The World Cup is about to get underway in Russia with the England squad now at their training camp with royal backing after the Duke of Cambridge visited them ahead of their departure for the competition. We know there will be no Windsor representation in the VIP stands this time around, but royals and the contest have a long history. Three European monarchs have done the honours and handed over the most famous football trophy of them all – the World Cup.
First in the royal box, with a consolation goal for his home country, was King Gustaf VI Adolf of Sweden. The King presented the trophy in 1958 to Brazil – their first win in the competition. But it was a bittersweet moment for the then 75-year-old monarch as he had watched the Swedish team lose the final 5-2 to the boys from Brazil. The King, known for his lack of pomp and ceremony, made his way on to the pitch at Solna to hand over the Jules Rimet trophy to a team which included the now legendary Pele.
Things were more formal for the next royal World Cup strike – and that formality led to one of the most famous moments in World Cup history after one of the competition’s most famous finals. On 30 July 1966, Wembley Stadium in London was alive with the cheers of England football fans as their team won the World Cup. They had been led to their 4-2 victory over West Germany by West Ham’s Bobby Moore. And as he got ready to receive the trophy every footballer dreams of holding, he took the time to wipe his hands clean before shaking hands with the royal about to hand it over.
The image of the Queen presenting Bobby Moore with the Jules Rimet trophy is one still treasured by many England fans. The Queen is not known for her love of the beautiful game, but she had attended the final of the world’s most famous football competition on its first – and so far only – visit to England. The photo of the young Queen with the hero of a nation quickly became iconic and remains so to this day.
In 1982, the eyes of the world were on Spain as it hosted its first major sporting event after the death of Franco and the establishment of democracy. The competition was a success and the glittering final, which saw Italy beat West Germany 3-1, had a very glamourous ending as King Juan Carlos stepped up to present the World Cup.
The King, a huge football fan (especially if it’s Real Madrid playing) was at the height of his popularity as Spain took its place on the world stage again. Under the stars of a Madrid sky, Juan Carlos helped congratulate the Azzurri as they claimed their third World Cup title.
His son, now Felipe VI, was on hand to see Spain claim their only World Cup win, so far, in 2010 but as a guest at the tournament in South Africa, he didn’t get to hand the trophy over. It could well be some time before a European monarch does the honours again (the 2022 contest will be held in Qatar while the 2026 competition takes places in the USA, Canada and Mexico) but while the House of Windsor won’t be sending any representatives to Russia for this year’s contest, we may yet see other royal families attending as the competition heats up in the coming months. Royals and the World Cup remain a winning combination.