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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 2 June 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 2 JUNE 2018 9 The artist formerly known as Prince Nikolaos Someone should explain to the Hellenic Museum that Greece has no royals anymore COMMENT LETTER Why ‘Prince’ Nikolaos? ‘Just like a former US president, the title is kept for life,’ argues Theo Zographos A photographic exhibition by Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark is being launched at the Hellenic Museum in Melbourne. Titled ‘Phos: A Journey of Light’, the photos were captured in Greece where he has lived since 2013, and where his family once reigned and his father was sovereign. It will be another of many visits to Melbourne by members of the royal family since the Greek constitution was changed in the 1970s. NIKOS FOTAKIS The timing could not be better. At a time when people are still drooling over Harry and Meghan's royal wedding, the Hellenic Museum is welcoming a prince, albeit not in his capacity as a royal – royal titles are not recognised by the Greek constitution – but in that of a landscape photographer. To be precise, today the wonderful museum hosts the opening of the exhibition 'Phos: a Journey of Light', featuring the work of the son of Greece’s dethroned king, showcasing breathtaking and dreamlike landscapes of Greece. A first glimpse of the works in question definitely justifies the choice of the brilliant museum to host the exhibition, alongside the other permanent and periodical exhibitions: the Benaki collection, Bill Henson's 'Oniroi', and the work of the great Alekos Fassianos. Still, the term 'Prince Nikolaos' is not easy to swallow. Yes, we live in the postmodern era, when each and every one of us is absolutely free to form their own identity, often creating it from scratch, building our own narratives, our own subjective truth. So yes, anyone is free to call themselves as they like, be it Lady Gaga, Childish Gambino, Banksy or Prince Nikolaos. But this is not the case, here. This is not the eccentric moniker of a postmodern artist. No, if anything, Nikolaos, born and raised with the word 'prince' attached to his name, is a man carrying a ti- tle that is in itself a relic of pre-modern times. That is a very heavy burden to wish upon anybody. Imagine having a name that is a constant reminder of a fall from grace, like the one of the photographer's father. The official name of the dethroned monarch is 'Constantine, former King, of Paul' - this is how he was written down in the official public records of Greece when he had to apply for a social security number, in order to be able to manage his property and pay taxes for it. This happened because, despite the fact that the Greek state requires that all citizens are registered with a first and last name, Constantine insists on his refusal to present any family name, under the pretence that "none of the kings of the Hellenes had a last name, but only their Christian one." Of course, Constantine was in a way vindicated by the State Council, Greece's supreme court, which recognised that "the former king of the Hellenes, already dethroned according to the result of the referendum of 8 December 1974, is deprived of a last name, due to historical circumstances". As a result, for the past quarter of a century, his title regarding Greece is 'Constantine, former king of the Hellenes', with the State Council clearly stating that the term 'former king' is not a royal title, given that the Hellenic Constitution forbids royal titles, but rather an identity definition, an adjective of sorts, given that Constantine has no last name. In the official former royal family website, the patriarch explains that he prefers to be addressed as "King Constantine, former King of the Hellenes", stating that the same stands for the rest of his family. Which means that the photographer whose work is featured at the Hellenic Museum is indeed called ‘Prince Nikolaos’, but this is just an adjective, not a royal title. Which means that the Hellenic Museum is totally out of line, prefacing his name with the letters HRH. In fact, if they wanted to follow a protocol, they might have searched and found out that under Hellenic monarchy protocol, the spawn of kings were not called 'princes' and 'princesses', but 'king's children' ('Βασιλόπαιδες'). But 'King's Child Nikolaos' doesn't have the same ring to it, does it? It sounds a bit silly. What is even sillier is this long-standing view that the title stands despite the fact that the office is abolished. Royal titles are absolutely tied to positions. Kings and queens represent sovereign states and people. A king without a kingdom reigns over nothing. It's the same with a prince representing people who have abolished royal titles. The whole thing would be an amusing nonsense, but the referendum to decide on Greece's system of government was no joke. It took place when democracy was reinstated in Greece after seven years of the brutal dictatorship. By abolishing the monarchy, the Greek people punished Constantine for his responsibility in causing a constitutional crisis that eventually created a fertile ground for the junta. Apart from notoriously disrespecting the elected prime minister of Greece, Constantine had also been conspiring with the heads of the armed forces to hold a military coup of his own when he was sidelined by the hotheaded colonels. The abolition of monarchy in Greece is a very serious issue that defines history, not to be approached with the light, ‘anything goes’ manner one approaches celebrity culture. For the Hellenic Museum to recognise a royal title is an insult to democratic Greeks, if not towards the Hellenic Republic itself. It is a pity that a cultural organisation that is doing such excellent work falls into this trap. And this has nothing to do with the artistic value of the exhibition. As far as anyone is concerned, Nikolaos may be a great artist and an inspired photographer. But he's no royal. And he's definitely no prince of Greece. The great success of the Australian royal family, epitomised by the recent wedding at Windsor and the enormous interest by everyday people proves that such institutions can have a powerful positive impact in the 21st century. Recently, Crown Prince Pavlos helped bring the Prince's Trust International to Greece, helping young people gain employment and start their own businesses, a useful initiative in a country with a burgeoning rate of youth unemployment. He also serves as the Chairman of the Prince's Trust International's Global Advisory Board. Prince Charles, son of another Greek prince, was received warmly last month in Athens and Crete with large crowds greeting him in every place visited over a three-day visit. Even Princess Theodora, the younger daughter of the former king and queen, has done a reverseMeghan Markle and is an actor with a long running stint on the Bold and the Beautiful. It is fascinating to wonder what Greece would have achieved if there was stability at the top and the monarchy was allowed to continue with a symbolic yet stable king, one above the very robust domestic Greek politics we have seen since then. The banner in question, as advertised on the Hellenic Museum’s Facebook and website page. I think if he had been given the chance King Constantine would have done a very good job. Certainly, as one gets older he learns from youthful mistakes we all have made. Reintroducing the monarchy in Greece would bring a rich vitality to the nation. The tourism dollars alone would make it worthwhile. No tourist goes to Greece to see the president. With no known short terms [sic] plans to move in this direction, it might be that a generation would need to be skipped and King Constantine will depart this life as a former king but not the last. He will always be a king though. Just like a former US president, the title is kept for life. One addresses a former US president "Mr President". Likewise with King Constantine, the same formality applies. It is a curtesy that respects the office of head of state or head of government as much as it is to the person who held it. I'm certain though King Constantine or any other members of the family won't cause a fuss if certain prefixes, styles or names aren't used. Like in any democracy, any citizen can call any office holder anything they like if you were to meet them I [sic] the street. Just don't try it in Thailand. However to say that someone like Prince Nikolaos isn't Greek is ridiculous. That his family has made Greece their home is testament to that. I'm sure his exhibition will be a success and it is another coup that the Hellenic Museum has been able to bring it to our city. Having represented Oakleigh for almost six years now, I know the Greek community quite well. They value tradition, family and history. They want to continue the customs that came before them. These same ideals are [sic] underpin all western royal families. The diaspora should be proud to welcome Prince Nikolaos as much as any other person who continues to represent and fight for a better Greece. Doing so adds to the reinvigoration as we move towards a third decade of this century. Theo Zographos is a Monash City councillor and former Liberal Party candidate.
26 May 2018
09 June 2018