Category Archives: Spanish Royals

Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo, Queen of Spain, Duchess of Aosta

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo (Maria Vittoria Carlotta Enrichetta) was born in Paris, France on August 9, 1847, the elder of the two daughters of Italian noble Carlo Emmanuele dal Pozzo, 5th Prince of Cisterna and his wife Countess Louise de Merode. Maria Vittoria’s father’s family was one of the few aristocratic families in the Kingdom of Sardinia to bear the title of “prince” as a noble title. Her father was a politician in the Kingdom of Sardinia. Her mother was a member of the de Merode family, an important Belgian noble family. Her mother’s younger sister, Antoinette de Merode, was the wife of Charles III, Prince of Monaco.

Maria Vittoria had one younger sister who died at the age of 13:

  • Beatrice Giuseppa Antonia Luisa dal Pozzo (1851–1864)

Maria Vittoria spent most of her childhood at the Palazzo della Cisterna in Turin in the Kingdom of Sardinia. Upon her father’s death in 1864, Maria Vittoria inherited her father’s noble titles and became Princess della Cisterna, Princess di Belriguardo, Marchioness di Voghera, and Countess di Ponderano in her own right. Maria Vittoria’s sister died from typhus one month after her father’s death.

Palazzo della Cisterna; Photo Credit – Di K.Weise – Opera propria, CC BY-SA 3.0,

On May 30, 1867, Maria Vittoria married Prince Amedeo of Savoy, Duke of Aosta at the chapel of the Royal Palace of Turin. Amedeo was the second son of King Vittorio Emanuele II of Italy (formerly King of Piedmont, Savoy, and Sardinia) and Archduchess Adelheid of Austria.

Maria Vittoria and Amedeo; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Amedeo and Maria Vittoria had three children. Their descendants through their eldest son have been the disputed claimants to the headship of the House of Savoy along with descendants of Amedeo’s brother King Umberto I of Italy.

Amedeo with his three sons; Credit – Wikipedia

After Queen Isabella II of Spain was deposed, Amedeo was elected King of Spain and Maria Vittoria was Queen Consort. In Madrid, she suffered a great deal because of her poor health and difficulties with Spanish politics. Maria Vittoria stayed away from politics and devoted her time to charitable works. One of the charities she founded was a nursery where children of washerwomen who worked on the banks of the Manzanares River in Madrid could be cared for by nuns while their mothers worked. Attached to the nursery was a hospital for the washerwomen.

During Amedeo’s reign, there were many republican uprisings. Without popular support, Amedeo abdicated the Spanish throne on February 11, 1873 and left Spain. Maria Vittoria had given birth to her last child only two weeks before the abdication. The recent childbirth, the stress of the abdication and the exile from Spain exacerbated her physical condition. On November 8, 1876, at the Villa Dufour in San Remo, Italy, 29-year-old Maria Vittoria died from tuberculosis. She was buried in the Basilica of Superga near Turin. The Spanish and American Enlightenment newspaper wrote of her: “Madrid cannot forget that angel of virtue and charity, to whom the people granted the simple title of Mother of the Poor.”

Basilica of Superga; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo

King Amedeo I of Spain, Duke of Aosta

by Susan Flantzer

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Born an Italian prince, Amedeo briefly reigned Spain as the only King of Spain from the House of Savoy. He was born on May 30, 1845, at the Royal Palace in Turin and was the second of the three surviving sons and the third of the eight children of King Vittorio Emanuele II (King of Piedmont, Savoy, Sardinia and, later first King of Italy) and Archduchess Adelheid of Austria. Soon after his birth, Amedeo was given the title Duke of Aosta, which he was known as for most of his life.

Amedeo had seven siblings but only four survived to adulthood:

Amedeo with his parents and siblings, 1854; Credit – Wikipedia

In 1859, Amedeo entered the Royal Italian Army with the rank of captain. By 1866, he had risen to the rank of major-general and took part in the Third Italian War of Independence of 1866 and was wounded at the Battle of Custoza.

On May 30, 1867, Amedeo married Maria Vittoria dal Pozzo, the elder of the two daughters of Italian noble Carlo Emmanuele dal Pozzo, 5th Prince of Cisterna and his wife Countess Louise de Merode. Upon her father’s death in 1864, Maria Vittoria inherited her father’s titles in her own right.

Maria Vittoria and Amedeo; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Amedeo and Maria Vittoria had three children. Their descendants through their eldest son have been claimants to the disputed headship of the House of Savoy along with descendants of Amedeo’s brother King Umberto I of Italy.

Amedeo and his three sons; Credit – Wikipedia

In Spain, Queen Isabella II had reigned since 1833, when she was not quite three years old. Isabella’s authoritarianism, her religious fanaticism, her alliance with the military and the chaos of her reign — sixty different governments — helped bring about the Revolution of 1868 that eventually exiled her to Paris. On November 16, 1870, the Spanish Cortes (Parliament) elected Amedeo the new King of Spain. He swore to uphold the constitution and was proclaimed King in Madrid on January 2, 1871.

King Amedeo I of Spain; Credit – Wikipedia

During Amedeo’s reign, there were many republican uprisings. After an attempt to assassinate him on July 19, 1872, Amedeo I declared his frustration with the complications of Spanish politics: “I do not understand anything. We’re in a mad cage.” Without popular support, Amedeo abdicated the Spanish throne on February 11, 1873. The First Spanish Republic was declared, but it lasted a little less than two years. After the First Spanish Republic collapsed, Queen Isabella’s 17-year-old son became King Alfonso XII.

Completely disgusted, Amedeo returned to Turin where he assumed the title Duke of Aosta. On November 8, 1876, Amedeo’s wife Maria Vittoria died from tuberculosis at the age of 29. Amedeo again became active in the Royal Italian Army and held various positions during the reign of his brother who became succeeded as King Umberto I of Italy in 1878.

In 1888, twelve years after the death of his first wife, Amedeo married again. His second wife was Princess Maria Letizia Bonaparte, his niece, the daughter of his sister Marie Clotilde and Prince Napoléon Joseph Bonaparte. The announcement of the betrothal caused a great scandal in the Italian court because Amedeo was twenty-two years older than Maria Letizia and was also her uncle. Nevertheless, the necessary papal dispensation for the marriage was obtained.

Maria Letizia in 1888; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Amedeo and Maria Letizia had one child:

  • Prince Umberto of Savoy-Aosta, Count of Salemi (1889 – 1918), unmarried, served in the Royal Italian Army during World War I; the official court bulletin recorded that he was killed in action, but apparently, he died from influenza

Amedeo was married to his second wife for less than two years, dying from pneumonia in Turin, Italy on January 18, 1890, at the age of 44. He was buried at the Basilica of Superga near Turin, the traditional burial site of the House of Savoy.

Basilica of Superga; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Wikipedia: Amedeo I of Spain

Princess of Asturias Invested with the Order of the Golden Fleece

source: House of His Majesty The King,

Today, on his 50th birthday, King Felipe VI of Spain has invested his eldest daughter, Leonor, Princess of Asturias with the Order of the Golden Fleece.  The Golden Fleece is the most senior order in Spain, and the highest award the King can bestow.  In October 2015, The King had issued a Royal Decree (link in Spanish), granting the order to Leonor, but it wasn’t until today that she was invested with the collar and insignia.

The ceremony took place at the Royal Palace of Madrid, and was attended by The Queen, Infanta Sofía, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía, The Duchess of Lugo, The Duke and Duchess of Soria, Queen Letizia’s parents, and members of the Government.

After the playing of the National Anthem by a String Quartet, the Royal Decree was read, and The King pinned the miniature of the order on Leonor’s coat.  In his speech, Felipe said “Today, the Princess of Asturias receives the Golden Fleece Collar, deeply rooted in the History of Spain and Europe. An Order that for centuries has been granted -among others and singularly- to the Prince or Princess of Asturias from a very young age, so that over time he knows, little by little, the traditions and duties of the Crown and understands the responsibilities that one day he will have to assume.” (source:

Embed from Getty Images

The Order of the Golden Fleece dates back to 1430, when it was created by Felipe III, Duke of Burgundy at the time of his marriage to Isabella of Portugal, and is considered one of the most prestigious orders in Europe.  Following the War of Spanish Succession (1701-1714), the order split into two branches – the Spanish branch and the Austrian branch.


Wedding of King Felipe VI of Spain and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano

by Susan Flantzer

Felipe, The Prince of Asturias (the future King Felipe VI of Spain) and Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano were married on May 22, 2004 at the Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, Spain.

Photo Credit –

King Felipe VI’s Early Life

Felipe in his mother’s arms with his family; Photo Credit –

King Felipe VI of Spain was born at the Nuestra Señora de Loreto Clinic in Madrid, Spain on January 30, 1968. He is the only son and the third of the three children of King Juan Carlos of Spain and his wife, Queen Sofia, born Princess Sophia of Greece. Felipe has two older sisters: Infanta Elena (born 1963) and Infanta Cristina (born 1965). At the time of Felipe’s birth, Spain was ruled by the dictator General Francisco Franco and his father had no official title or position in Spain. However, Felipe was registered in the Civil Registry as Infante with the style of Royal Highness. In 1969, General Franco recognized Juan Carlos as his successor and bestowed upon him the title of Prince of Spain. Felipe then became second in the line of succession to the vacant throne. Juan Carlos became King of Spain in 1975 upon the death of General Franco. On January 22, 1977, Felipe was formally created Prince of Asturias, the title traditionally held by the heir to the Spanish throne.

Felipe attended Santa María de los Rosales School in Madrid, Spain until 1984, when he was 16. For his last year of secondary education, he attended Lakefield College School in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada. In 1985, Felipe started his military education at the General Military Academy in Zaragoza, Spain and studied there for three years. From 1988 – 1993, he attended the Autónoma University of Madrid, where he graduated with a degree in law. Felipe obtained a Master’s Degree in International Relations at the Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University in Washington, DC where he studied from 1993 – 1995 and was a roommate of his first cousin Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece.

In 1992, Felipe was a member of the Spanish Olympic Sailing Team at the Barcelona Summer Olympics. He was the flag bearer at the Opening Ceremonies and his Soling Class sailing team finished in sixth place.

Upon the abdication of his father King Juan Carlos I on June 19, 2014, Felipe became King Felipe VI of Spain.

Unofficial Royalty: King Felipe VI of Spain

Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano’s Early Life

Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano presenting the news; Photo Credit – / TVE/EFE

Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano was born on September 15, 1972 in Oviedo, Asturias, Spain. She is the eldest of three daughters of Jesús José Ortiz Álvarez, a journalist, and his first wife, María de la Paloma Rocasolano Rodríguez, a registered nurse and hospital union representative. Regarding Spanish naming customs, using Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, the first surname or paternal family name is Ortiz and the second surname or maternal family name is Rocasolano. Letizia’s parents divorced in 1998 and her father married again to fellow journalist, Ana Togores. Letizia has two younger sisters, Telma (born 1973) and Érika (1975-2007). It was widely reported that Letizia’s sister Érika died from an intentional prescription drug overdose.

In her hometown of Oviedo, Letizia completed her primary education at the Colegio Público La Gesta de Oviedo and started her secondary education at the Instituto Alfonso II. Due to her father’s job as a journalist, the whole family moved to Madrid in 1987 where Letizia continued her secondary education at the Instituto Ramiro de Maeztu. Letizia has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism from Complutense University of Madrid and a Master’s Degree in Audiovisual Journalism from the Institute for Audiovisual Journalism Studies.

In 1998, Letizia civilly married Alonso Guerrero Pérez, a high-school literature teacher, and the couple divorced in 1999. Since this marriage was only a civil ceremony, the Roman Catholic Church did not need to issue an annulment in order for Letizia to have a religious wedding in the future.

While Letizia was pursuing her university degrees, she worked for La Nueva España, a daily newspaper published in her hometown of Oviedo, ABC, a Spanish national daily newspaper, and Agencia EFE, a Spanish international news agency. After Letizia completed her university, she took a position at Siglo XXI, a newspaper in Guadalajara, Mexico.

When she returned to Spain, Letizia worked for the Spanish version of the financial channel Bloomberg before moving to the CNN+, a Spanish 24-hour television news channel, where she spent two years broadcasting the news in the morning shift. In 2000, she received the Mariano José de Larra Award from the Press Association of Madrid as the most accomplished journalist under the age of 30.

In 2000, Letizia began working at Televisión Española, the national state-owned public television broadcaster in Spain where she worked for the news channel 24 Horas. By 2002, Letizia was anchoring the weekly news report program Informe Semanal and then the daily morning news program Telediario Matinal. In August 2003, Letizia started anchoring the daily evening news program Telediario 2, the most watched newscast in Spain. During most of this time period, Letizia was maintaining a secret relationship with Felipe, Prince of Asturias, the heir to the Spanish throne.

Unofficial Royalty: Queen Letizia of Spain

The Engagement

Engagement announcement; Photo Credit –

It was in November 2002 while covering the Prestige oil tanker disaster, Spain’s largest environmental disaster, that Letizia’s life would change forever. Felipe, Prince of Asturias had flown to the area to offer his support to the communities worst affected by the oil spill. Although the couple had met the year before at a mutual friend’s dinner party, it was during this terrible disaster that they fell in love. Their relationship was kept a closely guarded secret until the engagement was announced on November 1, 2003, with the following announcement:

Their Majesties the King and Queen have the great pleasure to announce the engagement of their son, His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias Don Felipe, with Doña Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano. The asking of the hand will take place next Thursday, November 6th, at Zarzuela Palace. The wedding will be celebrated at the beginning of the Summer of 2004 at the Cathedral of Santa Maria la Real de la Almudena in Madrid.

Early in the morning of November 1, 2003, Letizia left her apartment in Madrid for Zarzuela Palace, then the residence of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, where she would live until the wedding.

