Dr. Eleni Leontidou and SHP’s Scientific Committee
The international circumstances at the time of the outbreak of the Greek revolution were less than favorable for the Greeks: after the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the leaders of the European powers met in Vienna, where they agreed on adopting a common policy for maintaining the European status quo. This stance came as a reaction to prior wars and catastrophes: the French Revolution had led to a regime of terror, and eventually brought Napoleon to power. Napoleon’s rise provoked a series of wars with great costs for Europe. Because of their obsession with maintaining order and balance of power, in order to avoid new conflicts, the great European powers, and in particular Prussia, Russia and Austria, founding members of the ‘Holy Alliance’, were particularly hostile towards any threat of revolution or republicanism.
The Greek revolutionaries, however, had considerable support from the public. Members of the European elite saw themselves as the spiritual heirs of classical Greece and tended to view the Ottomans as barbarous tyrants.
This often applied for the royal families of Europe as well. Many royals had strong philhellenic feelings even preceding the outbreak of the revolution. An example is Caroline von Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (1768 – 1821), the wife of the then Prince of Wales King George IV of Great Britain. The queen had a great love and admiration for classical Greece and the Greeks. In 1816, during a tour of the East, she visited Athens where she carried out archaeological excavations and expressed her support for the Philomuse Society, a society founded with the help of the English with the aim of educating young people and cultivating a national consciousness.
The philhellenic feelings of the members of the royal families were manifested through generous contributions to various fundraisers, organized by the philhellenic committees of Europe, to provide financial support for the Greek revolutionaries. There was also one member of a royal European family who played an instrumental role in the establishment and financing of a philhellenic committee. She was the sister of the Swedish king, Princess Sophia Albertina of Sweden, who had transformed the palace into a center of philhellenism and founded, after the outbreak of the Greek Revolution, a philhellenic women’s committee.
The heir to the Danish throne, Prince Christian Frederick, who later became King Christian VIII, was another supporter of the Greek Revolution. In 1814 he responded anonymously to a fundraiser organized by the Danish priest Hans Bastholm, contributing the sum of 500 talers.
In August 1821 he sent C. L. J. Von Wedekind, a Lieutenant of the Danish Army, to Greece. At the beginning of 1822 Wedekind, went to Paris, in order to get in touch with the Philhellenic Committee there. Afterwards he returned to his homeland but later went back to Greece. For his support of the Greek cause, Christian Frederick made him his personal guard. Christian was also a subscriber to the Danish philhellenic newspaper “Graekervennen” (The Philhellene). He even offered to personally pay for the debts of the Danish philhellenes, after they returned to their country.
France, then ruled by King Charles X, was a member of the Holy Alliance but also home to a great number of Philhellenes who traveled to Greece to fight against the Turks. The strong philhellenic current that followed the massacres of Chios, and particularly, the Exodus of Messolonghi, further strengthened French sympathies for the Greek cause. After the victory of the European allied forces in the Battle of Navarino, Charles X provided financial support to the Greeks and in 1828 he sent a military mission of 14000 men led by General Maison to Greece with the mission of putting an end to Ibrahim’s operations in the Peloponnese. Maison brought with him archaeologists and scientists who mapped the area, prepared urban plans of most of the cities, made records of the ancient monuments and shared their expertise on different issues with the local population.
The house of Orleans also sided with the Greeks. The Duke of Orleans, who later became King of the French, Louis-Philippe, donated significant sums of money for Philhellenic fundraisers. In a single fundraiser, the Princess of Orleans offered 3000 Francs in favor of the Greek cause.
Philhellenism was also very widespread in the royal houses of the German states. For example, William I, the second king of Württemberg (1816-1864) was a staunch philhellene.
The most important Philhellene monarch, however, was King Ludwig I of Bavaria.
Τhe European king to openly take a position in favor of Greek independence from the early stages of the struggle. Louis, father of Otto, the future king of Greece, was a Hellenist and a friend of the arts, and envisioned his capital, Munich, as the center of neoclassical philhellenic humanism. From his position of power, he facilitated the creation of the Philhellenic Association of Munich, wrote pamphlets and published fiery articles in favor of the Revolution. He also wrote 32 philhellenic poems and published collections of poetry. The proceeds of the sales of his collections went to the aid of the Greek revolutionaries. After the Exodus of Messolonghi he contributed 2 million francs for the purposes of the Revolution.
