Queen Sofía of Spain

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"Sofía of Spain" redirects here. For her granddaughter, see Infanta Sofía of Spain.
The Queen in 2003
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure 22 November 1975 – 19 June 2014
Anointing 27 November 1975
Predecessor Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
Successor Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano
Born (1938-11-02) 2 November 1938 (age 77)
Psychiko, Athens, Greece
Spouse Juan Carlos I of Spain (m. 1962)
Issue Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo
Infanta Cristina of Spain
Felipe VI, King of Spain
House Glücksburg
Father Paul, King of the Hellenes
Mother Frederika of Hanover
Religion Roman Catholicism
prev. Greek Orthodox

Queen Sofía (/sɒˈfə/, Spanish: [soˈfi.a]; Greek: Σοφία [soˈfi.a]; formerly Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark, born 2 November 1938) is the wife of King Juan Carlos I. Born a Greek princess, she became Queen consort of Spain upon her husband's accession in 1975.[1][2] On 19 June 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of their son, Felipe VI.[3]

Early life[edit]

Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark was born on 2 November 1938, in Psychiko, Athens, Greece, the eldest child of King Paul and his wife, Queen Frederica. Sofia is a member 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. Then she attended South Africa during her family's exile from Greece during World War II. 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, now though not then a constituent college of the University of Cambridge,[citation needed] She represented Greece, alongside her brother Constantine, as a reserve member of the Gold Medal-winning sailing team in the 1960 Summer Olympics.[4]

Marriage and family[edit]

Sophia met her 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 cousin, at York Minster in June 1961.

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 Sofia's future sister-in-law Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark (later Queen), 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 state; Sofía herself had suggested the title. Juan Carlos acceded to the throne in 1975, upon the death of Francisco Franco.

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

Royal duties[edit]

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 Sofía is often seen representing the Spanish Royal Family at weddings of other European royalty, most recently at the wedding of Victoria, Crown Princess of Sweden, and Daniel Westling in 2010, and the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton in 2011; her husband had earlier expressed his wish that he not attend such royal functions.

The Queen 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, the Queen 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. Muhammed 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, the Queen visited the Philippines for a fourth time. She inspected several development projects around the former Spanish colony that the 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 University of Santo Tomas. 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]

Personal life[edit]

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

In addition to Spanish and her native Greek, Queen Sofía also speaks Italian, French, German, Portuguese and English.[citation needed]

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 republican Greece until 1998. She and her husband paid an official visit after 17 years as guests of the then–President Constantinos Stephanopoulos.


Sofía is considered one of the most fashionable royals in Europe and there is always interest in her clothing at royal events.[citation needed] After becoming queen, she gained the privilege of wearing white before the pope, as opposed to the black donned by other visitors who do not have the title "Catholic Monarch".


She criticised the military intervention in Afghanistan, where Spanish troops were taking part at the moment, her defence of religious education in schools, and her conviction that gender violence publicity will encourage new cases to happen.[9] Her opinions were the object of lively criticism from LGBT associations and from Spanish intellectuals.[10] 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 at first one of its representatives criticised of the Queen's political intervention.[11]

A biography published in May 2012, claims that the Queen is a vegetarian who dislikes bullfighting.[12]

Notable published works[edit]

Social conservatism[edit]

With the occasion of her 70th birthday, she made a number of conservative ideological judgments 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 celebration, anti-abortion position and defence of religious education in schools. Her opinions produced great unrest among progressive sectors of Spanish society, and prompted criticism on her for getting involved in partisan opinions against her constitutional mandate.[15]


Titles, honours and arms[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 Infanta Sofía of Spain
  • 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

Sofía was appointed to the Grand Cross of The Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III on 10 May 1962[16] and to The Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa on 14 May 1962.[17] The Queen of Spain was appointed to the Collar of the The Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III as dame on 31 October 1983.[18] Since then, Queen Sofía has received different appointments and decorations by more than 40 foreign states.