The official engagement ceremony, in which Felipe officially asked for the hand of Letizia, took place on November 6, 2003 at El Pardo Palace, and not at Zarzuela Palace as indicated in the official announcement of November 1, 2003. Afterward, the official presentation and press conference took place in the garden of El Pardo Palace.

Felipe gave Letizia a ring from Suarez Jewelers with sixteen baguette diamonds and white gold bands on either side of the diamonds.

Letizia’s engagement ring; Photo Credit –

Pre-Wedding Festivities

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia hosted a dinner for 330 guests including heads of state, foreign representatives, and relatives on the evening before the wedding at El Pardo Palace. The King and Queen, the bride’s parents, the bride and groom, and the groom’s two sisters and their husbands welcomed the guests in the Central Courtyard of the El Pardo Palace. After the greeting, the guests proceeded to Habsburg Patio, where they were served appetizers. Dinner was then served in Bourbon Patio.  After dinner, the guests returned to the Habsburg Patio, where a ball was held.


  • Asparagus Tips from Tudela with Summer Truffle and Soup
  • Monkfish with Baby Broad Beans in Mint, Iberian Tomato Ravioli, and Sherry Vinegar
  • Duck Breast Marinated in Red Wine, Lemon Purée
  • Chocolate, Coconut, Red Berries with Citrus Sorbet


  • Clarión Viñas del Vero (Somontano Aragón)
  • Milmanda Torres (Cuenca la Barberá) – White
  • Chivite colección 125 (D.O. Navarra) – White
  • Matarromera (Ribera del Duero) – Red
  • M.R. Moscatel (D.O. Málaga)

Wedding Guests

More than 1,700 guests, including 30 heads of state, attended the wedding. Below is a partial guest list.

Family of the Groom

 King Juan Carlos I of Spain and his sister Infanta Pilar, Duchess of Badajoz

  • King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia of Spain, parents of the groom
  • Infanta Elena of Spain, Duchess of Lugo, sister of the groom, and Don Jaime de Marichalar, Duke of Lugo
  • Infanta Cristina of Spain, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca, sister of the groom, and Don Iñaki Urdangarín, Duke of Palma de Mallorca
  • Infanta Pilar of Spain, Duchess of Badajoz, paternal aunt of the groom
  • Doña Simoneta Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón, paternal first cousin of the groom, and Don José Miguel Fernández Sastrón
  • Don Juan Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón, Viscount de la Torre, paternal first cousin of the groom, and Doña Gabriela de la Rosa
  • Don Bruno Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón, paternal first cousin of the groom, and Doña Bárbara Cano de la Plaza
  • Don Beltrán Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón, paternal first cousin of the groom, and Doña Laura Ponte Martínez
  • Don Fernando Gómez-Acebo y de Borbón, paternal first cousin of the groom, and Doña Mónica Fernán y Luque
  • Infanta Margarita of Spain, Duchess of Soria, paternal aunt of the groom, and Don Carlos Zurita
  • Doña María Zurita y de Borbón, paternal first cousin of the groom
  • Don Alfonso Zurita y de Borbón, paternal first cousin of the groom
  • Don Luís Alfonso de Borbón y Martínez-Bordiú, paternal second cousin of the groom
  • Doña Emanuela Pratolongo, widow of Gonzalo, Duke of Aquitaine, who was a first cousin of King Juan Carlos I of Spain

Family of the Bride

  • Don Jesús Ortiz Álvarez, father of the bride
  • Doña Paloma Rocasolano, mother of the bride
  • Doña Telma Ortiz Rocasolano, sister of the bride
  • Doña Érika Ortiz Rocasolano, sister of the bride, and Don Antonio Vigo
  • Doña Menchu Álvarez del Valle, paternal grandmother of the bride
  • Don José Luis Ortiz Velasco, paternal grandfather of the bride
  • Doña Henar Ortiz Álvarez, paternal aunt of the bride
  • Don Francisco Rocasolano, maternal grandfather of the bride
  • Doña Enriqueta Rodríguez, maternal grandmother of the bride
  • Don Alfonso Rocasolano Lláser, maternal uncle of the bride
  • Doña Valerie Chrastek
  • Doña Abigail Rocasolano Lláser, maternal first cousin of the bride, and her fiancee Don Juan José Morueco Clemente
  • Don Francisco Rocasolano Rodríquez, maternal uncle of the bride, and his wife Doña María Concepción Lláser Moyano

Royal Guests

 Prince Albert of Monaco, The Prince of Wales and Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden

  • Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi
  • Prince Karim Aga Khan IV and Begum Inaara Aga Khan
  • Duke and Duchess of Aosta
  • Duke of Apulia
  • Archduke Karl and Archduchess Francesca of Austria
  • Archduke Georg and Archduchess Eilika of Austria
  • Duke de Santangelo and Duchess de Santangelo
  • Archduke Carl-Christian and Archduchess Marie-Astrid of Austria
  • Archduchess Catharina of Austria and Massimiliano, Count Secco d’Aragona
  • Archduke Philipp of Austria
  • Archduchess Sophie of Austria and Prince Hugo zu Windisch-Graetz
  • Archduke Maximilian of Austria
  • Archduke Martin and Archduchess Katharina of Austria-Este
  • Countess Immaculata von und zu Hoensbroech
  • Margrave Max and Margravine Valerie of Baden
  • Don Juan de Bagration y Ulloa and Doña Floriane del Río y Thorn
  • Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa of Bahrain and Sheikha Halaa Bint Daij Al Khalifa of Bahrain
  • Duke Franz of Bavaria
  • Princess Tessa of Bavaria
  • King Albert II and Queen Paola of the Belgians
  • Prince Philippe and Princess Mathilde of Belgium, Duke and Duchess of Brabant
  • Princess Astrid of Belgium and Prince Lorenz of Belgium, Archduchess and Archduke of Austria-Este
  • Prince Laurent and Princess Claire of Belgium
  • Queen Fabiola of Belgium
  • Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria and Princess Anne, Duchess of Calabria
  • Princess Cristina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and Don Pedro López Quesada
  • Duke of Noto and Doña Sofía Landaluce y Melgarejo
  • Princess Inès of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and Michele Carrelli Palombi
  • Princess Victoria of Bourbon-Two Sicilies and Mr. Markos Nomikos
  • Princess Maria Margherita of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
  • Princess Maria Immaculata of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
  • Prince Casimiro and Princess Maria Christina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies
  • Duke and Duchess of Bragança
  • Crown Prince Kardam and Crown Princess Miriam of Bulgaria
  • Prince Kyril and Princess Rosario of Bulgaria
  • Prince Kubrat and Princess Carla of Bulgaria
  • Prince Konstantin and Princess María of Bulgaria
  • Princess Kalina of Bulgaria and Don Kitín Muñoz Valcárcel
  • Queen Margrethe II and Prince Henrik of Denmark
  • King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie of Greece
  • Princess Alexia of Greece and Don Carlos Morales Quintana
  • Crown Prince Pavlos and Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece
  • Prince Nikolaos of Greece
  • Princess Theodora of Greece
  • Princess Irene of Greece
  • Prince Heinrich and Princess Thyra of Hanover
  • Princess Alexandra of Hanover
  • Landgrave Moritz of Hesse
  • Hereditary Prince Donatus and Hereditary Princess Floria of Hesse
  • Count Ferdinando Brachetti-Peretti
  • Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah of Kuwait
  • Shahbanou Farah of Iran
  • Shah Reza and Princess Yasmine of Iran
  • Crown Prince Naruhito of Japan
  • Queen Rania of Jordan
  • Queen Noor of Jordan
  • Princess Raiyah of Jordan
  • Princess Muna Al Hussein of Jordan
  • Prince Faisal bin Hussein and Princess Alia Al Faisal of Jordan
  • Princess Sarvath El Hassan of Jordan
  • Prince Rashid Bin El Hassan of Jordan
  • Prince Talal bin Mohammed and Princess Ghida Al Talal of Jordan
  • Prince Hans-AdamI of Liechtenstein
  • Prince Nikolaus and Princess Margaretha of Liechtenstein
  • Princess Nora of Liechtenstein
  • Prince Alois-Konstantin and Princess Anastasia zu Löwenstein-Wertheim-Rosenberg
  • Grand Duke Henri and Grand Duchess Maria Teresa of Luxembourg
  • Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg
  • Prince Jean of Luxembourg
  • Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg
  • Donna Giovanna dei Conti Marone
  • Don Luis Sánchez Merlo y Ruiz
  • Donna Maria Teresa dei Conti Marone
  • Hereditary Prince Albert of Monaco
  • Princess Caroline of Monaco and Prince Ernst August of Hannover
  • Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco
  • Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands
  • The Prince of Orange and Princess Máxima of the Netherlands
  • Prince Constantijn and Princess Laurentien of the Netherlands
  • King Harald V and Queen Sonja of Norway
  • Crown Prince Haakon and Crown Princess Mette-Marit of Norway
  • Princess Märtha Louise of Norway and Mr. Ari Behn
  • Sayyed Haytham bin Tariq Al Said of Oman
  • Beatrice d’Orléans, Comtesse d’Evreux
  • Princess Clotilde of Orléans and Mr. Édouard Crépy
  • Princess Adelaïde of Orléans and Mr. Pierre Louis Dailly
  • Prince François of Orléans
  • Prince Pedro Carlos of Orléans and Bragança
  • Doña Maria da Glória of Orléans and Bragança
  • Don Manuel of Orléans and Bragança
  • Doña Teresa of Orléans and Bragança
  • Mrs. Elisabeth Martorell y d’Orléans-Braganza
  • Don Alvaro Jaime of Orleans-Borbón and Parodi Delfino
  • Doña Giovanna San Martino d’Aglie di San Germano
  • Prince Jaime of Bourbon-Parma
  • Princess Carolina of Bourbon-Parma
  • Princess Alicia of Bourbon-Parma
  • Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia
  • Sheikh Joaan Bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar
  • King Michael of Romania
  • Crown Princess Margarita and Prince Radu of Romania
  • Grand Duchess Maria Vladimirovna of Russia
  • Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia
  • Prince Vittorio Emanuele and Prince Marina of Savoy
  • Prince Emanuele Filiberto of Savoy, Prince of Venice and Princess Clotilde of Savoy
  • Prince Gustav of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg
  • Princess Alexandra of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg and Count Jefferson-Friedrich von Pfeil und Klein-Ellguth
  • King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden
  • Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden
  • Prince Carl Philip of Sweden
  • Princess Madeleine of Sweden
  • Mr. Gustaf Magnuson
  • Hereditary Count Ignaz and Hereditary Countess Robinia zu Toerring-Jettenbach
  • Donna Sandra Torlonia, Countess Lequio di Assaba
  • Don Marco Torlonia, Prince of Civitella-Cesi
  • Donna Blazena Torlonia, Princess of Civitella-Cesi
  • Donna Olimpia Weiller
  • The Prince of Wales
  • Duke Eberhard von Württemberg

Other Guests

 Nelson Mandela and his wife

  • Doña Cayetana Fitz-James Stuart y Silva, Duchess of Alba
  • Don Alfonso Martínez de Irujo y Fitz-James Stuart, Duke of Aliaga, son of the Duchess de Alba
  • Don José María Aznar López, former Prime Minister of Spain
  • Doña Ana Botella, Councilor of the City of Madrid
  • Frey Andrew W. N. Bertie, Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta
  • Mr. Enrique Bolaños Geyer, President of Nicaragua, and Mrs. Lila T. Abaunza de Bolaños
  • Francisco Flores Pérez, President of El Salvador, and Mrs. Lourdes Rodríguez de Flores
  • Mr. Lucio Edwin Gutiérrez Borbúa, President of Ecuador, and Mrs. Ximena Bohórquez Romero
  • Doña Carmen Franco Polo, Duchess de Franco, daughter of the late dictator Francisco Franco
  • Don Felipe González Márquez, former Prime Minister of Spain
  • Doña Carmen Romero López, member of Spanish Parliament
  • Mr. Václav Havel, former President of the Czech Republic, and Mrs. Dagmar Havel
  • Mr. Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, and his wife Mrs. Graça Machel
  • Mrs. Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, and Mr. Martin McAleese
  • Mrs. Mireia Moscoso, President of Panama
  • Mr. Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan, and Mrs. Aliya Nazarbayeva
  • Mr. Andrés Pastrana Arango, former president of Colombia, and Mrs. Nohra Puyana de Pastrana
  • Don Manuel Pertegaz Ibáñez, Spanish fashion designer
  • Mr. Johannes Rau, President of Germany, and Mrs. Christina Rau
  • Doña Maria Concepción Sáenz de Tejada, Countess Dowager de Ripalda
  • Don Juan Antonio Samaranch, former President of the International Olympic Committee
  • Mr. Jorge Sampaio, President of Portugal, and Mrs. María José Ritta de Sampaio
  • Don Juan María Urdangarín Berriotxoa and Doña Claire Liebaert Courtin
  • Mr. Álvaro Uribe Vélez, President of Colombia
  • Don José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, Prime Minister of Spain
  • Doña Sonsoles Espinosa, Spanish classical singer and wife of Don José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero

Wedding Attendants

 The pages and flower girls pose with their family

Pages and Flower Girls

  • Felipe Juan de Marichalar y de Borbón, nephew of the groom
  • Victoria Federica de Marichalar y de Borbón, niece of the groom
  • Juan Valentin Urdangarín y de Borbón, nephew of the groom
  • Pablo Nicolas Urdangarín y de Borbón, nephew of the groom
  • Miguel Urdangarín y de Borbón, nephew of the groom
  • Victoria López Quesada Borbón Dos Sicilias, daughter of Princess Cristina of Bourbon-Two Sicilies who is a daughter of Infante Carlos, Duke of Calabria
  • Carla Vigo Ortiz, niece of the bride


  • Ana Codorniu Álvarez de Toledo, second cousin once removed of the groom, great great granddaughter of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
  • Claudia González Ortiz, first cousin of the bride

The dresses and suits of the pages, flower girls, and bridesmaids, designed by Spanish designer Lorenzo Caprile, were inspired by 18th-century Spanish paintings, particularly those of Francisco Goya. Each of the two youngest pages wore a shirt, trousers with a yellow silk sash tied at the waist. The older pages wore suits that reproduced 18th-century male dress: jacket, doublet, breeches, short tie and frill and buckle shoes.

