympic Committee were meeting in Madrid, and I had the chance to go there as a member, but I was also head of state. And I recommended to them to the Olympic committee that every four years instead of the Olympic games going to a different city that they should go back to their homeland in Olympia.
And that we should have the Olympic games there every four years, no matter what crisis is going on in the world that every would know that they would meet in Olympia and assemble there. Unfortunately, it wasn't accepted, and now of course things will change and it will never happen.
But it was a suggestion that I thought would be beneficial, because you remember, we went through all these things about boycotts and all kinds of political things in the Olympics. It was very sad.
KING: You know, what is it -- how early on, when you're born royal -- when did you realize you were different?
CONSTANTINE: I can't remember exactly what the quotation is from Shakespeare's Shylock. But it's pretty much the same that, "If you tickle us, we laugh. And if you prick us, we'll bleed." You don't realize that until suddenly when you're a little bit older, you suddenly realize there are a lot of security people around you.
But, you know, you get -- as I said before, you get used to that very quickly, and it becomes sort of part of your persona. But of course, the security measures we had at that time were not comparable with what people have nowadays, which is 10 times more.
KING: When, Your Majesty, you were removed from the throne, did you ever fear for your life or your family's life?
CONSTANTINE: Well, the Greek dictators tried to assassinate me twice when I left the country, but thank God, they were unsuccessful. But other than that, I've never had a threat against me at all, and I've never feared for my life. And we go around now in England or when I come to the States like everybody else does, without any trouble at all. No problem.
KING: There are still some who were hurt by the fact that you took a photograph with the generals who overthrew the government. In retrospect, would you change that?
CONSTANTINE: Probably yes.
The reason that I did that -- it was a very, very specific reason. When the coup happened in Greece -- and you know, it's very difficult to describe that horror of being woken up by my secretary. And I could hear the machine-gun bullets flying through his house through the telephone.
And I very quickly came to realize that the Greek government had disappeared; they were all arrested, and everybody else arrested. So I found out that I was alone trying to deal with this horrendous problem.
And you then try to figure out what is the most important thing to do next. And the thing that was in my mind was that Greece, under no circumstances whatsoever, should end up in civil war. I could see there was that possibility, that military units will clash with military units. And I felt the most important thing for me to do was to gain time so that I could then regain control and try and overthrow the colonels and bring democracy back to Greece.
So that's why, when I swore in the government, and they had taken over all the radio stations and all the press and everybody was under lock and key -- how do I get a message across to the Greek people that I'm totally opposed to these dictators? So the only way I could think about it was to ask. I personally asked for a photograph of myself with the cabinet, the dictators' cabinet.
And everybody knows that most of the time I'm smiling or joking or laughing, and I put on a very, very stony face, which was not difficult to do under the circumstances, so that people could realize that the king was unhappy and that this was not of his doing.
And, you know, when the coup happened, I could hear on the radio that I was in charge of the coup, that I was doing it. And I was sitting there with my wife in our room, listening to the radio.
KING: How, Your Majesty, did you get out of the country?
CONSTANTINE: We left from the north of Greece on the 13th of December when I mobilized armed forces to overthrow the dictators and restore democracy. And when I realized that this was going to be unsuccessful, then I just flew out in the most dramatic of circumstances, after giving orders that every kind of military action should cease, because I didn't want again bloodshed in the country.
I can't think of anything worse than people killing each other over some issue like that, even though it means that your country's going into the black, dark period. And so we flew out with my family, and we landed in Rome with all the red lights in the cockpit flashing that we had run out of fuel. We had less than three minutes' fuel when we touched down.
KING: How difficult is it...
CONSTANTINE: And I forgot to mention that in the process of all this tragedy, my wife and I -- we lost a child. We lost a baby.
KING: Oh really? In pregnancy or at birth?
CONSTANTINE: Yes, the queen was expecting, and she lost the baby because of this calamity and this horrendous period that we had to go through.
It's very difficult for people to understand what it's like to be responsible for the safety of your country, responsible for the constitution of your country, and nowhere to turn to because everybody is arrested, everybody's gone. And so the only thing I could do was to try and gain time and try to overthrow these people.
KING: Difficult to raise children being in royalty?
CONSTANTINE: No, it's not very difficult. I think that we should do exactly what everybody else do, and that is be firm, give them a loving family and firm upbringing, and then give them all the options. Show them what is possible in life, and let them choose for themselves what they want to do with themselves.
And I think that the fact that most of them went to the United States was a great help. My eldest child is my daughter. She became a teacher, and she is now married to a Spanish architect. And she teaches children who are suffering from Downs Syndrome. And my eldest son lives in the States and has got three children, and he works in New York. My younger son works for me here in London. And as I said, my 18-year-old daughter and 15-year-old son are coming to the States to further their studies in your country.
