Her Majesty the Queen of the Hellenes was born in 1851. She was the eldest daughter of the Grand Duke Constantine of Russia, and niece of the Emperor Alexander II. Her childhood was uneventful, and probably not very happy, for the children of the Russian Royal Family were and are brought up under an excessively severe and strict discipline.
Implicit and unquestioning obedience to those in authority over them is the keynote of the early training of Russian Royal children, and the slightest offences against the rules of the nursery or school room are visited with heavy penalties. Therefore, when, at the ageof sixteen, the Grand Duchess Olga of Russia, who had barely emerged from the schoolroom, was told that she was to marry King George of Greece, whom she had never seen, she expressed her willingness to fall in with the arrangement, as readily as she would have agreed to go out for a drive or walk with her governess, if bidden to do so.
The betrothal of the young Grand Duchess to the King of Greece was publicly announced on May 16, 1867, and a couple of months later the two met at the Court at Denmark. The result of the meeting was a happy one, for the King and his future bride undoubtedly fell in love with one another, and the story of 'their love-making furnished a
H. M. Queen Olga of Greece, who is devoted to the people of her adopted country, and is interested in charitable and educational enterprises
Danish writer with the theme for a very romantic novel, a copy of which was accepted by the King and Queen of Greece on their marriage, which took place in October, 1867. On the 24th of the following month their Majesties were accorded a great public reception at the Piraeus in Athens.
The kingdom of Greece was then and for some time afterwards much disturbed by political dissensions, but the advent of the beautiful young Queen was hailed as an augury of better and happier times; and when her Majesty, standing beside her husband on the steps of the palace, raised her clasped hands and cried, "I thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your kind welcome, and shall ever pray to God for your hap-piness and welfare," opposing factions rivalled each other in raising cheer after cheer for the beautiful girl-queen.
A year later Prince Constantine was born, and the birth of an heir to the throne was received with universal joy through out the Greek kingdom. From that time onwards for several years Queen Olga devoted herself almost entirely to her duties as a mother, renouncing all social and public engagements except those that it was absolutely imperative for her as the consort of the Sovereign to keep, and gave herself up to the care of her children.
Her Majesty had a set of six spacious rooms, adjoining the Royal apartments in the palace, converted into the nurseries, and the Royal children were reared and brought up under the constant and close vigilance of their mother.
When Queen Olga's eldest born was three years old he was attacked with bronchitis, and for several weeks his life hung in the balance. He was nursed through the whole of his illness by his mother, who slept in the nursery until the little prince was quite out of danger; but the sleepless nights and anxious days which her Majesty had endured during her baby son's illness told on her own health, and she was stricken with an attack of low fever shortly afterwards, which lasted for several weeks. Six children -five sons and one daughter-were born altogether to the King and Queen of Greece.
On April 19, 1869, King Edward VII. and Queen Alexandra, who were then Prince and Princess of Wales, visited Athens, and became the guests of King George and Queen Olga. It was the first occasion on which Queen Olga had acted in the capacity of hostess. She was, it must be remembered, at this time only eighteen, and the reception of such important visitors as the heir to the English throne and his consort was an event that may be readily imagined was calculated to make her feel rather nervous, even though she was a queen.
When the Royal visitors drove up to the palace Queen Olga was seated in the throne-room, where the etiquette of the Court required she should receive them, but when she heard the wheels of the carriages outside she jumped up, and, to the horror of her ladies in attendance, rushed downstairs and greeted the English Prince and Princess on the steps of the palace with outstretched hands. This unconventional and rather unexpected mode of receiving them greatly pleased the Royal visitors, who were delighted with the girl-queen's unaffectedly warm welcome. The Prince and Princess of Wales were eager that King George and Queen Olga should pay a return visit to them in London at once, and it was arranged that their Majesties should do so, but the political troubles that followed soon afterwards in Greece necessitated the visit being put off.
With the causes of the political dissensions that were so constantly disturbing the kingdom of Greece it is unnecessary to enter, for this article is intended to deal only with the life story of Queen Olga, and not with the history of the country over which her husband ruled.
In October, 1875, the then Prince of Wales visited Athens again, but was not accompanied on this occasion by the Princess. The object of the visit was really to arrange definitely if possible a visit of the King and Queen of Greece to England, and his Royal Highness was successful in his mission. In July of the following year King George and Queen Olga came to London and were enthusiastically received. Among the social events held in honour of the Royal visitors was a ball given by Lord and Lady Cowper at their house in Gros-venor Square. It was the first time that Queen Olga had been at such an entertainment in England. Polkas were at that time very popular in this country, and there were always several on the programmes at dances given at Marlborough House; but their popularity had not spread to European Courts, where they were apparently regarded as being of rather too lively a character for Royal personages to indulge in. Queen Olga was, however, greatly taken with this particular dance, and one result of her visit to England was that she learned to polka.