The flower girls wore a bodice decorated with appliqués of lace and ribbons, with a round collar and French sleeves, and a basquiña, a skirt worn in Spain from the 16th to the 19th century, with a typical Spanish yellow sash tied at the waist.

 The two bridesmaids on the right pages and flower girls pose with their family


The bridesmaids’ dresses were inspired by the dress of ladies-in-waiting of the 18th century. The two bridesmaids wore a bodice decorated with ribbons and pleats, and a basquiña. They also wore an embroidered shawl and apron, manoletina shoes (similar to ballet flats) and hairnets. The garland the children carried down the aisle before the bride is an ancient symbol of joy, abundance, and happiness.

Witnesses for the Wedding Ceremony

The bride and groom each had a group of family, friends, and people important to them serve as witnesses for the wedding ceremony. Before the end of the wedding ceremony, each witness signed the marriage certificate. When possible, the witnesses have been identified.

Witnesses for The Prince of Asturias

  • Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo, sister of groom
  • Infanta Cristina, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca, sister of groom
  • Don Jaime de Marichalar, Duke of Lugo, brother-in-law of groom
  • Don Iñaki Urdangarín, Duke of Palma de Mallorca, brother-in-law of groom
  • Don Beltran Gomez-Acebo y de Borbon, paternal first cousin of groom
  • Don Alfonso Zurita y de Borbon, paternal first cousin of groom
  • Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, maternal first cousin of groom
  • Prince Nikolaos of Greece, maternal first cousin of groom
  • Prince Konstantin of Bulgaria, friend of the groom
  • Don Fernando Leon Boissier, on groom’s sailing team in the 1992 Summer Olympics
  • Don Alvaro Fuster Garaizabal, childhood friend of the groom
  • Mr. Christopher Dennis, attended Lakefield College School in Lakefield, Ontario, Canada with the groom
  • Don Fernando Rocha y Castilla, had career in army, served in the Royal Guard
  • Don Alfredo Hernandez Martinez, friend of the groom
  • Don Esteban Bienert Barberon, friend of the groom
  • Don Miguel Henkart Fernandez de Bobadilla, friend of the groom
  • Don Alberto Pamos Gomez, friend of the groom
  • Mr. Christophe von Reiche, friend of the groom

Witnesses of Doña Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano

  • Don Jesus Ortiz Alvarez, father of the bride
  • Doña Paloma Rocasolano Rodriguez, mother of the bride
  • Don Jose Luis Ortiz Velasco, paternal grandfather of the bride
  • Don Francisco Rocasolano Camacho, maternal grandfather of the bride
  • Doña Menchu Alvarez del Valle, paternal grandmother of the bride
  • Doña Enriqueta Rodriguez Cigarredo, maternal grandmother of the bride
  • Doña Telma Ortiz Rocasolano, sister of bride
  • Doña Erika Ortiz Rocasolano, sister of bride
  • Don Antonio Vigo Perez, professor at the university the bride attended
  • Doña Cristina Palacios Rubio, journalist friend of the bride
  • Doña Sonsoles Inega Salcedo, journalist friend of the bride
  • Doña Sonia Martinez Munoz, journalist friend of the bride
  • Don Jose Eduardo Medina Casado, journalist friend of the bride
  • Don Jaime Arturo del Burgo Azpiroz, future husband of bride’s sister Telma
  • Don Luis Bruzon Delgado, journalist friend of the bride
  • Don Alex Grijelmo Garcia, journalist friend of the bride
  • Don Mar Peiteado Mariscal, journalist friend of the bride

Wedding Attire

Felipe wore the full dress uniform of a Commander of the Spanish Army with braided epaulets, the light blue sash of the Order of Carlos III and the following medals: Insignia of the Order of the Golden Fleece, Grand Cross Collar of the Order of Carlos III (Badge and Star) and the Grand Crosses for Military, Naval and Aeronautic Merit with distinction.

Letizia’s wedding gown was designed by 87-year-old Spanish designer Manuel Pertegaz, considered Spain’s leading designer. Made from Valencia silk woven with threads of fine silver, the upper part, tapered with long sleeves, extends gracefully from the waist and flows into a train measuring 15 feet/4.5 meters embroidered with fleur-de-lis flowers, the heraldic fleur-de-lis, ears of wheat, clover, and strawberries. The stand-away collar is embroidered in silver and gold thread on both sides.

The veil was a gift from the groom and was cut to echo the shape of the train. 10 feet/3 meters long and 6.5 feet/2 meters wide, it was made from off-white silk tulle and hand-embroidered using techniques of the 19th century with scrolls and garlands of ears of wheat, and fleur-de-lis.

Letizia’s earrings were a gift from King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. They are made from platinum with six 2.44-carats pear-cut diamonds, two brilliant-cut of 1.22-carats and two brilliant-cut diamonds of 4.54-carats.

 Prussian Diamond Tiara

Letizia wore the Prussian Diamond Tiara, made of platinum and brilliant-cut diamonds in the empire style. Originally the tiara was given by Wilhelm II, German Emperor to his only daughter Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia when she married Prince Ernst Augustus of Hanover, Duke of Brunswick in 1913. Viktoria Luise gave the tiara to her daughter Princess Frederica of Hanover when she married Prince Paul of Greece (the future King Paul I of Greece) in 1938. Frederica then gave the tiara to her daughter Princess Sophia of Greece (the future Queen Sofia of Spain) when she married Prince Juan Carlos of Spain (the future King Juan Carlos I of Spain) in 1962. Queen Sofia loaned Letizia the Prussian Diamond Tiara for her wedding.

The cascade bouquet was composed of:

  • Lilies, a symbol of the Bourbons
  • Roses, the flower of May
  • Orange blossoms, in memory of the groom’s late paternal grandmother The Countess of Barcelona and Queen Mercedes of Spain, Princess of Orléans, the first wife of King Alfonso XII of Spain
  • Apple blossoms, a tribute to the Principality of Asturias, and a symbol of Our Lady of Atocha
  • Ears of wheat, symbol of fruitfulness, hope and joy; a symbol of Our Lady of the Almudena and San Isidro Labrador (Saint Isadore the Laborer) who is the patron saint of Madrid

Wedding Ceremony

The wedding ceremony was held on May 22, 2004 at the Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral in Madrid, Spain. This was the first royal wedding held in the cathedral and the first royal wedding held in Madrid since the wedding of Felipe’s great grandparents King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg, a granddaughter of Queen Victoria. When all the guests were seated in the cathedral, the Spanish royal family entered the cathedral:

  • Infante Carlos and Infanta Anne of Spain (Duke and Duchess of Calabria)
  • Infanta Margarita of Spain Duchess of Soria and the Duke of Soria
  • Infanta Cristina Duchess of Palma de Mallorca and the Duke of Palma de Mallorca
  • Infanta Elena Duchess of Lugo and the Duke of Lugo
  • King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Infanta Pilar Duchess of Badajoz
  • Queen Sofia of Spain and the Prince of Asturias

The Spanish royal family was seated on the left side of the altar. On the right side of the altar, the bride’s family was seated as well as the witnesses for the bride and groom. The Cardinal Archbishop of Madrid Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, who would give the sermon, was in the Episcopal Throne on the right of the altar.

The Apostolic Nuncio of His Holiness The Pope (the Pope’s representative in Spain); Ricardo Maria Carles, Cardinal of Barcelona; Carlos Amigo, Cardinal of Seville; Carlos Oviedo, Archbishop of Oviedo; Chaplain General to the Armed Forces Archbishop Francisco Pérez González; Chaplain General Emeritus Monsignor José Manuel Estepa Llaurens, and the Auxiliary Bishops of Madrid all stood behind the altar in the center. The Abbot of Poblet, the Prior of El Escorial and the Abbot of Covadonga stood on the right of the altar.

Letizia and her father followed by the two bridesmaid; Photo Credit –

As the bride left the Royal Palace with her father, it started to rain quite heavily. The pages and flower girls entered the cathedral carrying a garland symbolizing joy, abundance, and happiness. Letizia and her father then proceeded down the aisle, followed by the two bridesmaids. At the altar, Felipe received his bride from her father and the celebration of the Roman Catholic Nuptial Mass, which follows the traditional Roman Catholic Mass and includes the Sacrament of Matrimony, began.

Felipe giving Letizia her wedding ring; Photo Credit –

After the Mass was over the Prince and Princess of Asturias left the cathedral to the glorious Hallelujah chorus by Georg Friedrich Handel. Before they returned to the Royal Palace, their car went on a tour of the streets of Madrid and then went to the Real Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Atocha (Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha).

The newlyweds leave the cathedral; Photo Credit –

Our Lady of Atocha is the traditional patron of Spanish royalty. In tribute to Our Lady of Atocha, Felipe and Letizia had come to the basilica to lay the bridal bouquet before the statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary as Our Lady of Atocha. There is also a tradition in the Spanish royal family that infants are presented to Our Lady of Atocha at the basilica forty days after their birth. This rite was performed by Queen Regent María Cristina when she presented her son who was born king, the infant King Alfonso XIII, and by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia when they presented their children Elena, Cristina, and Felipe. Felipe and Letizia did the same with their daughters Leonor and Sofia.

Letizia presenting her bridal bouquet at the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha; Photo Credit –

Music Played During the Wedding Ceremony

Music was provided by:

  • National Choir of Spain
  • Spanish Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra
  • Director: Jesus Lopez Cobos
  • Organist: Roberto Fresco

During the arrival of the guests: Roberto Fresco, organist of the cathedral, played pieces of notable organists and composers of the reigns of Carlos V, Felipe II, and Felipe V (16th to 18th centuries): Antonio de Cabezón, Sebastián Aguilera de Heredia, Francisco Correa de Arauxo, Pablo Bruna, and Joan Bautista Cabanilles.

  • Entrance of King Juan Carlos I: The National Anthem – Marcha Real (Royal March) by Manuel de Espinosa de los Monteros
  • Entrance of the bride: Allegro for Organ Opus 7 by Georg Friedrich Handel
  • Gloria – Missa Pro Victoria by Tomás Luis de Victoria
  • Alleluia – Hallelujah by Christopher Morales
  • Presentation of the offerings – Sancta Maria KV 273 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Sanctus and Benedictus – Missa Pro Victoria by Tomás Luis de Victoria
  • Agnus Dei – Missa Pro Victoria by Tomás Luis de Victoria
  • During Communion – Tantum Ergo KV 197 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; The Salutatis by Juan Crisóstomo de Arriaga; Divine Bread by Francisco Guerrero
  • Rite of Farewell and Blessing – Regina Coeli by Tomás Luis de Victoria
  • While the witnesses sign the marriage certificate – Cantata # 69 by Johann Sebastian Bach
  • Exit of The Prince and Princess of Asturias – Hallelujah Chorus by Georg Friedrich Handel
  • Exit of the Guests – Prelude for Organ, Chorale Meine Seele Erhebet den Herrn BWV 648, Chorale Ach Bleib Bei Uns, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 649, all by Johann Sebastian Bach

Wedding Reception

On the Royal Palace balcony; Photo Credit –

After leaving the Royal Basilica of Our Lady of Atocha, Felipe and Letizia drove back to the Royal Palace. Upon their arrival, the Band of Bagpipe Players of the City of Oviedo and their youth group Vetusta (from Letizia’s hometown of Oviedo, Asturias, Spain) played the anthem of Asturias and the “March of May” which had been composed for the occasion. The bride and groom then appeared on the balcony of the Royal Palace with their parents along with Felipe’s two sisters and their husbands and greeted the many people gathered in the Plaza de Oriente. The people were very disappointed that the newlyweds only hugged and did not kiss. Then there were three photo sessions, one with the bride and groom with their families, another with the heads of state who attended the wedding and the third with members of royal houses. After the photo sessions, the bride and groom joined their guests for lunch which was served in the Courtyard of the Prince and the attached galleries.

Family Photo; Photo Credit –

In his toast, King Juan Carlos expressed to Letizia the enormous happiness of the whole royal family with this marriage. He asked the newlyweds to always think of Spain and to dedicate to the Spanish people their best efforts with love and devotion. The king implored the newlyweds to share in the joys, feelings, and difficulties of the Spanish people and to passionately serve their great, diverse country, proud of its democracy and freedom.

Felipe gave a speech in which he expressed his great happiness and stated that he and Letizia will always think of Spain, that their whole life will be dedicated to the well-being of the Spanish people, and thanked them for their constant show of affection and generosity.

