1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Otto
|←Ottignies||1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 20
|See also Otto of Greece on Wikipedia; and our 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica disclaimer.|
OTTO, king of Greece (1815-1867), was the second son of Louis I., king of Bavaria, and his wife Teresa of Saxe-Altenburg. He was born at Salzburg on the 1st of June 1815, and was educated at Munich. In 1832 he was chosen by the conference of London to occupy the newly-erected throne of Greece, and on the 6th of February 1833 he landed at Nauplia, then the capital of independent Greece. Otto, who was not yet eighteen, was accompanied by a council of regency composed of Bavarians under the presidency of Count Josef Ludwig von Armansperg (1787-1853), who as minister of finance in Bavaria had succeeded in restoring the credit of the state at the cost of his popularity. The task of governing a semi-barbarous people, but recently emancipated, divided into bitter factions, and filled with an exaggerated sense of their national destiny, would in no case have been easy; it was not facilitated by the bureaucratic methods introduced by the regents. Though Armansperg and his colleagues did a good deal to introduce system and order into the infant state, they contrived to make themselves hated by the Greeks, and with sufficient reason. That the regency refused to respond to the demand for a constitution was perhaps natural, for the experience of constitutional experiments in emancipated Greece had not been encouraging. The result, however, was perpetual unrest; the regency, too, was divided into a French and a Russian party, and distracted by personal quarrels, which led in 1834 to the recall by King Louis of G. L. von Maurer and Karl von Abel, who had been in bitter opposition to Armansperg. Soon afterwards the Mainotes were in open revolt, and the money obtained from foreign loans had to be spent in organizing a force to preserve order. On the 1st of June 1835 Otto came of age, but, on the advice of his father and under pressure of Great Britain and of the house of Rothschild, who all believed that a capable finance minister was the supreme need of Greece, he retained Armansperg as chancellor of state. The wisdom of this course was more than doubtful; for the expenses of government, of which the conversion of Athens into a dignified capital was not the least, exceeded the resources of the exchequer, and the state was only saved from bankruptcy by the continual intervention of the powers. Though King Louis, as the most exalted of Philhellenes, received an enthusiastic welcome when he visited Greece in the winter of 1835, his son's government grew increasingly unpopular. The Greeks were more heavily taxed than under Turkish rule; they had exchanged government by the sword, which they understood, for government by official regulations, which they hated; they had escaped from the sovereignty of the Mussulman to fall under that of a devout Catholic, to them a heretic. Otto was well intentioned, honest and inspired with a genuine affection for his adopted country; but it needed more than mere amiable qualities to reconcile the Greeks to his rule.
In 1837 Otto visited Germany and married the beautiful and talented Princess Amalie of Oldenburg. The union was unfruitful, and the new queen made herself unpopular by interfering in the government. Meanwhile, at the instance of the Swiss Philhellene Eynard, Armansperg had been dismissed by the king immediately on his return, but a Greek minister was not put in his place, and the granting of a constitution was still postponed. The attempts of Otto to conciliate Greek sentiment by efforts to enlarge the frontiers of his kingdom, e.g. by the suggested acquisition of Crete in 1841, failed of their object and only succeeded in embroiling him with the powers. His power rested wholly on Bavarian bayonets; and when, in 1843, the last of the German troops were withdrawn, he was forced by the outbreak of a revolutionary movement in Athens to grant a constitution and to appoint a ministry of native Greeks.
With the grant of the constitution Otto's troubles increased. The Greek parliament, like its predecessors during the War of Liberation, was the battleground of factions divided, not by national issues, but by their adherence to one or other of the great powers who made Greece the arena of their rivalry for the control of the Mediterranean. Otto thought to counteract the effects of political corruption and incompetence by overriding the constitution to which he had sworn. The attempt would have been perilous even for a strong man, a native ruler and an Orthodox believer; and Otto was none of these. His prestige, moreover, suffered from the “Pacifico incident” in 1850, when Palmerston caused the British fleet to blockade the Peiraeus, to exact reparation for injustice done to a Levantine Jew who happened also to be a British subject. For the ill-advised intervention in the Crimean War, which led to a second occupation of the Peiraeus, Otto was not responsible; his consent had been given under protest as a concession to popular clamour. His position in Greece was, however, becoming untenable. In 1861 a student named Drusios attempted to murder the queen, and was hailed by the populace as a modern Harmodios. In October 1862 the troops in Acarnania under General Theodore Srivas declared for the king's deposition; those in Athens followed suit; a provisional government was set up and summoned a national convention. The king and queen, who were at sea, took refuge on a British war-ship, and returned to Bavaria, where they were lodged by King Louis in the palace of the former bishops of Bamberg. Here, on the 26th of July 1867, Otto died. He had become strangely persuaded that he held the throne of Greece by divine right; and, though he made no effort to regain it, he refused to acknowledge the validity of the election of Prince George of Denmark
See E. A. Thouvenel, La Grèce du roi Othon (Paris, 1890); G. L. von Maurer, Das griechische Volk, &c. (1836); C. W. P. Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, “Die Verwaltung König Ottos von Griechenland und sein Sturz” (in Preuss. Jahrbücher, iv. 365); K. T. v. Heigel, Ludwig I., König von Baiern, pp. 149 et seq. (Leipzig, 1872); H. H. Parish, The Diplomatic History of the Monarchy of Greece from the Year 1830 (London, 1838), the author of which was attached to the British Legation at Athens.