Arms of Queen Sofía of Spain
Personal Coat of arms of Sofia, Queen of Spain.svg
The Queen's coat of arms has no official status. In Spain, only the coats of arms of the King and the Princess of Asturias are official.
The Spanish Royal Crown (Crown's arches differenced as consort)
Impaled, I quarterly, 1st Gules a castle Or, triple-embattled and voided gate and windows, with three towers each triple-turreted, of the field, masoned Sable and ajoure Azure (Castile); 2nd Argent a lion rampant Gules crowned, langued and armed Or (Leon); 3rd Or, four pallets Gules (Crown of Aragon) and 4th Gules a cross, saltire and orle of chains linked together Or, a centre point Vert Argent (Navarre); enté en point, with a pomegranate proper seeded Gules, supported, sculpted and leafed in two leaves Vert (Granada); inescutcheon Azure bordure Gules, three fleurs-de-lys Or (Bourbon-Anjou); II, Azure, a cross argent (Greece); Inescutcheon, quarterly by a cross Argent fimbriated Gules, the Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog, 1st Or, three lions in pale passant Azure, crowned Or, langued and armed Gules and nine hearts Gules (Denmark); 2nd Or, two lions in pale passant Azure, langued and armed Gules (Schleswig); 3rd Azure, party per fess, in chief three crowns Or (the former Kalmar Union), per pale, in dexter base, Gules, a stockfish Argent crowned Or (Iceland ancient), in sinister base, Azure, party per pale, a) a ram passant Argent armed and unguled Or (the Faroe Islands), b) a polar bear rampant Argent (Greenland); 4th party per fess, the chief, Or, in gold, nine hearts Gules arranged 4, 3, 2 beneath a lion passant Azure, langued and armed Gules (King of the Goths), the lower half, Gules, a crowned lindorm Or (King of the Wends); overall an escutcheon Gules quarterly, 1st a nettle leaf Argent with a indented bordure Gules (Holstein), 2nd a swan Argent gorged with a crown Or (Stormarn), 3rd a knight dressed in armor Or on a horse Argent and an oval shield Azure with a cross Or on his arm (Dithmarschen), 4th a horse's head Or (Lauenburg) overall another escutcheon party per pale, in dexter Or, two bars Gules (Oldenburg), in sinister Azure, a cross Or (Delmenhorst).
The collar of the Order of Charles III.
Personal Standard of Sofia, Queen of Spain.svg The Queen's personal Royal Standard is that of her husband (a dark blue square flag) bordered with the colors of the former royal standard of Greece (a white cross on a blue field), which was used by her father, and charged with her personalized coat of arms.[19]
The personal coat of arms of the Queen impales the Spanish Royal Arms (her husband's shield) to the dexter (viewer's left) with her father's shield, the arms of King Paul of Greece – the arms of Greece with an inescutcheon which bears the coat of arms of Denmark (1819–1903 version) as used when George I became king of Greece and showing the dynastic link to the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty; a shield containing a cross from the Danish flag and subcoats representing Denmark, Schleswig, the former Kalmar Union, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Holstein, Stormarn, Dithmarschen, Lauenburg, Oldenburg, Delmenhorst, and the former Danish royal titles of King of the Wends and Goths.[20][21]


  1. ^ Royal house of Bourbon at the Wayback Machine (archived 13 June 2006), Unknown publisher, unknown date (Retrieved 19 January 2007)
  2. ^ Her Majesty the Queen www.sispain.org unknown date (Retrieved 19 January 2007)
  3. ^ "Spain will have two kings and two queens". Retrieved 14 June 2014. 
  4. ^ "Royal Participants at the Olympics". TopEndSports.com. Retrieved 8 December 2012. 
  5. ^ "Wedding Wednesday: Queen Sofia's gown". Order of Splendor. 
  6. ^ "Queen Sofía: " "I feel the same as always. Everything is going to carry on as it is"". El Pais. 
  7. ^ [1] Archived 6 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Albay gives Spanish queen warm welcome". Inquirer Global Nation. 5 July 2012. 
  9. ^ "No nos queman a nosotros. Son trozos de papel. Ya se apagarán". El País. 30 October 2008. 
  10. ^ "Malestar en el colectivo homosexual por las palabras de la Reina". El País. 30 October 2008. 
  11. ^ "PP y PSOE ordenan guardar silencio sobre las declaraciones de la Reina". El País. 31 October 2008. 
  12. ^ Queen Sofia of Spain: Europe's lonely royal consort http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/spain/9276931/Queen-Sofia-of-Spain-Europes-lonely-royal-consort.html
  13. ^ Logintegral
  14. ^ Librería Marcial Pons
  15. ^ [2]
  16. ^ (Spanish) Decree 1192/1962, 1 June. HRH Princess Sofia Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III. BOE (Spanish Official Gazette), 62/06/01.
  17. ^ Blasones Hispanos
  18. ^ (Spanish) Royal Decree 2747/1983, 31 October. HM Queen Sofia Collar of the Order of Charles III. BOE (Spanish Official Gazette), 83/11/02.
  19. ^ (Spanish) Royal Cadency of Spain-Standards. Blog de Heráldica – 1 November 2010. (Retrieved 10 October 2012)
  20. ^ (Spanish) The Arms of the Queen of Spain. Blog de Heráldica – 2 November 2008. (Retrieved 29 June 2009)
  21. ^ (Spanish) The Arms of the Queen of Spain (Collar changed). Blog de Heráldica – 2 November 2008. (Retrieved 29 June 2009)

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