Toast at the reception; Photo Credit –


  • Appetizers
  • Puff-Pastry Tartlet with Seafood on a Bed of Scallops
  • Roast Capon with Thyme and Nuts
  • Cake


  • Denominación de Origen Rias Baixas – White
  • Denominación de Origen Rioja – Red 1994 Reserve
  • Cava

The composition of the main table was as follows:

  • Dr. Martin McAleese
  • Mrs. Lourdes Rodríguez de Flores
  • Mr. Johannes Rau, President of Germany
  • Queen Rania of Jordan
  • Prince Hans Adam of Liechtenstein
  • Mrs. María José Ritta de Sampaio
  • King Albert II of the Belgians
  • Queen Sonja of Norway
  • King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden
  • Queen Margrethe II of Denmark
  • Mr. Jesús Ortiz Álvarez
  • Queen Sofa of Spain
  • The Prince of Asturias
  • The Princess of Asturias
  • King Juan Carlos I of Spain
  • Mrs. Paloma Rocasolano
  • Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark
  • Queen Silvia of Sweden
  • King Harald V of Norway
  • Queen Paola of the Belgians
  • Frey Andrew W. N. Bertie, Prince and Grand Master of the Order of Malta
  • Mrs. Mary McAleese, President of Ireland
  • Mr. Jorge Sampaio, President of Portugal
  • Mrs. Christina Rau
  • Mrs. Mireia Moscoso, President of Panama
  • Francisco Flores Pérez, President of El Salvador


 On their hoeymoon in San Sebastian, Spain

Felipe and Letizia’s honeymoon itinerary was not published, but the media did piece together their whirlwind trip. The couple started off visiting several places in Spain: Cuenca, San Sebastian, Teruel, Zaragoza, Navarre and Basque Country. Next, they went to Jordan to attend the wedding of Prince Hamzah bin Hussein to his second cousin Princess Noor bint Asem bin Nayef on May 27, 2004. (The couple had one daughter and divorced in 2009.) While in Jordan, Felipe and Letizia visited Petra, a historical and archaeological city in southern Jordan, famous for its rose-colored rock-cut architecture. The newlyweds were seen in Thailand on the island paradise of Koh Muk. It is suspected that they also visited India and China, because the pilot of a plane traveling from India to China, welcomed the prince and princess, who were traveling incognito, over the plane’s public address system. The Fiji Times reported that Felipe and Letizia stayed for a week in Fiji at the Wakaya Club, a luxurious, expensive resort. In their honeymoon’s final stretch, the couple privately cruised the Mediterranean aboard the ship of a Greek ship-owner, stopping at Greek islands and sailing through Italian ports.

Works Cited

  • “A Royal Wedding Boosts Spain’s Spirits”. latimes. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 May 2017.
  • “Flashback Friday: Mediterranean Engagement Rings”. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 May 2017.
  • “La Intensa Luna De Miel De Los Principes De Asturias | Gente | Gente – Abc.Es”. ABC. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 May 2017.
  • “Netty Royal”. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 May 2017.
  • “Netty Royal”. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 May 2017.
  • “Página Oficial Del Enlace Matrimonial De Su Alteza Real El Príncipe De Asturias Con Doña Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano”. N.p., 2017. Web. 6 May 2017.

Wedding of King Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece

by Emily

King Juan Carlos of Spain, whose title at the time was The Prince of Asturias, married Princess Sophia of Greece on May 14, 1962 in a Roman Catholic ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Denis in Athens, Greece and then in a Greek Orthodox ceremony at the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral of the Virgin Mary also in Athens.

Juan Carlos’ Early Life

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Juan Carlos was born in Rome, Italy, on January 5, 1938, the eldest son of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona and his second cousin, Maria de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. The Count of Barcelona was considered an heir to the defunct Spanish throne at the time of his son’s birth. Born one month premature, Juan Carlos’ mother had been at the movie theater and his father hunting when labor began.

Juan Carlos joined his then 2-year-old sister Pilar in the nursery. Juan Carlos’ second sister Margarita followed in 1939, along with brother Alfonso in 1941. Although he was christened Juan Alfonso Carlos in honor of his father and grandfathers, he was known among his family as “Juanito,” the diminutive version of Juan. Like the majority of Spaniards, Juan Carlos was raised a Roman Catholic.

Born several years after the proclamation of the Second Spanish Republic and exile of the Spanish royals, Juan Carlos grew up mainly in Portugal, Switzerland, and Italy. Juan Carlos and Alfonso later continued their studies in Spain with the consent of Generalissimo Francisco Franco. Juan Carlos completed his secondary schooling at the San Isidro Institute in Madrid.

In 1956, Juan Carlos’ life took a tragic turn when his younger brother Alfonso died after a shooting at the family’s home in Portugal. Stories began circulating that Juan Carlos had unintentionally killed his brother by firing the gun, unaware it was loaded. Juan Carlos’ role in Alfonso’s death (if he had one) has never been officially addressed, although by most accounts the death was accidental.

The Prince visited the United States in 1958, at which time Generalissimo Franco discussed reviving the Spanish monarchy following his own death. Although Franco regarded the Count of Barcelona with suspicion, he seemed to hold Juan Carlos in affection. The Count of Barcelona said he would never abdicate his claim to the throne to his son, and for his part, Juan Carlos said he would not accept the throne against his father’s wishes.

Juan Carlos served in the army, navy, and air force in Spain, and studied at the University of Madrid for a time, with a focus on economics and philosophy. He eventually became fluent in Spanish, French, Portuguese, Italian, and English along with some Greek. Juan Carlos developed interests in hunting, waterskiing, golf, and car racing. During his young adulthood, he also collected records and cigarette lighters.

For more information about  Juan Carlos see:

Sophia’s Early Life

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Sophia was born in Psychiko, Greece, a suburb of Athens, on November 2, 1938. Sophia is the eldest child of Paul I, King of the Hellenes and his German-born wife, Frederica of Hanover. Sophia’s brother, the future Constantine II, was born in 1940. Her sister Irene followed in 1943. Like the majority of the Greek royal family members, Sophia adhered to the Greek Orthodox faith.

Known within the family as Sophie, Sophia lived with her family in Egypt, Crete, and South Africa during World War II and the subsequent expulsion of the Greek monarchy from the country. The family returned to Greece in 1946.

Sophia was educated at the El Nasr Girls’ College in Alexandria while she lived in Egypt. Sophia later attended the Schloss Salem School in Salem, Germany, where her Hanoverian uncle George served as headmaster. After spending some time as a student of Fitzwilliam College at Cambridge University, Sophia completed her education in Athens.

In 1958, Sophia visited the United States with her mother and brother. The family made appearances at several sites in numerous states during their month long visit. During a stop in Quincy, Massachusetts, Queen Frederica christened a new oil tanker The Princess Sophie. The tanker was owned by Greek shipping magnate Stavros Niarchos, via one of his many companies. At the time, The Princess Sophie was the largest cargo ship ever built in the United States.

In 1960, Sophia served as an alternate to her brother on the Greek Olympic sailing team. The entire family made the trip to Rome to see Constantine and the Greek sailing team win the Dragon class gold medal. Along with her native Greek, Sophia also became fluent in her mother’s home language (German), English, and later French and Spanish.

For more information about Sofia see:

Royal Romance

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In an effort for young, suitable European royals to meet and mingle (and also to boost tourism in Greece), Sophia’s mother arranged a Mediterranean cruise on the Greek yacht Agamemnon in 1954. Several teenaged and twenty-something royals were invited on the trip touring a handful of Greek islands. Juan Carlos and Sophie were among the young royals on the cruise.

Common with young, marriageable royals of the time, both Sophia and Juan Carlos were romantically linked with others early in their adulthood. Juan Carlos was rumored to be involved with Maria Gabriella of Italy, a daughter of former King Umberto II. He often spoke of Maria Gabriella in letters to friends, served as her escort at weddings, and was photographed with her. Sophia’s name was frequently mentioned as a possible bride of the future Harald V of Norway. There was also some talk of Sophia marrying into one of the wealthy Greek ship-owning families.

However, by the summer of 1958, it appeared that Sophia and Juan Carlos were beginning to take a romantic interest in one another. At the wedding of Duchess Elisabeth of Württemberg and Antoine of Bourbon-Two Sicilies that July, Juan Carlos reportedly said that Sophia enchanted him. The two spent a good deal of time together at the wedding celebrations, despite the fact that he was officially the escort of Maria Gabriella.

The families of the Sophia and Juan Carlos reunited in Rome at the 1960 Olympic Games. The Greek royal family held a dinner for their Spanish guests onboard the ship Polemistis. At that point, Sophia and Juan Carlos had not seen each other for several months. During that time Juan Carlos had grown a mustache, which Sophia disliked on sight. She reportedly grabbed Juan Carlos’ hand, took him to the ship’s bathroom, and shaved off the mustache. Sophia later expressed surprise that he let her do it. Following the Olympics, Sophia’s family invited Juan Carlos and his family to spend Christmas 1960 with them in Corfu, Greece.

Sophia, Constantine, and Irene traveled to the United Kingdom in June 1961 to attend the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent. Due to a matter of protocol, Juan Carlos conveniently served as Sophia’s escort. Irene and Sophia were seen spending time with Juan Carlos at the wedding and various other events, which caught the eye of the press, encouraging rumors that Juan Carlos was courting one of the two sisters. Constantine acted as an unofficial chaperone for Sophia and Juan Carlos when the two attended several private events in London.

Following the success of the Kent wedding, Juan Carlos spent much of the summer of 1961 on Corfu at Mons Repos, the Greek royal summer home. Sophia later remarked that the two had several rather nasty arguments while sailing. She said it was during this trip that she decided marriage to Juan Carlos would be a viable option, as she felt if they could move past those arguments (which they did), they stood a chance at having a successful marriage.

Juan Carlos’ presence in Greece led to talk of him courting Sophia or Irene, but both families continued to officially deny these rumors. The Spaniards, in particular, wished to hide the news of the romance from Generalissimo Franco, whose relationship with Juan Carlos’ family had deteriorated in recent months.

The Engagement

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The engagement was announced on September 13, 1961, during a dinner held at the villa of Juan Carlos’ grandmother, former Queen Victoria Eugenie (Ena) in Lausanne, Switzerland. The parents of the bride and groom soon joined their children in Lausanne to mark the happy event.

At the villa, Sophia and Juan Carlos later met with members of the Swiss press to discuss the engagement. Juan Carlos said that he wasn’t certain when he fell in love with Sophia, but that the couple had known each other for several years. Evidently, the two had surprised both sets of parents by indicating their wish to marry.

Reportedly, Juan Carlos popped the question to Sophia in a rather unusual way. While attending an event at the Beau Rivage Hotel in Lausanne, Juan Carlos said “Sofi, catch it!” while tossing a small box in her direction. Sophia did catch the box, and when she opened it she saw that it contained a ring made from melted ancient coins dating back to the reign of Alexander the Great. Juan Carlos then happily said, “Now we will get married, okay?” Years later, Sophia jokingly remarked that Juan Carlos never officially asked her to marry him.

Crown Prince Constantine, who was acting as regent of Greece during his father’s absence from the country, announced news of the engagement in Greece. According to Constantine, Paul was so excited by the news that he was unaware of the late hour (3:00 AM) when he called to share it with his son. Constantine himself said he was so thrilled by the news of the engagement that he had trouble going back to sleep.

In celebration of his sister’s engagement, Constantine provided Greek news editors with champagne at the royal palace in Athens the following day. A 21-gun salute was fired from nearby Mount Lycabettus to announce to the Greek public the upcoming marriage of their princess.

Juan Carlos and his mother left Lausanne the following day for Athens, traveling with Sophia and her family. Over 100,000 Greek citizens were waiting in the streets of Athens to welcome the new couple to the country.

Wedding Preparations

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Due to Juan Carlos’ uneasy position in Spain, an Athens wedding was planned for May, the beginning of the tourist season in Greece. The celebrations involved 4 ½ months of nearly round-the-clock preparation headed by Colonel Dimitri Levidis, Grand Marshal of the Greek royal court. Colonel Levidis was in charge of every detail from the wording of the invitations to the exact timing of each ceremony. As the month of May was often a hot one in Greece, most of the official events connected with the wedding were scheduled indoors for the comfort of guests.

The difference in Juan Carlos’ and Sophia’s faiths posed questions on how the couple should be religiously married. In addition, Juan Carlos’ position in regard to the restoration of the Spanish monarchy needed to be considered. While conversion to Catholicism was not required of Sophia to marry, the Spanish public would likely expect a future queen to be a practicing Catholic.

As such, a meeting was scheduled in November 1961, between Juan Carlos and a group of Spanish advisors at his home in Estoril, Portugal. The focus of the meeting was to discuss the best way to navigate the question of religion. Sophia began lessons in Spanish language, history, and geography. As a gesture of affection toward his fiancée, Juan Carlos simultaneously began learning the Greek language.

An estimated 5,800 hotel rooms were added in Athens in late 1961 and early 1962 in preparation for the event, which predicted as the highlight of the Greek tourist season that year. Officials also began seeking wealthy Greek citizens with extra space to house the influx of tourists and guests.

The expense of the wedding was a major sticking point for many, with protests over the cost and the tradition surrounding Sophia’s $300,000 tax-free dowry. The opposition parties of the Greek Parliament abstained from voting on the dowry proposal, but did voice displeasure on the “anachronistic and barbarous” practice of granting such monies, as well as expressed general criticism toward the royal family.

Sophia was seen at the opening of the Paris summer fashion season in January 1962 with her mother, sister, and Olga of Yugoslavia, herself a Greek princess and friend of Queen Frederica. The group was in Paris to view the collection of Jean Desses, the Paris-based designer hired to design Sophia’s dress and trousseau. Desses later remarked that the trousseau was not particularly costly or extensive as Greek royal family was reported to be somewhat poor in comparison to their royal counterparts.

Celebrations in Athens

Three days of pre-wedding festivities began in Athens on May 10. Events included a garden party for 2,000 guests hosted by the parents of the couple. Spanish ambassador Marquis Luca de Tena held a gala for the couple in Athens the evening before the wedding. The gala featured Greek folk dancers performing in front of a large gathering of fellow royals and other prominent guests.

Prince Constantine took charge of the younger, unmarried adult royals attending the festivities, hosting a ball and sightseeing tours for up-and-coming royals. Members of the wealthy Athenian youth served as tour guides for the visitors.

Juan Carlos was observed as rather tense and gloomy during the celebrations. Unknown to most of the public, Juan Carlos was in severe pain. Less than a month before the wedding, he had broken his left collarbone while practicing judo with Prince Constantine. The sling had been removed just days before the parties began, but the pains in Juan Carlos’ arm and shoulder were still considerable.

Approval of the Churches

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As Juan Carlos and Sophia of different faiths, special consent was needed from both churches for the marriage to take place. A Greek Orthodox ceremony was required for the couple to be married in Greece, but the Spanish would likely not accept a future royal couple that had not been married according to Roman Catholic rites. The Duke of Edinburgh was asked to weigh in on his own experience converting from Greek Orthodoxy to the Church of England upon his marriage to Queen Elizabeth II.

