H. M. The King and The Queen of Spain
"Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía"
JUAN CARLOS DE BORBON Y BORBON was born on January 5th, 1938 in Rome, where the Royal Family was living at that time, having had to leave Spain when the Republic was proclaimed in 1931. His father, Don Juan de Borbon y Battenberg, Count of Barcelona and Head of the Spanish Royal Household ever since King Alfonso XIII had relinquished this status, and his mother, Dona Maria de las Mercedes de Borbon y Orleans.
At the express wish of his father, he was educated in Spain, which he visited for the first time at the age of ten. In 1954 he completed his Baccalaureate at the San Isidro School in Madrid, and in 1955 began his studies at the Academies and Military Colleges of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. During this time he carried out his practice voyage as a midshipman on the training ship Juan Sebastian Elcano and qualified as a military pilot. In 1960.61 he completed his education at Madrid's Complutense University, where he studied constitutional and international law, economics and taxation.
On May 14th, 1962, he married Princess Sofia of Greece, the eldest daugther of King Paul I and Queen Federika, in Athens. After their honeymoon, the Prince and Princess went to live at the Palacio de la Zarzuela, on the outskirts of Madrid, which is still their residence. In 1963 the first of their three children, Princess Elena, was born, followed, two years later, by Princess Cristina and finally, in 1968, by Prince Felipe.
After his designation as future succesor to the Head of State in 1969, he embarked on a series of official activities, touring Spain and visiting many foreign countries, including France, the Federal Republic of Germany, the United States, Japan, China and India.
On the death of the previous Head of State, Francisco Franco, Juan Carlos was proclaimed King on November 22nd, 1975. In his first message to the nation he expressed the basic ideas of his reign, to restore democracy and become King of all Spaniards, without exception.
The transition to democracy, under the guidance of a new Government, began with the Law on Politicial Reform in 1976. In May 1977, the Count of Barcelona trasnferred to the King his dinasty rights and his position as head of the Spanish Royal Household, at a ceremony which confirmed the fulfilment of the role incumbent on the Crown on the Crown in the restoration of democracy. A month later the first democratic election sice 1936 was held and the new parliament drafted the text of the current Constitution, approved in a referendum on December 6th, 1978.
The Constitution establishes as the form of government of the Spanish State that of a parliamentary monarchy, in which the King is the arbiter and overseer of the proper working of the institutions. By giving the royal assent to this Constitution, King Juan Carlos expressly proclaimed his firm intention to abide by it and serve it. In fact, it was the actions of the Monarch that saved the Constitution and democracy during the night of February 23rd. 1981, when the constitutional powers had been retained in the Parliament building in an attempted coup.
In the course of 18 years the King has toured Europe, Latin America, the United States and Canada, the Arab countries, Israel, China, Japan, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand and many countries in black Africa. He has also addressed many international organizations: the United Nations, the institutions of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organization of American States, UNESCO, the International Labour Organization and the Arab League.
The King has encouraged a new style in conducting relations with Latin America, emphasizing the identifying features of a cultural community based on a common language, and pointing out the need to generate common initiatives and take part in suitable kinds of cooperative activity. The countries of that area have shown great generosity in agreeing on the need to create a permanent framework capable of expressing this new situation, setting objectives and organizing programmes and specific lines of action. This is the rationale behind the Latin American Conferences, the first of which was held in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1991.
As a convinced European, and a winner of the Charlemagne Award in 1982, Juan Carlos delivers insistent reminders of Spain s European calling throughout its history. The importance of the European union in the contemporary world and in particular in the areas which are most akin to it, including Latin America, has been stressed by the King in many messages, such as the one he gave at the French National Assembly in 1993.
King Juan Carlos, who pays constant attention to the world of intellectual developments and its capacity for innovation, has a special relationship with universities, both in Spain and abroad, where he has had conferred upon him honorary doctorates by the most renowned centers, including the Universities of Bologna, Oxford, Cambridge and Harvard, amongst many others. He is also an associate member of the Institut de France and the American Philosophical Society. As honorary chairman of COTEC, a Spanish Foundation for technological innovation, King Juan Carlos gives his personal support to this fundamental activity on the threshold of the 21st century.
He also pays special attention to the future of the Spanish language, the heritage of the community of Spanish speakers. The King is honorary president of the Board of Trustees of the Cervantes Institute, which is dedicated to the dissemination of the Spanish language worldwide, and the Foundation in support of the Royal Accademy, to whose setting up in 1993 he contributed out of his own personal patrimony.
As a keen practitioner of several sports, such as skiing and sailing, Juan Carlos supports and appreciates sport as a formative influence of unquestionable social value. The presence of the King and Queen and their encouragement of the Spanish Olympic teams during the Games in Barcelona in 1993 attest to the importance which Juan Carlos attaches to this activity.
"Her Majesty the Queen."
Doña SOFIA DE GRECIA Y HANNOVER was born in Athens on November 2nd, 1938. She was the first born daugther of the King and Queen of Greece, Paul I and Federika. Her family belongs to one of the oldest Royal Houses in Europe and is related to the Czars of Russia, the German Emperors and Queen Victoria of Great Britain.
She spent part of her childhood in Egypt and South Africa, as her family was obliged to go into exile during the Second World War. She returned to her country in 1946, completed her education at the prestigious German boarding school of Schloss Salem, and, having returned to Athens, specialized in paediatrics, music and archaelogy. She took part as a reserve for the Greek sailing team in the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.
On May 14th 1962 she married Prince Juan Carlos de Borbon y Borbon, and in subsequent years her three children were born: Infanta Elena on December 20th, 1963, Infanta Cristina on June 13th, 1965, and Prince Felipe on January 30th, 1968.
In addition to taking part in institutional events, the Queen devotes a great deal of attention to social and charity activities. She is the executive president of the Queen Sofia Foundation, which in 1993 has sent the major part of its funds to help Bosnia, and honorary president of the Royal Board on Education and Care of Handicapped Persons, and the Foundation for Aid for Drug Addicts. She takes special interest in this latter problem, taking part personally in conferences and meetings on the subject both in Spain and abroad.
Her help for the underprivileged is not confined to resolving specific situations, but also extends to progress in the field of research and to encouraging initiatives and cooperation agreements designed to prevent them from arising or to palliate their effects.
With regards to culture, Queen Sofia's fondness for music is well known. The Queen is an honorary member of the San Fernando Academy of Fine Arts, and holds an honorary doctorate from the University of Valladolid and, together with the King, from Cambridge.