Spain’s popular Queen Sofía celebrates her 80th Birthday on Friday, 2 November 2018.

Queen Sofía of Spain. Photo: Casa de SM el Rey/DVirgili

King Juan Carlos of Spain’s Queen was born in Athens on 2 November 1938, as the eldest daughter of King Paul I of Greece and Denmark and his wife, Frederica of Hanover.

Sofía has a younger brother, King Constantine II of Greece (deposed in 1973) and sister, Princess Irene.

The Greek Royal Family were forced into exile during World War II so Sofía spent some of her childhood in Egypt and South Africa, before returning in 1946.

King Paul and Queen Frederica of Greece visiting the USS Providence (CL-82), at Athens, circa May 1947. Photo: US Navy

Sofía was sent off to boarding school at the prestigious Schloss Salem in Germany (where her cousin Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh had attended prior to World War II) before returning to her homeland where she studied childcare, music and archaeology in Athens.

She continued further studies at Fitzwilliam College in Cambridge.

Sofia, with her brother Constantine II, also represented Greece at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome, although she was a reserve member. The Greek sailing team won a gold medal

She first met her future husband, the Infante Juan Carlos of Spain, during a cruise of the Greek Islands in 1954 and again as guests at her cousin Prince Edward Duke of Kent’s wedding to Katherine Worsley at York Minister on 8 June 1961.

They married on 14 May 1962 with a Catholic ceremony at the Catholic Cathedral of Saint Dionysius in Athens and a Greek Orthodox one at the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral of the Virgin Mary.

Her eight bridesmaids included her sister Irene, sister-in-law Pilar of Spain, Princess Alexandra of Great Britain (Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin) and Princesses Benedikte and Anne-Marie of Denmark.

Sofía converted to Roman Catholicism and gave up her place in the line of succession to the Greek throne.

They have three children: the Infanta Elena (b 1963), the Infanta Cristina (b 1965) and Prince Felipe (b 1968), and eight grandchildren including the heir, Leonor Princess of Asturias and her sister Infanta Sofía.

Sofia became Queen when her husband Juan Carlos ascended the throne, following the death of dictator Francisco Franco in 1975.

However, King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014, in favour of their son, Felipe VI, in 2014.

Queen Sofía still carries out official duties and focuses on social and welfare activities, as Honorary President of various cultural and music institutions such as the Queen Sofía Higher School of Music.

In addition, Queen Sofía participates in several international projects to promote rural women and development of micro-credits for disadvantaged people.

However, Queen Sofía was criticised by progressives in Spanish society for speaking out in favour of religious education in schools, opposing abortion and rejecting of same-sex marriage, with some saying she should remain impartial and not become involved in political issues.

Queen Sofía has received Honorary Doctorates from the Universities of Rosario (Bogota), Valladolid, Cambridge, Oxford, Georgetown, Evora, New York and Seisen (Tokyo).

According to a Spanish newspaper, El País, Queen Sofía is said to be celebrating this huge milestone in private with close friends and relatives, including her daughter Cristina.

Sofía will also attend a concert with her husband, King Juan Carlos, to celebrate her birthday.

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