Sofía (born Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark, Greek: Σοφία; 2 November 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. She is the first child of Paul of Greece and Frederica of Hanover.

A photograph of Sofía aged 71
Sofía in 2009
Queen consort of Spain
Tenure22 November 1975 – 19 June 2014
BornPrincess Sophia of Greece and Denmark
(1938-11-02) 2 November 1938 (age 85)
Tatoi Palace, Athens, Greece
(m. 1962)
Sophia Margaret Victoria Frederica
HouseGlücksburg (by birth)
Bourbon (by marriage)
FatherPaul of Greece
MotherFrederica of Hanover
ReligionCatholic Church
prev. Greek Orthodox
SignatureSofía's signature

Sofía married then Infante Juan Carlos of Spain in 1962 and became queen of Spain upon her husband's accession in 1975.[1] On 19 June 2014, Juan Carlos abdicated in favour of their son Felipe VI.[2]

Early life


Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark was born on 2 November 1938, at Tatoi Palace in Acharnes, Athens, Greece, the eldest child of King Paul and his wife, Queen Frederica. Sofía is a member of the Greek branch of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty. Her brother was the deposed King Constantine II and her sister is Princess Irene.

As her family was forced into exile during the Second World War, she spent part of her childhood in Egypt, where she took her early education in El Nasr Girls' College in Alexandria, and South Africa, 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.[citation needed] She also studied at Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge, a constituent college of the University of Cambridge.[3] She was a reserve member, alongside her brother Constantine, of Greece's gold medal-winning sailing team in the 1960 Summer Olympics.[4]

Marriage and family


Sofía met her paternal third cousin, the then Infante Juan Carlos of Spain on the cruise in the Greek Islands in 1954; they met again at the wedding of the Duke of Kent, her paternal second cousin, at York Minster in June 1961.[5] Sofía and Juan Carlos married on 14 May 1962, at the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Dionysius in Athens.[5]

Sofía and Juan Carlos at the wedding of Prince Karl of Hesse and Countess Yvonne Szapáry von Muraszombath, Széchysziget und Szapár, The Hague, 1966

Sofía converted from Greek Orthodoxy to Catholicism to become more palatable to Catholic Spain, and thus relinquished her rights to the Greek throne.

Sofía was in Greece on a private visit to her brother, King Constantine II, when the 1967 Greek military coup took place. Except for a brief stay for the funeral of her mother in 1981, Queen Sofía would not visit Greece until 1998.

In 1969, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco named Juan Carlos his successor under the official title "Prince of Spain".[6] Juan Carlos acceded to the throne in 1975, upon the Franco's death.[6] Juan Carlos, after his accession to the Spanish throne, returned with his family to the Zarzuela Palace.

The couple has three children: Elena (born 20 December 1963); Cristina (born 13 June 1965); and Felipe (born 30 January 1968).[7]

Queen consort

Sofía departing the United States in 1986

Besides accompanying her husband on official visits and occasions, Sofía also has solo engagements. In her first public appearance as Queen, Sofía attended a Shabbat service at the Beth Yaacov synagogue in Madrid in June 1976, marking the first time in modern Spanish history that a member of the Spanish royal family had visited a Jewish house of worship.[8]

She is executive president of the Queen Sofía Foundation, which in 1993, sent funds for relief in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and is honorary president of the Royal Board on Education and Care of Handicapped Persons of Spain, as well as the Spanish Foundation for Aid for Drug Addicts. Additionally, she has served as the patroness of the Queen Sofía Spanish Institute since 2003.

Sofía 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.

Sofía 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.

Queen Sofía in 2003

Sofía has been honorary president of the Spanish Unicef Committee since 1971.[9] She has been working closely with Dr. Muhammad Yunus on his Grameen Bank, which offers microcredits to women across the world. Queen Sofía has travelled to Bangladesh, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador and Mexico to support the activities of the organization. Queen Sofía has also been a strong supporter of Somaly Mam's Agir pour les Femmes en Situation Précaire, an NGO combatting child prostitution and slavery in Cambodia. In 1998, Mam was awarded the prestigious Prince of Asturias Award for International Cooperation in the Queen's presence.

