For over half a century, Queen Sofía of Spain has served as consort to King Juan Carlos I, making a name for herself as a figurehead of the royals in Spain.
In 2014, she and King Juan Carlos abdicated the Spanish throne to make way for crown prince Felipe IV and his wife, Letizia.
Here are 10 things you probably didn’t know about Queen Sofía.
She met her future husband Juan Carlos on a cruise through the Greek islands in 1954.
Queen Sofía and King Juan Carlos met in 1954.
A sailing enthusiast, the future consort of Spain met her prince while the pair were sailing on a cruise through the Greek islands.
In 1961, they reconnected at the wedding of the Duke of Kent at York Minster and they were married just one year later.
She married King Juan Carlos I in Athens, not Spain.
When the former Princess of Greece wed the future Spanish king on May 14, 1962, it was the union of two of the most prestigious royal families in Europe.
The pair exchanged vows in Queen Sofia’s native country of Greece.
As the Spanish monarchy was dissolved in 1931 (it was restored in 1978) and King Juan Carlos’ family was exiled to Rome, the pair wed in three separate ceremonies to accommodate their different religions, according to Popsugar.
This included a Catholic wedding at the Cathedral of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite for Juan Carlos’s family, a Greek Orthodox ceremony held at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation for Sofia’s family, and a civil union ceremony that occurred at the Royal Palace in Athens.
She’s related to Queen Elizabeth.
Queen Sofía and King Juan Carlos are both descendants of the late Queen Victoria, which makes them distant cousins of Queen Elizabeth.
She converted to Catholicism, the popular religion in Spain.
Queen Sofía was a follower of the Greek Orthodox Church when the couple first wed, but she soon converted to Catholicism to appeal to the religion of the Spanish people.
According to the New York Times, by converting, the eldest daughter of King Paul of Greece and Frederica of Hanover gave up all of her rights to the Greek throne.
She also changed her name. In 1962, after marrying Juan Carlos, she changed the spelling of her name from the Greek “Sophia” to the Spanish “Sofía.”
She’s represented Greece in the Olympics.
A few years after meeting then-Prince Juan Carlos aboard a cruise, Sofía was a reserve member of the Greek sailing team at the 1960 summer Olympics.
She appears to be a sports fan.
In 2010, BBC reported that she made an appearance at Wimbledon to see Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal win for the second time.
She was also in the stands when the Spanish football team won The World Cup that same year.
She spent much of her childhood in Africa.
As the Spanish monarchy was fielding political unrest in the 1930s, the Greek royal family was also dealing with its own upheaval.
After Queen Sofía’s family fled from Greece to Africa during World War II, the princess was educated at Egypt’s El Nasr Girls College in Alexandria before her family fled once again to South Africa.
She later resumed her studies at the Schloss Salem boarding school in Germany.
She’s made some controversial political statements.
In 2008, Queen Sofía shared some of her political ideology during an interview with journalist Pilar Urbano.
One of them was her belief that same-sex marriage should not be called marriage.
“If those persons want to live together, dress up as bride and groom and get married, they can do so, but that should not be called marriage because it is not,” the queen is quoted as saying in Urbano’s book.
Her controversial comments about same-sex marriage particularly elicited outrage among liberal groups, and the Royal Palace quickly shared an apology but qualified it by implying she had been misquoted.
She is against the Spanish bullfighting tradition.
Queen Sofía has talked about her dislike of the Spanish tradition of bullfighting, which is apparently a “royal discrepancy,” according to The Guardian.
“Making a bull suffer in the plaza for the public’s enjoyment while a few people do business? Let them do what they want, but I won’t share it,” Queen Sofía reportedly told publication.
The Queen Sofía Spanish Institute is named after her.
According to the website, the corporation’s goal is “to stimulate interest in the United States about the culture, art, customs, language literature, and history of Spain.”
They give out awards for book translations and host many Spanish culture-centric events.
This isn’t the queen’s first interaction with nonprofits. During her reign, Queen Sofía was known for working with charitable causes, even serving as an honorary president of the Spanish UNICEF Committee since 1971.
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