"Where you were once happy, you should never return: time will have done its pieces, raising its border wall against which illusion will collide dumbfounded," wrote Felix Grande. Juan Carlos I (Rome, 85 years old) and Queen Sofia (Athens, 84 years old) seem determined to ignore the words of the Extremaduran poet. Felipe VI's parents have been living apart for three years and in this time they have coincided a handful of times, always in places that have been key in their love story. In September 2022, they met at the funeral of Queen Elizabeth in London, where they fell in love 62 years ago. In January of this year they met at the funeral of Constantine of Greece, held in Athens, where they were married on May 14, 1962. Now, almost six months after their last public meeting, they plan to be seen together this Thursday, June 1, at the wedding of Crown Prince Hussein, son of King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan, in Amman. The Jordanian capital was one of the destinations of their honeymoon, a honeymoon that lasted six months and took them halfway around the world.
Constantine of Greece and Simeon of Bulgaria were the ones who introduced young John Charles of Bourbon and Sophia of Greece to theHashemite court. When the Spanish royal couple first arrived in the Arab country, in 1962, their host, Hussein I, father of the current Jordanian monarch, had already reigned for a decade. At that time, Juan Carlos I was a prince without a throne or kingdom – it was not until 1969 that Franco named him Prince of Spain, a title that the dictator invented to try to bridge the gap with respect to the liberal monarchy. Although it did not correspond, Hussein gave him honors and treatment of head of state, putting at risk the cordial relations that Amman maintained with Francoism.
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King Juan Carlos never forgot that gesture and in November 1975 invited Hussein I to his proclamation in Madrid. The Jordanian monarch shared the podium with Prince Rainier of Monaco and Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. Just two years later, he lost his third wife, Queen Alia, in a helicopter crash in Amman. The King and Queen of Spain made an official trip to Jordan a month after the tragedy to show their support and affection. During the welcome gala dinner, the Jordanian head of state raised his glass and, moved, addressed Don Juan Carlos and Doña Sofía with the following words: "Your Majesty, brother; Your Majesty, sister." Since then, the Bourbons and the descendants of Muhammad maintain a close and familiar treatment.
King Juan Carlos, Sofia, Noor and Queen Hussein I, in 1995. Pool DEVILLE/SIMON (Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)
The friendship between the two monarchs grew closer in the following years, coinciding with the oil crisis that lasted from the Yom Kippur War until the mid-eighties. At the time, Hussein I, who maintained good relations with the West and with some Arab leaders such as Yasser Arafat, was a key player on the international game board. In 23F, he was one of the first heads of state to call the Zarzuela Palace to show his support for Juan Carlos I and put at the disposalof his Spanish "brother" a special Jordanian unitto remove the coup plotters from the Congress of Deputies.
Eight years later, in 1989, Hussein I gave his "brother" La Mareta, his mansion of 10,000 square meters in Costa Teguise, in Lanzarote. Hussein I had commissioned this modern house-palace to the famous architect Fernando Higueras and the Lanzarote artist César Manrique, but he never used it. Juan Carlos I ceded it to Patrimonio Nacional and turnedit into avacation spot for his family and foreign leaders. The Bourbons met there in April 1993, following the death of Juan de Borbón, Count of Barcelona. On January 2, 2000, the Countess of Barcelona, mother of Don Juan Carlos, died in that house while the Royal Family received the New Year. But the King was very impressed with the death of his mother and stopped frequenting the property.
King Juan Carlos I and King Adbala, at the royal palace in Amman, on April 24, 2006. Salah Malkawi (Getty Images)
The close ties between the Spanish and Jordanian royal family continue to this day. Princess Haya, one of Hussein's daughters and half-sister of King Abdullah, met her husband, the Emir of Dubai, during an equestrian competition in Jerez de la Frontera (she is currently separating from the sheikh in what is considered one of the most expensive divorce proceedings in history). Queen Noor, Hussein's fourth wife, also often travels to Spain to see her friend Doña Sofía. When she married the Jordanian king, the American architect did not have a warm reception in the conservative Hashemite court. The Queen Emeritus was one of his supporters and supporters in European royalty. In 1999, after the death of the Jordanian monarch due to lymphatic cancer, Noor was received at the Marivent palace and spent that summer in Palma, sheltered by the Spanish Royal Family.
From left to right, Queen Sofia, Queen Rania, King Abdullah and King Juan Carlos I, on October 18, 2008, at the Palacio de la Zarzuela (Madrid). Carlos Alvarez (Getty Images)
Doña Sofía invited Queen Noor to the celebrations for her 80th birthday in Madrid, in 2018, and supported her son, Felipe VI, in his intention to send Princess Leonor to the boarding school in Wales where she has just finished the International Baccalaureate and which belongs to the UWC movementof which the Jordanian Dowager Queen is president. The connections, interests and anecdotes shared by both dynasties are intertwined forming a tangle difficult to untangle. The emeritus kings seem to be pulling the thread of memories and this Thursday they return to the place where they were happy more than sixty years ago.