13 August 2020

Royal Jewel Rewind: The Greek Royal Wedding of 1999

ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

Time for the next installment in our series of Greek royal wedding flashbacks! Today, we've got a closer look at the wedding of Princess Alexia of Greece and Denmark and Carlos Morales Quintana.




Queen Anne-Marie holds baby Alexia, September 1965 (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Our story today runs parallel to the one we told here yesterday. Princess Alexia was born on July 10, 1965, at the Greek royal family's villa, Mon Repos, on the island of Corfu. (It's the same home where the Duke of Edinburgh had been born four decades earlier.) At the time of her birth, Alexia's parents reigned in Greece as King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie. As she was the first child, she was Crown Princess Alexia when she was born. She was the first grandchild of King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark, and the third of King Paul and Queen Friederike of the Hellenes (after Infantas Elena and Cristina of Spain). King Frederik flew to Corfu to meet his granddaughter only a few days after her birth. During her first press conference with reporters, held in the gardens of Mon Repos, Alexia cried as photographers snapped pictures, until her father "tickled her under the chin."


King Frederik IX of Denmark holds baby Alexia, November 1965 (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The new royal baby's name was officially announced by Metropolitan Methodios of Corfu during a service of thanksgiving at the island's cathedral, with both King Constantine and his mother, Queen Friederike, in attendance. Greek courtiers told the press that Alexia was named for "the Byzantine Emperor Alexius, who ruled from 1081 to 1118." The Associated Press added that the name was a favorite of the late King Paul, who had planned to name his youngest daughter Alexia, but as she was born during World War II, christened her Irene (Greek for "peace") instead.


Embed from Getty Images

Baby Alexia was baptized at the Royal Palace in September 1965, with Queen Friederike and the entire Greek army serving as godparents. Guests in attendance included King Frederik IX and Queen Ingrid of Denmark, Crown Princess Margrethe and Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Prince Juan Carlos and Princess Sofia (with their daughters), Princess Irene, Princess Andrew of Greece and Denmark (in her usual habit), and Prince Michael of Greece and Denmark with his wife, Marina.


King Constantine, Queen Anne-Marie, Princess Alexia, and Crown Prince Pavlos in London, May 1968 (Stan Meagher/Express/Getty Images)

But, as we discussed yesterday, political trouble was continually on the horizon for the Greek royals. Shortly after the birth of Alexia's brother, Crown Prince Pavlos, in 1967, the family was exiled. Alexia's childhood was spent in Rome, Denmark, and England, with frequent visits to her grandmother and cousins in Madrid. She was educated with her brothers in London at the Hellenic School, a Greek educational institution founded by her parents, and then went on to earn an education degree from the University of Roehampton. As a young graduate, she began working as a teacher in Southwark, before taking a job working with children with disabilities in Barcelona in the early 1990s.


Carlos Morales Quintana (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Princess Alexia's connections in Spain were impressive, to say the least. Both of her Greek royal aunts, Queen Sofia and Princess Irene, lived in Madrid. She was also close to members of the Bulgarian royal family, which had sought asylum in Spain during the Franco regime (a home that was confirmed when King Simeon married a Spanish aristocrat, Margarita Gómez-Acebo). In Spain, Alexia found both family and love. In 1998, she began a romance with a Spanish architect, Carlos Morales Quintana, who, like her family, was also a keen yachtsman.


Embed from Getty Images

King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie officially announced their daughter's engagement on March 20, 1999. Photographers snapped pictures of the couple with Alexia's parents at a photo session in London, including images of Alexia's engagement ring (a thick metal band with a bezel-set diamond).


Embed from Getty Images

In the image of the ring, you'll also spot a slim gold bangle on Alexia's wrist; this is the gold bracelet traditionally worn by all female descendants of Princess Margaret of Connaught.


Embed from Getty Images

A few weeks later, the family gathered for the christening of Crown Prince Pavlos's eldest son, Prince Constantine-Alexios, at St. Sophia's Cathedral in London. (Alexia and Carlos gained press attention during the event because they were photographed standing beside one of the baby's most famous godfathers, the Duke of Cambridge.) Alexia's wedding was scheduled for the same location a few months later; the wedding date was set for the day before her birthday: July 9, 1999. But in May, tragedy nearly struck: both Carlos and Alexia were injured in a sailing accident. Alexia broke her collar bone, while Carlos fractured his kneecap. Thankfully, both recuperated sufficiently to celebrate their wedding on the scheduled date.


The Earl and Countess of Wessex on their wedding day, June 1999 (MARTYN HAYHOW/AFP/Getty Images)

The nuptials were the second major royal wedding to be held in England in a month's time. On June 19, the Earl and Countess of Wessex had made their vows at St. George's Chapel in Windsor. Newspapers noted that Alexia's wedding was "an occasion which, in terms of royal rankings, exclipsed the recent Windsor wedding," adding that "Posh Spice and David Beckham did not even get a look-in." The guest list for Alexia's wedding included, according to the Guardian, "two kings, seven queens, 26 princes, 33 princesses and a grand duchess." Those nine kings and queens included Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia of Spain, King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden, Queen Noor of Jordan, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, Queen Ingrid of Denmark, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, and Queen Sonja of Norway. (Grand Duchess Josephine-Charlotte of Luxembourg was the grand duchess mentioned.)


