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Queen Sofia

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Queen Sofia

"Sofía of Spain" redirects here. For her granddaughter, see Infanta Sofía of Spain.

Sophia of Greece and Denmark
Queen Sofía in 2003
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure 22 November 1975 – present
Anointing 27 November 1975
Spouse Juan Carlos I of Spain
Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo
Infanta Cristina, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca
Felipe, Prince of Asturias
Full name
Sophia Margarita Victoria Frederika
Spanish: Sofía Margarita Victoria Federica
Greek: Σοφία Μαργαρίτα Βικτωρία Φρειδερίκη
House House of Bourbon
House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg
Father Paul of Greece
Mother Frederika of Hanover
Born (1938-11-02) 2 November 1938 (age 75)
Psychiko, Athens, Greece
Religion Roman Catholic
prev. Greek Orthodox

Queen Sofía of Spain (Spanish pronunciation: [soˈfi.a]; Greek: Σοφία; born 2 November 1938) is the wife of King Juan Carlos I of Spain. Born a princess of Greece and Denmark, she became queen of Spain upon her husband's accession in 1975.[1][2]

Early life

Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark was born in Psychiko, Athens, Greece on 2 November 1938, the eldest child of King Paul and his wife, Frederica of Hanover. 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 of Greece and Denmark. However, since the abolition of the Greek monarchy, the royal titles are recognized by the Dutch Monarchy and the Danish Royal Family.

Princess Sofia spent some of her childhood in Egypt where she took her early education in El Nasr Girls' College (EGC) in Alexandria, then went to 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. Sofia also studied at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. She represented Greece, alongside her brother Constantine, as a reserve member of the Gold Medal-winning sailing team in the 1960 Summer Olympics.[3]

Marriage and family

Princess Sofia of Greece and Denmark met Infante Juan Carlos of Spain on a cruise in the Greek Islands in 1954; they met again at the wedding of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, at York Minster in June, 1961.

The couple married on 14 May 1962, in Athens at the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Dennis. The bride's gown was made by Jean Dessès and she was attended by her sister Irene, the groom’s sister Infanta Pilar of Spain, and Sofia’s future sister-in-law Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, along with Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Princess Anne of Orleans, Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Tatiana Radziwill.[4]

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.

In 1969, Prince Juan Carlos, who was never Prince of Asturias (the traditional title of the Spanish heir presumptive), 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: Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo (born 20 December 1963); Infanta Cristina, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca (born 13 June 1965); and Felipe, Prince of Asturias (born 30 January 1968). The King and Queen have four grandsons and four granddaughters: Felipe and Victoria from Infanta Elena; Juan, Pablo, Miguel and Irene from Infanta Cristina; and Infanta Leonor, and Infanta Sofía, named in her honor, from the Prince of Asturias; all of whom are in the line of succession to the Spanish throne.

Royal duties

Spanish Royal Family

HM The King
HM The Queen

HRH The Duchess of Badajoz

HRH The Duchess of Soria and Hernani
HE The Duke of Soria and Hernani

HRH The Dowager Duchess of Calabria

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.

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 attend a reception at the Spanish Embassy. She also attended a state dinner in her honour at Malacañan Palace hosted by President Benigno Aquino III.[5][6]

Personal life

In addition to Spanish and her native Greek, Queen Sofía also speaks Italian, French, German, Portuguese and English

Abolition of the Greek monarchy

Greek Royal Family

HM The King
HM The Queen

Queen Sofía was in Greece on a private visit to her brother King Constantine when the 1967 Greek military coup took place. Since then, her brother King Constantine II has been stripped of his title, citizenship and property in Greece. Except for a brief stay for the funeral of her mother Queen Frederica 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–Greek President Constantinos Stephanopoulos.


The Queen is considered one of the most fashionable royals ever in Europe and there is always interest in her clothing at royal events. After becoming queen, Sofía 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".


An interview for the occasion of the Queen's 70th birthday with Opus Dei journalist Pilar Urbano revealed some details of the Queen's conservative ideals on politically debated issues and the lifestyle of the Queen. Strong controversy arose from comments against the same-sex marriage law recently approved by the Spanish Parliament, and also against Gay Pride demonstrations. "I can understand, accept and respect that there are people of other sexual tendencies, but why should they be proud to be gay?” she asked. "Should they ride on a parade float and come out in protests? If all of us who are not gay were to parade in the streets, we’d halt the traffic in every city.” On the subject of gay marriage, legal since 2005 in Spain, she offered these thoughts: "If those people want to live together, dress up like bride and groom and marry, they could have a right to do so, or not, depending on the law of their country, but they should not call this matrimony, because it isn't”. These opinions forced the Spanish Monarchy to be the center of the claim for a new Spanish Republic during 2009 Gay Pride Parade in Madrid, in which participation of left party Izquierda Unida included showing more than 100 republican flags.

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.[7] Her opinions were the object of lively criticism from LGTB associations and from Spanish intellectuals.[8] Also responding were Spanish republican political parties like IU and ERC. Government party decided to keep silence, while conservative party PP decided to do so, after a first criticism of the Queen's political intervention from its representative.[9]

Also controversial were her public exposure of private conversations between her husband and King Hassan II of Morocco, and revealing Juan Carlos' autocratic references to Spanish regions as "my lands" (mis tierras). She also mentioned that the King would never abdicate, and that she is against abortion and euthanasia. After the uproar, a press release was issued mentioning that the Queen considered her words were expressed in private conversations and were 'inaccurate'. Pilar Urbano defended herself saying that the book had been sent to the Palace for approval and that everything in the book is documented.

She mentioned her relationship with her daughter-in-law Letizia Ortiz, a former divorcée, saying that Letizia has brought her closer to the people, and that she and Letizia spend time together and visit restaurants and shops.

On the election of Barack Obama, she expressed surprise that a black candidate might be elected president for the first time in the United States, and said she does not tolerate racism.

A biography published in May 2012, claims that the Queen is a vegetarian who dislikes bullfighting.[10]

Notable published works


Titles, honours and arms

Main article: List of titles and honours of Queen Sofía of Spain
  • 2 November 1938 – 14 May 1962: Her Royal Highness Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark
  • 14 May 1962 – 21 July 1969: Her Royal Highness Princess Sophia of Spain
  • 21 July 1969 – 22 November 1975: Her Royal Highness The Princess of Spain
  • 22 November 1975 – present: Her Majesty The Queen

Before she became Queen Consort of Spain, Sofía was appointed to the Grand Cross of The Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III on 10 May 1962[13] and to the Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa on 14 May 1962. 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.[14] Since then, Queen Sofía has received different appointments and decorations by more than 40 foreign states.



External links

  • Official website of the Spanish Royal Family
  • Official website of the Queen Sofia Foundation
  • Queen Sofia Family Tree
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 – present

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