by Susan Flantzer
Note: Queen Sofia was named Sophia, the Latin version of her Greek name Σοφία. When she married, her name was changed to the Spanish variant Sofía and in English it generally is Sofia which will be used throughout this article.
Queen Sofia, the wife King Juan Carlos I of Spain, was Queen Consort of Spain from her husband’s accession on November 22, 1975 until June 19, 2014, when King Juan Carlos abdicated in favor of his son, King Felipe VI. Sophia Margarita Victoria Federica was born on November 2, 1938, at Villa Psychiko, in the suburbs of Athens, Greece. Her parents were King Paul of Greece and Princess Frederica of Hanover, both descendants of Queen Victoria’s eldest daughter Victoria, Princess Royal who married Friedrich III, German Emperor.
- Queen Victoria -> Victoria, Princess Royal -> Princess Sophie of Prussia -> King Paul I of Greece -> Queen Sofia of Spain
- Queen Victoria -> Victoria, Princess Royal -> Wilhelm II, German Emperor -> Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia -> Princess Frederica of Hanover -> Queen Sofia of Spain
In April of 1941, during World War II, Germany and Italy invaded Greece and Sofia’s family was forced to flee. The family lived in Alexandria, Egypt and Cape Town, South Africa before returning to Greece in 1946. King George II of Greece, Sofia’s uncle, died childless in 1947, so Sofia’s father became King and her brother Constantine became Crown Prince.
While in Alexandria, Egypt, Sofia attended El Nasr Girls’ College. She finished her secondary education at Salem School in Salem, Germany and when she returned to Greece, she studied childcare, music. Sofia also studied at Fitzwilliam College, the University of Cambridge in England. In the 1960 Rome Summer Olympics, Sofia represented Greece as a reserve member of the sailing team. Her brother Constantine won a Gold Medal in Sailing: Mixed Three Person Keel/Dragon Class in those Olympics. Sofia is fluent in five languages: Greek, German, Spanish, French, and English.
It was on an August 1954 cruise aboard the Agamemnon, a 5,500-ton luxury liner owned by Greek line Nomikes, funded by Sofia’s father and reportedly the idea of her mother, that Sofia first met her future husband Juan Carlos of Spain. See Unofficial Royalty: Agamemnon, 1954: Cruise of the Kings. Sofia and Juan Carlos met again in 1961 when Prince Edward, Duke of Kent married.
A year later in Athens, on May 14, 1962, Sofia and Juan Carlos were married in three ceremonies: a Roman Catholic ceremony at the Cathedral of St. Dionysius the Areopagite, a civil ceremony at the Royal Palace and the last, a Greek Orthodox ceremony at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation. To read more about the wedding, see Unofficial Royalty: Wedding of Juan Carlos of Spain and Sophia of Greece.
Juan Carlos and Sofia have three children:
- Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo (born 1963), married Jaime de Marichalar y Sáenz de Tejada, divorced 2010, had two children
- Infanta Cristina, (born 1965), married Iñaki Urdangarín, had four children
- King Felipe VI of Spain (born 1968), married Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, had two children
At the time of Sofia’s marriage, Spain was ruled by the dictator General Francisco Franco and her husband had no official title or position in Spain. In 1969, General Franco recognized Juan Carlos as his successor and bestowed upon him the title of Prince of Spain. Juan Carlos became King of Spain in 1975 upon the death of General Franco.
Besides traveling in Spain and around the world on official engagements, Queen Sofia has been active in a number of charities. She is executive president of The Queen Sofia Foundation, which is involved with social and humanitarian assistance, benefiting children, the elderly, immigrants, the disabled and those affected by natural disasters.
Official Website of The Queen Sofia Foundation
Among the other organizations, Queen Sofia works with are:
- Foundation for Help Against for Drug Addiction, Honorary President
- Committee for Education and Care of Handicapped
- Queen Sofia Higher School of Music, President