Queen Sofía of Spain

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Sofía of Greece and Denmark
A photograph of Sofía aged 71
Queen Sofía in 2009
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure22 November 1975 – 19 June 2014
BornPrincess Sophia of Greece and Denmark
(1938-11-02) 2 November 1938 (age 83)
Tatoi Palace, Athens, Kingdom of Greece
(m. 1962)
FatherPaul of Greece
MotherFrederica of Hanover
ReligionRoman Catholic
prev. Greek Orthodox
SignatureSofía of Greece and Denmark's signature

Sofía of Greece and Denmark (Greek: Σοφία; born 2 November 1938) is a member of the Spanish royal family who was Queen of Spain from 1975 to 2014 as the wife of King Juan Carlos I. She is the first child of King Paul of Greece and Frederica of Hanover. As her family was forced into exile during the Second World War, she spent part of her childhood in Egypt, returning to Greece in 1946. She completed her secondary education in a boarding school in Germany before returning to Greece where she specialised in childcare, music and archaeology.

Sofía became queen upon her husband's accession in 1975.[1] On 19 June 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of their son Felipe VI.[2]

Early life[edit]

Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark was born on 2 November 1938, at Tatoi Palace in Acharnes, Athens, Greece, the eldest child of King Paul and his wife, Queen Frederica. Sofía is a member of the Greek branch of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty. Her brother is the deposed King Constantine II and her sister is Princess Irene. She was christened Sophia Margarita Victoria Federica on January 9, 1939 at the Royal Palace in Athens.[citation needed]

Princess Sophia spent some of her childhood in Egypt where she took her early education in El Nasr Girls' College (EGC) in Alexandria. She lived in South Africa during her family's exile from Greece during World War II, where her sister Irene was born. They returned to Greece in 1946. She finished her education at the prestigious Schloss Salem boarding school in Southern Germany, and then studied childcare, music and archeology in Athens.[citation needed] She also studied at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.[3] She was a reserve member, alongside her brother Constantine, of Greece's gold medal-winning sailing team in the 1960 Summer Olympics.[4]

Marriage and family[edit]

Sofía met her paternal third cousin, the then Infante Juan Carlos of Spain on a cruise in the Greek Islands in 1954; they met again at the wedding of the Duke of Kent, her paternal second cousin, at York Minster in June 1961.[5] Sofía and Juan Carlos married on 14 May 1962, at the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Dionysius in Athens. Her bride's gown was made by Jean Dessès.[5]

Sofía and Juan Carlos in 1966

Sofía converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Catholicism to become more palatable to Catholic Spain, and thus relinquished her rights to the Greek throne. Along with this, the usual Latinisation of her Greek name (Σοφία) was changed from Sophia to the Spanish variant, Sofía.[citation needed]

Sofía was in Greece on a private visit to her brother, King Constantine II, when the 1967 Greek military coup took place. Except for a brief stay for the funeral of her mother in 1981, Queen Sofía would not visit the Hellenic Republic until 1998.

In 1969, Infante Juan Carlos, who was never Prince of Asturias (the traditional title of the Spanish heir apparent), was given the official title of "Prince of Spain" by the Francoist dictatorship.[6] Juan Carlos acceded to the throne in 1975, upon the death of Francisco Franco.[6] Juan Carlos, after his accession to the Spanish throne, returned with his family to the Zarzuela Palace.

The couple has three children: Elena (born 20 December 1963); Cristina (born 13 June 1965); and Felipe (born 30 January 1968).[7]


Sofía departing the United States in 1986

Besides accompanying her husband on official visits and occasions, Sofía also has solo engagements. She is executive president of the Queen Sofía Foundation, which in 1993, sent funds for relief in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is honorary president of the Royal Board on Education and Care of Handicapped Persons of Spain, as well as the Spanish Foundation for Aid for Drug Addicts. Additionally, she has served as the patroness of the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute since 2003.

