Alexandros Mavrokordatos

Dafato Team | May 11, 2022

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Alexandros Mavrokordatos (February 11, 1791 - August 18, 1865) was a Greek statesman and part of the Mavrocordatos family of the Phanariots. He actively participated in the Greek War of Independence and was several times Prime Minister of Greece. A Phanariot member of the Filikí Etería society and of Freemasonry, resident in Italy, he quickly arrived in Greece with the outbreak of the Greek insurrection in 1821 and played an important role in the establishment of the first Greek state of which he was the first president. Retired from power, he continued to play an important political role throughout his life. He was close to the British and belonged to the liberal movement.

In 1812, Mavrokordatos went to the court of his uncle John George Caradja, Hospodar of Wallachia, with whom he went into exile in the Austrian Empire (1818), studying at the University of Padua . He was a member of the secret society Filikí Etería and was among the Phanariot Greeks who rushed to Morea at the outbreak of the War of Independence in 1821. By the time the revolution began, Mavrokordatos was living in Pisa with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and his wife Mary Shelley, and upon hearing of the revolution, he went to Marseilles to buy weapons and a ship to take him back to Greece. Mavrokordatos was a very wealthy and well-educated man who spoke seven languages fluently, and whose experience ruling Wallachia led many to see him as a future leader of Greece. Unlike many of the Greek leaders, Mavrokordatos, who had lived in the West, preferred to wear Western clothes and held the West as a political model for Greece. The American Hellenophile Samuel Gridley Howe described Mavrokordatos in the following terms:

"His manners are perfectly easy and gentlemanly, and while the first impression would be, from his extreme politeness and continual smiles, that he is a silly good-natured fop, it is soon apparent from the sharp and inquisitive glances which involuntarily escape him, that he is concealing, under a lightness of manner almost childish, a minute and accurate study of his visitor.... His friends attribute each of his actions to the most disinterested patriotism, but his enemies do not hesitate to declare that they are all aimed at their party or private interest..... Here, as is usually the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle between the two extremes." ...

Mavrokordatos, a clever and astute man, was the best politician to come out of the Greek struggle and he dominated directly or indirectly the various assemblies struggling to establish a government for Greece. He actively participated in the effort to establish a regular government, and was elected in January 1822 by the First National Assembly at Epidaurus as "president of the executive," making him in effect the leader of Greece. The Epidaurus assembly was largely a triumph for Mavrokordatos, as it allowed him to write the first Greek constitution and become the new leader of the nation. Reflecting the fact that the Greek government had little power, Mavrokordatos showed more interest in defending his power base in western Rumelia (mainland Greece), going first to the island of Hydra to secure the support of the Hydrian warships and then to Missolonghi, where he oversaw the construction of defensive works while using his wealth to create a patronage network in order to win the support of the clans of western Rumelia. Mavrokordatos did not play the role of a national leader and had created a deliberately complicated constitution largely to ensure that no one else could become a successful leader while he was away securing his power base in western Rumelia.One analyst commented on Mavrokordatos' tactics, "He mimics the cunning of the hedgehog who, they say, flattens his spines and becomes skinny to get into his burrow, and once inside he fluffs them back up and becomes a ball of thorns to prevent anyone else from entering."

Mavrokordatos commanded the Greek advance into west central Greece that same year, suffering a serious defeat at Peta on July 16, but recovered from this disaster to some extent through his successful resistance before the First Siege of Missolonghi (November 1822-January 1823). At Peta, Mavokordatos wanted a victory for his pro-Hellenist units and the Greek soldiers under his command were trained by the German pro-Hellenist Karl von Normann-Ehrenfels to show them the advantages of professional military training to the other Greeks.Mavorkordatos appointed Normann-Ehrenfels, who had previously been a captain in the Württemberg army, as his chief of staff. Mavrokordatos did not run for office again in the 1823 Argos assembly, but instead appointed himself secretary general of the executive, which made him responsible for the flow of paperwork to and from the executive.In 1823, Mavokordatos supported the Senate in its dispute with the executive, dominated by supporters of his rival Theodoros Kolokotronis. In 1824, Mavrokordatos received Lord Byron in Greece and tried to convince him to command an attack against Naupact (Lepanto). In 1824, Mavrokordatos supported a plot by the American pro-Hellenist George Jarvis and the Scottish pro-Hellenist Thomas Fenton to assassinate his rival Odysseas Androutsos and his brother-in-law, Edward John Trelawny.

Mavorokordhatos' English sympathies led him, in the ensuing factional conflict, to become part of the opposition to the "Russian" party led by Dimitrios Ipsilantis and Kolokotronis. Although he held the portfolio of foreign affairs for a brief period under the presidency of Petrobey (Petros Mavromichalis), he was forced to withdraw from state affairs until February 1825, when he returned to the post of secretary of state. The landing of Ibrahim Baya then occurred, and Mavrokordatos rejoined the army, being about to be captured in the disastrous battle of Sphacteria, on May 9, 1825, aboard the ship Ares.

After the fall of Missolonghi (April 22, 1826) he retired, until President Ioannis Kapodistrias appointed him as a member of the committee for the administration of war material, a position he resigned in 1828. After the assassination of Kapodistrias (occurred on October 9, 1831) and the subsequent resignation of his brother and successor, Augustinos Kapodistrias (April 13, 1832), Mavrokordatos was appointed minister of finance. He was vice-president of the National Assembly of Argos (July 1832), and appointed by King Otto as his Minister of Finance, and in 1833 as Prime Minister.

From 1834 onwards he served as Greek envoy in Munich, Berlin, London and, after a brief interlude again as prime minister of Greece in 1841, he was appointed as envoy to Constantinople. In 1843, after the insurrection of September 3, he returned to Athens as minister without portfolio in the cabinet of Metaxas, and between April and August 1844 was head of the government which was formed after the fall of the Russian party. Joining the opposition, he distinguished himself by his violent attacks on the Kolettis government. In 1854-1855 he again became head of government for a few months. He died in Egina on August 18, 1865.

E. Legrand, Généalogie des Mavrocordato (Paris, 1886).


  1. Alexandros Mavrokordatos
  2. Alexandros Mavrokordatos

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