Juan Carlos and Sofía laying a wreath in 2009

As Queen, Sofía never publicly commented on political issues. However, in October 2008, Pilar Urbano's book La Reina muy de cerca ("The Queen up close") sparked strong controversy as it contained alleged statements by the Queen on issues debated in Spanish society. She criticized the military intervention in Afghanistan, where Spanish troops were taking part at the time, defended religious education in schools, and expressed her conviction that gender violence publicity[clarification needed] would encourage new cases to occur. She also rejected abortion and euthanasia as well as same-sex marriage.[10][11] The Royal Household commented that the book "puts in Her Majesty's mouth alleged claims that [...] do not correspond exactly to the opinions expressed by Her Majesty".[12] While the two major parties - Socialists and People's Party - refused to comment,[13] her opinions were subjected to heavy criticism by Republican parties like IU and ERC and LGBT activists.[14][15][16]

In May 2012, Sofía was reportedly refused permission to attend the celebrations for the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II by the Spanish government, citing tensions over fishing rights at Gibraltar.[17]

In July 2012, Sofía visited the Philippines for a fourth time. She inspected several development projects around the former Spanish colony that her country's government is funding via the Agencia Española de Cooperacion Internacional para el Desarollo (AECID). She visited the National Library, National Museum and the Pontifical and Royal University of Santo Tomas, The Catholic University of the Philippines, which had the oldest extant university charter in Asia and housed the world's largest collection of suyat scripts. She also met with Spanish nationals residing in the Philippines, and attended a reception at the Spanish Embassy. She also attended a state dinner in her honour at Malacañan Palace hosted by President Benigno Aquino III,[18][19] and thanked the president for promoting the Spanish language in the Philippine educational system.[20]

Queen mother


Following her husband's abdication as King in 2014, Sofía has focused on her sponsoring activities,[21] spending her time between La Zarzuela and, in the summer months, the Marivent Palace in Palma de Mallorca. She regularly accompanies her son and his family at events.[22][23]


Royal Monogram

Queen Sophia was awarded the Order of the Queen of Sheba by Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia in 1973 upon her and her husband King Juan Carlos's visit to the capital Addis Ababa. Sofía was appointed to the Grand Cross of The Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III on 10 May 1962[24] and to The Royal Order of Queen Maria Luisa on 14 May 1962.[citation needed] The Queen of Spain was appointed to the Collar of the Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III as dame on 31 October 1983.[25] Since then, Queen Sofía has received different appointments and decorations by more than 40 foreign states.


Coat of arms of Queen Sofía of Spain
The Queen's coat of arms has no official status. In Spain, only the coats of arms of the King and the Prince of Asturias are official
The Spanish Royal Crown (Crown's arches differenced as consort)
Impaled, I quarterly, 1st Gules a castle Or, triple-embattled and voided gate and windows, with three towers each triple-turreted, of the field, masoned Sable and ajoure Azure (Castile); 2nd Argent a lion rampant Gules crowned, langued and armed Or (Leon); 3rd Or, four pallets Gules (Crown of Aragon) and 4th Gules a cross, saltire and orle of chains linked together Or, a centre point Vert Argent (Navarre); enté en point, with a pomegranate proper seeded Gules, supported, sculpted and leafed in two leaves Vert (Granada); inescutcheon Azure bordure Gules, three fleurs-de-lys Or (Bourbon-Anjou); II, Azure, a cross argent (Greece); Inescutcheon, quarterly by a cross Argent fimbriated Gules, the Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog, 1st Or, three lions in pale passant Azure, crowned Or, langued and armed Gules and nine hearts Gules (Denmark); 2nd Or, two lions in pale passant Azure, langued and armed Gules (Schleswig); 3rd Azure, party per fess, in chief three crowns Or (the former Kalmar Union), per pale, in dexter base, Gules, a stockfish Argent crowned Or (Iceland ancient), in sinister base, Azure, party per pale, a) a ram passant Argent armed and unguled Or (the Faroe Islands), b) a polar bear rampant Argent (Greenland); 4th party per fess, the chief, Or, in gold, nine hearts Gules arranged 4, 3, 2 beneath a lion passant Azure, langued and armed Gules (King of the Goths), the lower half, Gules, a crowned lindorm Or (King of the Wends); overall an escutcheon Gules quarterly, 1st a nettle leaf Argent with a indented bordure Gules (Holstein), 2nd a swan Argent gorged with a crown Or (Stormarn), 3rd a knight dressed in armor Or on a horse Argent and an oval shield Azure with a cross Or on his arm (Dithmarschen), 4th a horse's head Or (Lauenburg) overall another escutcheon party per pale, in dexter Or, two bars Gules (Oldenburg), in sinister Azure, a cross Or (Delmenhorst).
The collar of the Order of Charles III.
  The Queen's personal Royal Standard is that of her husband (a dark blue square flag) bordered with the colors of the former royal standard of Greece (a white cross on a blue field), which was used by her father, and charged with her personalized coat of arms.[citation needed]
The personal coat of arms of the Queen impales the Spanish Royal Arms (her husband's shield) to the dexter (viewer's left) with her father's shield, the arms of King Paul of Greece – the arms of Greece with an inescutcheon which bears the coat of arms of Denmark (1819–1903 version) as used when George I became king of Greece and showing the dynastic link to the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty; a shield containing a cross from the Danish flag and subcoats representing Denmark, Schleswig, the former Kalmar Union, Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Holstein, Stormarn, Dithmarschen, Lauenburg, Oldenburg, Delmenhorst, and the former Danish royal titles of King of the Wends and Goths.[citation needed]

