Queen Sofía of Spain

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Sophia of Greece and Denmark
Karaliene Sofija (cropped).jpg
The Queen in 2009
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure22 November 1975 – 19 June 2014
Anointing27 November 1975
Born (1938-11-02) 2 November 1938 (age 81)
Tatoi Palace, Athens, Kingdom of Greece
FatherPaul of Greece
MotherFrederica of Hanover
ReligionRoman Catholic
prev. Greek Orthodox
SignatureSophia of Greece and Denmark's signature

Sophia of Greece and Denmark (Greek: Σοφία, Spanish: Sofía; born 2 November 1938) is a member of the Spanish royal family who served as Queen consort of Spain during the reign of her husband, King Juan Carlos I, from 1975 to 2014. Queen Sofía 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. She married Juan Carlos, son of the rightful Spanish heir Infante Juan Count of Barcelona, on 14 May 1962 with whom she has had three children: Elena, Cristina, and Felipe. She is also second cousin to Prince Charles.

She became queen upon her husband's accession in 1975.[1] On 19 June 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favor 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 Psychiko, Athens, Greece, the eldest child of King Paul and his wife, Queen Frederica. Sofia 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.

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. She also studied at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.[citation needed] She was a reserve member, alongside her brother Constantine, of Greece's gold medal-winning sailing team in the 1960 Summer Olympics.[3]

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.[4]

The couple married on 14 May 1962, at the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Dionysius in Athens. The bride's gown was made by Jean Dessès and she was attended by her sister Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, the groom's sister Infanta Pilar of Spain, and Sofía's future sister-in-law Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark (later Queen of Greece), along with Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Princess Anne of Orléans and Princess Tatiana Radziwill.[5]

Sofia converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Roman 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.]

Sofía in 2009 with her daughter-in-law, Letizia

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 Spanish dictatorship. Juan Carlos acceded to the throne in 1975, upon the death of Francisco Franco.

The couple has three children: Elena (born 20 December 1963); Cristina (born 13 June 1965); and Felipe (born 30 January 1968). They were born at Our Lady of Loreto Nursing Home in Madrid. Their four grandsons and four granddaughters are Felipe and Victoria de Marichalar y de Borbón, Juan, Pablo, Miguel and Irene Urdangarín y de Borbón, and Leonor, Princess of Asturias and Sofía, all of whom are in the line of succession to the Spanish throne.

Sofia is also a great-granddaughter of the last German emperor, Wilhelm II and second cousin of Charles, Prince of Wales. She is also a great-great grandaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom.


Queen Sofía departing the United States in 1986

Besides accompanying her husband on official visits and occasions, Queen 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.

She 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.

Queen Sofia 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, Queen Sofia 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.

Queen Sofía has been honorary president of the Spanish Unicef Committee since 1971.[6] 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, Queen Sofia 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,[7][8] and thanked the president for promoting the Spanish language in the Philippine educational system.[9]

Personal life[edit]

Queen Sofia in St. Petersburg with President Dmitriy Medvedev of Russia, 2011

Abolition of the Greek monarchy[edit]

The then-Princess Sofía was in Greece on a private visit to her brother, King Constantine II, when the 1967 Greek military coup took place. Since then, he has been stripped of his title, citizenship and property in Greece. Except for a brief stay for the funeral of her mother in 1981, Queen Sofía did not visit Greece in the form of the Hellenic Republic until 1998. She and her husband paid an official visit as guests of the then–President Constantinos Stephanopoulos after 17 years.