After some discussion, an agreement was made to marry the couple in dual Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox ceremonies. The Catholic service would be held at the Cathedral of St. Denis, while the Orthodox ceremony would take place at the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral of the Virgin Mary in Athens.

Sophia signed a pledge issued by Pope John XXIII promising to raise any children in the Catholic faith – and not to convert Juan Carlos to Orthodoxy. She also received instruction in Roman Catholicism, but at the time of the wedding, her own possible conversion to the faith was still officially in question. Shortly before the wedding, the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church gave their approval for the Orthodox ceremony.

Two days before the wedding, Sophia formally renounced her claim to the Greek throne. The renunciation was seen as a precursor to Sophia’s expected conversion to Roman Catholicism, as adherence to Greek Orthodoxy was required of Greek rulers. However, the Greek government had repeatedly expressed their opinion that should Sophia convert, she should not do so before leaving Greece.

Three weeks after the wedding, it was announced that Sophia would be converting to the Catholic faith. During a honeymoon visit in Rome, Pope John XXIII received the couple in celebration of the announcement and presented Sophia with a rosary.

Wedding Ceremonies

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Very early on the morning of the wedding, several loads of fresh red roses were delivered to both the Catholic and Orthodox churches at the request of the bride and Queen Frederica. Over 35,000 roses alone decorated the Orthodox cathedral. The Father Benedict Brindisi, Archbishop of Athens, and Chrystomos, Primate of Greece conducted the Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox ceremonies respectively.

The Catholic ceremony was to be held first, scheduled for 10:00 AM on May 14, 1962. Sophia and her father traveled from the palace to the Cathedral of St. Denis in the same coach used for the 1908 wedding of George, Prince of Greece and Marie Bonaparte. The carriage was pulled by six white horses.

According to estimates by the Athens police, several hundred thousand (possible up to one million) Greek and Spanish spectators packed the two-mile procession between the palace and both cathedrals. Upon arrival at St. Denis, Sophia was said to have seemed nervous and worried about the appearance of her train. However, before entering the cathedral, Sophia turned to wave at the excited spectators.

The cathedral was decorated with several thousand yellow and red roses and carnations in honor of the colors of Spain. While waiting at the altar at the beginning of the ceremony, Juan Carlos was said to be standing “ramrod-stiff”. Juan Carlos was addressed in Spanish during the ceremony, while Sophia was addressed in Greek.

Following the Catholic ceremony, Juan Carlos and Sophia rode together in state coach to the royal palace, while the next round of guests at the headed to the Metropolitan Cathedral for the Orthodox service. After a very brief rest, Sophia and her father again rode from palace to Orthodox cathedral via the same 1908 blue and gilt coach, while Juan Carlos traveled in a separate carriage with his mother.

The Orthodox service began at noon at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Virgin Mary. As part of the Orthodox ceremony, attendants exchanged the rings and crowns worn by Juan Carlos and Sophia three times. The crowns were the same as those used during the wedding of Paul and Frederica in 1938.

Sophia was reported to be smiling throughout both ceremonies, although she did shed some tears toward the end of the Orthodox service. Queen Frederica was also said to have cried during the service. Juan Carlos put his arm around and offered Sophia his handkerchief to comfort. Not to be outdone by the Catholics, 22 Orthodox bishops assisted the Primate during the ceremony.

Upon leaving the Orthodox cathedral, a very excited Sophia nearly tripped over her long train. The couple descended the steps of the cathedral under a tunnel of swords held by eighteen Spanish officers, friends of Juan Carlos from the three Spanish military academies. Spanish royalists shouted, “Long live the King!” as the couple exited under a tunnel of swords. Sophia then threw her wedding bouquet, which was caught by Anne-Marie of Denmark, who married Sophia’s brother Constantine in 1964.

A short civil ceremony was held at the Greek Royal Palace following the religious services. Sophia would now be known as Sofia – the Spanish version of her name. A wedding banquet followed for guests attending the two religious ceremonies.

While most of the Greek public cheered the new couple with Greek and Spanish flags, the wedding was not universally popular. The heat of the wedding day also took a toll on several spectators. A 72-year-old Greek woman died of a heart attack during the festivities, and several others were treated for heat-related conditions.

Wedding Attire

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Sophia wore a dress of silver lame covered in layers of heirloom Bruges lace and tulle. The dress itself was rather simple in design, with fitted three-quarter-length sleeves, a flared skirt, and a jewel neckline. The twenty foot long white lame and organza train extended from the neck of the dress.

The dress was designed by Jean Desses, a French designer of Greek heritage and a favorite of Queen Frederica. The choice of a designer located in neither Greece nor Spain caused an uproar, which Sophia attempted to soothe by requesting the dress be cut in Paris and assembled in Athens by a Greek seamstress. Desses also designed most of the pieces of Sophia’s trousseau.

Sophia’s veil consisted of fifteen feet of heirloom Bruges lace. Queen Frederica had worn the same veil when she married Paul of Greece in 1938. Sophia’s shoes, designed by Roger Vivier for Jean Desses, were also covered in lace. She carried a bouquet of lilies of the valley, a traditional wedding flower.

Sophia chose to wear the tiara now known as the Prussian Diamond Tiara or Hellenic Tiara. This tiara was originally gifted from German Emperor Wilhelm II to his daughter Viktoria Luise upon her marriage to Ernst Augustus of Hanover. Viktoria Luise then passed it to her own daughter and Sophia’s mother, Frederica upon her marriage into the Greek royal family. Frederica, in turn, gave the tiara to Sophia as a wedding present. Very Hellenic in appearance, the platinum and diamond tiara features lines of pillars, Greek keys, and laurel surrounding an oval framing a single and free hanging pear-shaped diamond.

The eight bridesmaids each wore a strapless dress of silver lame gauze. The skirt of the dress had many shallow pleats, which flared out the lightweight material. The dress was covered by a pastel silk faille top with three-quarter length sleeves and scoop necklines. Narrow ribbons tied into small bows just below the bust and at the waist created a cummerbund-style effect. The bridesmaids also wore thick, braided headpieces that matched the dress and wore long white gloves during the ceremonies.

As he had served in all branches of the Spanish military, Juan Carlos had his choice of uniforms to sport on the wedding day, eventually wearing the olive green army uniform, possibly to please Generalissimo Franco. Like most royal grooms, Juan Carlos wore several of his many orders on his uniform. The Greek Order of the Redeemer was worn as the primary order, one of the oldest and most distinguished decorations awarded in Greece. Juan Carlos also wore several of his Spanish orders, including the Order of the Golden Fleece and the Order of Charles III.

Wedding Party

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Sophia chose a collection of eligible, young, European royal women born right around the beginning of World War II as her bridesmaids. The bridesmaids were:

  • Anne of Orléans, a daughter of Henri of Orléans, Count of Paris and pretender to the French throne, and his wife Isabelle of Orléans-Braganza, a princess of the old Brazilian empire.
  • Benedikte and Anne-Marie of Denmark, the two younger daughters of Frederik IX of Denmark and Ingrid of Sweden. Their elder sister Margrethe later became Queen of Denmark. Anne Marie also married Sophia’s brother Constantine in 1964.
  • Tatiana Radziwiłł, a distant cousin of Sophia’s and the daughter of Eugenie of Greece and Polish prince Dominik Radziwiłł.
  • Alexandra of Kent, a cousin of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom and a granddaughter of King George V.
  • Irene of the Netherlands, the second daughter of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and her consort, Bernhard of Schaumburg-Lippe. Irene was then a Spanish language student in Madrid. Her marriage two years later to Carlist pretender Carlos Hugo, Duke of Parma caused considerable controversy in her home country.
  • Pilar of Spain, the older sister of Juan Carlos.
  • Irene of Greece, Sophia’s younger sister.

King Paul and several European princes served as crown bearers during the Orthodox service. Besides Paul, the crown bearers were:

  • Crown Prince Constantine of Greece, Sophia’s younger brother.
  • Michael of Greece, Sophia’s cousin.
  • Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, a distant cousin of Juan Carlos and Sophia.
  • Ludwig Wilhelm of Baden, a distant cousin of Sophia (and of Philip, Duke of Edinburgh).
  • Victor Emmanuel, Prince of Naples, son of Umberto II of Italy.
  • Don Marco Alfonso Torlonia, 6th Prince of Civitella-Cesi, a cousin of Juan Carlos.
  • Christian of Hanover, Sophia’s uncle.
  • Carlos of the Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Duke of Calabria, a distant cousin of Juan Carlos.

Michael and Amedeo doubled as Sophia’s witnesses for the civil wedding. In addition, two relatives of Juan Carlos, Alfonso of Orléans and Alfonso of Bourbon and Dampierre, served as his witnesses.

Wedding Guests

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Many members of Europe’s ruling and non-ruling families attended the wedding. The guest list would be short for a royal wedding, given the capacities of the relatively small venues of the Cathedral of St. Denis and the Metropolitan Cathedral. Additionally, a number of dignitaries, nobility, and other prominent non-royal guests would also need to be accommodated. As a compromise, half of the royal guests would attend the Catholic wedding ceremony, the other half would attend the Orthodox service.  Notable guests included:

King Olav V of Norway
Queen Ingrid of Denmark
Prince Constantine of the Hellenes
King Paul I and Queen Frederika of the Hellenes
Queen Juliana of the Netherlands
Prince Rainier III and Princess Grace of Monaco
Princess Claude of Orléans
Queen Juliana and Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands
Former King Umberto II and Queen Marie-Jose of Italy
Former King Michael and Queen Anne of Romania
Prince Franz Josef II of Liechtenstein
Grand Duke Jean of Luxembourg and Grand Duchess Josephine
Henri and Isabella, Count and Countess of Paris
Helen of Greece, former Queen Mother of Romania
Victoria Eugenie (Ena) of Battenburg, former Queen of Spain
Tomislav of Yugoslavia
Lord Louis Mountbatten, Earl Mountbatten of Burma
Robert, Duke of Parma
Alfonso, Duke of Calabria
Luis of Orleans-Braganza, Prince Imperial of Brazil
Ernest August V of Hanover
Amadeo, Duke of Aosta
Duarte Pio of Braganza
Philip of Württemberg
Philip of Hesse
Marina, Duchess of Kent
Franz of Bavaria
Friedrich-Franz V of Mecklenburg-Schwerin
Spanish naval minister Felipe Abarzuza y Oliva (official representative of Generalissimo Franco)

Wedding Gifts

Sophia and Juan Carlos received numerous wedding gifts from around the world. American President John F. Kennedy sent a golden cigarette box. Prince Rainier and Princess Grace of Monaco (later good friends of the new couple) provided a new sailboat (El Fortuna) and Greek shipping magnate George Goulandris gave the couple a yacht, both apt presents for gifted sailors.
From her family, Sophia received several gifts including a silver tea set, Greek silk bed linens, silverware, and a set of gold bracelets encrusted in gemstones. Juan Carlos’ parents gave Sophia a diamond and pearl tiara and pearl earrings. Even Generalissimo Franco showed his affection for the couple by gifting a diamond brooch. Sophia, likely aware of her new position in Spain, sent a personal letter of thanks to Franco.
Eager to take additional Greek-made items to her new home, Sophia was happy to receive various local crafts from areas around the country. Aside from the Goulandris yacht, Juan Carlos and Sophia were also given gifts of smaller watercraft and cars from various other Greek shipping tycoons. When by an agricultural organization for her choice of a wedding gift, Sophia request a laurel tree planted at the couple’s future home, so as to remind her of her home in Greece.

Generalissimo Franco and the Wedding

Generalissimo Francisco Franco announced before the ceremony that the Spanish monarchy would likely one day be restored following his rule. The wedding and Sophia’s conversion to Roman Catholicism added fuel to the rumors that the succession would pass the Count of Barcelona in favor of Juan Carlos and Sophia. Monarchists were said to happily approve of a union between their prince (and likely heir) and a royal princess of a ruling house.
Franco declined an invitation to the wedding, sending instead his naval minister Felipe Abarzuza y Oliva. Franco further allowed ample press coverage of the wedding, an action that was viewed as highly unusual and encouraging to monarchists. Two major newspapers were allowed to publish full front page photos of the couple with accompanying articles. A third newspaper carried front page articles on the wedding, while photographs of the event were shown on state television.
In celebration of the wedding, Generalissimo Franco bestowed the Collar of the Order of Charles III on both Juan Carlos and Sophia. This honor was and still is typically given only to Spanish monarchs.
Franco permitted only one photo of the Count of Barcelona to be published in Spain, which was placed in the newspaper’s classified ads. At the time of the wedding, reports of Franco bypassing the Count of Barcelona and naming Juan Carlos as his successor were still seen as high unlikely.

The Honeymoon

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A few weeks after the wedding, Juan Carlos and Sophia set out on a cruise of several Greek islands aboard the Greek yacht Eros, followed by a much longer trip around the world. The two made stops in Greece, Spain, Monaco, Italy, India, Thailand, the United States, and Japan. President Kennedy wished the couple good luck during a visit in August 1962. The honeymoon lasted several months as talks between Generalissimo Franco and the Count of Barcelona took place on the future of the Spanish monarchy.
No final decision had been made when the couple returned in the late summer of 1962, forcing the two to embark on several extended stays with relatives in Switzerland, Portugal, and Greece as they had no permanent home.

New Couples

A gathering of such a large number of reigning and non-reigning European royals often resulted in talk of “who’s next” to be married. These types of rumors had followed royal weddings for decades. As so many of the participants in Sophia’s and Juan Carlos’ wedding were young, prominent, and eligible royals, the gossip mill was ripe in the weeks and months that followed. As expected, no relationships materialized for many of these possible new couples.