Notable published works

  • En Decelia: fragmentos cerámicos de Decelia y miscelánea arqueológica. Athens, (1959–1960). Edited in Spanish in Spain, 2013.[26][27] ISBN 9788494103308

See also



  1. ^ Genealogisches Handbuch des Adels, Fürstliche Häuser XV. "Spanien". C.A. Starke Verlag, 1997, pp. 20, 100-101. (in German) ISBN 978-3-79800-814-4
  2. ^ "Spain will have two kings and two queens". The Telegraph. 13 June 2014. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 14 June 2014.
  3. ^ "HM Sofia Queen of Spain". Fitzwilliam College. Retrieved 11 August 2020.
  4. ^ "Royal Participants at the Olympics". Topend Sports. Retrieved 8 December 2012.
  5. ^ a b Gay, Danielle (13 May 2019). "Inside Queen Sofía and King Juan Carlos's 1962 wedding". Vogue Australia. Condé Nast. Retrieved 17 September 2020.
  6. ^ a b Juan Carlos never bore the traditional title of the Spanish heir apparent, Prince of Asturias. Bernecker, Walther (January 1998). "Monarchy and Democracy: The Political Role of King Juan Carlos in the Spanish Transición". Journal of Contemporary History. 33 (1): 65–84. doi:10.1177/003200949803300104. S2CID 157966975.
  7. ^ "S.M. la Reina Doña Sofía - Biography". Casa Real. Retrieved 25 April 2022.
  8. ^ "Queen Sophia of Spain Guest at Jewish Sabbath Services". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. 1 June 1976. Retrieved 20 June 2023.
  9. ^ "Queen Sofía: " "I feel the same as always. Everything is going to carry on as it is"". El Pais. 4 June 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2016.
  10. ^ Galaz, Mábel (30 October 2008). "No nos queman a nosotros. Son trozos de papel. Ya se apagarán". El País.
  11. ^ ""No nos queman a nosotros. Son trozos de papel. Ya se apagarán"". El País. 30 October 2008.
  12. ^ "La Reina tacha de 'inexactas' sus polémicas palabras publicadas en un libro" [The Queen Dismisses Her Controversial Words Published in a Book as 'Inaccurate']. El Mundo (in Spanish). Madrid. 1 November 2008. Retrieved 19 August 2018.
  13. ^ Garea, Fernando; Foguet, Joan; Asry, Karim; Granda, Elsa (31 October 2008). "PP y PSOE ordenan guardar silencio sobre las declaraciones de la Reina". El País.
  14. ^ "Queen's First Out-Gay Footman Quits Amid Homophobia Accusations". The Daily Beast. 1 October 2018.
  15. ^ "Spanish queen breaks silence - and upsets gay groups". The Independent. 30 October 2008.
  16. ^ "Malestar en el colectivo homosexual por las palabras de la Reina". El País. 30 October 2008.
  17. ^ Alexander, Harriet (20 May 2012). "Queen Sofia of Spain: Europe's lonely royal consort". The Daily Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Archived from the original on 12 January 2022. Retrieved 24 November 2017.
  18. ^ [1] Archived 6 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Albay gives Spanish queen warm welcome". Inquirer Global Nation. 5 July 2012.
  20. ^ Legaspi, Amita O. (3 July 2012). "PNoy and Spain's Queen Sofía welcome return of Spanish language in PHL schools". GMA News Online. Retrieved 14 June 2018.
  21. ^ Paniagua, Antonio (2 November 2018). "Una reina que va a más". El Comercio.
  22. ^ Font, Consuelo (9 July 2016). "Doña Sofía encuentra su refugio en Marivent". El Mundo.
  23. ^ Simón, Paloma (3 August 2017). "Doña Sofía, la solitaria reina de Palma". Vanity Fair.
  24. ^ (in Spanish) Decree 1192/1962, 1 June. HRH Princess Sofia Grand Cross of the Order of Charles III. BOE (Spanish Official Gazette), 62/06/01.
  25. ^ (in Spanish) Royal Decree 2747/1983, 31 October. HM Queen Sofia Collar of the Order of Charles III. BOE (Spanish Official Gazette), 83/11/02.
  26. ^ Logintegral Archived 3 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  27. ^ En Decelia: fragmentos cerámicos de Decelia y miscelánea arqueológica.
Queen Sofía of Spain
Cadet branch of the House of Oldenburg
Born: 2 November 1938
Spanish royalty
Title last held by
Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg
Queen consort of Spain
22 November 1975 – 18 June 2014
Succeeded by