It has been almost three months since a new monarch occupied the throne of Spain. King Juan Carlos I, who was Spain’s Head of State for 38 years, abdicated in June 2014 and two weeks later his son, Felipe ascended to the throne as Felipe IV. Subsequently, the spouse of Felipe IV, Letizia became Queen of Spain and one of the most observed women in the country.
Reasons of the change on the throne of Spain
2, June 2014 the Prime Minister of Spain, Mariano Rajoy announced that King Juan Carlos I decided to put an end to his function. The news caused general consternation, although rumors about the abdication had circulated for several months.
Indeed, since 2011 Spanish monarchy suffered from a significant image crisis, called by the Spanish media Annus Horriblis (Horrible year). This critically undermined the position of the Crown on the public stage and caused a spectacular fall in public support for the Crown which until 2010 was the best valued political institution in Spain.
As a prelude to the crisis, in the end 2010 Spanish newspapers started to disclose information proving that Iñaki Urgandarin, husband of Infant Cristina (youngest daughter of the Kings), was implicated in corruption affairs. Although at that moment the royal son-in-law was not officially charged, the public opinion started to question the budget allowed by the State to the Royal Household. The Spaniards, struggling with effects of the crisis, such as a high unemployment and a drop in the purchasing power, expressed their discontent about the opaque way of informing about expenses of the Royal Household.
A real bomb fell in April, 2012 when injured and accused of infidelity to his wife King Juan Carlos I came back to Spain from a safari in Botswana. The image of the royal couple tarnished and a question appeared: do we really need the Monarchy? Spanish media, which until recently protected the image of the King and the Royal Household, published new information about problems within the Bourbon’s family. Almost every month they informed about various misconducts: a firearm accident of a 13-year-old grandson of the Kings, prolonged health problems of the Monarch, altercation within the Royal Family… The difficulty to deal with the image crisis was increasingly visible and appeared without any plausible solution.
The ascension to the throne of Felipe was thus a strategic move to restore the positive image of the Crown of Spain. The young Prince had never authored a scandal and enjoyed an important public trust. Queen Letizia, the new consort of Spain also obtained a warm welcome, however the situation was not always rosy. When in 2003, Prince Felipe announced his engagement to Letizia Ortiz, Spanish society gets polarized. One part admired her as a successful journalist and TV presenter and saw in her a probable catalyst for modernization of the Crown. The other part criticized her plebeian roots and civil status of a divorced woman, unsuitable, according to them, for a future queen of Spain. Nevertheless, progressively Letizia started to gain public approval showing her professionalism and devotion to her husband and the Crown. Not only she was very active on the institutional stage, regularly accompanying the prince in his public activities, but also she became his best councilor. Letizia started by helping the Prince in improving his ability in public speech, and progressively extended her influence from a simple couching in the image managing to a genuine political advising. The ultimate proof of the strong influence of this daughter of a left trade unionist could be seen in the inauguration speech of Felipe VI in the Spanish Parliament in which the young King clearly demonstrated that he was closer than his father to preoccupations of the street.
The first commoner-born Queen – image crisis manager
Nevertheless, the role of the royal adviser is not the only role assigned to the young Queen. Since her first public appearance as the fiancée of Prince Felipe, Queen Letizia has always attracted a great media interest. This image if well used can be of strategic importance for the Royal Household as to warm the image of the institution because the young Consort is not only beautiful, but also very down-to-earth. This public image contrasts with that of other members of the Royal Family but resembles more to young urban professionals and gives a greater opportunity to embody normality and proximity that the renewed Monarchy is seeking to reflect.
The gossip press as well as general information dailies cover that Queen Letizia likes to shop in popular retail chains, watches movies in a Madrilenian cinema and goes to zumba classes with her friends. Her rock attitude (she goes to rock concerts and is fan of the group “The Killers”) has already generated several articles in the press. To sum up, she is a complete opposition of her mother-in-law, Queen Sofia, much more discreet and traditional. And Spanish spin doctors seem to agree that despite the high popularity of her predecessor, Queen Letizia should cut with the model of monarchy incarnated by her mother-in-law and follow her own path of modernity, much closer to demands and expectations of young Spaniards toward the Crown.
During the last three months the press coverage of the Queen has been quite disappointing. She was framed over all in her role of a fashion icon and was criticized because her style appeared not to be suited for a Queen. A pair of jeans she wore during a date night with her husband created a lot of fuss. Her dislike toward jewerly was also a reason for critics. All the spotlight was put on her appearance, being without any genuine public interest. Nevertheless, in the beginning of her husband’s rule, Queen Letizia showed that she was able to impact the Crown. On 24, June the Kings invited to the Prado Palace representatives of Spanish NGO’s. For the first time, members of LGBT movements were invited by the Royal Household. It is said that Queen Letizia concentrated all her attention on them.