When King Constantine was once again forced to go into exile on September 27, Gilbert wrote a general article for the Morning Post summing up how the political situation in Greece had led to this result.
“After not quite two years of ‘Restoration,’ King Constantine is again an exile. His fortunes are characteristic of Greece and of the temperament of its inhabitants. In his youth he was very unpopular in the Army, and had to leave it after a kind of military “pronunciamento.” M. Venizelos, however, brought him back to the Army, and in the Balkan wars his military ability or his good luck, as I have heard suggested by Serbian and Bulgarian officers, made him at once the most popular man in Greece.
It had been prophesied that under a Constantine and a Sophia Constantinople would again become Greek, and the almost official assumption of the title “the Bulgar-slayer” recalled the glorious days of the Byzantine empire. …
When he came to the throne, his own popularity, combined with the ability of M. Venizelos, seemed likely to open up vast possibilities to Greek megalomania. But the European War split the dual union. The King believed, wrongly, that Germany would win; he also believed, rightly, that Greece did not want to fight. M. Venezelos returned to Athens supported by English and French bayonets, and the King had to fly. The circumstance rendered him a martyr, and in many circles increased his popularity.
The country had had enough war, and the Greek is not a willing soldier. I doubt whether at any time M. Venizelos had the majority of the country behind him. The election figures count for nothing, is anyone can arrange Greek elections. Then came the peace. Against the advice of the military experts of all the Allied countries, Mr. Lloyd George and M. Millerand sent Greece, not only to the gates of Constantinople, but also to the vilayet of Smyrna, which, in a solemn agreement, had been given to Italy.
I know that many friends of Greece and M. Venizelos viewed with foreboding his great success at San Remo. Perhaps, being a Cretan he had never understood the character of the mainland Greeks; perhaps he himself was led by some of his supporters. In any case, the treaty of Serves was doomed from the start. Moreover, M. Venizelos was personally unpopular in Greece, and still more so were some of his chief supporters. He is a Cretan, and had filled Government offices with Cretans. He was too popular abroad, and the Greeks do not love hearing Aristides always being called the Just.
Finally, the Sevres Treaty imposed upon Greece a military burden which the people would not bear. On the death of King Alexander, M. Venizelos fought the elections on the dynastic question, and did not ensure at the same time, by means very easy to a Greek Government, a very large majority.
Constantine returned in triumph. He was hailed both as the Sovereign who would occupy Constantinople and the ruler who would order the demobilisation. Some hailed him as the War Lord, others as the peace bringer. The history of the last two years has been the struggle to conciliate these two opposite interests.
Although the Court circles fully realised that Greece in Asia Minor had undertaken a task beyond its strength, nevertheless no one had the courage to own this openly, and the King did not dare risk the unpopularity which would result in the evacuation of Smyrna. He, who had been recalled from exile in order to demobilise, was forced to proceed to war measures on an unprecedented scale.
He attempted to conciliate his own interests with his military needs by placing his opponents in the fighting line and by not pursuing Royalist deserters with too severe a hand, and it is significant that the revolution has come from the broken front-line troops.
He tried last year to resolve the question by force of arms, and just failed to reach Angora. Since this defeat everyone in Athens fully realized that Smyrna would have to be evacuated. After the Allied Note in March this became a certainty, but again no one had the courage to yield to the inevitable and order the evacuation.
At home the Parliament was torn by the private ambitions of the various supporters of the King, who were all out to make as much as they could out of the situation, and by the passive resistance of a Venezelist party.
The only surprise is that the blow has been deferred so long. I was in Smyrna at the end of July, and I was informed on the best authority that many of the villages in the interior, at the back of the Greek lines, had never been occupied by the Greeks, and that their Turkish inhabitants were already in arms along the Greek line of communication. The troops in the line were utterly demoralised and smarted under the injustice of seeing the Royalist embusqués at the back of the front.
But the government still hoped for the support of England, or, rather, Mr. Lloyd George. Now, having seen that the King has not come up to their expectations, they cause him to abdicate, hoping by that means to save Thrace. They will probably find that no Government can do that, and will be again disappointed.”