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The king and I

The death of King Constantine of Greece brings back memories of a cold December dawn in Rome. In April 1967 a group of right-wing Greek army officers seized power in a coup. Constantine staged a counter-coup in December. With Athens controlled by the military junta, he flew with his family to the northern city of Kavala to be among loyalist troops.


Communications were cut between Greece and the outside world, commercial flights were cancelled and little news was filtering out of Athens.  Reuters decided to charter a small plane with AP and The New York Times and fly to Kavala. I joined Robert Doty of The New York Times and an AP correspondent at Ciampino, Rome’s second airport used mainly by the military.


As we waited for our pilot at 4 am we noticed a plane landing. The control tower said it was a Greek plane with King Constantine and his family aboard. It taxied to a remote part of the airport. Several limousines took the king, Queen Anne-Marie, their two baby children, his mother Frederika and his sister Princess Irene to the city. It all happened very quickly. We watched the royal baggage arriving at the terminal.


After phoning in our stories, Doty said something about the mountain coming to Mohammed and we headed back to town. We did not have to go far to get our story on the 27-year-old king who defied the army colonels ruling Greece. ■