Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano’s rise to royalty phase two is from princess to queen: the daughter of a journalist and a nurse, Letizia herself became a journalist, successful in television, as one of Spain’s top presenters, after covering the US presidential elections, the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq. When she married Spanish Crown Prince Felipe, she gave up that career.
Nevertheless, she is a departure from long-established traditions. She is the first non-royal to become Queen of Spain. She was also divorced, after a previous marriage to her high school literature teacher.
Felipe’s parents had judged two previous girlfriends inappropriate. This time the son put his foot down, and tied the knot in 2004.
As princess, Spaniards criticised Letizia as appearing distant or cold at public events.
What didn’t people say!? She was ‘ambitious’; many objected to her having surgery on her nose, though she said it was for a respiratory problem.
Talk about her figure and clothes graced the glamour press but a cousin, her former lawyer, paints an explicitly unflattering picture of her in his tell-all book ‘Adios Princesa’.
Now Letizia is 41. Her daughters with Felipe are aged 7 and 8.
She is fiercely protective of Leonor and Sofia, while her own lifestyle, outside her royal responsibilities, has been described as ‘independent’. She goes out with girlfriends, is spotted at film screenings and rock concerts. Spain’s paparazzi have dubbed her the ‘hipster queen’.
Critics say Letizia feels officially ‘on duty’ from around nine to five, compared to her mother-in-law Sofia who has served as queen around the clock, 365 days a year.
Letizia’s popularity slowly rose. Family tragedy played a role. The younger of two sisters, Erika, suffered from depression and committed suicide in 2007. Letizia was seen dressed in black dress, pregnant with her second child, in tears. Spain shared in the emotion.
After Sophia was born, Letizia focused more of her official activities in her chosen fields of children’s rights, culture and education.
She also made a point of supporting Spanish fashion designers. Her own dress sense drew comparisons with the Duchess of Cambridge — another royal who wasn’t born into entitlement.
With the popularity of Spain’s monarchy almost scraping rock bottom, there is also speculation over how well Letizia and Felipe’s marriage is working, and how she will manage what is expected of her. In the meantime, many Spaniards feel that, in the 21st century, kings and queens are obsolete.
Marta Gil, euronews: “The King of Spain, Felipe VI, cannot be disassociated from his Queen Consort, Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano. We’re joined by journalist and writer Pilar Urbano, who has studied the royal family for many years. Can we say that, after ten years as the Princess of Asturias — ten years with the royal family — Letizia is ready to be the first Queen Consort without royal blood?”
Pilar Urbano: “Letizia has had ten years of master’s preparation, plus one year of engagement before Queen Sofia would admit her to the Royal Palace. Her Majesty Queen Sofia told me: ‘I didn’t bring her here so she could learn anything, even though she had learned a bit of protocol and other things, but so that she would open her eyes and ears and see and hear what sort of a family she was getting into, and what kind of life she was going to lead.’ So, she is ready because ten years is a lot longer than a university degree programme or three terms of military duty.”
euronews: “A bit less than a year ago, there was a big fuss surrounding Letizia when pictures were published of her going out at night on her own. Do you think she will still be able to lead the sort of life she did before becoming Queen?”
Urbano: “Well, that going out is a very innocent kind of going out. Either she goes to rock concerts or modern groups, or she goes out with friends or with her husband; she brings him along because he’s a bit of a stay-at-home. She’s not a fairy tale princess, hatched in an antique bubble. She could go on like that, and I think that’s good. Personally, I think what they should do is get out in the street. Queen Sofia also told me they ought to mix with people in the street, where things happen.”
euronews: “Comparing Letizia with Queen Sofia is almost inevitable. Apart from Letizia’s social origins, what else is going to differentiate her from her predecessor in the role?”
Urbano: “Practically everything. It’s good that she’s not just a clone. She’s going to have to break that style, and so will the Prince. This isn’t only relaying things to the next generation, with all that goes with that. It’s passing on a way of living. She’ll have to contribute, as she has done until now, with her identity as a woman — also, being a journalist with her eyes open, interested in what goes on in the world — she has to smash the glass and touch people.”
euronews: “Can we say she’s as much an asset to her husband as she is to the institution of the monarchy or are there differences there?”
Urbano: “I believe that exposing monarchies to the people today is what will allow them to survive. They had become obsolete, they’d passed their expiry date. This injection of red blood cells they really need; I mean all blood’s the same red, but what I mean is an injection of socialisation for the monarchy. It’s practically a safeguard, and we see that all over Europe. Matters of state today aren’t solved between the sheets but in governments and parliaments. Therefore, princes and princesses have the right to choose the wife or husband they like, and to marry for love, which guarantees the stability of the royal couple.”