12 August 2020

Royal Jewel Rewind: The Greek Royal Wedding of 1995

Andrew Winning/AFP via Getty Images

Time for the third installment in this week's series of Greek royal wedding flashbacks! Today, we've got a look back at the wedding of Crown Prince Pavlos and Marie-Chantal Miller in 1995.

King Constantine II (with Princess Alexia) and Queen Anne-Marie (with Crown Prince Pavlos) on the day of Pavlos's christening in Athens, 1967 (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

When we left the Greek royal family yesterday, they had just celebrated the grand wedding of King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie in Athens. The couple quickly welcomed two children: Princess Alexia, born in Corfu in July 1965, and Crown Prince Pavlos, who was born at Tatoi Palace in Athens in May 1967.

The Greek royal family on Pavlos's christening day, 1967 (L-R): Queen Friederike, Queen Anne-Marie (with Crown Prince Pavlos), Princess Alexia, Queen Sofia of Spain, King Constantine II, and (hidden) Princess Irene (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Crown Prince Pavlos's christening was a grand affair held at the Metropolitan Cathedral in Athens, the same place his parents were married three years earlier. His sister, Alexia, had been baptized there as well. A public holiday was declared for the occasion. But trouble, as usual, was already brewing. A month before Pavlos's birth, there was a military coup in Greece ahead of scheduled democratic elections. King Constantine II attempted to launch a counter-coup against the junta in December 1967, but the plan failed.

Baby Pavlos with his father at the airport in London, May 1968 (Ron Case/Keystone/Getty Images)

The Greek royals headed into exile yet again, boarding a plane on December 13, 1967, and flying to Rome. Twenty-seven-year-old King Constantine and 21-year-old Queen Anne-Marie were accompanied by their two small children, as well as Constantine's mother, Queen Friederike, and his sister, Princess Irene. Constantine addressed the media in English in Italy a week later, attempting to explain his actions during the past months: "I didn't leave Greece [in April] because I hoped that by remaining I might be able to convince those in power to return the country to democracy at an early date. Faced with this revolutionary situation, I gave them a chance to prove their announced intentions. As months passed, however, it became clear there was deviation from these intentions. I decided to act. I didn't succeed, but it remains my duty and purpose to restore parliamentary rule to Greece." In another blow to the exiled family, two weeks after their flight from Greece, Queen Anne-Marie miscarried a child.

Crown Prince Pavlos and Princess Alexia arriving in Madrid with their grandmother, Queen Friederike, ca. 1970 (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The family spent months living in the Greek embassy in Rome before relocating to their own home in the city. There, the family added another member: Prince Nikolaos, born in Italy in October 1969. They remained in Italy for five years before relocating briefly to his mother's home country of Denmark. In 1974, the monarchy in Greece was officially abolished in a referendum. The Greek people chose a republic. Constantine indicated that he accepted the will of the people on the matter, saying, "Faithful to my declaration I repeat that true normality, progress and prosperity for our country demand that national unity must come first. I pray with all my heart that future developments may justify the outcome of yesterday's vote." The family established themselves in a home in England, where Pavlos and his siblings were educated, and two more family members were born: Princess Theodora in 1983 and Prince Philippos in 1986. During Pavlos's childhood, the Greek royals only set foot in Greece once, and only for a few hours, to bury Queen Friederike in 1981.

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Without a throne to inherit, Crown Prince Pavlos focused on his education. He was schooled in England and the United States, earning degrees in foreign service from Georgetown University. He ultimately forged a career in investment consulting. He also undertook military training at Sandhurst, following in the footsteps of his grandfather, King Paul.

In 1992, Pavlos was one of the guests at a 40th birthday party for Philip Niarchos, son of the famous Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, in New Orleans. There, he was introduced to a young socialite, Marie-Chantal Miller. The couple's matchmaker was the billionaire banker Alexander Papamarkou, whose father had been one King Paul's trusted aides. Marie-Chantal later told Vanity Fair that, at least for her, the encounter was love at first sight.

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Marie-Chantal (born September 17, 1968) wasn't royal, but she came from an impressive family. Her father, Robert Warren Miller, was an American-British billionaire who gained fame after co-founding Duty Free Shops. Like King Constantine, Robert Miller was an enthusiastic sailor. Marie-Chantal's sisters, Pia and Alexandra, had already made impressive marriages, to Christopher Getty (grandson of J. Paul) and Prince Alexander von Furstenberg (son of Diane and Egon), respectively.

