68 years of the trip that marked his destiny

On August 22, 1954, a cruise ship with nearly a hundred royals set sail from the port of Venice. A journey halfway between pleasure and work orchestrated by the mother of the Queen SofiaQueen Federica. A journey of more than ten days that had a double objective: to promote Hellenic tourism to reactivate the national economy after the civil war of 1941-46 and to strengthen relations between the royal houses of Europe after the ‘separation’ that the creation of on two sides during World War II.

Queen Sofia walking with her mother. / Gtres

A cruise that marked the destiny of several members of European royalty but, above all, that of the monarchy in Spain. On board the ship, ninety-two members of the Gotha, among whom were, in addition to the children of Queen Federica, the then Prince Juan CarlosSimeon of Bulgaria, Michael of Romania, Umberto II of Savoy, Kings Juliana and Bernardo of the Netherlands, and the heirs to the throne of Luxembourg. In a short note, the diary ABC He announced the trip a few days before the ship sailed and commented on who the oldest and youngest passengers were.

Queen Sofia
Queen Sofia and King Juan Carlos at their wedding. / Gtres

In an interview with the magazine vanity fairKing Simeon of Bulgaria recalled some details of this trip: “Everyone met there; after the war, the royal families had stayed in their country or wherever, but also on the side they had chosen. There was, shall we say, a certain rupture of relations. And the queen federica had the idea of ​​meeting us. It was also a great publicity idea for Greece, which had just come out of its Civil War. It had a withering effect of opening the country to the normal tourist, not just to historians or archaeologists”, commented the husband of Margarita Gomez Holly. A trip that was not missed by Doña Sofía and Don Juan Carlos, who would marry eight years later. At that time, both had not reached the age of majority, although they did know each other.

Kings Juan Carlos and Sofia together. / Gtres

The tour lasted almost two weeks, during which the ‘real tourists’ visited Mykonos, Corfu, Santorini, Crete, Rhodes, Thessaloniki and Mount Olympus. On September 3 the trip ended in Naples. Throughout the cruise they were able to enjoy some of the most special places in Europe, such as some historic ruins and cities. Such was the success that this original route of Doña Sofía’s mother is still a tourist model.

Beyond the stops, the ship did not lack parties and dances, in which Don Juan Carlos was one of the great stars. However, Felipe VI’s father never once asked what would later be his wife to dance. They were two very different people who, apparently, had little to do with each other. However, Doña Sofía confessed to Urban Pillaror that Don Juan Carlos seemed very funny and joking. Moreover, it is known that they spoke on several occasions and that Doña Sofía told him that she was learning judo, a detail that caused the Prince to laugh, although she did not hesitate to throw him to the ground with a key.

Queen Sofia
Queen Federica with her children. / Gtres

It would be several years later when the relationship between the two materialized, at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Kent, in June 1981. “It was then that we began to feel the pull of attractiveness,” Queen Sofia confessed to the journalist. A detail confirmed by the writer Marius Carol, author of Tea at the Savoywhich was published on the occasion of the golden wedding anniversary of the previous kings and in which details of their courtship are recounted. Don Juan Carlos fell in love with her from the beginning: “She is one of the few young women I know who can wear a royal crown with dignity”he said some time later. In any case, the germ of the story must be found in the ‘ship of love’, a cruise that, today, could hardly be repeated.

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