Sunday, April 18, 2010

Consort Profile: Queen Sofia of Spain

Queen Sofia, consort of HM King Juan Carlos of Spain, is another particular favorite of mine. She was born HRH Princess Sophia Margaret Victoria Frederica of Greece and Denmark on November 2, 1938 in Athens, Greece, the eldest child of HM King Paul I and Queen Frederica of the Hellenes. Princess Sophia belongs to that generation of European royalty that was forced to spend some of her early years in exile due to World War II, in her case mostly in Egypt and South Africa. After returning home she was sent to boarding school in Germany and finished her education in Athens where she studied music, childcare and archaeology. Not surprisingly for the sister of Greek King Constantine II, Princess Sophia has long had a love of the sea and she represented Greece in the sailing competition at the 1960 Olympic games.

The big day came on May 14, 1962 when Princess Sofia (changing the spelling of her name to the Spanish style) married Infante Don Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon in Athens at the Church of St Dennis. The paid had met on a cruise of the Greek islands in 1954 and hit it off right away. Part of the marriage included the renunciation of her Greek royal titles and her conversion from the Greek Orthodox to the Roman Catholic Church, which was no mere formality for someone like Princess Sofia who has long been a very sincere and deeply religious woman. Nonetheless she embraced her faith and her new family and country whole-heartedly. Her charm and friendly style helped Juan Carlos make the transition from the camp of his father and royal heir Prince Don Juan, to that of Generalissimo Francisco Franco.

It was Princess Sofia who suggested to Franco that her husband be named a Prince of Spain in 1969 in preparation for his accession to the throne upon the passing of the caudillo. When that day came in 1975 her husband became King Juan Carlos I and she became Queen Sofia of Spain. During their years of marriage King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia have had three children; Infanta Elena (1963), Infanta Cristina (1965) and Prince Felipe of the Asturias (1968). Over the years Queen Sofia has been known for her many charitable activities, her compassionate soul and not sharing in her husband’s love of bullfighting (nobody’s perfect).

She established the Queen Sofia Foundation which has contributed to many humanitarian causes around the world and she has shown particular concern in her many charitable activities for the disabled and the victims of addiction. She has also shown leadership in the fight against child slavery and prostitution as well as promoting economic development on the most local and personal levels in Third World countries. She has received a number of honorary degrees from around the world and given her background (being related to most of the crowned heads of Europe) it is not surprising that she is fluent in Greek, Spanish, English, French and German.

Unfortunately, the controversialists have not left the Queen of Spain untouched either. A minor uproar was caused when it was put out that the Queen could not understand the concept of “gay pride”, that she did not consider homosexual unions marriage and that she was opposed to abortion and euthanasia. This prompted feigned outrage of those supportive of these agendas and induced the palace to release an assurance that the Queen opposed all forms of discrimination. It also led to gay activists taking on a more openly republican stance. Why this would come as a surprise to anyone, considering that the Queen is a deeply committed Catholic woman (the Catholic Church having always opposed the gay lifestyle, redefining marriage, abortion and euthanasia) was never explained by those determined to cause controversy and weaken the Spanish monarchy at any cost. Her opposition to Spanish military involvement in Afghanistan was also seized on by republican groups even though they were at the forefront of opposing Spanish military operations.

Nonetheless, Queen Sofia has shown herself to be made of tough stuff and has displayed a remarkable ability to adapt to changing circumstances while never losing her regal dignity and her moral principles. She has been a source of strength and support for her husband, an involved mother, a supporter of Spanish pride and unity and a friend to less fortunate people all around the world. Queen Sofia has been, and will remain, a credit to the Kingdom of Spain and the Bourbon monarchy. Viva la Reina!

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