However, out of the wedding festivities of Sophia and Juan Carlos emerged a surprising amount of bona fide new royal couples. This included a set of sisters who became reacquainted with their respective new husbands during the wedding events.

Irene of the Netherlands was already a student in Spain when she was asked to serve as a bridesmaid for Sophia. Carlos Hugo of Bourbon-Parma, a son of the Carlist pretender to the Spanish throne may have met Irene at the wedding (or shortly before it) and the couple began to see one another not long after. Irene’s conversion to Catholicism and marriage to Carlos Hugo in 1964 created enormous controversy in the bride’s home country. Objectors pointed to years of Spanish rule of the Netherlands by Spain, fears of Generalissimo Franco’s regime, and Irene’s proximity to the throne. No one from the Dutch royal family attended the wedding and Irene gave up her rights of succession to the throne. The couple had four children, but separated in 1980 and divorced the following year.

Bridesmaid Anne of Orléans became reacquainted with childhood friend (and crown bearer) Carlos, Duke of Calabria during their involvement with Sophia’s and Juan Carlos’ wedding. The couple married in 1965, and has five children and eighteen grandchildren.

Anne’s sister Claude began seeing another crown bearer, Amedeo, Duke of Aosta, shortly after the wedding. The couple announced their engagement in 1963 and married the following year. Claude and Amedeo had three children before separating in the mid-1970s and divorcing a few years later.

Sophia’s brother Constantine had become acquainted with Anne-Marie of Denmark (another bridesmaid) during a state visit to Denmark a few years before. He had expressed interest in eventually marrying Anne-Marie shortly before the Spanish-Greek wedding, and the two spent a great deal of time together during the festivities. The engagement was announced in early 1963 when Anne-Marie was just sixteen. Constantine and Anne-Marie were married in September of 1964, just weeks after her eighteenth birthday. As of 2012, the couple has five children and nine grandchildren.

Wedding of King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg

by Susan Flantzer

King Alfonso XIII of Spain and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg were married on May 31, 1906 at the Royal Monastery of San Jerónimo in Madrid, Spain.

King Alfonso XIII of Spain’s Background

King Alfonso XIII of Spain with his mother and sisters, 1897; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

On November 25, 1885, three days before his 28th birthday, King Alfonso XII of Spain died from tuberculosis at the Royal Palace of El Pardo in Madrid, leaving two daughters and his queen pregnant with her third child. It was decided that Alfonso’s widow, born Archduchess Maria Christina of Austria, would rule as regent until the child was born. If the child were a male, he would become king and if the child were a female, Alfonso and Maria Christina’s elder daughter María Mercedes would become queen.

On May 17, 1886, Maria Christina gave birth to a son. King Alfonso XIII of Spain was the Spanish sovereign from his birth until the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic on April 14, 1931. He was given the names Alfonso León Fernando María Jaime Isidro Pascual Antonio de Borbón y Habsburgo-Lorena. His mother would remain Regent until Alfonso turned 16 and took control of the monarchy. He had two older sisters:

  • Infanta Mercedes, Princess of Asturias (1880 – 1904)
  • Infanta Maria Teresa (1882 -1912)

During Maria Christina’s regency, Spain lost its colonial rule over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States as a result of the Spanish-American War (1898). In 1902, at the age of sixteen, Alfonso XIII was declared of legal age and assumed the constitutional role of head of state. The week of his sixteenth birthday was marked by festivities, bullfights, balls and celebrations throughout Spain.

Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg’s Background

Princess Victoria Eugenie with her mother and brothers, 1900; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

Princess Victoria Eugenie Julia Ena of Battenberg (known as Ena, which will be used in the rest of the article) was born on October 24, 1887, at Balmoral Castle in Scotland, the only daughter of Prince Henry of Battenberg and Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, the youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. She had three brothers:

  • Prince Alexander of Battenberg, later Alexander Mountbatten, Marquess of Carisbrooke (1886-1960)
  • Prince Leopold of Battenberg, later Lord Leopold Mountbatten (1889-1922), hemophilia sufferer
  • Prince Maurice of Battenberg (1891-1914), killed in action during World War I

Raised in her grandmother’s household, the family moved constantly between Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle and Osborne House. In January 1896, Ena’s father died of malaria while en route to fight in the Ashanti War. Following his death, Queen Victoria gave the family apartments at Kensington Palace where they lived while in London. After Queen Victoria’s death in 1901, Kensington Palace became their primary residence, along with Osborne Cottage on the grounds of Osborne House.

The Engagement


In 1905, nineteen-year-old King Alfonso XIII of Spain toured Europe seeking a bride, and he made a stop in the United Kingdom where the press speculated that Queen Victoria’s granddaughter Princess Patricia of Connaught, known as Patsy, would most likely catch Alfonso’s eye. At a dinner at Buckingham Palace, Queen Victoria’s eligible granddaughters were seated around the dinner table, all aware that they had a possibility of being the next Queen of Spain. Alfonso had been seated next to Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Helena who answered his questions about the princesses. When his eyes fell on seventeen-year-old blonde Ena, Alfonso was immediately smitten and asked, “And who is that young lady with the nearly white hair?”

Alfonso saw the tall, blond, dignified Ena again the next night at a reception. However, he forgot her name and referred to her as “the fair-haired one” and his feelings were reciprocated by Ena. A ball was held at Buckingham Palace on the third evening and it was the first time Alfonso and Ena could speak privately with each other. Because Alfonso’s English was limited and Ena spoke no Spanish, they spoke French. While dancing together, Alfonso asked Ena if she collected postcards, a common hobby for well-born women. When Ena said she did, Alfonso promised he would send her some postcards if she promised to reply.

After the London visit, the couple exchanged letters and Alfonso regularly sent her postcards, and it was through this correspondence that their courtship developed. However, there were several problematic issues. The first issue was religion. Alfonso was Catholic while Ena was Protestant. It was unthinkable that a Queen of Spain not be Roman Catholic. The second issue was the potential of Ena bringing hemophilia into the Spanish royal family. As Ena’s brother Leopold suffered from the disease, there was a chance that Ena herself was a carrier. Today we know that there was a 50% chance that Ena would be a hemophilia carrier. However, with little known about the disease at the time, Alfonso did not seem too concerned. The third obstacle was Alfonso’s mother, Maria Christina. She did not feel the Battenbergs were royal enough due to the morganatic marriage which started that family and wanted her son to marry a member of the Habsburg dynasty of Austria.

Nevertheless, Ena and Alfonso met again in Biarritz, France in January 1906 where they became unofficially engaged. Six days later, Ena went to Spain for the first time and met Alfonso’s mother at Miramar Palace in San Sebastian, Basque Country, Spain. Maria Christina finally agreed to her son’s choice of a bride and sent a letter to Princess Beatrice, Ena’s mother, telling her about the love Alfonso felt for her daughter and seeking unofficial contact with the King Edward VII, Beatrice’s brother and Ena’s uncle. Several days later at Windsor Castle, King Edward congratulated his niece on her future engagement.

Ena agreed to convert to Roman Catholicism and she started religious instruction with Monsignor Robert Brindle, Bishop of Nottingham. She was officially received into the Roman Catholic Church on March 7, 1906 at Miramar Palace, and the engagement was officially announced on the same day. On April 3, 1906, King Edward VII elevated his niece’s style from “Her Highness” to “Her Royal Highness” thereby softening Maria Christina’s objection that the Battenbergs were not royal enough.

The terms of the marriage were settled by two agreements, a public treaty and a private contractual arrangement. The treaty was executed between Spain and the United Kingdom in London on May 7, 1906. One of the provisions of the treaty stated that Ena “forfeits for ever all hereditary rights of succession to the Crown and Government of Great Britain.” This was solely because by marrying and becoming a Roman Catholic, Ena lost any right to inherit the British crown as a consequence of the Act of Settlement 1701. Any of Ena’s descendants who did not become Roman Catholic or marry a Roman Catholic would remain in the line of succession to the British Throne.

Wedding Preparations

Royal Palace of Madrid; Photo Credit – By Diego Delso, CC BY-SA 4.0,

On May 24, 1906, Ena arrived in France on board a British warship and took a special train to the Spanish border where she was met by Alfonso, the Spanish Prime Minister and the Spanish Foreign Minister who accompanied her to the Royal Palace of El Pardo in the Fuencarral-El Pardo district of Madrid. Enormous crowds assembled outside the gates of Pardo Palace and greeted the king and their future queen with loud cheering and cries of “Long live the King!” and “Long live the Queen!” Once they entered the palace, the gates were opened and the crowds were admitted to the palace grounds. Alfonso appeared on the palace balcony holding Ena’s hand, thrilling the crowd. Later in the evening, Alfonso returned to the Royal Palace of Madrid and Ena stayed at Pardo Palace with her mother until the wedding.

The Royal Palace of Madrid was a scene of constant reception of arriving delegations, many of them bringing splendid presents. Presents already fill three large salons at the palace. On May 29, 1906, many foreign royals and envoys arrived in Madrid. That night, festivities were held at Pardo Palace for guests, including a theater performance.

The streets of Madrid were colorful and full of activity. Trains continued to arrive with thousands of Spaniards and foreigners and the streets were packed with throngs of people in bright summer attire. The streets along the cortege route were colorfully decorated with floral arches, British and Spanish flags, and floral garlands on balconies. 1,200 tons of flowers had been ordered from the Canary Islands and parks and other public places were transformed into gardens by planting thousands of palms and rose bushes. Many buildings were decorated with huge crowns that sparkled at night with electric lights. Even the trolleys were decorated with streamers.

Alfonso’s presented jewelry to Ena said to be worth over one million dollars (in 1906 dollars!) including a gold crown with brilliant-cut diamonds to be worn on state occasions; a diadem; two collars (necklaces), one of pearls and the other of rubies and sapphires; a pair of gold bracelets; a pair of magnificent pendants; and a large diamond brooch. Ena gave Alfonso an exquisite jeweled sword designed in Toledo, Spain.

Wedding Guests

The Prince and Princess of Wales (the future King George V and Queen Mary of the United Kingdom) arriving at the church; Photo Credit – Archivo HUM historia urbana de Madrid

Below is a list of some of the wedding guests. It is assumed that spouses of guests were also invited, but the only spouses listed are the ones found in sources.

Family of the Groom

  • Queen Maria Christina, mother of the groom
  • Infante Carlos de Borbón y Borbón, brother-in-law of the groom
  • Infante Alfonso de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón, nephew of the groom, heir presumptive to the Spanish throne
  • Infanta Isabel Alfonsa de Borbón, niece of the groom
  • Infanta Isabel de Borbón y Borbon, Countess of Girgenti, aunt of the groom
  • Infanta Maria de la Paz de Borbón y Borbón, Princess of Bavaria, aunt of the groom
  • Infante Fernando de Baviera y Borbón, cousin of the groom
  • Princess Pilar of Bavaria, cousin of the groom
  • Infanta Eulalia de Borbón y Borbón, Princess of Orleans, aunt of the groom
  • Infante Alfonso de Orleáns, cousin of the groom
  • Prince Genaro de Borbón-Dos Sicilias, distant cousin of the groom
  • Prince Raniero de Borbón-Dos Sicilias , distant cousin of the groom
  • Prince Philip , de Borbón-Dos Sicilias, distant cousin of the groom

Family of the Bride

  • Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom, mother of the bride
  • Prince Alexander of Battenberg, brother of the bride
  • Prince Leopold of Battenberg, brother of the bride
  • Prince Maurice de Battenberg, brother of the bride
  • The Prince of Wales, cousin of the bride, and The Princess of Wales (future King George V and Queen Mary)
  • The Dowager Duchess of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, Dowager Duchess of Edinburgh, aunt of the bride
  • Princess Beatrice of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg and Gotha, cousin of the bride
  • Princess Alicia of Albany, cousin of the bride, and her husband Prince Alexander of Teck
  • Princess Maria Carolina of Battenberg, Princess of Erbach-Schönberg, aunt of the bride

Foreign Princes

  • Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria (heir to the Austrian-Hungarian throne) and his wife Sophie, Duchess of Hohenberg
  • Prince Albert of Belgium (future King Albert I of the Belgians)
  • Crown Prince Constantine of Greece (future King Constantine I of Greece) and Crown Princess Sophie (born Princess Sophie of Prussia), cousin of the bride
  • Prince Andrew of Greece
  • Hereditary Prince Louis of Monaco (future Louis II, Prince of Monaco)
  • Prince Heinrich of Prussia, cousin of the bride
  • Prince Friedrich Wilhelm of Prussia
  • Prince Albrecht of Prussia, Regent of Brunswick
  • Prince Luís Filipe, Duke of Braganza (heir apparent to the throne of Portugal)
  • Grand Duke Vladimir Alexandrovich and his wife Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia
  • Prince Tommaso of Savoy, 2nd Duke of Genoa
  • Prince Eugen of Sweden, Duke of Närke

Other Guests

  • Segismundo Moret, President of the Council of Ministers
  • Álvaro de Figueroa y Torres, Count of Romanones, Minister of Interior
  • Juan Manuel Sánchez Gutiérrez de Castro, Duke of Almodovar, Minister of State
  • Manuel García Prieto, Minister of Justice
  • Amós Salvador Rodrigáñez, Minister of Finance
  • Agustín de Luque y Coca, Minister of War
  • Víctor María Concas, Minister of the Navy
  • Vicente Santamaría de Paredes, Minister of Education and Fine Arts
  • Antonio de Aguilar y Correa, Marquis de la Vega de Armijo, President of the Congress of Deputies
  • José López Domínguez, President of the Senate
  • Ciriaco Sancha and Hervás, Archbishop of Toledo
  • José María Martín de Herrera, Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela
  • Salvador Casañas and Pagés, Bishop of Barcelona
  • José María Salvador y Barrera, Bishop of Madrid-Alcalá
  • Eduardo Martínez del Campo and Acosta, President of the Supreme Court
  • Carlos Martinez de Irujo y Alcáza, Duke of Sotomayor, Majordomo of the King
  • Manuel Falcó y Osorio, Marquis de la Mina, Equerry of the King
  • Sir Maurice de Bunsen, British Ambassador to Madrid
  • Luis Polo de Bernabé, Spanish Ambassador to London
  • William Miller Collier, American Ambassador to Madrid
  • Frederick Wallingford Whitridge, American Special Envoy

Wedding Attire

Ena’s Wedding Dress; Photo Credit –

Ena’s wedding dress was made by the Madrid dressmaker L. Heroe, who submitted several designs to Alfonso and Ena for their approval. The fabric was white duchesse satin which was embroidered by hand. In addition, point d’aiguille Brussels lace was used on the dress, veil, and train.

