Home Australia The uncrowned English ‘queen’ of Greece: how forgotten Joyce Brittain-Jones was King George II’s great secret love and helped him face the Nazi attack in World War II, but the couple’s romance ended in tragedy

The uncrowned English ‘queen’ of Greece: how forgotten Joyce Brittain-Jones was King George II’s great secret love and helped him face the Nazi attack in World War II, but the couple’s romance ended in tragedy

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Joyce Brittain-Jones was the great love of King George II of Greece, but she has been erased from history. Above: The English beauty on her wedding day in 1924. She married Jack Brittain-Jones, a soldier in the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch.

She was a striking English beauty who was the uncrowned “queen” of Greece for almost 12 years, but now no one knows her name.

It does not appear in official documents, it has no place in history books or authorized biographies. It has been retouched from history.

But Joyce Brittain-Jones was the great love of King George II of Greece. She was the secret lover whose support was vital when her country faced Nazi Germany in World War II.

Known as ‘J’, Miss Brown and Mrs Jones, she remained in the shadows.

Without it, George, Prince Philip’s first cousin, would not have been able to cope with the pressures of war. Joyce was his rock.

Joyce Brittain-Jones was the great love of King George II of Greece, but she has been erased from history. Above: The English beauty on her wedding day in 1924. She married Jack Brittain-Jones, a soldier in the 1st Battalion of the Black Watch.

Without Joyce, George, Prince Philip's first cousin, would not have been able to cope with the pressures of war. She was his rock. Above: King George II of Greece

Without Joyce, George, Prince Philip’s first cousin, would not have been able to cope with the pressures of war. She was his rock. Above: King George II of Greece

In London, our wartime King George’s reign in exile could never have been as successful as it was without the support and self-preservation instincts of his fierce queen, Elizabeth.

And so it was in Athens. ‘Miss Brown’ was at the king’s side during the country’s darkest hours – including the bloody flight to and from Crete in 1941 – and George’s wartime reign would have collapsed without her.

The seductive Emerald Joyce Henrietta Wallach was born the daughter of a highly successful lawyer in Bengal at the height of the British Raj. At the age of 17 she came to London to be presented before the Court.

One of the most beautiful debutantes of her year, she was soon recruited by a celebrated cricketer and boxer, Jack Brittain-Jones, who was also an officer in the fashionable Black Watch regiment.

The couple was sent to Delhi, where Jack was assigned the job of aide-de-camp to Viceroy Lord Willingdon.

It was a high social position in the heat and dust of the Imperial Raj, but Joyce did not join it immediately.

He remained in London, where by chance he met the exiled king. The monarchy had been expelled from Greece in 1924, only to return later.

Joyce Wallach on her wedding day to Jack Brittain-Jones at Temple Church in 1924

Joyce Wallach on her wedding day to Jack Brittain-Jones at Temple Church in 1924

King George II of Greece with his wife Elizabeth, daughter of the King of Romania. The couple's union was an unwise decision that ended in divorce in 1935.

King George II of Greece with his wife Elizabeth, daughter of the King of Romania. The couple’s union was an unwise decision that ended in divorce in 1935.

In Athens in 1947, George suffered a heart attack and died, aged only 56. He never achieved his one true wish: to be with Joyce for the rest of his days.

In Athens in 1947, George suffered a heart attack and died, aged only 56. He never achieved his one true wish: to be with Joyce for the rest of his days.

Joyce spent time with George at his home from home, Brown’s Hotel in Mayfair, hence one of her nicknames.

Joyce was eventually forced to join her husband in Delhi, but in 1934 the Greek King George appeared on an unofficial tour of India, and that was when their relationship became serious.

Joyce’s marriage was falling apart, as was the king’s. She had made a dynastic union by marrying Elizabeth, daughter of the king of Romania, but it was an unwise decision.

Elisabeth, introverted and socially isolated, did not like her husband and did not care to say so. “Cold, with a volcanic temper” was one description of her, and she and King George divorced in 1935.

That year the monarchy was reestablished in Greece. Joyce immediately sailed to the country to join George, but remained out of sight so as not to disturb the Greek people.

He lived in the royal family’s summer palace on Mount Parnis, 30 miles from Athens.

There she spent her time, according to some accounts, “knitting and reading.” But Joyce was a very intelligent woman, who in a short time was able to measure herself against the Greek politicians who surrounded her recently restored husband.

Until the outbreak of war in 1939, Joyce continued to occupy this position of powerful, silent and invisible advisor.

His opinions and advice were what the slightly weak king needed.

German glider plane on fire about to crash during the Nazi airborne invasion of Crete, May 1941

German glider plane on fire about to crash during the Nazi airborne invasion of Crete, May 1941

King George II arrived in Cairo in 1941 after the fall of Greece to the Nazis.

King George II arrived in Cairo in 1941 after the fall of Greece to the Nazis.

And gradually the Foreign Office in London, eager to cling to Greece as an ally in the event of war, came to recognize how important a figure Joyce had become.

Germany overpowered Greece in April 1941 and the royal family, along with many others, headed by sea to what was considered the safety of Crete, 400 miles away.

But just over a month later, Germany invaded the island and a bloody battle broke out in which the Allied forces tried, unsuccessfully, to retake the island.

Joyce, along with King Otto’s dachshund, escaped by plane to Cairo.

But the king remained a figurehead for his refugee people before finally fleeing on the back of a donkey dressed in full service dress and medals.

Soon the royal couple returned to London before flying to Washington to rally support for the Greek nation before the US president.

By then Joyce – whose name does not appear in official documents relating to the visit – was playing an important role in stabilizing King George’s negotiating hand.

Upon his return to London, Joyce took up residence in Knightsbridge’s Montpelier Walk, while the king established his official residence at Claridge’s Hotel, a 15-minute walk away.

The couple was together most nights. They were, for all intents and purposes, a married couple, blissfully happy in each other’s company, and looking forward to the peace that would soon come.

King George II with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the White House lawn after George's escape from Cairo in 1941

King George II with President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the White House lawn after George’s escape from Cairo in 1941

George of Greece working from his office at Claridges in January 1945

George of Greece working from his office at Claridges in January 1945

When he did, George returned to Athens to reclaim his throne. But the most important thing to him was his love for Joyce. She mattered more than the ceremony, power and riches of royalty.

His game plan was to gracefully return to the shadows, abdicating in favor of his younger brother Paul.

He would then return to London and settle down with Joyce and make her his queen, although by now he would be a former king.

It wasn’t going to be. In Athens in 1947, George suffered a heart attack and died, aged only 56. He never achieved his one true wish: to be with Joyce for the rest of his days.

As for his best loved, she disappeared once again and quietly remarried a former British spy, Colonel Edwin Boxshall. One of the first victims of Parkinson’s disease, she died in Chelsea in 1974.

Always a queen, in everything but name.

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