Sofía takes special interest in programs against drug addiction, travelling to conferences in both Spain and abroad. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is named after her, as is Reina Sofía Airport in Tenerife.

Sofía is an Honorary Member of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts and of the Spanish Royal Academy of History. She has received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Rosario (Bogotá), Valladolid, Cambridge, Oxford, Georgetown, Evora, St. Mary's University (Texas), and New York.

A keen supporter of sport, Sofía also attended the final match of the 2010 Wimbledon Championships – Men's Singles where she watched Spanish tennis champion Rafael Nadal win for a second time, as well as the 2010 FIFA World Cup where the Spanish team was crowned as world champion.

Sofía laying a wreath in 2009

Sofía has been honorary president of the Spanish Unicef Committee since 1971.[8] She has been working closely with Dr. Muhammad Yunus on his Grameen Bank (or "Village Bank"), which offers microcredits to women across the world. Queen Sofía has travelled to Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico to support the activities of the organization led by Yunus. Queen Sofía has also been a strong supporter of Somaly Mam's efforts and of the NGO she founded—Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire (AFESIP)—in combatting child prostitution and slavery in Cambodia. In 1998, Mam was awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in her presence.

In July 2012, Sofía visited the Philippines for a fourth time. She inspected several development projects around the former Spanish colony that her country's government is funding via the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID). She visited the National Library, National Museum and the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of the Philippines, which had the oldest extant university charter in Asia and housed the world's largest collection of suyat scripts. She also met with Spanish nationals residing in the Philippines, and attended a reception at the Spanish Embassy. She also attended a state dinner in her honour at Malacañan Palace hosted by President Benigno Aquino III,[9][10] and thanked the president for promoting the Spanish language in the Philippine educational system.[11]

Later activity[edit]

Following the abdication of her husband as King in 2014, Sofía focused on her sponsoring activities,[12] spending her time between La Zarzuela and, in the Summer months, the Marivent Palace in Palma de Mallorca.[13][14]

In April 2018, the video of a tense interaction between Sofía and her daughter-in-law Letizia following the Easter Mass at Palma Cathedral made headlines.[15] The rumours of a conflict between the two dates back to 2008.[15] Letizia who was reportedly "dismayed" with the rumours, was spotted a few days later with her arriving at La Moraleja Hospital to visit King Juan Carlos.[16]


Queen Sofía in 2003

Sofía has expressed opinions on policy including her criticism of the military intervention in Afghanistan, where Spanish troops were taking part at the time, her defence of religious education in schools, and her conviction that gender violence publicity will encourage new cases to occur.[17]

In 2008, on the occasion of her 70th birthday, Sofía made a number of conservative statements on issues then being debated in Spanish society. These statements included her rejection of same-sex marriage, rejection of Gay Pride celebrations, her opposition to abortion, and her defence of religious education in schools.[18] Her opinions were subjected to heavy criticism by LGBT activists[19][20][21] and Republican parties like IU and ERC. The governing PSOE did not comment, while the conservative opposition PP also did so, after initial criticism of the Queen from one of its representatives.[22]

A biography published in May 2012 depicts Sofía as a vegetarian who dislikes bullfighting.[23]

Titles and honours[edit]

Royal Monogram
  • 2 November 1938 – 14 May 1962: Her Royal Highness Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark
  • 14 May 1962 – 21 July 1969: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Asturias
  • 21 July 1969 – 22 November 1975: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Spain
  • 22 November 1975 – 19 June 2014: Her Majesty The Queen of Spain
  • 19 June 2014 – present: Her Majesty Queen Sofía of Spain

Queen Sophia was awarded the Order of the Queen of Sheeba by Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in 1973 upon her and her husband King Juan Carlos's visit to the capital Addis Ababa. Sofía was appointed to the Grand Cross of The Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III on 10 May 1962[24] and to The Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa on 14 May 1962.[citation needed] The Queen of Spain was appointed to the Collar of the Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III as dame on 31 October 1983.[25] Since then, Queen Sofía has received different appointments and decorations by more than 40 foreign states.


