Princess Alexander of Greece and Denmark born Aspasia Manos (Greek: Ασπασία Μάνου; 4 September 1896 – 7 August 1972) was a Greek aristocrat who became the wife of Alexander I, King of Greece. Due to the controversy over her marriage, she was styled Madame Manos instead of Queen Aspasia, until recognized as Princess Alexander of Greece and Denmark after Alexander’s death and the restoration of King Constantine I, on 10 September 1922.
Daughter of Colonel Petros Manos, aide-de-camp of King Constantine I of Greece, and Maria Argyropoulos (Petros Manos and Maria Argyropoulos were both descendants of most prominent Greek Phanariote families of Constantinople and descendants of ruling Princes of Transylvania, Wallachia & Moldavia), Aspasia grew up close to the royal family. After the divorce of her parents, she was sent to study in France and Switzerland. She returned to Greece in 1915 and met Prince Alexander, to whom she became secretly engaged due to the expected refusal of the royal family to recognize the relationship of Alexander I with a woman who did not belong to one of the European ruling dynasties.
Meanwhile, the domestic situation in Greece was complicated by World War I. King Constantine I abdicated in 1917 and Alexander was chosen as sovereign. Separated from his family and subjected to the Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, the new ruler found comfort in Aspasia. Despite the opposition of his parents (exiled in Switzerland) and Venizelists (who wanted the king to marry a British princess), King Alexander I secretly married Aspasia on 17 November 1919. The public revelation of the wedding shortly after caused a huge scandal, and Aspasia temporarily left Greece. However, she was reunited with her husband after a few months of separation and was then allowed to return to Greece without receiving the title of Queen of the Hellenes. She became pregnant, but Alexander died on 25 October 1920, less than a year after their marriage.
At the same time, the situation in Greece was deteriorating again: the country was in the middle of a bloody conflict with the Ottoman Empire, Constantine I was restored (19 December 1920) only to be deposed again (27 September 1922), this time in favor of Diadochos (Crown Prince) George. First excluded from the royal family, Aspasia was gradually integrated after the birth of her daughter Alexandra on 25 March 1921 and was later recognized with the title of Princess Alexander of Greece and Denmark after a decree issued by her father-in-law. Nevertheless, her situation remained precarious due to the dislike of her sister-in-law Elisabeth of Romania and the political instability of the country. As the only members of the royal family to be allowed to stay in Greece after the proclamation of the Republic on 25 March 1924, Aspasia and her daughter chose to settle in Florence, with Queen Sophia. They remained there until 1927 then divided their time between the United Kingdom and Venice.
The restoration of the Greek monarchy in 1935 did not change Aspasia’s life. Sheltered by her in-laws, she made the Venetian villa Garden of Eden her main residence, until the outbreak of the Greco-Italian War in 1940. After a brief return to her country, where she worked for the Red Cross, the princess spent World War II in England. In 1944, her daughter married the exiled King Peter II of Yugoslavia, and Aspasia became a grandmother with the birth of Alexander, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia in 1945. Once peace was restored, Aspasia returned to live in Venice. Her last days were marked by economic hardship, illness and especially worry for her daughter, who made several suicide attempts. Aspasia died in 1972, but it wasn’t until 1993 that her remains were transferred to the royal necropolis of Tatoi.
Aspasia was born in Tatoi, Athens on 4 September 1896 as the eldest daughter of Colonel Petros Manos and his first wife, Maria Argyropoulos. Named after her maternal grandmother, Aspasia Anargyrou Petrakis, she had one younger full-sister, Roxane (born 28 February 1898), later wife of the athlete and industrialist Christos Zalokostas. From her father’s second marriage with Sophie Tombazis (daughter of Alexandros Tombazis and Princess Maria Mavrocordato), she had one half-sister, Rallou (1915–1988), a choreographer, modern dancer and dance teacher, who was married to the prominent Greek architect Pavlos Mylonas.
After the divorce of her parents, Aspasia left Athens to complete her studies in France and Switzerland. Having returned to Greece in 1915, she came to live with her mother. Shortly after, she met her childhood friend, Prince Alexander of Greece, at a party given by the Palace Stable master, Theodoros Ypsilantis. Described by many of her contemporaries as a very beautiful woman,[lower-alpha 1] Aspasia immediately caught the attention of the prince who then had no other wish than to conquer her.
Initially, Aspasia was very reluctant to accept the romantic advances of the prince. Renowned for his many female conquests, Alexander seemed to her untrustworthy, also because their social differences impeded any serious relationship.[lower-alpha 2] However, the perseverance of the Greek prince, who travelled to Spetses in the summer of 1915 for the sole purpose of seeing Aspasia, finally overcame her misgivings.
Deeply in love with each other, they became engaged but their marital project remained secret. Alexander’s parents, especially Queen Sophia (born a Prussian princess of the House of Hohenzollern), were very attached to social conventions, making it unthinkable that their children could marry persons not belonging to European royalty.