Grand Duchess Olga Constantinovna of Russia was born on 3 September 1851 to Grand Duke Constantine Nikolaevich of Russia and Princess Alexandra of Saxe-Altenburg in Pavlovsk Palace close to St Petersburg, Russia. She was their second child and elder daughter; she was also the granddaughter of Tsar Nicholas I.
After a visit by 17-year-old King George I of Greece (son of King Christian IX of Denmark) to Russia, to thank Olga’s uncle Tsar Alexander II for helping him ascend to the Greek throne via an election, George and 12-year-old Olga met for the first time. Four years later he would return to Russia to meet his sister, Dagmar, who had married the future Tsar Alexander III a year earlier. He had another motive for visiting Russia as he was on the hunt for a wife. Reportedly, he thought that a wife who was born a Russian grand duchess would be an appealing alliance.
Apprehensive about leaving Russia, Olga Constantinovna, nevertheless, married King George, who she had quickly fallen in love with. Her father was not a fan of their marriage at the beginning, as at the time of the proposal, Olga was only 15. He was also quite close to his second child and did not like the distance between the two countries. An agreement was made that the wedding would not take place until she had reached the age of 16. They married in the chapel of the Winter Palace on 27 October (O.S. 15 October) 1867.
Olga Constantinovna then became Queen of Greece. The couple would go on to have eight children in twenty years: the future King Constantine of Greece (b. 1868), Prince George (b. 1869), Princess Alexandra (b. 1870), Prince Nicholas (b. 1872), Princess Maria (b. 1876), Princess Olga (b. 1880), Prince Andrew (b. 1882) and Prince Christopher (b. 1888).
It would be 1920 when she would serve as temporary regent from 17 November to 19 December for 32 days. Her time as regent came after Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis served as regent from 28 October 1920 until his resignation on 17 November 1920.
Her husband had ruled until his assassination in 1913; their eldest child, Constantine, then took over until 1917. At that point, he resigned and went into exile with his second son, Alexander taking over as a puppet king until 25 October 1920 when he died from complications from a monkey bite at age 27. Due to his unequal marriage, his children were not in line for the throne, and the Greek Parliament refused to allow former King Constantine or Crown Prince George to reign. However, they wanted the monarchy to remain intact and wanted someone from the Royal Family to be the monarch. Parliament nominated George and Alexander’s younger brother, Prince Paul who refused because he did not feel it right as his father and brother had not renounced their claims to the throne. He would ascend if it was done by referendum.
The Admiral was regent while the debate over the next monarch took place, but after 22 days, he had had enough and resigned. At that point, the new Prime Minister of Greece, Dimitrios Rallis, asked Queen Olga to take over as regent. A referendum held three days later would return her son, Constantine I to the throne a month after her assuming regency after 99% voted in favour of Constantine’s return.
Olga Constantinovna, who was always held in high esteem by the Greek people, died six years later at the age of 74 on 18 June 1926. She is the grandmother of the UK’s Duke of Edinburgh and great-grandmother of the Prince of Wales.