Celebrating the Life of Queen Sofia of Spain
|Queen Sofia of Spain|
The recent scandals and intrigues that hounded the Spanish Royal Family, one that even questioned its existence has made Queen Sofia, perhaps, Spain’s Mater Dolorosa. A Telegraph article called her the lonely royal consort. The reasons are plentiful. From the many issues to her husband’s infidelity, it is most admirable to see Queen Sofia still maintain that dignified façade, something that could have crumbled had her fate struck some mortals of lesser emotional stamina. On her 75th birthday, we celebrate Queen Sofia’s selfless life, one that has been dedicated for the service of her family and her kingdom.
The eldest child of King Paul of Greece and Princess Frederica of Hanover, Princess Sofia was born in Psychiko, Athens, Greece on 2 November 1938. She is the sister of the deposed King Constantine II. Another sister is Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark.
While she was a young girl, the princess spent some time in Egypt, where she studied early education at El Nasr Girl’s College (EGC). During World War II, the princess, together with her family, lived in exile in South Africa, returning home in 1946. She attended Schloss Salem boarding school in Southern Germany before returning to Athens where she studied childcare, music and archeology.
Sofia also attended Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge. Together with her brother, she represented Greece during the 1960 Summer Olympics as reserve member of the Gold Medal-winning sailing team.
Marriage and Family
While on a cruise in the Greek islands, Princess Sofia met Infante Juan Carlos of Spain. They once again met at the wedding of her cousin, Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, at York Minster in 1961. They were eventually married on May 14, 1962, at the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Dennis in Athens. Jean Desse designed her gown. Her attendants included her sister Princess Irene, the groom’s sister Infanta Pilar of Spain, Sofia’s future sister-in-law Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Princess Anne of Orleans, Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark, and Princess Tatiana Radziwill.
The couple’s marriage produced three children: Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo (born December 20, 1963); Infanta Cristina, Duchess of Palma de Mallorca (born June 13, 1965); and Felipe, Prince of Asturias (born January 30, 1968), the heir to the throne.
Abolition of the Greek Monarchy
Then-Princess Sofía was on holiday in Greece when the 1967 the Greek military staged their coup against the king. While King Constantine did not abdicate, the Greek Military Junta eventually deposed him in 1974 and King Constantine II was stripped of his title, citizenship and property in Greece. Until 1998, Queen Sofia had only visited Greece once, during the funeral of her mother Queen Frederica. Seventeen years later, she returned to Greece together with King Juan Carlos on an official state visit.
Queen of Spain
To make her more appealing to Catholic Spain, Sofia decided to convert from Greek Orthodoxy to Roman Catholicism. She also relinquished her claim to the Greek throne and her name from Latinized from Sophia to the Spanish variant, Sofía.
In 1969, Francisco Franco bestowed upon Prince Juan Carlos, the title Prince of Spain. While he never used the Prince of Asturias, a title reserved for the heir presumptive, Juan Carlos was already known at that time to succeed Francisco Franco with the restoration of the Spanish monarch. Juan Carlos eventually became king in 1975.
Aside from being her husband’s frequent companion in numerous state and official visits, Queen Sofia also embarks on solo solo engagements. She best known as the executive president of her namesake foundation, which, in 1993 sent relief funds to Bosnia and Herzegovina. She also sits as honorary president of the Royal Board on Education and Care of Handicapped Persons of Spain and the Spanish Foundation for Aid for Drug Addicts.
Queen Sofia’s interest lies in fighting drug addiction. She has actually gone to various places to attend meetings and conferences about eliminating drug addiction.
While the Queen remains highly respected, she does not lack any detractors. She has earned the rebuked of LGBT about her conservative stance on same-sex marriage. In one interview, she questioned why LGBTs should hold Gay Pride demonstrations after the Spanish Cortes legalized gay marriage. "I can understand, accept and respect that there are people of other sexual tendencies, but why should they be proud to be gay?” she said. "Should they ride on a parade float and come out in protests? If all of us who are not gay were to parade in the streets, we’d halt the traffic in every city,” the Queen continued.
Criticisms and Personal Setbacks
Reports have also surfaced that even her marriage is in under fire and that she and the king have been living apart for many years already. Author Pilar Eyre noted that the reserved but elegant grandmother has few real friends in Spain. Inside the Zarzuela Palace, there is an existing rift between between the King's "team" and the Queen's ladies in waiting.
Queen Sofia, a sister of Greece’s exiled King Constantine and cousin of Prince Philip, is in aspect opposite to King Juan Carlos. She is a vegetarian who disdains bullfighting and rarely speaks in public because of her heavily-accented Spanish. The king meanwhile is known for his straight talking personality and his passion for fast cars, sailing and skiing.
“It was a marriage of convenience,” says Eyre. “They have been living separate lives for a long time.
Nevertheless, no personal trial, not even a marriage on the rocks or lousy detractors could prevent the Queen from carrying on her duty for her family, for her people and for her country. After all she is still the Queen of Spain.
Happy Birthday, Your Majesty!
The Royal Blogger
Christian George Acevedo is a book worm, mentor, and scholar of wide-ranging interests. He has authored hundreds of articles for various websites, and his expertise ranges from online marketing and finance to history, entertainment and many more. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Tumblr. Contact Christian at firstname.lastname@example.org.