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Constantine Kanaris

His Excellency
Constantine Kanaris
Κωνσταντίνος Κανάρης
Konstantinos Kanaris (c.1793-1877)
National Historical Museum of Athens
Prime Minister of Greece
In office
11 March 1844 – 11 April 1844
Monarch Otto
Preceded by Andreas Metaxas
Succeeded by Alexandros Mavrokordatos
In office
27 October 1848 – 24 December 1849
Monarch Otto
Preceded by Georgios Kountouriotis
Succeeded by Antonios Kriezis
In office
28 May 1854 – 29 July 1854
Monarch Otto
Preceded by Antonios Kriezis
Succeeded by Alexandros Mavrokordatos
In office
17 March 1864 – 28 April 1864
Monarch George I
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
Athens, Kingdom of Greece
Nationality Greek
Religion Orthodox Christian
Military service
Allegiance Kingdom of Greece
Service/branch Royal Hellenic Navy
Years of service 1821–1844
Rank 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.[1]


  • Early life 1
  • Military career 2
  • Political career 3
  • Family 4
  • References 5
  • Sources 6
  • External links 7
  • Notes 8

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 became 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.[2]

The destruction of the Ottoman flagship at Chios by Kanaris.

At Chios, on the 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, while Kanaris and his men managed to place a fire ship next to it. 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.

Constantine led three further successful attacks against the Turkish fleet in 1822–1824, including at the Battle of Nauplia in September 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.

Mahmud II offered to the viceroy the command of Crete, if he agreed to send part of this army against the Greeks. They quickly reached an agreement. The Egyptian army, under the personal command of Ibrahim Pasha, started a campaign in both land and sea against the Greeks.

The musket of Kanaris.

The Turkish fleet captured Psara on June 21, 1824. A part of the population managed to flee the island, but those who didn't were either sold into slavery or slaughtered. The island was deserted and surviving islanders were scattered through what is now Southern Greece (see Destruction of Psara).

After the destruction of his home island, Constantine continued to lead his men into attacks against the Turks, until the Battle of Navarino of October 20, 1827. Then the Turkish-Egyptian fleet was destroyed by the combined naval forces of Britain, France and Russia.

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.[3] 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 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.
  • Themistocles Kanaris, (1819–1851) - a member of a military expeditionary force to Egypt, killed there in 1851.
  • Thrasyvoulos Kanaris, (1820–1898) - Admiral.
  • Miltiades 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.
  • Aristides 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.[4]


  1. ^ Woodhouse, p. 129.
  2. ^ Woodhouse, p. 138.
  3. ^ Woodhouse, p. 152.
  4. ^ Bassett, Richard (2005). Hitler's Spy Chief: The Wilhelm Canaris Mystery. Cassell. p. 65.  


  • Woodhouse, "The Story of Modern Greece", Faber and Faber (1968)

External links

  • Listed among other Major Figures of the Greek War of Independence
  • The History of the Grand Lodge of Greece Explains the Origins of the Philiki Etairia
  • Short profile of Mohammad Ali, Viceroy of Egypt
  • Short Profile of Ibrahim Pasha
  • Statue of K. Kanaris in Park on Chios Island, Greece


Political offices
Preceded by
Andreas Metaxas
Prime Minister of Greece
March 11, 1844 - April 11, 1844
Succeeded by
Alexandros Mavrokordatos
Preceded by
Georgios Kountouriotis
Prime Minister of Greece
October 27, 1848 - December 24, 1849
Succeeded by
Antonios Kriezis
Preceded by
Antonios Kriezis
Prime Minister of Greece
May 28, 1854 - July 29, 1854
Succeeded by
Alexandros Mavrokordatos
Preceded by
Dimitrios Voulgaris
Prime Minister of Greece
March 17, 1864 - April 28, 1864
Succeeded by
Zinovios Valvis
Preceded by
Zinovios Valvis
Prime Minister of Greece
August 7, 1864 - February 9, 1865
Succeeded by
Benizelos Rouphos
Preceded by
Alexandros Koumoundouros
Prime Minister of Greece
June 7, 1877 - September 14, 1877
Succeeded by
Alexandros Koumoundouros
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