On December 8, 1974, 69.2% of the Greek people voted to abolish the monarchy. In November 2000, the European Court of Human Rights granted 13.7 million euros in compensation to the former royal family – against the 161 million it had sought – thus settling the issue of the royal estate. Jurist and academic Nikos Alivizatos’ book “The Royal Property in Strasbourg” (in Greek, by Sakkoulas) is an excellent source for anyone interested in learning more about the legal dispute.
The case is closed, yet the recent fires in northern Athens demonstrated how the former royal estate at Tatoi continues to rouse the public. Some turned to social media to accuse the fire service of abandoning Evia to its own fires to “save Frederica’s knickers” or to lash out at others expressing regret at the damage sustained by the estate. They forget, however, that Tatoi is the property of the people.
As for its objects? I remember visiting the Hofburg in Austria, one of two big palaces dedicated to Sisi and a major part of the local tourism industry. What impressed me most was how popularly held myths about the museum’s principal subject were demolished with an explanation that the former empress was unpopular during her reign, despite what three major films would have us believe.
Given that Greece’s Ministry of Culture is about to launch a tender for the restoration of the Tatoi estate and will have to conduct a study on how it will serve as a museum, wouldn’t a similar approach be more historically accurate? Wouldn’t it be preferable for the museum to be more than a showcase of fancy clothing and furniture, to provide a brief and sincere assessment of the monarchy in Greece, its role in the events that led up to the dictatorship and its ultimate end? Otherwise, it risks being nothing more than a fabricated snapshot of a bygone age.