The bodice and skirt were embroidered with intertwined wreaths of silver roses and orange blossoms, bordered with fleur-de-lys, a symbol of the House of Bourbon. To support the enormous train, there was a court mantle, also of white satin and with the same decorations as the dress. In accordance with the strict observance of the Roman Catholic Church in Spain, the dress did not expose the bride’s decolletage or shoulders. The entire dress was given to the shrine of Nuestra Señora de la Paloma (Our Lady of the Dove) in a poor part of Madrid.

Ena wore a tiara resting on a wreath of orange blossoms. The impressive tiara, a wedding gift from Alfonso and known as “The Fleur-de-Lys Tiara”, is still in the possession of the Spanish royal family and is nicknamed “La Buena” (“The Good One”).  Set in platinum, the tiara features three large fleur-de-lys motifs, each filled with large round diamonds, and connected by swirls and scrolls of larger-sized diamonds.   The tiara is part of the jewelry that is passed down to Queens of Spain. Queen Sofia, the wife of King Juan Carlos I of Spain, often wore the tiara and Queen Letizia, the wife of King Felipe VI, continued the tradition of wearing the tiara.

 Queen Letizia wearing the Fleur-de-Lys Tiara in February 2017


King Alfonso XIII wore the Spanish Army’s Field Marshal uniform with the blue and white sash of the Order of Carlos II. On his uniform, wore the Order of the Golden Fleece and British Order of the Garter.

Wedding Ceremony

Alfonso and Ena leaving the church

Earlier in the morning, Ena and her mother traveled from Pardo Palace to the Ministry of Marine in the center of Madrid where they would prepare for the wedding. At 8:30 AM, the wedding procession started from the Royal Palace. Church bells were ringing, artillery salutes were firing and crowds of cheering people lined the procession route.

The crowds were thrilled when the royal coaches, each drawn by eight white horses with golden and silver harnesses wearing colored plumage on their heads, appeared: the Amaranth Coach for the ladies-in-waiting, the Cypher Coach for the lords-in-waiting, the Coach of the Ducal Crown for the Infantas and Infantes, and then and the Shell Coach for Queen Mother Maria Christina. Next came the Grandees of Spain, the highest-ranking members of the Spanish nobility, in twenty-five coaches drawn by only two horses according to the Spanish protocol. The coaches of the visiting foreign royalty followed.

Next came a coach bearing a royal crown carrying King Alfonso XIII, his witness Infante Carlos de Borbón y Borbón, the widower of Alfonso’s elder sister María de las Mercedes, and four-year-old Infante Alfonso de Borbón-Dos Sicilias y Borbón, son of Carlos and María de las Mercedes, nephew of the groom, and heir presumptive to the Spanish throne.

Immediately following the king’s coach came the bride’s procession with more gala coaches carrying the lords and ladies-in-waiting and princes and princesses of the House of Battenberg. Finally in a beautiful mahogany coach, came Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg (Ena) with her mother Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom.

The Royal Monastery of San Jerónimo was regally decorated. Over the entrance was a huge canopy of red and yellow velvet embroidered with Spanish heraldic symbols and supported by gold-tipped lances. Royal guards and halberdiers stood awaiting. As the procession entered the church, the Spanish national anthem was played.

Inside the church, a majestic canopy with the arms of Spain in gold embroidery hung over a raised dais on the left side of the altar. On the dais, was a throne and two beautiful gilded armchairs with silk cushions. On the opposite side of the altar were gilded chairs for Queen Maria Christina, Princess Beatrice, the Spanish Infantas and Infants and the members of the Battenberg family. Besides them were the foreign princes and princesses.

Credit –

As the royal procession entered the church, the congregation stood and a 200-voice choir sang a processional march. Alfonso looked calm and happy, but as usual, slightly pale. Ena entered with her mother, eldest brother, and Queen Maria Christina. Alfonso advanced to meet Ena and they stood together as the ceremony, officiated by Cardinal Ciriaco Sancha, Archbishop of Toledo, began. The hour-long ceremony ended with the Papal Nuncio, the Pope’s representative in Spain, pronouncing the papal blessing of the newlyweds and the chanting of the Te Deum, a hymn of praise.

The Bombing

Photograph taken moments after the assassination attempt on Alfonso and Ena on their wedding day; Photo Credit – Wikipedia

At the end of the ceremony, the newlyweds left the church while the joyful crowds cheered, church bells rang, and cannons boomed. Alfonso and Ena entered the royal coach for the journey through the streets back to the Royal Palace. Crowds along the route shouted, “Long live Queen Victoria!” However, the happy day soon turned into a tragic day when a bomb, concealed in a floral bouquet, was thrown at the royal coach from a third-floor window of an inn on Calle Major, a main street in Madrid.

Building from where the bomb was thrown; Photo Credit – By Basilio – Treball propi, CC BY-SA 3.0,

The bomb hit the ground and exploded to the right of the royal coach between the last pair of horses and the front wheels of the coach. It would have hit the coach and most likely killed Alfonso and Ena if the bomb had not been deflected by an electric wire. Alfonso and Ena were not hurt, but the bomb killed 23 people and injured more than 100. Blood of the victims had spattered Ena’s wedding dress. Screams of the terrified crowd combined the groans of the injured and dying.

The dead included the Marchioness of Colosa and her fourteen-year-old daughter, Don Antonio Calvo and his six-year-old niece, Captain Barros who commanded the king’s escort, two other officers and six soldiers, a groom who was leading the horses, and two of the horses who were drawing the royal coach.

The sound and shock of the explosion were massive. The Duke of Cornachuelos immediately rushed forward, opened the door of the royal coach and helped out Alfonso and Ena, who entered another coach and were quickly taken to the Royal Palace. The next day, Alfonso and Ena appeared in public in an open automobile without a military guard to reassure the people of Madrid.

Mateu Morral Roca, a Catalan anarchist, was responsible for the bombing. After the bombing, Morral tried to get lost in the crowd and was then helped and hidden by journalist José Nakens. Morral managed to escape from Madrid with the help of Nakens, but on June 2, 1906, he was recognized by several people in a village near Torrejón de Ardoz where he stopped to eat. These people warned a local policeman and after some inquiries, the policeman decided to follow Morral.

What happened next is unclear. The official investigation says that Morral surrendered peacefully, but while he was being led by the policeman to the Torrejón de Ardoz jail, Morral shot dead the policeman and then committed suicide. However, a forensic examination of the four photographs taken of Morral’s corpse indicates that the bullet wound in his chest is incompatible with both a close-shot range and the Browning pistol Morral allegedly carried.


 Queen Victoria Eugenie in 1918, with her six children: (from left to right) Infanta Maria Cristina, Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, Infante Gonzalo, Infante Juan, Infante Jaime and Infanta Beatriz

Unfortunately, Alfonso and Ena’s marriage was not a happy one. After the birth of their first son Alfonso in 1907, it was discovered that he was suffering from hemophilia. Despite having known the risks beforehand, King Alfonso blamed Ena, and it began a rift in their marriage which would never fully heal. Their fourth and last son Gonzalo also had the disease. Both hemophiliac sons died young from internal bleeding after separate car accidents. See Unofficial Royalty: Hemophilia in Queen Victoria’s Descendants.

From 1914 on, Alfonso had several mistresses and fathered five illegitimate children. A sixth illegitimate child had born before his marriage. Following the establishment of the Second Spanish Republic in 1931, the family went into exile. Settling first in France, and then Italy, the couple eventually went their separate ways. Alfonso remained in Rome, while Ena eventually settled in Switzerland.

On January 15, 1941, feeling that his life was coming to an end, Alfonso formally abdicated his claim to the defunct Spanish throne in favor of his third son, Juan, Count of Barcelona, the father of King Juan Carlos I of Spain. His two older sons, Alfonso who had hemophilia and Jaime who was deaf, had both renounced their claims to the throne in the early 1930s. Just weeks later, on February 28, 1941, King Alfonso XIII died at the Grand Hotel in Rome.

In February 1968, Ena returned to Spain for the first time since going into exile in 1931. Staying at the Palace of Liria with her goddaughter, the Duchess of Alba, Ena was there to serve as godmother to her new great-grandson, the future King Felipe VI. Her trip to Spain would be one of her last public appearances. She returned to her home in Switzerland, and soon her health began to fail. Ena died on April 15, 1969 at her home, surrounded by her family.

Both Alfonso and Ena were buried outside of Spain due to the rule of dictator Francisco Franco. In 1969, Franco formally named Alfonso and Ena’s grandson Juan Carlos as his successor, giving him the newly created title ‘The Prince of Spain’. Franco died on November 22, 1975 and Juan Carlos was proclaimed King of Spain. Eventually, both Alfonso and Ena’s remains were returned to Spain where they were interred in the Pantheon of the Kings in the Royal Crypt of the Monastery of El Escorial.

Works Cited 

  • “ALFONSO PREDICTS ASSASSIN’s SUCCESS; Is Resigned, But Regrets He Brought Victoria To Spain. BOMB THROWER’s SUICIDE Morales Killed A Guard Before He Killed Himself — Was Intercepted By An Observant Watchman.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “Boda De Alfonso XIII Con Victoria Eugenia De Battenberg”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • Dennison, Matthew. The Last Princess. 1st ed. Print.
  • “Diamond Tiara Fleur De Lys Ansorena | Wedding Gift Jewels| Royal Marriage Presents | Queen Victoria Eugenie Of Spain”. N.p., 2017. Web. 12 May 2017.
  • Duff, David. The Shy Princess. 1st ed. London: Muller, 1974. Print.
  • “FLOWER-STREWN STREETS FOR ALFONSO’s WEDDING; 1,200 Tons Of Blossoms Ordered From The Canaries. HOTELS CHARGING $25 DAILY Bride To Drive To The Church In A Coach Of Tortoise Shell Drawn By Eight White Horses.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • Gelardi, Julia P. Born To Rule. 1st ed. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2006. Print.
  • “King Alfonso XIII Of Spain”. Unofficial Royalty. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “MADRID ENTHUSIASTIC OVER ALFONSO’s BRIDE; Princess Ena Is Acclaimed By Enormous Crowds. ROAD STREWN WITH FLOWERS The King, With His Ministers, Meets His Fiancee At The Frontier And Accompanies Her To The Capital.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “MADRID FETES GO ON AMID FEAR AND GLOOM; King And Queen Drive Unattended In An Automobile. WEYLER SERIOUSLY INJURED Twenty Killed On Thursday And Five Of The Wounded Are Dying — An Englishman Arrested.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “Mateo Morral”. N.p., 2017. Web. 13 May 2017.
  • “PRINCES REACH MADRID FOR ALFONSO’s WEDDING; British, German, Russian, And Other Royalties There. OUR SPECIAL ENVOY ARRIVES City Beautifully Decorated — Performance At The Pardo Theatre — Ascension Of Twelve Balloons.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “PRINCESS ENA SAVES A CRIMINAL’s LIFE; Pardon Arrives As The March To The Scaffold Is To Begin. WEDDING DRESS IS SPANISH Only The Lace Imported — Cabinet Ministers Are Enthusiastic Over The King’s Bride.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “SPANIARDS CAPTIVATED BY ALFONSO’s FIANCEE; All Classes Share The Admiration For Princess Ena. KING’s SPLENDID PRESENTS Sovereign Gives Jewels Worth Over $1,000,000 To His Bride — Palace For The American Envoy.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “SPLENDID WEDDING CORTEGE.; Brilliant Scenes In The Streets — The Marriage Ceremony.”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “Victoria Eugenie Of Battenberg”. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.
  • “Victoria Eugenie Of Battenberg, Queen Of Spain”. Unofficial Royalty. N.p., 2017. Web. 8 May 2017.

Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile

by Susan Flantzer

Credit – Wikipedia

Born on October 13, 1161 at Domfront Castle in Normandy (France), Eleanor was the second of the three daughters and the sixth of the eight children of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine. She was named for her mother and was baptized by Henry of Marcy who was the Abbot of Hautecombe Abbey in France at the time and later was Cardinal Bishop of Albano in Italy. Her godfathers were Robert of Torigni, a Norman monk, prior, abbot and an important chronicler, and Achard of St. Victor, Bishop of Avranches.

Eleanor had seven siblings:

13th-century depiction of Henry and his legitimate children: (l to r) William, Young Henry, Richard, Matilda, Geoffrey, Eleanor, Joan, and John; Credit – Wikipedia

It is possible that Eleanor and her younger sister Joan were brought up at Fontevrault Abbey near Chinon, in Anjou, France, but neither of them was to become nuns as their marriages would be used for their father’s alliances. In 1165, envoys from the Holy Roman Empire came to Rouen, Normandy with the purpose of negotiating two marriages with King Henry II, one between Eleanor and a son of Friedrich I (Barbarossa), Holy Roman Emperor, and the other between his eldest daughter Matilda and Heinrich the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, who was a cousin of Friedrich I (Barbarossa), Holy Roman Emperor. The marriage plans for Eleanor fell through, however, her sister Matilda did marry Heinrich the Lion. Instead, Henry decided to use Eleanor’s marriage to cement an alliance with the Kingdom of Castile and prevent Castile from making an alliance with France.

