Constantine Kanaris

Constantine Kanaris

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His Excellency
Constantine Kanaris
Κωνσταντίνος Κανάρης
Constantine Kanaris.jpg

Konstantinos Kanaris (c.1793-1877)
National Historical Museum of Athens
8th Prime Minister of Greece
In office
16 February 1844 – 30 March 1844
Monarch Otto
Preceded by Andreas Metaxas
Succeeded by Alexandros Mavrokordatos
In office
15 October 1848 – 12 December 1849
Monarch Otto
Preceded by Georgios Kountouriotis
Succeeded by Antonios Kriezis
In office
17 March 1864 – 28 April 1864
Monarch Otto
Preceded by Dimitrios Voulgaris
Succeeded by Zinovios Valvis
In office
7 August 1864 – 9 February 1865
Monarch George I
Preceded by Zinovios Valvis
Succeeded by Benizelos Rouphos
In office
7 June 1877 – 2 September 1877
Monarch George I
Preceded by Alexandros Koumoundouros
Succeeded by Alexandros Koumoundouros
Personal details
Born 1793 or 1795
Psara, Ottoman Greece
Died 2 September 1877[1]
Athens, Kingdom of Greece
Nationality Greek
Religion Orthodox Christian
Military service
Allegiance Greece Kingdom of Greece
Service/branch Royal Hellenic Navy
Years of service 1821–1844
Rank Greek Navy Admiral Flag.svg Admiral
Battles/wars War of Independence

Constantine Kanaris or Canaris (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Κανάρης; 1793 or 1795 – September 2, 1877) was a Greek Prime Minister, admiral and politician who in his youth was a freedom fighter in the Greek War of Independence.[2]


Early life

Constantine Kanaris during the Greek War of Independence.

He was born and grew up on the island of Psara, close to the island of Chios, in the Aegean. His exact year of birth is unknown. The official records of the Hellenic Navy indicate 1795 but modern Greek historians believe that 1793 is more probable.

Constantine was left an orphan at a young age. Having to support himself, he chose to become a seaman like most members of his family since the beginning of the 18th century. He was hired as a boy on the brig of his uncle Dimitris Bourekas.

Military career

Constantine gained his fame during the Greek War of Independence (1821–1829). Unlike most other prominent figures of the War, he had never been initiated into the Filiki Eteria (Friendly Society), which played a significant role in the revolution against the Ottoman Empire, primarily by secret recruitment of supporters against the Empire.

By early 1821, it had gained enough support to declare a revolution. This declaration seems to have surprised Constantine, who was absent at Odessa. He returned to Psara in haste and was there when the island joined the Revolution on April 10, 1821.

The island formed its own fleet of ships and the famed seamen of Psara, already known for their successful naval combats against pirates and their well-equipped ships, proved to be effective at full naval war. Constantine soon distinguished himself as a fire ship captain.[3]

The destruction of the Ottoman flagship at Chios by Kanaris.

At Chios, on the moonless night of June 6/June 7, 1822 forces under his command destroyed the flagship of the Turkish admiral Nasuhzade Ali Pasha (or Kara-Ali Pasha) in revenge for the Chios Massacre. The admiral was holding a celebration (Bayram), so Kanaris and his men managed to place a fire ship next to it without being noticed. When the flagship’s powder store caught fire, all men aboard were instantly killed. The Ottoman casualties comprised 2000 men, both naval officers and common sailors, as well as Kara-Ali himself.

Later in the year he led another successful attacks against the Turkish fleet at Tenedos in November 1822. He was famously said to have encouraged himself by murmuring “Konstantí, you are going to die” every time he was approaching a Turkish warship on the fire boat he was about to detonate.[citation needed]

The seven-barrled musket of Kanaris.

The Turkish fleet captured Psara on June 21, 1824. A part of the population, including Kanaris, managed to flee the island, but those who didn’t were either sold into slavery or slaughtered.

After the destruction of his home island, Kanaris continued to lead his men into attacks against the Turks. He took part to sea fights in the Dodecanese in August 1824.

In August 1825, Kanaris led the raid on Alexandria, a daring attempt to destroy the Egyptian fleet via fire ships that might had been successful if the wind had not failed just after the Greek ships entered Alexandria harbor.[4]

Following the end of the war and the independence of Greece, Constantine became an officer of the new Greek Navy, reaching the rank of Admiral, and later became a prominent politician.

Political career

Constantine Kanaris (c.1793-1877); Photographic Archive of Hellenic Literary and Historical Museum, Athens.

Constantine Kanaris was one of the few with the personal confidence of Ioannis Kapodistrias the first Head of State of independent Greece.[5] Kanaris served as Minister in various governments and then as Prime Minister, in the provisional government, from March 11-April 11, 1844. He served a second term (October 27, 1848 – December 24, 1849), and as Navy Minister in Mavrokordatos’ 1854 cabinet.

In 1862, he was one of the few War of Independence veterans that helped in the bloodless revolution that deposed King Otto of Greece and put Prince William of Denmark on the Greek throne as King George I of Greece. Under George I, he served as a prime minister for a third term (March 17 – April 28, 1864), fourth term (August 7, 1864 – February 9, 1865) and fifth and last term (June 7 – September 14, 1877).

Kanaris died on 2 September 1877 whilst still serving in office as Prime Minister. Following his death his government remained in power until September 14, 1877 without agreeing on a replacement at its head. He was buried in the First Cemetery of Athens, where most Greek prime ministers and celebrated figures are also buried. After his death he was honored as a national hero.

To honour Kanaris, three ships of the Hellenic Navy have been named after him;


Monument of Constantine Kanaris in Kypseli, Athens.

In 1817, he married Despina Maniatis, from a historical family of Psara. They had seven children:

  • Nikolaos Kanaris, (1818–1848) – a member of a military expeditionary force to Beirut, killed there in 1848.
  • Themistoklis Kanaris, (1819–1851) – a member of a military expeditionary force to Egypt, killed there in 1851.
  • Thrasyvoulos Kanaris, (1820–1898) – Admiral.
  • Miltiadis Kanaris, (1822–1899) – Admiral, member of the Greek Parliament for many years, Naval Minister three times in 1864, 1871, and 1878.
  • Lykourgos Kanaris, (1826–1865) – Lawyer
  • Maria Kanari, (1828–1847) – married A. Balambano.
  • Aristeidis Kanaris, (1831–1863) – officer killed in the uprising of 1863.

Wilhelm Canaris, a German Admiral, speculated that he might be a descendant of Constantine Kanaris. An official genealogical family history that was researched in 1938 showed that he was unrelated and that his family was from Italy.[6]


Mar 26, 2017 10:34 AM