The king of Bavaria himself sent a corps of Philhellenes under the command of Karl Heideck to fight in Greece. . At around the same period, he also sent the famous landscape painter Carl Rottmann (1797-1850), to Athens. There Rottmann painted Greek historical landscapes made in order to adorn at Munich’s Hofgarten. The famous philhellenic paintings by Peter von Hess (the so-called 39 scenes from the Greek Revolution) were commissioned by him.
In some cases, the princes’ own views were at odds with the political interests of the state. While two of the princes of the Kingdom of the Netherlands were philhellenes, strategic interests in the Ottoman Empire prevented the royal family from openly supporting the Greek cause. In addition, the Dutch king did not want to strengthen separatist movements within his own kingdom, particularly in Belgium, which finally gained its independence in 1830. Nevertheless, the philhellenic movement developed in the Netherlands as well and contributed greatly to the struggle of the Greeks.
The prince of Prussia was also sympathetic towards the Greek revolutionaries, even though the Prussian government was originally one of the most hostile ones towards the struggle of the Greeks. Philhellenic fundraisers and conscription in armies were prohibited in Prussia until 1826. At that time, Frederick Wilhelm, King of Prussia, lifted the ban on fundraisers, and apparently also offered anonymously 1,200 gold coins for the Greek struggle.
Whereas Western European philhellenism, stemmed from love and admiration for ancient Greek culture, for Russian philhellenism the common Orthodox faith played a major role. The Russians had been interested in Greece for a long time, since the Greek issue was part of the ‘Eastern question’: as the weakening of the Ottoman Empire from18th century onward paved the way for the division of its territories into spheres of influence for the Western powers. In the end of the 18th century, Empress Catherine the Great had devised an ambitious plan to create an orthodox empire: after the division and distribution of the lands of the Ottoman Empire there would be a restoration of the Byzantine Empire under Russian protection and rule.
After the Napoleonic Wars, however, the balance of power changed: the Russian government initially viewed the Greek revolution negatively, since Russia was one of the powers that wished to maintain the status quo in Europe. Thus, Tsar Alexander I kept a neutral stance. However, in July 1821 he approved a programme for collecting aid for the Greeks who had fled to Odessa and Bessarabia, to which his wife Tsarina Elizabeth had contributed. Both the Tsar and the Tsarina offered significant sums to the Philomuse Society of Vienna, which was a philological society similar in actions and ideology to that of Athens, but which operated under Russian influence. Specifically, the Tsar offered 200 Dutch ducats and the Tsarina 100, while most of the Danubian rulers contributed with donations as well.
As we have seen, many kings and princes of Europe were supporters and exponents of the philhellenism since the start of the Greek Revolution. In the beginning, their philhellenic feelings were not enough in most cases, to influence the political stance of their countries towards the Greeks. However, their contribution was significant, especially because they encouraged the development of philhellenic committees.
Ludwig of Bavaria was the first king to offer his full moral, economic, humanitarian, diplomatic and military support to the Greek revolution. The works of art he commissioned spread the romantic iconography of the revolution throughout Europe and inspired and captivated many.
In 1826, conditions started changing in favour of Greece. Great Britain and Russia signed the Protocol of St. Petersburg (aimed at providing support for Greece). A year later the two powers were joined by France and signed the Treaty of London which paved the way for the naval battle of Navarino and eventually for the liberation of Greece. But even after the battle of Navarino, the French king’s philhellenic feelings, led to the offer of substantial military support, which helped in finally removingthe Turks from the Peloponnese.
One after the other, almost all of Europe’s royal houses identified with the philhellenic movement and became exponents of ideas that transcended political expediencies of the time. And that is mostly why it is worth remembering and honouring them.
 Α. Μηλιαράκης, «Η Φιλόμουσος εταιρεία εν Αθήναις και η πριγγιπέσσα της Ουαλλίας (1816)», Εστία
 William St Clair, That Greece may still be free, p. 271.
 Βλ. Αριστέα Παπανικολάου-Κρίστενσεν, Το Φιλελληνικό κίνημα στην Δανία.
 St Clair, Greece, p. 112.