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Raised and educated in Hong Kong, Switzerland, and France, Marie-Chantal had moved to New York to complete high school in the 1980s. There, she met the artist Andy Warhol and began working for him at his famous "factory." She continued her art studies briefly at New York University, but her blossoming romance with Pavlos ultimately won out over academics in the battle for her attention.

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Twenty-seven-year-old Pavlos proposed to 26-year-old Marie-Chantal on a ski trip to Gstaad over the Christmas holidays in 1994, offering his fiancee a sapphire and diamond engagement ring. (Some sources report that the ring was a royal heirloom, inherited from King Paul.) King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie officially announced the engagement in a statement released in January 1995; the King enthused, "I am over the moon about this" as he announced the upcoming wedding from his home in London. The wedding date was set for July 1995 in London. But first, Pavlos and Marie-Chantal traveled to Istanbul for a meeting with the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. Marie-Chantal decided to convert from Roman Catholicism to her future family's Greek Orthodox faith. The private confirmation ceremony was held in New York in May 1995.

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Royals from around the world descended on London for the couple's wedding festivities at the end of June. Pavlos's aunt, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, sailed to England with the Danish royals on the royal yacht, Dannebrog, in an echo of Pavlos's mother's arrival in Greece thirty years earlier. Margrethe and Pavlos's grandmother, Queen Ingrid, hosted a luncheon on the day before the wedding aboard the Dannebrog, which was anchored in the River Thames near the Tower of London. Queen Elizabeth II also threw a tea for the couple at Claridge's shortly before their big day.

Marie-Chantal's parents also threw a lavish party for the couple on June 29, 1995, at Wrotham Park in Kent. The bash was Greek-themed, featuring blue and white decorations and tents designed to resemble the Parthenon. Flowers were flown in from Ecuador, Marie-Chantal's mother's home country. The royal guests, including the Duke of Edinburgh and Prince Albert of Monaco, danced until the wee hours of the morning. (Albert missed the actual wedding -- his sister, Princess Stephanie, was married in Monaco on the same day.)

Prince Nikolaos, Princess Alexia, and Princess Irene arrive at the cathedral

On the wedding day, 450 guests gathered at St. Sophia's Cathedral in London for the wedding. The cathedral, located in Bayswater, was the site of many Greek royal celebrations during their various exiles. It also served as the cathedral for the entire Greek nation during the German-Italian occupation of Greece in the 1940s. Pavlos's youngest siblings, Theodora and Philippos, were both christened in the cathedral as well. On July 1, 1995, the building held one of the largest royal gatherings in Britain in decades. The Greek royal family turned out in large numbers for the ceremony. Along with Pavlos, his parents, and his siblings, the wedding was attended by Princess Irene (Pavlos's aunt), Lady Katherine Brandram (his great-aunt), and Princess Michael of Greece and Denmark and his wife, Marina.

Princess Alexandra and Angus Ogilvy arrive for the wedding

Extended family members in attendance included Princess Georg Wilhelm of Hanover, King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania and Crown Princess Margareta, Crown Prince Alexander and Crown Princess Katherine of Yugoslavia, the Duke of Edinburgh, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Prince of Wales, as well as the Kents (Edward, Katharine, Alexandra, Angus, Michael, and Marie-Christine).

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia arrive for the wedding

Pavlos's aunt is Queen Sofia of Spain; she attended the wedding with King Juan Carlos and their three children (plus Infanta Elena's new husband, Jaime de Marichalar). Juan Carlos's sisters, Infanta Pilar and Infanta Margarita, also attended with their families. Another of Pavlos's aunts is Queen Margrethe II of Denmark; she was present with her husband, Prince Henrik, their two sons, Crown Prince Frederik and Prince Joachim, Joachim's fiancee, Alexandra Manley, and Pavlos's grandmother, Queen Ingrid. Princess Benedikte, Pavlos's other maternal aunt, attended with her three children, Prince Gustav, Princess Alexandra, and Princess Nathalie.

King Carl XVI Gustaf, Queen Silvia, and Crown Princess Victoria arrive at the cathedral

Numerous monarchs, both reigning and non, were in attendance as well. King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden attended with Crown Princess Victoria. Grand Duke Jean and Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte of Luxembourg were there with Hereditary Grand Duke Henri, Hereditary Grand Duchess Maria Teresa, and Prince Guillaume. The Prince of Orange represented the Netherlands, and Prince Laurent stood in for his father, the King of the Belgians.

The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester take their seats in the cathedral

Prince Hans-Adam II of Lichtenstein was there, as was the Aga Khan IV and King Hussein and Queen Noor of Jordan (with Prince Hassan and Princess Sarvath). Farah Pahlavi, widow of the last Shah of Iran, was present with her four children and her daughter-in-law. Pretenders from Italy, Bulgaria, and Portugal were on the guest list, too, as were the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Queen Mother, and Lord and Lady Romsey. (The Queen Mum decided not to attend the wedding in person, instead watching a broadcast on screens set up Hampton Court Palace with more than 800 other guests who wouldn't fit in the cathedral.)

