Europe

Queen Sofía of Spain once ‘snubbed’ Queen Elizabeth II in ‘calculated’ move

Queen Letizia gets her hand shoved away by Queen Sofia

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Queen Sofía of Spain made a rare public appearance on Saturday as she helped host a reception for local officials in Mallorca. The 83-year-old accompanied her son, King Felipe VI, and daughter-in-law, Queen Letizia, at the annual evening event for local dignitaries and representatives from across the island. It was the first time Queen Sofía has undertaken a public engagement for several weeks.

Sofía’s husband, former King Juan Carlos I, abdicated the throne in 2014 amid a scandal over his alleged financial irregularities. 

Six years later, Juan Carlos fled his country and, despite the investigations into his finances being dropped, still resides in the United Arab Emirates. 

He abdicated in favour of his son, and since Felipe ascended the throne, he, Letizia and Sofía have had to steadily battle against the family’s tarnished reputation. 

Juan Carlos had previously been the centre of controversy following a trip to Botswana, during which he participated in an elephant hunting safari. 

It was for this reason that only Sofía was invited to an important event for the British Royal Family — a lunch at Windsor Castle to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012.

However, a last-minute decision saw the former Queen of Spain pull out of the celebratory event, a move that one royal expert has slammed as a “calculated snub”. 

Writing for his column in the Daily Mail at the time, Richard Kay said: “The Queen was dealt an extraordinary and calculated snub last night that threatens to tarnish her Diamond Jubilee celebrations.

“Just two days before Her Majesty was due to welcome the crowned heads of Europe’s royal houses to an elaborate Windsor Castle lunch, Spain’s Queen Sofía dramatically pulled out of the event.

“A spokesman for the Spanish royals snootily declared that Sofía’s presence would be ‘inappropriate in the current circumstances’.” 

The decision, orchestrated by the Spanish government, came a week after it made a formal protest to the UK against the Queen’s youngest son’s visit to Gibraltar. 

Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Countess of Wessex spent three days on the British rock as part of a Commonwealth-wide effort to mark the Jubilee. 

Mr Kay claimed that royal insiders said the Queen would be “dismayed” by Sofía’s absence and that the “joyful celebration” had been “hijacked by political machinations”. 

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He went on to recount a previous time the Spanish royals had snubbed a British royal event. 

Mr Kay wrote: “It is not the first time Spain has jolted the royals — in 1981 King Juan Carlos stayed away from Prince Charles’s wedding to Lady Diana Spencer because on their honeymoon the Royal Yacht Britannia was to stop at Gibraltar.”

However, the royal expert and old friend of Diana, Princess of Wales, argued that Sofía’s snub seemed “more personal”. 

Sofía — like the Queen — is a direct descendant of Queen Victoria; she is a great-great-great-granddaughter and the two living Queens are cousins.

The Spanish Queen, who was born into the Greek branch of the Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg dynasty, has an older brother — the exiled King Constantine, who lived in London until 2013 and was said to be close with Prince Philip. 

Mr Kay claimed that the decision for Sofía not to attend the Jubilee lunch would likely “strain family relations”.

Nonetheless, the relationship between the two European monarchies appears to be cordial, with King Felipe VI of Spain writing a personal message to the Queen following the death of the Duke of Edinburgh last year, in which he called the monarch by a touching familial name.

He wrote: ”Dear Aunt Lillibet, we are deeply saddened to hear about the passing away of dear uncle Philip.

“In these sad moments, we would like to send you our most heartfelt condolences on behalf of the government and people of Spain, and all our sympathy and support.”

And in April, Prince Charles and Queen Letizia joined forces for a rare collaborative appearance. 

The royal duo met at Auckland Castle in County Durham, northern England, where the two art lovers viewed Francisco de Zurbarán’s series of paintings ‘Jacob and His Twelve Sons.’

The pair then officially opened the town’s new Spanish Gallery, the first exhibition space devoted exclusively to the art, history and culture of Spain in the UK.

Spanish newspaper El Pais reported at the time: “The arrival of Queen Letizia with the heir to the British throne, Charles of England, has electrified local life for a few hours.”

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