Notable published works[edit]

  • En Decelia: fragmentos cerámicos de Decelia y miscelánea arqueológica. Athens, (1959–1960). Edited in Spanish in Spain, 2013.[26][27] ISBN 9788494103308


  1. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XV. "Spanien". C.A. Starke Verlag, 1997, pp. 20, 100-101. (in German) ISBN 978-3-79800-814-4
  2. ^ "Spain will have two kings and two queens". The Telegraph. 13 June 2014. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  3. ^ "HM Sofia Queen of Spain". Fitzwilliam College. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Royal Participants at the Olympics". Topend Sports. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  5. ^ a b Gay, Danielle (13 May 2019). "Inside Queen Sofía and King Juan Carlos's 1962 wedding". Vogue Australia. Condé Nast. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  6. ^ a b Bernecker, Walther (January 1998). "Monarchy and Democracy: The Political Role of King Juan Carlos in the Spanish Transición". Journal of Contemporary History. 33 (1): 65–84. doi:10.1177/003200949803300104. S2CID 157966975.
  7. ^ "S.M. la Reina Doña Sofía - Biography". Casa Real. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  8. ^ "Queen Sofía: " "I feel the same as always. Everything is going to carry on as it is"". El Pais. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  9. ^ [1] Archived 6 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ "Albay gives Spanish queen warm welcome". Inquirer Global Nation. 5 July 2012.
  11. ^ Legaspi, Amita O. (3 July 2012). "PNoy and Spain's Queen Sofía welcome return of Spanish language in PHL schools". GMA News Online. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  12. ^ Paniagua, Antonio (2 November 2018). "Una reina que va a más". El Comercio.
  13. ^ Font, Consuelo (9 July 2016). "Doña Sofía encuentra su refugio en Marivent". El Mundo.
  14. ^ Simón, Paloma (3 August 2017). "Doña Sofía, la solitaria reina de Palma". Vanity Fair.
  15. ^ a b Strange, Hannah (4 April 2018). "Queens' clash at church goes viral to expose tensions in Spanish royal family". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022.
  16. ^ Pearl, Diana (9 April 2018). "Queen Letizia and Queen Sofía Reunite After Their Tense Exchange on Easter Was Caught on Camera". People. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  17. ^ Galaz, Mábel (30 October 2008). "No nos queman a nosotros. Son trozos de papel. Ya se apagarán". El País.
  18. ^ ""No nos queman a nosotros. Son trozos de papel. Ya se apagarán"". El País. 30 October 2008.
  19. ^ "Queen's First Out-Gay Footman Quits Amid Homophobia Accusations". The Daily Beast. 1 October 2018.
  20. ^ "Spanish queen breaks silence - and upsets gay groups". The Independent. 30 October 2008.
  21. ^ "Malestar en el colectivo homosexual por las palabras de la Reina". El País. 30 October 2008.
  22. ^ Garea, Fernando; Foguet, Joan; Asry, Karim; Granda, Elsa (31 October 2008). "PP y PSOE ordenan guardar silencio sobre las declaraciones de la Reina". El País.
  23. ^ Alexander, Harriet (20 May 2012). "Queen Sofia of Spain: Europe's lonely royal consort". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  24. ^ (in Spanish) Decree 1192/1962, 1 June. HRH Princess Sofia Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III. BOE (Spanish Official Gazette), 62/06/01.
  25. ^ (in Spanish) Royal Decree 2747/1983, 31 October. HM Queen Sofia Collar of the Order of Charles III. BOE (Spanish Official Gazette), 83/11/02.
  26. ^ Logintegral Archived 3 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ En Decelia: fragmentos cerámicos de Decelia y miscelánea arqueológica.

External links[edit]

Queen Sofía of Spain
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 2 November 1938
Spanish royalty
Title last held by
Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
Queen consort of Spain
22 November 1975 – 19 June 2014
Succeeded by