Sophia of Greece (1938—)
Sophia of Greece (1938—)
Queen of Spain. Name variations: Sophia Oldenburg; Sophie of Spain; Sofia; Sofia of Spain. Born on November 2, 1938, in Psychiko, near Athens, Greece; daughter of Fredericka (1917–1981) and Paul I (1901–1964), king of the Hellenes (r. 1947–1964); sister of Constantine II, king of Greece (r. 1964–1973); married Juan Carlos I (1938—), king of Spain (r. 1975—), on May 14, 1962; children: Elena (b. 1963); Cristina (b. 1965); Felipe or Philip, prince of the Asturias (b. 1968).
Sophia of Greece was born in Athens on November 2, 1938, the daughter of the future Paul I of Greece and Fredericka . She went into exile with her parents when Nazi Germany invaded Greece during World War II and only returned following the referendum that reinstated the monarchy in 1946. Her father became king in 1947. Educated abroad and more fluent in English than in Greek, she studied archaeology, nursing, and classical music, one of her greatest passions.
In 1961, she became engaged to Juan Carlos de Borbón y Borbón (later Juan Carlos I), the son of Juan de Borbón, the pretender to the Spanish throne, despite concern that he was Catholic and she Greek Orthodox. Before their marriage in Athens on May 14, 1962, Greeks marched through the streets to protest a special tax levied to fund her dowry and wedding. The hatred towards her brother Constantine II, then king of Greece, had spilled over to Sophia. (Constantine would go into exile in 1967 and Greece would abolish the monarchy in 1974.)
The couple eventually took up residence in Spain, at least in part out of hope that Spanish
dictator Francisco Franco would announce that the monarchy was to be restored upon his death and that Juan Carlos would be his successor. In 1969, Franco finally designated Juan Carlos as his heir, and when the dictator died in 1975, Juan Carlos and Sophia became the monarchs.
Efforts by Sophia and Juan Carlos to improve relations with the Jewish and Islamic peoples, who had flourished in Spain during the Middle Ages but had been driven out by militant Catholicism, led to her receipt of the Wiesenthal Prize in 1994. She has done much to patronize and promote Spanish arts and culture, especially music. In 2000, she was honored with the Grameen Foundation USA's humanitarian award for her efforts in fighting poverty.
In 1998, Sophia returned to Greece for the first time in 17 years. (She had journeyed there in 1981 to attend her mother's funeral.) Though she and her husband were greeted by President Costis Stephanopoulos, there were no crowds, and they were not allowed to stay in the presidential mansion, the royal palace of Sophia's childhood.
Frederica, Queen of the Hellenes. A Measure of Understanding. London: 1982.
Kern, Robert W., ed. Historical Dictionary of Modern Spain, 1700–1988. NY: Greenwood Press, 1990.
Powell, Charles. Juan Carlos of Spain. NY: St. Martin's Press, 1996.
Kendall W. Brown , Professor of History, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah