The latest addition to Spain’s royal family has made her first public appearance. Leonor is second in line to the Spanish throne after her father, Crown Prince Felipe of Borbon. But her birth last Monday has reignited a debate about changing the constitution to give women the same right as men to inherit the throne. As the law currently stands, Leonor will fall down the line of succession if Princess Letizia later has a boy.
Asked last week if Leonor would be queen, Prince Felipe said “yes, if the Socialist government succeeds in its plan to reform the constitution.” “This is an important birth from a political and constitutional point of view but ultimately, parliament will decide on the matter,” he added. But changing the constitution is no easy matter. Isabelle II was Spain’s last reigning queen more than 200 years ago. But she only ascended to the throne after her father, Ferdinand VII, overruled the law banning women from running the country.
However in 1978, parliament reaffirmed the right of men to inherit the throne. To change this now would need the support of two-thirds of members of both houses of parliament. And then parliament would be dissolved and new elections called. The new parliament would again have to approve the reform by a two-thirds majority and then it would put to a referendum. The government says it wants to tackle the reform near the end of its term in 2007. Most MPs back the reform but some critics have expressed fear that the government may be forced to implement retroactive changes so that Felipe’s moves down the royal line of succession in favour of his two elder sisters.