Embed from Getty Images

There was also a more somber royal occasion shortly before Alexia's wedding: a memorial service for the late King Hussein of Jordan. Both Alexia and Carlos attended the service, which was held at St. Paul's Cathedral on July 5, 1999.


Embed from Getty Images

Two nights before the wedding, King Constantine and Queen Anne-Marie held a black-tie gala at Bridgewater House in London in the couple's honor. Princess Alexia wore pearl drop earrings with her off-the-shoulder gown for the occasion.


Embed from Getty Images

Here's a look at the full gown.


Embed from Getty Images

Lots more royal jewels popped up at this gala, and I'll share a selection of the pieces that I find most interesting. Queen Anne-Marie wore her part of Queen Alexandrine's Sautoir Necklace, plus diamond dress clips that belonged to Queen Friederike.


Embed from Getty Images

Princess Benedikte also wore her portion of Queen Alexandrine's Sautoir, as well as Queen Ingrid's diamond fan earrings and the central brooch from her Floral Birthday Tiara.


Embed from Getty Images

Queen Sofia wore the long pearl drop earrings now worn by Queen Letizia. The ruby and diamond pendant on her pearl necklace is a legacy from Queen Friederike.


Embed from Getty Images

Queen Sonja of Norway was dripping in diamonds, including earrings that belonged to Queen Alexandra.


Embed from Getty Images

Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands wore pearls, including the grand Dutch Strawberry Leaf Brooch.


Embed from Getty Images

And the Duchess of Gloucester was extra impressive in Queen Mary's Eleven-Row Pearl Choker and diamond earrings that belonged to Princess Alice.


Princess Alexia arrives for her wedding ceremony

On her wedding day, Princess Alexia dressed in an elegant white satin gown made by one of her mother's favorite designers, Inge Sprawson. The dress featured a v-neck, long sleeves, and delicate buttons down the back.


Princess Alexia on her wedding day (ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Alexia wore the Irish lace veil that belonged to her great-grandmother, Margaret of Connaught. She also became the fifth of Margaret's descendants to wear the Khedive of Egypt Tiara as her bridal diadem (after Queen Anne-Marie, Queen Margrethe II, Princess Benedikte, and Princess Alexandra of Sayn-Wittgenstein-Berleburg). Alexia also wore small diamond drop earrings with her bridal ensemble.


Crown Prince Pavlos greets the crowd outside the cathedral ahead of his sister's wedding

Just as they had for Crown Prince Pavlos's wedding four years earlier, a crowd gathered outside the cathedral on the day, waving Greek flags and cheering. Before heading into the cathedral for this wedding, Pavlos also took a minute to shake hands.


Princess Theodora (in purple), Princess Maria-Olympia, and Princess Mafalda arrive for the wedding

Anne-Marie was accompanied by three bridesmaids: her younger sister, Princess Theodora, who served as her chief supporter, and two young princesses: Maria-Olympia, Alexia's niece, and Mafalda, granddaughter of King Simeon of Bulgaria.


King Constantine walks his daughter down the aisle

After King Constantine walked his daughter down the aisle of the cathedral, she dropped a quick curtsey to her father.


King Constantine holds golden wedding crowns over the couple's heads during the ceremony

King Constantine served as the sponsor for the couple during the Greek Orthodox ceremony, holding the traditional wedding crowns over their heads. Crown Prince Pavlos also served as a crown bearer.


Embed from Getty Images

The royals gathered outside the cathedral after the ceremony, giving us a chance to see some of the jewels worn for the wedding. Some highlights! The bride's mother, Queen Anne-Marie, wore a suite of diamond, sapphire, and pearl jewels. We don't see her wearing the set, which includes a necklace, brooch, and earrings, particularly often.


Embed from Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth II wore the Duchess of Cambridge's Pearl Pendant Brooch, a legacy from Queen Mary.


Embed from Getty Images

Queen Noor of Jordan wore classic pearl button earrings.


Embed from Getty Images

For the second time during the celebrations, Queen Sofia of Spain wore pearls with her mother's diamond and ruby pendant.


Embed from Getty Images

Her daughter, Infanta Cristina, pinned a diamond and sapphire brooch to her dress. The piece resembles the sapphire tiara that belonged to her aunt, Infanta Pilar -- perhaps the two were originally part of a larger set?


Embed from Getty Images

Queen Sonja of Norway continued bringing out the British royal jewels in London, wearing a pearl drop brooch that belonged to Queen Alexandra.


Embed from Getty Images

Queen Margrethe II of Denmark's brooch (worn attached to a pearl necklace her) also has British roots: it's the Connaught Pearl Bar Brooch.


Embed from Getty Images

Queen Silvia of Sweden brought along an important brooch, too: the Leuchtenberg Pearl and Ruby Brooch.


Embed from Getty Images

And, touchingly, Queen Ingrid of Denmark was able to be present at her granddaughter's wedding. She wore the Diamond Daisy Brooch, a legacy from her parents -- which she would give to her eldest daughter Queen Margrethe II, as a birthday present shortly afterward. Ingrid's appearance at this wedding was especially poignant, because it was the last family wedding she was able to attend. She died a little over a year later, in November 2000.


ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

After the wedding ceremony, the family gathered for a reception at Kenwood House in London. While many members of her family have a fairly large public profile, Alexia and Carlos are relatively private people. They live in the Canary Islands with their four children, Arrietta, Ana María, Carlos, and Amelia.