 Ξένη Μπαλωτή, Μαιζών, ένας μεγάλος φιλέλληνας. Η εκστρατεία του στην Πελοπόννησο (Αθήνα 1993). Νίκος Τζανάκος, Η Γαλλική Εκστρατεία στον Μοριά και ο Στρατάρχης Μαιζών (Πάτρα, 2017).
 Στέφανος Παπαδόπουλος, «Το Μεσολόγγι και ο Φιλελληνισμός, ομιλία στο πανεπιστήμιο Ιωαννίνων για τον εορτασμό της 150ετηρίδος της Εθνικής Παλιγγενεσίας (27.11.1971)», Ιωάννινα 1971.
 Παύλος Καρολίδης, Ο γερμανικός φιλελληνισμός (Αθήνα, 1917).
 Λουδοβίκος Α’ (βασιλιάς της Βαυαρίας), Ποιήματα περί Ελλάδος, μτφρ. Σοφοκλής Καρύδης, (Αθήνα, 1868).
 Σεβαστή Κεφαλίδου, «Πώς βλέπουν οι Ευρωπαίοι Φιλέλληνες Περιηγητές και τεχνοκράτες τους υπόδουλους Έλληνες και την ελληνική πραγματικότητα (κοινωνία-πολιτική- παιδεία)», Μεταπτυχιακή εργασία. Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης (2005), σελ. 36, 82-3. Στέφανος Παπαδόπουλος, «Το Μεσολόγγι και ο Φιλελληνισμός», σ. 15, 32-4.
 Gahlen, Gundula: The Deployment of Bavarian Officers to Greece in the 19th Century, (2015), URL: http://www.mwme.eu/essays/index.html. Reinhard Heydenreuter, Die erträumte Nation. Griechenlands Staatswerdung zwischen Philhellenismus und Militärintervention, in: Reinhard Heydenreuter (ed.), Die erträumte Nation. Griechenlands Wiedergeburt im 19. Jahrhundert. Begleitband zur Ausstellung (München 1993), pp. 47-78.
 Markella-Elpida Tsichla, «The Semiotics of the Imagery of the Greek War of Independence. From Delacroix to the Frieze in Otto’s Palace, The Current Hellenic Parliament», cf. Kalligas, Μ. (1977) Images of Greek space after the Liberation. Watercolors and drawings by C. Rottmann and L. Lange. (Athens, 1977).
 Μιλτιάδης Παπανικολάου, «Εικόνες από την Ελληνική Επανάσταση: τα 39 πρωτότυπα σχέδια του Peter Von Hess», ΕΕΣΑΠΘ, ΙΖ’ (1978), σελ. 335-344.
 Β. J. Slot, «Σχέσεις μεταξύ Ολλανδίας και Ελλάδος από τον ΙΖ’ αιώνα μέχρι τον Καποδίστρια, «Παρνασσός, τ. 19.2 (1977), σελ. 281-282.
 St Clair, Greece, σ. 64.
 Παπαδόπουλος, «Το Μεσολόγγι και ο Φιλελληνισμός», σ. 17
 Theophilus C. Prousis, «Russian Philorthodox Relief During The Greek War Of Independence», University of North Florida, History Faculty Publications, (1985) http://digitalcommons.unf.edu/ahis_facpub/17, σελ. 41-42.
Bibliography – Sources
- Λουδοβίκος Α’ (βασιλιάς της Βαυαρίας), ‘’Ποιήματα περί Ελλάδος’’, μτφρ. Σοφοκλής Καρύδης (Αθήνα, 1868).
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- Heydenreuter, Reinhard. «Die erträumte Nation. Griechenlands Staatswerdung zwischen Philhellenismus und Militärintervention» in Reinhard Heydenreuter (ed.), Die erträumte Nation. Griechenlands Wiedergeburt im 19. Jahrhundert. Begleitband zur Ausstellung, (München, 1993), σελ. 47-78.
- Kalligas, Μ. Images of Greek space after the Liberation. Watercolors and drawings by C. Rottmann and L. Lange (Athens, 1977).
- Prousis Theophilus C., «Russian Philorthodox Relief During The Greek War Of Independence», University of North Florida, History Faculty Publications, σελ. 31-62. (1985) http://digitalcommons.unf.edu/ahis_facpub/17.
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