Queen Sofía of Spain (November 2, 1938) is a member of the Spanish royal family, who was Queen of Spain from 1975 to 2014 as the wife of King Juan Carlos I.
The Queen is Europe’s most royal person; she has an impresssive lineage (both on her father’s and mother’s side) and she is the (great-) granddaughter, daughter, sister, wife and mother of kings.
Born Princess Sofía of Greece and Denmark she is the first child of King Paul of the Hellenes and Frederica of Hanover.
Her father, Paul, was the third son of King Constantine I of Greece and his wife, Princess Sophia of Prussia, daughter of German Emperor Friedrich III of Prussia, and Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom (herself the eldest daughter of Queen Victoria and Albert, Prince Consort). Princess Sophia was eleven years younger than her eldest brother, the future German Emperor Wilhelm II.
On January 9, 1938, Paul married Princess Frederica of Hanover, his first cousin once removed through Friedrich III, German Emperor, and Victoria, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, and second cousin through Christian IX of Denmark.
During most of World War II, from 1941 to 1946, when Greece was under German occupation, Paul was with the Greek government-in-exile in London and Cairo. From Cairo, he broadcast messages to the Greek people.
King Paul returned to Greece in 1946. He succeeded to the throne in 1947, upon the death of his childless elder brother, King George II, during the Greek Civil War (between Greek Communists and the non-communist Greek government). Paul was first cousin to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and maternal grandfather to Spain’s current monarch, King Felipe VI.
Queen Sofía’s mother, Friederike, Princess of Hanover, Princess of Great Britain and Ireland, and Princess of Brunswick-Lüneburg was the only daughter and third child of Ernst August, then reigning Duke of Brunswick, and his wife Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, herself the only daughter of the German Emperor Wilhelm II. As a descendant of Queen Victoria, Friederike was, at birth, 64th in the line of succession to the British throne.
Queen Sofia is a member of the Greek branch of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty. Her brother is the deposed King Constantine II of the Hellenes her sister is Princess Irene.
Princess Sofía spent some of her childhood in Egypt where she took her early education in El Nasr Girls’ College (EGC) in Alexandria. She lived in South Africa during her family’s exile from Greece during World War II, where her sister Irene was born. They returned to Greece in 1946. She finished her education at the prestigious Schloss Salem boarding school in Southern Germany, and then studied childcare, music and archeology in Athens. She also studied at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. She was a reserve member, alongside her brother Constantine, of Greece’s gold medal-winning sailing team in the 1960 Summer Olympics.
Standing in back: King Paul of the Hellenes. Front L to R: Constantine, Irene, Queen Friederike, Sofía
As her family was forced into exile during the Second World War, she spent part of her childhood in Egypt, returning to Greece in 1946. She completed her secondary education in a boarding school in Germany before returning to Greece where she specialised in childcare, music and archaeology.
Sofía met her paternal third cousin the then Infante Juan Carlos of Spain on a cruise in the Greek Islands in 1954; they met again at the wedding of Prince Edward Duke of Kent, her paternal second cousin, at York Minster in June 1961. Sofia and Juan Carlos married on May 14, 1962, at the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Dionysius in Athens. Her bride’s gown was made by Jean Dessès and she was attended by her sister Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, the groom’s sister Infanta Pilar of Spain, and Sofía’s future sister-in-law Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark (later Queen of the Hellenes), along with Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Princess Anne of Orléans and Princess Tatiana Radziwill.
In 1969, Infante Juan Carlos, who was never Prince of Asturias (the traditional title of the Spanish heir apparent), was given the official title of “Prince of Spain” by the Francoist dictatorship. Juan Carlos acceded to the throne in 1975, upon the death of Francisco Franco. Juan Carlos, after his accession to the Spanish throne, returned with his family to the Zarzuela Palace.
The couple have three children: Elena (born December 20, 1963); Cristina (born June 13, 1965); and Felipe (born January 30, 1968). They were born at Our Lady of Loreto Nursing Home in Madrid. Their four grandsons and four granddaughters are Felipe and Victoria de Marichalar y de Borbón, Juan, Pablo, Miguel and Irene Urdangarín y de Borbón, and Infanta Leonor, Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofía, all of whom are in the line of succession to the Spanish throne.
Sofia is also a great-granddaughter of the last German Emperor, Wilhelm II, and second cousin of the current Prince of Wales. She is a great-great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom through her father and also a great-great-great-granddaughter through her mother.
Sofia takes special interest in programs against drug addiction, travelling to conferences in both Spain and abroad. The Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía is named after her, as is Reina Sofía Airport in Tenerife.
Sofia is an Honorary Member of the San Fernando Royal Academy of Fine Arts and of the Spanish Royal Academy of History. She has received honorary doctorates from the Universities of Rosario (Bogotá), Valladolid, Cambridge, Oxford, Georgetown, Evora, St. Mary’s University (Texas), and New York.
On June 19, 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of their son Felipe VI.
Following the abdication of her husband as King in 2014, Sofía focused on her sponsoring activities, spending her time between La Zarzuela and, in the Summer months, the Marivent Palace in Palma de Mallorca.