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When Marie-Chantal arrived at the cathedral with her father, she was clad in a remarkable silk gown trimmed with twelve different kinds of lace. The dress was made for her by Valentino, who also designed the dresses worn by her bridesmaids, Princess Theodora, Lady Alexandra Knatchbull, Marietta Chandris, and Isabel Getty.

Marie-Chantal walks down the aisle of the cathedral

Marie-Chantal wore a long veil of Chantilly lace that was secured by the Antique Corsage Tiara, on loan from her mother-in-law, Queen Anne-Marie.

Prince Nikolaos holds crowns over the heads of the bride and groom

Following Greek Orthodox tradition, no words were spoken by the bride and groom during the ceremony. (For this reason, the couple apparently had to have a small English-language civil ceremony to make their marriage fully legal in England.) They stood beneath heavy gold wedding crowns, held aloft by a series of crown bearers: Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark (the groom's brother), Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark (his first cousin), the Prince of Asturias (his first cousin), Prince Gustav of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg (his first cousin), Prince Guillaime of Luxembourg, the Prince of Orange, Prince Kardam of Bulgaria, and the bride's brothers-in-law, Christopher Getty and Prince Alexander von Furstenburg.

The couple walks around the table as rose petals fall from above

Thousands of Greeks watched live on television as the couple were showered with rose petals during the ceremony. (The Danish royal family's personal florist was responsible for the flowers in the cathedral.) The coverage of the wedding irked many in Greece, as did the presence of several Greek politicians at the ceremony. Prime Minister Papandreou declared that lawmakers supporting the monarchy should resign.

Crown Prince Pavlos and King Constantine greet members of the public gathered outside the cathedral

Ultimately, though, the public reaction to the wedding in Greece was reportedly relatively minor, though opinion polls registered a small uptick in support for the monarchy. A small group gathered near the cathedral in London, waving Greek flags and cheering for the newlyweds.

King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie during the wedding ceremony

As the ceremony concluded, we got a good look at some of the jewels worn by the royal guests. Queen Anne-Marie wore pearls and diamonds, including her diamond swan brooch and the diamond cross pendant she wore on her own wedding day in 1964.

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Queen Elizabeth II wore one of the diamond and pearl brooches she inherited from her grandmother, Queen Mary: the Kensington Bow Brooch. Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte of Luxembourg also wore pearls, as did Queen Silvia of Sweden, who wore the pearl necklace that had belonged to her late mother-in-law, Princess Sibylla.

Queen Ingrid and King Constantine at the wedding reception (Sean Dempsey/PA Images/Alamy)

Queen Ingrid of Denmark wore the Diamond Daisy Brooch, a jewel made using diamonds that belonged to her British mother, Margaret of Connaught. The brooch now belongs to her daughter Queen Margrethe II of Denmark.

Queen Noor, Queen Sofia, and King Juan Carlos after the ceremony

Queen Noor of Jordan and Queen Sofia of Spain both wore floral brooches.

Queen Ingrid, King Constantine, Queen Anne-Marie, Crown Prince Pavlos, Marie-Chantal, and the Millers at Hampton Court Palace for the wedding reception (Sean Dempsey/PA Images/Alamy)

After the guests departed from the cathedral, they headed to Hampton Court Palace, which had been made available to the couple for their afternoon reception. The event was coordinated by another royal cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson. Hello! reported that more than a thousand guests ate lobster and sipped champagne at the reception. According to New York Magazine, the combined cost of the Wrotham Park gala and the Hampton Court palace was in the neighborhood of five million dollars.

Pavlos and Marie-Chantal attend a gala banquet for Queen Margrethe II's Ruby Jubilee in Denmark, January 2012 (Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Twenty-five years after the wedding, Crown Prince Pavlos and Princess Marie-Chantal aren't any closer to the Greek throne, though members of the former family have been allowed in recent years to return to live in their native country. (Also -- Marie-Chantal has gotten to wear the grand diamond tiara that belonged to Queen Sophie.) The couple have five children -- Princess Maria-Olympia, Prince Constantine-Alexios, Prince Achileas-Andreas, Prince Odysseas-Kimon, and Prince Aristidis-Stavros -- and have divided their time largely between New York and London. Pavlos has continued to work in the world of investments, while Marie-Chantal is the owner of a successful children's clothing brand.