On May 14 1962, the 24 year-old Prince Juan Carlos of Bourbon, as he was then, married 23 year-old Sofia of Greece in Athens in a Catholic ceremony, which was followed by an Orthodox service. Five kings and seven queens attended the wedding, including Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Norway's King Olav, King Michael of Romania and Umberto of Savoy, as well as princes from around the world, including Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly. The Spanish head of state at the time, Francisco Franco, declined his invitation, sending the Minister of the Navy, Admiral Abarzuza, in his place. The minister was accompanied by around a hundred Naval Infantry soldiers, who paraded through the streets of Athens.
Times have changed for the monarchy, which has been rocked in recent weeks by criticism over King Juan Carlos' controversial elephant hunt in Botswana, which could still cost the family dear. The monarch has been reported by a group of Spanish citizens to the anti-corruption prosecution service in Spain for an alleged passive taking of bribes, after he accepted a 35,000 euro invitation to the safari from the Saudi businessman of Syrian origin, Mohamed Eyad. Juan Carlos was accompanied on the shoot by a 40-year old German princess, Corinna Zu Sayn Wittegenstain, who the media say has been in a relationship with the King for the last 5 years. Pilar Eyre, the author of the unauthorised biography "La soledad de la reina", told El Mundo on Friday that the controversy had cause the King to put an end to the relationship "for the good of the crown". The King was urgently flown home from Botswana and underwent surgery on April 14 to replace his right hip after suffering a fall on the controversial trip. Criticism has since rained down on the monarch, not least from the Spanish media, which for the first time has breached the silent agreement of discretion regarding the King, which has been in force since the advent of democracy in Spain. The episode has seriously damaged the image of the royal family, which was already under the spotlight for the murky affairs of Iñaki Urdargarin, the son-in-law of Juan Carlos, who is accused of corruption on suspicion of diverting almost 15 million euros in public money, bragging about his royal ties. Upon being discharged from Madrid's San José hospital on April 18, Juan Carlos was even forced to make a public apology, in a statement that was unprecedented in the history of Spanish democracy. "I am very sorry," the King said.
"I made a mistake and it will not happen again". (ANSAmed).