George II, King of Greece, 1889-1947

George II had acquiesced to the rule of the dictator METAXAS in the interwar period. When the Italians invaded Greece in October 1940, Metaxas swiftly mobilized the country and drove them back but he died shortly afterwards in January 1941. George II was forced to assume the Premiership himself after the suicide of his following Prime Minister, Koryzis, and he finally opted for military aid from Britain. But this came too late to stem the German invasion. George left first for Crete, and then for Cairo where his government-in-exile decided to settle. He himself preferred to live in London. In March 1943 he negotiated a Lend- Lease agreement with the USA. In July 1943 George had to broadcast his intention to hold free elections to decide whether Greece would be monarchist or republican after the war, to avoid outright civil war breaking out. In Cairo his government was in a constant state of political disagreement and some of his supporters in Athens were thought to be collaborators. Although he had CHURCHILL’s backing, there was sufficient tension in Greece after it had been liberated, for Churchill to advise George not to return immediately. George was eventually convinced not to return ‘unless summoned by a free and fair expression of the national will.’ Archbishop DAMASKINOS was appointed Regent and, after a plebiscite, King George returned in 1946.

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