During 1920, the most extraordinary series of kaleidoscopic changes took place in Greece. There were few countries which had gained more than Greece from the war, in proportion to the size and importance of the country; and the Greeks ought to have regarded themselves as especially fortunate in this matter, because they had in point of fact played a somewhat doubtful part in the war, and no one could say how much sincerity there had been in their long-delayed adherence to the Allied cause. The highly favourable bargains which the Greek kingdom had been able to make with the Great Powers had been due almost entirely to the statesmanlike qualities and the extraordinary tact which had been displayed throughout the discussions by the Greek prime minister,Eleftherios Venizelos.
During the first half of the year Greece was chiefly occupied with establishing its position at Smyrna and in taking over the other territories which had been allotted to it by the Supreme Council. It was decided that the portion of Thrace which had been taken from Bulgaria should be given to Greece, and Greece was authorized to occupy this district at the end of May. Turkish Thrace, including the great town of Adrianople, was also assigned to Greece and was occupied by that country at the end of July. Greece thus extended its dominions to the coast of the Black Sea.
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During the summer it was announced that King Alexander had contracted a morganatic marriage with a certain Mlle Manos in the previous November.
The king’s death took place under the most tragic and unusual circumstances. On October 2 the king was walking in the grounds of the Royal Gardens behind the Royal Palace, when his pet dog was attacked by a monkey. The king endeavoured to separate the animals, and was himself badly bitten by another monkey. It was at first thought that his wounds were not serious, but blood poison ensued, and it was soon realized that the king’s condition was critical. The best medical assistance was obtained from Paris, but the efforts of the physicians were unavailing and King Alexander died on October 25.
King Alexander was the second son of ex-King Constantine and ex-Queen Sophie, sister of the ex-Emperor Wilhelm II of Germany. He was proclaimed king of the Greeks in June 1917. He had gained the sympathy of many people, both in Greece and abroad, by his romantic marriage with Mlle Aspasia Manos.
The election campaign was already proceeding when the king died, but the date of the elections was postponed, and Venizelos summoned the Chamber to meet for a special session on October 28. The Chamber duly met on that afternoon, but less than half the deputies were present. The prime minister announced to the deputies that King Alexander had died, and declared that in his opinion the constitutional successor to the throne was the late king’s younger brother, Prince Paul. The prime minister also announced that the government had sent a message to Prince Paul offering him its sympathy on the death of his elder brother, and informing him of his succession to the Hellenic throne. The government appear to have also intimated to Prince Paul that he should not come to Greece until after the general election had proved whether the existing government enjoyed the confidence of the Greek people. Venizelos said that it was therefore necessary to elect a regent to serve during the interval, and he proposed that Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis should be elected to that post. The few members of the opposition who were present declared that they considered that the question of the succession could be satisfactorily settled in only one way – by a vote of the entire Greek people. Admiral Kountouriotis was subsequently elected regent by a large majority of the deputies present.