After the return of their Majesties to Greece the kingdom became again much disturbed, and for the next ten or twelve years Queen Olga lived in a stormy atmosphere, from which she sought shelter from time to time in Russia and in Paris. In the early eighties a very strong anti-royalist feeling arose in Greece, and there were rumours of King George's abdication.
"Really, I do not think anyone in Greece seems to want us to stay there now," wrote the distressed Queen from Paris to a friend in England. But a few years later the Royalist party was again in the ascendancy, and early in 1889 the engagement of the Duke of Sparta, the heir to the Greek throne, to Princess Sophie of Prussia was announced. The news was received with enthusiasm in Greece, and the marriage took place at Athens in October.
A Royal Love Match
The Duke and the Princess were notoriously in love with each other, and had Queen Olga been left to select a bride for her son, she would certainly have chosen the Princess Sophie, for whom she had a great affection. Two years before, she had written to the Queen of Denmark, to say that if the Duke of Sparta married the Princess Sophie, she would be the happiest mother in her kingdom, "for I know," she wrote, "they love each other." And so her happiest wishes were fulfilled on that bright sunny day at the end of October when most of the great European monarchs assembled at Athens to witness the marriage.
Among the Royal visitors were King Edward and Queen Alexandra, then, of course, Prince and Princess of Wales. In the evening a brilliant State ball was given at the palace; at the supper the health of the bride and bridegroom was proposed by the German Emperor, and it fell to the Prince of Wales to propose the health of the happy parents of the bridegroom.
In 1897, war broke out between Greece and Turkey, and great distress occurred among the refugees in Eubcea and elsewhere. Queen Olga busied herself in doing all she could to alleviate the sufferings of these unhappy people. Her Majesty formed the Queen's Guild, each member of which undertook to send in to the headquarters of the guild a certain quantity of clothing, food, or money every week, which were forwarded to the unhappy refugees. A great deal of relief was also sent from England.
The war ended in December, after lasting eight months, and peace was signed at Constantinople.
From that time onward Queen Olga has lived in a more peaceful atmosphere, though political disturbance is more or less chronic among the restless Greeks.
In a comparatively short sketch of this character it is only, of course, possible to outline the life of Queen Olga, which has been most eventful, and, if from time to time rather stormy, on the whole a happy one.
Her Majesty is a woman of strong character and considerable resolution, as she has evidenced on several occasions.
In the early part of 1898 King George and the Princess Marie, when driving through a street on the outskirts of Athens, were fired at. The incident caused the greatest excitement in Athens, and the members of the Royal Family were urged not to leave the palace for some days. The incident occurred in the morning, and it so happened that Queen Olga had arranged to open a charitable fete that afternoon, and her Majesty resolutely declined not to keep the engagement, and also refused to allow a military guard to accompany the carriage in which she drove to the fete. "I do not believe the people will do me any harm," she said, "and I will not let them believe I fear them." As a matter of fact, her Majesty was perfectly right, and the police, who imagined that the shooting incident was the result of a conspiracy against the Royal Family, were wrong in their conjectures; but it required, nevertheless, a woman of no ordinary courage in the prevailing circumstances to drive unguarded as she did to the fete that afternoon.
In 1894, when a slight earthquake caused a great panic among the people of Athens, Queen Olga again snowed her courage and presence of mind. King George wished that Queen Olga should leave the city, but her Majesty refused to do so. "It is my duty to stay here with our people," she said. A great earthquake occurred a few days later at Thebes and in other parts of Greece, causing many deaths, but, happily, Athens was scarcely affected.
Of late years Queen Olga has travelled very little, spending most of her time at Athens. Her Majesty is interested in innumerable charitable enterprises, and takes a specially keen interest in the education question. In 1907 she formulated an entirely new scheme of popular education. It was" never adopted in its entirety, but some of the proposals it contained for the establishment of Kindergarten schools have been carried out.
Her Majesty also introduced many reforms in the Royal establishment. Many ceremonials of a very tedious character prevailed at the Greek Court when Queen Olga went to Athens, which she has been instrumental in abolishing. For example, it was customary for three Ladies in Waiting to be continually in attendance on the Queen, and etiquette demanded that they should always stand in her presence. Queen Olga required that only one Lady in Waiting should be in attendance on ordinary occasions, and her Majesty also made it a rule that the ladies of the Court might sit in her presence, except when her Majesty enters or leaves a room, when they are, of course, expected to stand up.
Queen Olga also made a number of alterations in the domestic arrangements at the palace. Her Majesty reduced the number of servants in some departments which were absurdly overstaffed, and increased them in others which were very much understaffed. Several antiquated and tedious ceremonies and customs, however, still prevail at the Grecian Court, but with these it would be impolitic to interfere. It took many years, as a matter of fact, before Queen Olga was able to carry out the reforms she has effected.