23rd February 2024
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Three ministers and five political groups snub Princess Leonor’s allegiance ceremony

Princess Leonor, the heir to the Spanish throne, formally stepped into the spotlight by swearing allegiance to the Spanish Constitution on her 18th birthday on Tuesday, a legal milestone on the path to inheriting the crown from her father King Felipe VI.

Boycotts of the ceremony, however, by left-wing, pro-independence and nationalist politicians underlined divisions over the monarchy in Spain.

Her mother Queen Letizia and younger sister Sofia accompanied Felipe as Leonor took the oath. The ceremony in the Spanish Congress marked her ‘coming of age’, meaning she will now directly become queen after her father, assuming he does not go on to have any male children. Now that she has taken the oath, Leonor can legally succeed Felipe and automatically becomes head of state in the event of the monarch’s absence.

The princess, who went to school in Wales and started three years of military training in Spain in August, vowed to uphold the law, respect the rights of citizens and regions and be faithful to the king.

Leonor de Borbón Ortiz used the same oath as her father did when he — then prince — turned 18 in 1986.

‘I swear to faithfully fulfil my duties, to protect and have protected the Constitution and its laws, to respect the rights of citizens and autonomous communities and to be faithful to the king,’ she said.

Loud applause echoed round the parliament in Madrid for several minutes and the king embraced his daughter.

Madrid City Hall set up giant screens in the central Puerta del Sol square for the public to watch a live broadcast of the brief ceremony. There was also a crowd gathered outside parliament amid a sea of Spanish flags, with shouts of ‘Long live Spain’.

Leonor is currently receiving basic military training at an academy in the city of Zaragoza. She speaks English, French, Catalan, and some Arabic.

Little is known about her personality as she has yet to give media interviews. But when she received her high school graduation diploma in Wales earlier this year, her fellow students cheered her on and her tutor praised her ‘unwavering passion for learning, for understanding people, and exploring diverse perspectives’, adding that they would miss her sense of humour.

Most cabinet ministers and regional leaders looked on as she took her oath in a music-filled blaze of pageantry broadcast live on television.

But the acting ministers of social rights, equality and consumer affairsIone Belarra, Irene Montero and Alberto Garzón respectively – all three from the left-wing junior coalition partner Podemos – declined to attend, saying a hereditary and unelected head of state was undemocratic.

Almost all the MPs of the left-wing alliance of Sumar, as well as those of the Catalan parties ERC and JxCat, the Basque groups EH Bildu and PNV, and the Galician BNG, also refused to attend the formal ceremony in the Spanish Congress.

Spain’s acting Prime Minsiter Pedro Sánchez said (see video Tweet below): ‘I want to express, on behalf of the Government of Spain, our most cordial congratulations to Princess Leonor for the commitment she has assumed as heir to the Crown. The Constitution is a promise that our fathers and mothers made. Today, the Princess of Asturias renews and gives more future to that promise on which our co-existence is based. The institutions of a democracy gain their stature not only from their history, but also from their ability to serve the common good, a precept that, I am sure, will guide their path.’

A 2022 poll by Sinaptica found that 51.6% of Spaniards wanted the country to become a republic while 34.6% preferred a monarchy, although another poll a year earlier showed 55.3% supporting the crown.

The state-run Centre for Sociological Studies stopped asking citizens to rate the monarch in 2015, a year after Felipe VI acceded to the throne following the abdication of his scandal-ridden father, Juan Carlos I. Those surveyed then gave Felipe VI an average score of 4.34 out of ten.

Juan Carlos also did not attend Tuesday’s ceremony. He left Spain in 2020 amid investigations into alleged financial irregularities related to business deals in Saudi Arabia, and now lives in Abu Dhabi. Spanish media reported that Juan Carlos would attend a private party at the El Pardo palace near Madrid after Leonor’s ceremony, the first formal royal family gathering he will attend since going into exile.

The investigations against him were finally dropped due to insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations. Juan Carlos has declined to comment on the various allegations of wrongdoing.

Opponents of the monarchy see Juan Carlos’ coronation in 1975 as illegitimate, saying he had been groomed to succeed dictator Francisco Franco.

Those defending it say Spaniards were able to choose the form of state when they voted for the 1978 Constitution, enshrining a parliamentary monarchy they describe as symbolic and apolitical.

When Juan Carlos came to the throne in 1975 following Franco’s death, he was widely respected for his role in helping guide Spain from dictatorship to democracy. But the steady flow of embarrassing stories about his love life and personal wealth eroded his standing.

Click here for all our reports on the Spanish Monarchy.

ALSO READ: Spain’s Crown Princess Leonor to start three years of military training.

ALSO READ: What can Leonor, Princess of Asturias, expect at her new college in Wales?

ALSO READ: RTVE regrets ‘Leonor leaving Spain, like her grandfather’ headline – for new school in Wales.

ALSO READ: UK judge throws out harassment case against Spain’s disgraced former king.

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