Fifty-nine years ago today, a grand royal wedding was held in Athens. The bride, Princess Sophia, was the daughter of the Greek king; the groom, Infante Juan Carlos, was the son of the Spanish pretender. When the two married on May 14, 1962, few might have guessed that they would go on to reign on a restored Spanish throne for nearly four decades, or that their son would still occupy that throne today. Here’s a look at the jewels worn by Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark—who changed her name to the Spanish spelling, Sofia, when she converted to Catholicism—on her wedding day.
The prince and princess were united in marriage in Athens in three ceremonies: a Greek Orthodox wedding (pictured above) at the Metropolitan Cathedral; a Roman Catholic ceremony at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Dionysius the Areopagite; and a civil ceremony at the Royal Palace. The festivities were suitably grand, as Sofia’s parents, King Paul and Queen Friederike of the Hellenes, were the reigning monarchs of the day in Greece. Through her father, Sofia was descended from the Danish royal and Russian imperial families.
On her mother’s side, she was a descendant of both Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom and Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany. Sofia’s wedding tiara reflected that maternal heritage. She wore the Prussian Tiara, a small diamond kokoshnik made by Koch for her grandmother, Princess Viktoria Luise of Prussia, in 1913. After her mother and her grandmother, Sofia was the third member of the family to own and wear the tiara. (In 2004, Sofia’s daughter-in-law, Queen Letizia, would also wear the Prussian Tiara on her wedding day.) Sofia kept the rest of her jewelry fairly simple, including a sparkling diamond necklace with a cross pendant.
Sofia’s silver and white wedding dress, which featured simple lines, bracelet-length sleeves, and an 18-foot train, was made by a designer, Jean Dessès, who worked in Paris but whose parents were from Greece. The gown was covered in tulle and antique lace. More lace was also included in the form of the veil worn by the bride. Sofia’s tiara helped to secure the veil of Brussels lace that had been previously worn by her mother, Friederike, at her own wedding in 1938.
Sofia was attended by eight bridesmaids, all of whom were royal: Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark (the bride’s sister), Infanta Pilar (the groom’s sister), Princess Irene of the Netherlands, Princess Alexandra of Kent, Princess Benedikte of Denmark, Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark, Princess Tatiana Radziwill, and Princess Anne of Orleans. In the photo above, taken during the Catholic wedding ceremony, Princess Irene of Greece and Denmark leans over to speak with her elder sister. (Sofia and Irene are still close today, and both live in Madrid.)
The couple posed with their extended royal family members on the steps of the Royal Palace in Athens after the wedding ceremonies had been completed. This image gives you a good look at the bride’s jewels, but you’ll also glimpse other important royal jewels among the crowd. Sofia’s mother, Queen Friederike, is wearing the Greek emeralds, while Juan Carlos’s mother and grandmother, the Countess of Barcelona and Queen Ena, both wore pearls.
You’ll also spot Princess Grace of Monaco wearing her wedding gift pearls, as well as Queen Ingrid of Denmark wearing diamonds and Queen Alexandrine’s diamond and ruby bow brooch. News reports of the day kept a close eye on the Danish royal family. Reporters watched as Sofia tossed her bouquet after the Greek Orthodox wedding ceremony had ended. The posy of white flowers was caught by one of her bridesmaids, Princess Anne-Marie of Denmark—who, two years later, would marry Sofia’s brother and become Queen of Greece.