On May 14 King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia will celebrate 50 years of marriage. The marriage is certainly one of the most grand dynastic alliances of the 20th century. The elder daughter of the King of the Hellenes marries the future King of Spain.
The crown eventually came to Juan Carlos in 1975 after the death of the dictator Francisco Franco. Six years later, the king stood up to the democracy by not giving his support to a coup attempt that could have derailed Spain's fledgling democracy.
A year after the marriage, Sofia gave birth to a daughter, Elena. Cristina arrived two years later, and in 1968, Sofia gave birth to a son, Felipe, the future Prince of Asturias.
Privately, the king and queen have lived largely separate lives for the past 30 or so years. They have separate interests. He likes hunting, she likes visiting her family. The King has also been unfaithful. There have been rumors about the king and mistresses for some years. The Spanish media have largely refused to report on such matters until the king's recent hunting trip to Botswana. It is unlikely that the story about the king and Corinna Prinzessin zu Sayn-Wittgenstein-Sayn would have gone viral if the king had not broken his hip in Botswana and had to return to Madrid for surgery. Corinna returned with him. Queen Sofia, in Greece with her family for Orthodox Easter. She returned to Spain three days after her husband entered the hospital.
One Spanish newspaper reported last week that Juan Carlos wants to give his wife a splendid gift for their Golden Anniversary. A nice jewel. Actually very nice jewels: an aquamarine parure that once belonged to Queen Victoria Eugenia, Juan Carlos's grandmother.
The parure, which includes at tiara, necklace, bracelet, earrings, a ring and a brooch, was a gift to Ena from her husband, King Alfonso XIII, also a noted philanderer. The parure was inherited by Ena's elder daughter, Infanta Beatrix, who married Alessandro, Prince of Civitella-Cesi. The jewels are currently owned by her daughters, Donna Sandra and Donna Olimpia.
They are not interested in selling the jewels, which are kept in a bank vault in Switzerland.
Ena admired a similar parure that belonged to her cousin, Empress Alexandra Feodorovna of Russia, the wife of Nicholas II. She may have dropped a few hints to Alfonso as she received the parure as an anniversary gift. Ena once said that the jewels go well with "my blonde hair, white skin and blue eyes."
King Juan Carlos has been in negotiations with his cousins for some months now, but he has not been successful.
Neither sister needs the money. Donna Olimpia is the widow of French billionaire Paul-Annick Weiller. Both ladies have also worn the jewels at several royal functions. Sandra Torlonia wore the necklace and earrings to a gala dinner held in honor of the Prince of Asturias' wedding in 2004. Queen Victoria Eugenia wore the tiara to a pre-wedding dance in 1962 in honor of her grandson, Juan Carlos, and Princess Sophie of Greece and Denmark.
Sandra is not likely to leave the jewels to her daughter, Desiree, or her son, Alessandro, Count Lequio. Donna Olimpia has four daughters, and one, Sibilla, is married to Prince Guillaume of Luxembourg. It is possible that the parure could eventually be inherited by Sibilla.
Or ... Juan Carlos and his first cousins could come to some arrangement to allow the parure to return to Madrid. We shall see.
There will be no grand celebrations for the 50th anniversary. Queen Sofia will be in England to attend Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee dinner at Windsor.