She 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.[10] Her opinions were subjected to lively criticism by LGBT associations and Spanish intellectuals due to her criticism of homosexual activity, a violation of human rights and dignity as expressed by the United Nations.[11][12][13] Also responding were Spanish republican political parties like IU and ERC. The governing PSOE decided to keep silent, while the conservative opposition PP also did so, after initial criticism of the Queen from one of its representatives.[14]

A biography published in May 2012 claims that the Queen is a vegetarian who dislikes bullfighting.[15]

In the media[edit]

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.[16] The rumours of a conflict between the two dates back to 2008.[16] Letizia who was reportedly "dismayed" with the rumors, was spotted a few days later with Sofía arriving at La Moraleja Hospital to visit King Juan Carlos. The amicable interactions between the two put an end to the rumours.[17]

Notable published works[edit]

  • En Decelia: fragmentos cerámicos de Decelia y miscelánea arqueológica. Athens, (1959–1960). Edited in Spanish in Spain, 2013.[18][19] ISBN 9788494103308

Social conservatism[edit]

On the occasion of her 70th birthday, she made a number of conservative ideological statements on issues then being debated in Spanish society. These statements were published by the Opus Dei journalist Pilar Urbano, and included Queen Sofía's rejection of same-sex marriage, rejection of Gay Pride celebrations, her opposition to abortion, and her defence of religious education in schools. Her opinions produced great unrest among progressive sectors of Spanish society, and prompted criticism of her for getting involved in partisan opinions against her constitutional mandate.[20]


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 Sillasie of Ethiopia in 1973 upon her and her husband King Juan'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[21] and to The Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa on 14 May 1962.[22] The Queen of Spain was appointed to the Collar of the Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III as dame on 31 October 1983.[23] Since then, Queen Sofía has received different appointments and decorations by more than 40 foreign states.


  1. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XV. "Spanien". C.A. Starke Verlag, 1997, pp. 20, 100-101. (German). ISBN 978-3-79800-814-4
  2. ^ "Spain will have two kings and two queens". Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  3. ^ "Royal Participants at the Olympics". TopEndSports.com. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  4. ^ Flantzer, Susan (24 August 2014). "Queen Sofia of Spain". Unofficial Royalty. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
  5. ^ "Wedding Wednesday: Queen Sofía's gown". Order of Splendor. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  6. ^ "Queen Sofía: " "I feel the same as always. Everything is going to carry on as it is"". El Pais. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  7. ^ [1] Archived 6 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Albay gives Spanish queen warm welcome". Inquirer Global Nation. 5 July 2012.
  9. ^ Legaspi, Amita O. (3 July 2012). "PNoy and Spain's Queen Sofia welcome return of Spanish language in PHL schools". GMA News Online. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  10. ^ "No nos queman a nosotros. Son trozos de papel. Ya se apagarán". El País. 30 October 2008.
  11. ^ https://www.thedailybeast.com/queens-first-out-gay-footman-quits-amid-homophobia-accusations
  12. ^ https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/spanish-queen-breaks-silence-and-upsets-gay-groups-979571.html
  13. ^ "Malestar en el colectivo homosexual por las palabras de la Reina". El País. 30 October 2008.
  14. ^ "PP y PSOE ordenan guardar silencio sobre las declaraciones de la Reina". El País. 31 October 2008.
  15. ^ Alexander, Harriet (20 May 2012). "Queen Sofia of Spain: Europe's lonely royal consort". ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  16. ^ a b Strange, Hannah (4 April 2018). "Queens' clash at church goes viral to expose tensions in Spanish royal family". The Daily Telegraph.
  17. ^ Pearl, Diana (9 April 2018). "Queen Letizia and Queen Sofia Reunite After Their Tense Exchange on Easter Was Caught on Camera". People. Retrieved 3 May 2018.
  18. ^ Logintegral Archived 3 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "En Decelia: fragmentos cerámicos de Decelia y miscelánea arqueológica".
  20. ^ País, Ediciones El (30 October 2008). ""No nos queman a nosotros. Son trozos de papel. Ya se apagarán"".
  21. ^ (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.
  22. ^ "REAL ORDEN DE DAMAS NOBLES DE LA REINA MARÍA LUISA". www.blasoneshispanos.com. Archived from the original on 15 March 2015. Retrieved 28 March 2014.
  23. ^ (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.

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
Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano