Prince Juan Carlos of Spain & Princess Sophia of Greece

The marriage of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece - May 4, 1962

juan_carlos_sofiaPrince Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon, later to become King Juan Carlos of Spain, was born on January 5, 1938 in Rome where the Spanish Royal Family was living, having left Spain when the Spanish Republic was proclaimed in 1931. His parents were Juan de Borbon y Battenberg, Count of Barcelona and Head of the Spanish Royal Household since his father, King Alfonso XIII, relinquished this status, and Maria de las Mercedes de Borbon y Orleans.

Princess Sophia Margaret Victoria Frederica of Greece and Denmark, later to become Queen Sofía of Spain, was born in Athens on November 2, 1938, the first child of King Paul I and Queen Frederica of Greece.

Family life

After their honeymoon, the Prince and Princess went to live at La Zarzuela Palace just outside Madrid which is still their residence today.

The couple have three children:

HRH the Infanta Elena, born on December 20, 1963, HRH the Infanta Cristina, born on June 13, 1965, and HRH Prince Felipe, born on January 30, 1968.


They have eight grandchildren: Leonor and Sofía de Borbón Ortiz, the daughters of the Prince and the Princess of Asturias, Felipe and Victoria de Marichalar y de Borbón, the children of the Infanta Elena and Jaime de Marichalar; and Juan, Pablo, Miguel and Irene Urdangarin y de Borbón, the children of the Infanta Cristina and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, the Duke and Duchess of Palma de Mallorca.

The engagement

The royal couple got engaged on December 12, 1961, having met on a yacht.

The wedding ceremony

sofia_fatherjuan_carlos_sofia_ceremonyThe prince and princess were married at two church ceremonies. The first ceremony took place at the Roman Catholic Church of St. Denis, Athens, Greece. Accompanied by her father and brother Constantine, Sophia arrived at the church in a majestic golden royal coach pulled by six horses.

The emotion of the day finally got to the bride by the time she reached the altar. Tears fell down her cheeks, and a concerned Juan Carlos offered her his handkerchief and held her arm to comfort her.

After the couple were pronounced husband and wife, mass was celebrated. The strains of Mozart’s Coronation Mass and Perosi’s Magnificat filled the church. Accompanied by Handel’s Alleluia, Juan Carlos and Sophia left the church to be greeted by rapturous crowds.

After the one-hour Catholic ceremony, the couple then traveled in a carriage drawn by six white horses to a second ceremony at the Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.

The bride’s dress

royal_coupleThe bride wore a silver-white lamé gown encrusted with Brussels lace and antique brocade, by Greek designer Jean Dessés.

The bride’s veil

The veil was 15-feet long, and had been used 25 years earlier at the wedding of the bride’s parents, Princess Federica of Hanover and Prince Pavlos of Greece.

The bride’s tiara

tiaraSophia’s elegant imperial-style tiara, made of platinum and diamonds, was given to her by her mother Queen Frederica.

Since the tiara was made it has been connected with dynastic weddings. Kaiser Wilhelm II gave it to his daughter Princess Victoria of Prussia when she married the Crown Prince of Hannover, Ernesto Augusto.

Victoria’s daughter Queen Frederica of Greece was herself given the tiara by her mother when she married the then Prince Pavlos of Greece.

Queen Sofía of Spain loaned the tiara to her daughter-in-law Princess Letizia on her marriage to Sofía’s son Prince Felipe, Prince of the Asturias. 

The flowers

The bride carried a small bouquet of lily of the valley.

The Orthodox Cathedral was decorated with 35,000 roses, Sophia’s favorite flower; red and yellow carnations, the colors of Spain, filled the Roman Catholic Church.


The bride and groom’s attendants

The bride was attended by Princess Irene of Greece (the bride’s sister), Infanta Pilar of Spain (the groom’s sister), Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess Alexandra of Kent, and Princesses Beneditke and Anne Marie of Denmark—the latter Danish princess would eventually become the bride’s sister-in-law, Princess Anne of France, and Princess Tatiana Radziwill. Prince Michael of Greece, the Duke of Aosta, and Infante Alfonso de Orleans acted on behalf of the groom.

The wedding banquet

Once the Orthodox ceremony finished, the newlyweds returned to the Greek royal palace. After a brief royal civil ceremony, a fantastic banquet for more than one thousand guests was held in honor of Juan Carlos and Sophia.

royal_guests sophia_juan_carlos

The guest list

The wedding saw the biggest gathering of royals in Europe since before 1914. Over 150 members of Europe’s royal families were invited, including representatives from the royal houses of Greece, Spain, Great Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Bourbon-Two Sicilies, Hanover, Portugal, France, Monaco, Luxembourg, Parma, Württemberg, and Romania.

Thousands of Spaniards traveled from Spain to Greece to witness the wedding of their future King and Queen. Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Sophia hosted a large garden party at the Hellenic Tennis Club to acknowledge their Spanish guests’ support and enthusiasm for the union.

The honeymoon

After the wedding banquet, the couple left for the royal retreat on the island of Corfu, starting a four month honeymoon.

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