With many Greeks living in the UK and Scotland in particular, and the key role that Britain has played in the Greek revolution, this anniversary if of great historical and cultural importance.

Greece was under Ottoman rule for 400 years since Ottoman Turks invaded Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine empire, in 1453.

Scattered uprisings in 1821 escalated into a full-scale war which  finally resulted in the establishment of an independent kingdom of Greece in 1829. The Greek Independence Day is celebrated annually on March 25, commemorating the start of the War of Greek Independence in 1821.

The war commenced when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolution over the Monastery of Agia Lavra in the Peloponnese. The cry “Freedom or death” became the motto of the revolution. The Greeks experienced early successes on the battlefield, including the capture of Athens in June 1822, but infighting ensued. By 1827 Athens and most of the Greek isles had been recaptured by Turkish forces.

However, with the intervention of Britain, France and Russia at the naval Battle of Navarino, the three forces destroyed an Ottoman-Egyptian fleet. As a result, the war ended in 1829 with the enforcement of the Treaty of Edirne which established an independent Greek state.

Moreover, March 25 coincides with the Greek Orthodox Church’s celebration of the Annunciation to the Theotokos, when the Archangel Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her that she would bear the son of God.

In countries that played a role in supporting the Greek Revolution (e.g. France, Switzerland, the UK, Italy, Germany, and Canada), academic and cultural bodies are planning a variety of events, including concerts, conferences and exhibitions to commemorate this momentous bicentennial since 2021 marks 200 years of Greek Independence.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall attended the independence day celebrations in Athens.

At the Greece Bicentenary Dinner, Prince Charles said in his speech: “My wife and I could not be more delighted to be back in Greece, which has long held the most special place in my heart. After all, Greece is the land of my grandfather; and of my father’s birth, nearly one hundred years ago, in the centenary year of Greek Independence.

“Later, it was in Athens that my dear grandmother, Princess Alice, during the dark years of Nazi occupation, sheltered a Jewish family – an act for which in Israel she is counted as ‘Righteous Among The Nations’.

“In feeling a profound connection to Greece – her landscapes, her history and her culture – I am hardly alone: there is something of her essence in us all. As the wellspring of Western civilisation, Greece’s spirit runs through our societies and our democracies. Without her, our laws, our art, our way of life, would never have flourished as they have.”

Prince Charles

The heir to the throne also hailed the “strong and vital” ties between the UK and Greece.

“Your Excellency – today, as in 1821, Greece can count on her friends in the United Kingdom.

“The ties between us are strong and vital, and make a profound difference to our shared prosperity and security.

“Just as our histories are closely bound together, so too are our futures. In this spirit, tomorrow, stood beside you once again, your British friends will take great pride in Dionýsios Solomós’s rousing exhortation: Χαίρε, ω χαίρε, ελευθεριά” (which is pronounced as Haíre, o haíre, eleftheriá).

#RoyalVisitGreece

Originally tweeted by The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall (@ClarenceHouse) on March 24, 2021.

Finally, the Greek struggle and heroism had attracted strong sympathy in Europe, and inspired many authors and poets who wrote masterpieces promoting the Greek cause, including the English poet Lord Byron. 

George Gordon Noel Byron. The siege of Corinth: a poem. London: printed for John Murray, 1816 [Rare Books Collection PR4372.F2]