KING: And we'll be back with our remaining moments with His Majesty, King Constantine of Greece, right after this.
KING: We're back with King Constantine of Greece.
In our remaining moments, tell us about the Crown Prince Pavlos, when he married Marie-Chantel, that made a lot of press in July of 1995. Probably the biggest gathering of European royals since Diana married Charles. She is the daughter of Robert Miller. She and her sisters are darlings of the fashion magazines.
What was all of that like for you?
For me, the most important thing is that, whoever my children marry, that they love them. That is the most important thing.
Now, the fact that my son fell in love with a beautiful girl and is happily married, with three wonderful grandchildren that I have now, is something that's superb for me, and I'm very grateful to both of them. And also, I've got another grandchild from my daughter now, so I'm even happier.
And I wish them all the best, and I hope that they come and live with us here in England soon, because I would want to be closer to my grandchildren.
But could I say two things before we leave?
KING: You sure can.
CONSTANTINE: Would that be all right?
CONSTANTINE: There are two things that concern me, and that is the way the world situation is developing. And I feel that it might be an idea if the Security Council of the United Nations would find a group of people that they would sponsor to look at trouble spots way in advance, before they have to actually get up and start bombing. I mean, I think that listening to people's whispering prayers before they become shouts of anger behind a gun is very important.
I would like to see in my part of the world, for instance, people like Bulgaria and Romania coming into NATO so that their democracy would be established. I think it's very important that places like the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia and Albania come closer to the Atlantic alliance. They should, perhaps -- Bulgaria and Romania -- join the European Union later on. But first, NATO. I think that's very important.
I'm very keen to see an agreement coming in Cyprus. Cyprus, as you know, will be joining, I hope, the European Union within this year, if that's possible.
These are things that I think must happen, and I would like to see more effort done in getting people closer together. And that's why I have started these schools that I work with. They're called the Round Square, where we have schools from all over the world, where we have students who interact with each other from a very early age. Because if they don't start understanding each other from a very young age, there is no hope.
CONSTANTINE: And I persuaded people like Nelson Mandela and the Duke of York to join me in this effort. And this organization is doing very well now at the moment.
KING: I salute you. It's very wise.
Another thing. Have you noticed in coming to America a difference in the spirit, going back to Eisenhower, to the post-9/11 days? Did you notice in Salt Lake a different kind of America than pre-9/11?
CONSTANTINE: Probably a more united America. I think that the United States, through its history, has shown that when they are threatened, they are more united. And I think that's natural, that happens probably to most people. But especially after this huge trauma that the United States has gone through, they are all united.
And what worries me most for the United States is the efforts that the president is doing now, to build this coalition against terrorism, should not be undermined by what's going on in the Middle East at the moment, which is tragic.
KING: Do you see a light at the end of that tunnel, by the way?
CONSTANTINE: I do, because I've met the secretary of state, General Powell, who I think is an exceptional man, and I think his efforts will work. And I think you've got extraordinary people like Shimon Peres, who is an extraordinary man. I think that a lot of people in the Arab community, like the king of Jordan and Mubarak, and they will all help.
And I think that if we can persuade people: Step back a little bit. Leave your ego outside. And just sit down and work this thing through. Please try it.
KING: If it happens with Greeks and Turks, it could happen with anyone, right?
CONSTANTINE: Yes, sir, that's absolutely correct. And I think that what Greece and Turkey's doing is very admirable. I think that the Greek effort is very good. I support it, especially if we stick to the international treaties and we don't try to push each other's borders around. Not only Greece and Turkey, but other countries too. We mustn't play around with people's borders, because that causes problems.
And let's do another thing, too. Let's start in the schools, teaching young people the history of the other country. Because they're not all bad. And not all teach them that only we are good. Teach everybody else, that they are also quite good. Get them, from a young age, together. That's very important.
KING: Your Majesty, will monarchy survive this century?
CONSTANTINE: Without any doubt, I think that it will, only because of one thing: And that is because the people which have that monarchy, wish it. If they don't wish it, it won't. And I believe they do want it, because it's very stable for those countries. It's very progressive for those countries. And it will be there.
KING: May I say, Your Majesty, this has been a delight. I've looked forward to it. Wonderful talking with you. And I look forward to meeting you in person in Athens at the next Olympics.
CONSTANTINE: Thank you, Larry, very much. It was nice to be on your program again. Thank you.
KING: King Constantine of Greece, on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE.
Stay tuned for "NEWSNIGHT" with Aaron Brown.
I'm Larry King. For my guest and yours truly, good night.
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