3 September 1843: Greeks revolt against their German king

Fresh-faced King Otto, installed after independence from the Ottoman Empire, wasn't a hit with the Greek public. And today in 1843, they rebelled.

Otto I, King of Greece, circa 1863 © Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images
Otto: not a hit with the Greek public
(Image credit: © Fine Art Images/Heritage Images via Getty Images)

Greece on the brink of default, unable to pay the interest on its debt to a “troika” of creditors; under the thumb of German policymakers and torn between liberal Europe in the west and autocratic Russia in the east. Any of that sound familiar? No, we're not talking about the recent Greek debt crisis, we're talking about Greece over 170 years ago.

In the 1820s, Greece was involved in a long and bloody war of independence from Ottoman control. But the Greeks weren't just fighting the Ottomans, more often than not, they were fighting among themselves. Some looked to liberal Britain and France as role models. Others looked to Russia, which shared its Orthodox Christian faith. And all three – our troika – lent money to Greece in support of its war effort.

In the end, Greece won its independence. It even got its own king – a Bavarian prince, named Otto. Otto was only 17 when he was crowned, so a council of Bavarian regents ruled for him. When Otto did reach maturity in 1835, he began to throw his weight around.

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Soon the Greeks had had enough of their new king. They didn't like him, they didn't like his Roman Catholic faith, they didn't like his German protestant queen, and they certainly didn't like his Bavarian officials, who they termed the “Bavarocracy”. The country was poor and taxes were kept high to pay the interest on the debt.

On 3 September 1843, the army camped out in the main square in Athens, demanding the king grant the country a liberal constitution. Otto had little choice but to accept. Greece got its constitution, which guaranteed certain rights, including an extension of the right to vote. After that, the square was renamed Constitution Square – Syntagma in Greek – still a rallying place for protests.

Chris Carter

Chris Carter spent three glorious years reading English literature on the beautiful Welsh coast at Aberystwyth University. Graduating in 2005, he left for the University of York to specialise in Renaissance literature for his MA, before returning to his native Twickenham, in southwest London. He joined a Richmond-based recruitment company, where he worked with several clients, including the Queen’s bank, Coutts, as well as the super luxury, Dorchester-owned Coworth Park country house hotel, near Ascot in Berkshire.

Then, in 2011, Chris joined MoneyWeek. Initially working as part of the website production team, Chris soon rose to the lofty heights of wealth editor, overseeing MoneyWeek’s Spending It lifestyle section. Chris travels the globe in pursuit of his work, soaking up the local culture and sampling the very finest in cuisine, hotels and resorts for the magazine’s discerning readership. He also enjoys writing his fortnightly page on collectables, delving into the fascinating world of auctions and art, classic cars, coins, watches, wine and whisky investing.

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