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Spain's Felipe VI, righteous son, inherits a shaken monarchy

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Spain's Felipe VI, righteous son, inherits a shaken monarchy


Felipe de Borbón y Grecia was born in Madrid on 30 January 1968, the third child of the then Prince of Spain, Juan Carlos and his Princess Sofía, who had had two daughters before him. This was during the dictatorship of General Franco.

He was eight when Franco died, having provided for his father to become head of state in a restored monarchy.

Felipe started young with official duties, such as announcing prizes. He went off to an Anglican high school in Canada, and then, at age 18, the Prince of Asturias swore allegiance to the Spanish Constitution and Parliament. With this, His Royal Highness accepted his institutional role as the next successor. His military training left him an air force helicopter pilot, a lieutenant-colonel in the army and a frigate commander in the navy.

Felipe carried the country’s colours at the Barcelona Games in 1992, as a member of Spain’s Olympic sailing team.

He graduated from Madrid Autonomous University with a law degree in 1993 and went on to do a Master’s in International Relations at Georgetown University in Washington DC. He learned languages along the way: Catalan, French, English and some Greek.

Generally daily meetings with his father were part of royal routine. Felipe’s duties expanded, such as representing Spain at ceremonies abroad, and promoting economic, educational and further cultural interests, notably in Latin America.

In 2004, he married highly-recognised television journalist Letizia Ortíz, from a family with no previous ties to royalty or nobility. She was a divorcee, of divorced parents. But it went over very well with the public. No longer a commoner, alongside her new husband, she left journalism.

In due course, she and Felipe became parents. They have two daughters, Leonor, born in 2005, and Sofía, born in 2007.

Even after his promotion to King, it is not guaranteed that Felipe will have that job for life, what with the political, social and economic condition Spain is in, but his public approval ratings beat his father’s recent lows.

To hold on to his place, Felipe will have to foster national unity and institutional credibility. His father helped to ensure Spain’s transition to democracy. It’s up to Felipe to convince Spaniards the monarchy remains relevant in that democracy.

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