In 1170, Raoul de Faye, the Seneschal of Poitou and a trusted adviser of Eleanor of Aquitaine, negotiated a marriage for nine-year-old Eleanor with the 15-year-old King Alfonso VIII of Castile, who had succeeded to the throne at the age of three. The marriage treaty provided Alfonso with a powerful ally against his uncle, King Sancho VI of Navarre, who had seized some of Alfonso’s land along the Castile-Navarre border. The treaty also served to reinforce the border along the Pyrenees Mountains between Henry’s French territory and the Spanish kingdoms. Eleanor was to receive the County of Gascony, directly north of the Pyrenees Mountains, as a dowry but only upon the death of her mother as it was one of her mother’s territories. Due to the bride’s young age, the marriage was postponed. In September of 1177, Eleanor was sent to Castile where she married Alfonso VIII at the Romanesque-style Burgos Cathedral. Thereafter, she was known as Leonor, the Spanish version of Eleanor. The marriage was happy and successful.

The marriage of Eleanor and Alfonso; Credit – Wikipedia

Eleanor and Alfonso had twelve children:

Eleanor was particularly interested in supporting religious institutions. In 1179, she had a shrine built at Toledo Cathedral in honor of St. Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who had been murdered at Canterbury Cathedral by four of her father’s knights. In 1187, Eleanor and Alfonso founded the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas, a monastery of Cistercian nuns located near the city of Burgos now in Spain. The monastery became the burial place of the Castilian royal family. A hospital was also created at the abbey to feed and care for the pilgrims who were traveling along the Camino de Santiago, the road to the to the shrine of the apostle St. James the Great in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. Eleanor and Alfonso’s youngest daughter Constanza became a nun at the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas.

Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas; Photo Credit – By Lourdes Cardenal – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

King Alfonso VIII of Castile died from a fever on October 5, 1214 at the age of 58. Eleanor was so distraught over his death that she was unable to attend his funeral. Instead, her eldest daughter Berengaria stood in for her. Eleanor then became ill and died on October 31, 1214 at the age of 53, less than a month after the death of her husband. Eleanor and Alfonso were buried at the abbey they founded, the Abbey of Santa María la Real de Las Huelgas. The tombs containing the remains of Alfonso VIII, King of Castile and Eleanor, Queen of Castile were placed next to each other in the nave of the church of the abbey at the beginning of the choir.

Tombs of Alfonso (left) and Eleanor (right); Photo Credit – De Javi Guerra Hernando – Trabajo propio, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Wikipedia: Eleanor of England, Queen of Castile

Works Cited
“Alfonso VIII de Castilla.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, Mar. 2007. Web. 11 Jan. 2017.
Cawley, et al. “Alfonso VIII of Castile.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 9 Jan. 2017. Web. 11 Jan. 2017.
“Eleanor of England, queen of Castile.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 6 Jan. 2017. Web. 11 Jan. 2017.
Kelly, Amy. Eleanor of Aquitaine and the Four Kings. New York: Book-of-the-Month-Club, 1950. Print.
“Leonor Plantagenet.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, Mar. 2007. Web. 11 Jan. 2017.
“Sepulcro de Alfonso VIII de Castilla y de Leonor de Plantagenet.” Wikipedia. N.p.: Wikimedia Foundation, 1080. Web. 11 Jan. 2017.
Weir, Alison. Eleanor of Aquitaine By the Wrath of God, Queen of England. London: Jonathan Cape, 1999. Print.
Williamson, David. Brewer’s British Royalty. London: Cassell, 1996. Print.

Breaking News: Infanta Cristina of Spain Acquitted, Her Husband Found Guilty

Infanta Cristina, the sister of King Felipe VI of Spain, and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, outside a court in Mallorca, Spain in June 2016. Photograph: Cati Cladera/EPA

On February 17, 2017, Infanta Cristina of Spain was acquitted of tax fraud and money laundering and her husband Iñaki Urdangarín was found guilty of embezzling about 6 million euros in public funds for sporting events through his nonprofit foundation and of political corruption by using his former title of Duke of Palma de Mallorca as the husband of the Infanta Cristina. Urdangarín was sentenced to six years and three months in prison.

Infanta Cristina is the second daughter and the second of the three children of former King Juan Carlos of Spain and his wife Queen Sofia.  King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 in favor of his son King Felipe VI of Spain.  In 1997, Infanta Cristina married Iñaki Urdangarín, a professional team handball player, a member of the Spanish Olympic Handball Team in the 1992, 1996 and 2000 Olympics, winning bronze in 1996 and 2000, and serving as team captain in 2000.  The couple has three sons and one daughter.

In early 2011, allegations were made against Urdangarín regarding misappropriation of public funds through his Nóos Institute. He took a leave of absence from his position with Telefónica in Washington, DC, and the family returned to Spain in 2012. After it was discovered that large sums of money were transferred to several foreign accounts, it was announced that he would no longer take part in any official functions of the Spanish royal family. In early 2012, he began testifying before the courts in response to the allegations. He, along with several others, were investigated and were charged with embezzlement, fraud, breach of trust, forgery, and money laundering.  Infanta Cristina was also charged with tax fraud and money laundering in mid-2014. The trial began in January 2016.

In June 2015, King Felipe VI of Spain formally stripped his sister, Infanta Cristina, of her title of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca. Neither the Infanta, nor her husband are permitted to use the title any further.

Maria Theresia of Austria, Queen of France

by Scott Mehl

Painted by François de Troy, source: Wikipedia

Maria Theresia of Austria, Queen of France

Maria Theresia was the first wife of King Louis XIV of France. She was born on September 10, 1638 at the Royal Monastery of El Escorial in Madrid, to King Felipe IV of Spain and Elisabeth of France. As the Spanish monarchs at the time were part of the House of Habsburg, she was styled as Archduchess of Austria, as well as Infanta of Spain and Portugal. The youngest of eight children, Maria Theresia was the only one of her siblings to reach adulthood. One brother, Balthasar Charles, Prince of Asturias, died at age 16, while the others died in infancy or childhood. She also had five younger half-siblings from her father’s second marriage to Mariana of Austria:

As Spain allowed for females to ascend the throne, Maria Theresia was heiress-presumptive to the Spanish throne from 1646 until 1657, between the death of her elder brother Balthasar Charles in 1646 and the birth of her younger half-brother Felipe Próspero in 1657. And for five days in 1661, she was again heiress-presumptive following Felipe Próspero’s death and the birth of King Carlos II.

Maria Theresia of Austria, painted c1684 by Juan Bautista Martínez del Mazo. source: Wikipedia

Maria Theresia was brought up in a very strict Catholic household. Her mother died when she was six, and two years later, her only surviving sibling – Balthasar Charles – also died. The following year, her father married Mariana of Austria – who had been her brother’s fiancée, as well as his first cousin. Mariana was just four years older than Maria Theresia, and the two were very close.

As part of the Treaty of the Pyrenees of 1659, which ended the Franco-Spanish War, Maria Theresia was betrothed to King Louis XIV of France, son of King Louis XIII of France and Anne of Austria. (Maria Theresia and Louis were first cousins twice over – his father and her mother were siblings, and his mother and her father were siblings.) She was forced to renounce any rights to the Spanish throne and was to receive a large financial settlement in exchange. This money was never paid, and become one of the factors that led to the War of Devolution in 1668.

Marriage of Louis XIV of France and Maria Theresia of Austria. source: Wikipedia

The couple was married on June 9, 1660, at the Church of Saint John the Baptist in Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France. Taking the French version of her name – Marie-Thérèse – the new Queen and her husband made their Joyous Entry into Paris on August 26, 1660. They had six children, only one of whom lived to adulthood:

Queen Marie-Thérèse with her mother-in-law (and aunt) Queen Anne, painted by Simon Renard de Saint André. source: Wikipedia

As Queen, Marie-Thérèse was groomed by her mother-in-law, and aunt, Queen Anne. However, she had little interest in taking on the role, preferring to spend time with her court of Spanish ladies, playing cards and gambling. She remained very devout, often inviting members of the King’s court to come and pray with her. Intensely private, she was humiliated by her husband’s numerous, and very public, affairs and his countless illegitimate children. She did, however, take great interest in caring for the sick and disadvantaged in France. She often visited the hospitals and helped to provide dowries for girls from the poorer noble families. She also served as Regent several times when the King was away.

By 1680, King Louis XIV had taken Madame de Maintenon as his mistress, and this brought about a change in the King’s relationship with Marie-Thérèse. He became more attentive and caring of his wife, much to her delight. She was also treated with great respect and reverence by Madame de Maintenon – something she had not seen with any of his prior mistresses and returned that respect. Sadly, those happier times would be relatively short-lived.

At the end of July 1683, Queen Marie-Thérèse fell ill, the result of an abscess in her left arm which was not treated correctly. Septicemia quickly set in, and the Queen died at the Palace of Versailles on July 30, 1683. She is buried at the Basilica of St. Denis in Paris.

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Anne of Austria, Queen of France

by Scott Mehl

painting by Peter Paul Rubens. source: Wikipedia

Anne of Austria, Queen of France

Anne of Austria was the wife of King Louis XIII of France, and served as Regent from 1643-1651. She was born Ana María Mauricia, Infanta of Spain and Portugal, on September 22, 1601 at Benavente Palace in Valladolid, Spain. Although a Spanish Infanta, she was known as Ana of Austria, as the Spanish monarchs at the time were members of the House of Habsburg. The eldest daughter of King Felipe III of Spain and Margaret of Austria, Ana had seven younger siblings:

Ana was raised at the Royal Alcazar of Madrid in a very close and loving family. She was given a very strong religious upbringing, and often visited convents and churches. After her mother’s death in childbirth in 1611, Ana became a surrogate mother to her younger siblings, and maintained a very close relationship with her father.

c1607. source: Wikipedia

At just ten years old, Ana was betrothed to King Louis XIII of France, the son of King Henri IV of France and Marie de’ Medici, and given a large dowry and an extensive collection of jewels. The marriage contract required her to give up her rights to the Spanish throne, but provided them to be restored if she were to become a childless widow. It also stipulated that if that happened, she would return to Spain with her entire dowry, as well as her jewels and wardrobe.

The couple was married by proxy on October 18, 1615 in Burgos, Spain. The same day, her brother and Louis’s sister were married by proxy in Bordeaux, France. This followed the tradition of marriages between the French and Austrian royal families. Upon her arrival in France, Ana and Louis were married on November 21, 1615 at the Bordeaux Cathedral. Just 14 at the time, it was allegedly several years before the marriage was consummated.

The marriage was strained from the onset. Taking up her apartments in the Louvre Palace, Ana was more or less ignored by her new husband. Her mother-in-law, Marie de’ Medici, refused to give any deference to Ana, who was the new Queen of France. Ana herself didn’t do much to ingratiate herself with her new family and country. She surrounded herself with nearly 100 Spanish ladies, and continued to abide by Spanish etiquette and made little effort to learn the French language. It would several years before the relationship between Ana and Louis would begin to thaw. In 1617, King Louis took full control of the monarchy from his mother (who had been serving as Regent), and sent her into exile. His advisor, The Duke of Luynes, made it his mission to bring Louis and Ana closer together. He replaced her Spanish entourage with French ladies-in-waiting, and arranged for various court functions that would have both of them in attendance. Through his influence, as well as Anne’s new French ladies, she started to dress and carry herself in more of a French style. Reportedly, it was Luynes who then encouraged Louis to consummate their marriage, resulting in the birth of a stillborn child, the first of four stillborn births over the next 12 years.

Anne with her two sons. source: Wikipedia

Finally, after nearly 23 years of marriage, Queen gave birth to the first of two healthy sons:

In 1625, when Louis’s sister, Henriette, married King Charles I of England, Anne and her mother-in-law had accompanied Henriette to the French border where they were met by the Duke of Buckingham, who was to accompany Henriette back to England. Supposedly, Buckingham made advances to Queen Anne, causing quite a scandal throughout the courts of Europe. He was subsequently forbidden from setting foot on French soil. The truth to this story is questionable.

Continuing to visit convents and churches in her new country just as she had done in Spain, Queen Anne found a friend in Marguerite de Veny d’Arbouse, a prioress at the Notre-Dame-de-Grâce de-la-Ville-d’Evêque. Anne arranged for the establishment of an abbey with Marguerite as Abbess, and in 1621, the Queen herself purchased land in Paris and had the convent moved there. She had a small church built, as well as an apartment for herself. This would become her refuge several times during her marriage, as well as in her later years. Years later, after her husband’s death, Queen Anne commissioned the building of the Church of the Val-de-Grâce.

Further strain came to Anne’s relationship with her husband when France declared war on Spain in 1635. Very close with her brother, King Felipe IV of Spain, Anne kept up a secret correspondence which put her under great suspicion. Two years later, Cardinal Richelieu, her husband’s senior minister, forced Anne to allow her correspondence to be inspected, and she was kept under close watch.

King Louis XIII died in 1643, leaving his five-year-old son as the new King Louis XIV. In his will, the late King had sought to limit any power that Queen Anne might have had, including becoming Regent. He instructed that a regency council be established instead. However, just days after his death, Queen Anne was able to convene the Parliament of Paris and had that part of his will overturned. Anne was named sole Regent for her young son. She then took her two sons and moved from the Louvre Palace to the Palais-Royal – formerly the Palais-Cardinal, home of Cardinal Richelieu.

source: Wikipedia

Queen Anne appointed Cardinal Mazarin as her chief minister and relied on him to maintain the government. The two were rumored to be lovers, or perhaps even secretly married, although nothing has ever been proven. Anne retained much of her power even after her son came of age in 1651. She oversaw his marriage to her own niece, Maria Teresa of Spain in 1660, and the following year, after Mazarin’s death, Queen Anne stepped aside and retired to Val-de-Grâce. Five years later, on January 20, 1666, she died there of breast cancer. She is buried in the Basilica of St. Denis.

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