News / Europe

King-to-be Felipe, a New Face for Spain's Beleaguered Monarchy

FILE - Spain's Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia smile as they attend the inauguration of  the "Palmetum" botanic park in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, Jan. 28, 2014.
FILE - Spain's Crown Prince Felipe and Princess Letizia smile as they attend the inauguration of the "Palmetum" botanic park in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, on the Spanish Canary Island of Tenerife, Jan. 28, 2014.
Reuters
Spain's next king, Felipe VI, strikes a low key contrast to his extrovert father, which could help him restore popularity to a monarchy battered by scandal.
 
The 46-year-old, married to a former TV news anchor, has not been implicated in the allegations of royal extravagance and corruption that tarnished the last years of the reign of his father Juan Carlos.
 
But the legacy of the 39-year reign of the once beloved king hangs over him and Spain no longer needs the monarchy for political stability as it did when his father took on the role to oversee the transition from dictatorship to democracy.

 
Spain's King Juan Carlos (L) hands over a letter of abdication to Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid.Spain's King Juan Carlos (L) hands over a letter of abdication to Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid.
x
Spain's King Juan Carlos (L) hands over a letter of abdication to Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid.
Spain's King Juan Carlos (L) hands over a letter of abdication to Spain's Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy at the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid.
Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy announced Juan Carlos's planned abdication on Monday, saying Prince Felipe was well prepared to take over.
 
“His preparation, his character and the wide range of experience he has been acquiring in public affairs over the last 20 years are a solid guarantee that he will be able to carry out his role,” said Rajoy.
 
A royal source said the transition was for political reasons. A wave of scandals has eroded the royal family's credibility, leaving it looking decadent and out of step with a nation which has suffered a prolonged economic crisis.
 
Felipe is very different from his extravagant 76-year-old father Juan Carlos I and, while friendly in public, prefers an understated lifestyle.
 
That may help clean up the royal image if the palace is capable of assimilating a level of scrutiny unknown before the  age of online social networks.
 
The prince has not been tarnished by a corruption investigation involving his brother-in-law, Inaki Urdangarin, and a poll earlier this year showed 66 percent of Spaniards view him in a positive light.
 
But support for the monarchy has fallen and the privileged lifestyle of the royals has irked many Spaniards struggling to make ends meet.

Spain's King Juan Carlos
 
  • Spain's King Juan Carlos smiles in one of his latest audiences at the Zarzuela Palace outside Madrid, May 27, 2014.
  • In this photo released by the Royal Palace, Spain's King Juan Carlos signs a document in the Zarzuela Palace opening the way for his abdication, June 2, 2014.
  • Spain's King Juan Carlos, his son Crown Prince Felipe and granddaughter Infanta Leonor pose at Zarzuela Palace in Madrid, July 26, 2012.
  • Spain's King Juan Carlos kisses the ring of Pope Benedict next to Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero at Madrid's Barajas airport, August 18, 2011.
  • Spanish King Juan Carlos drinks wine out of a large traditional glass of Germany's Rhineland-Palatinate area during a visit in Deidesheim, Germany, July 17, 1997.
  • Spain's Princess Elena waves to the crowds as she is escorted by her father King Juan Carlos to the altar of Seville's cathedral on March 18, 1995.
  • King Juan Carlos of Spain is thrown into a swimming pool after winning the King's Cup Yacht Race in Palma de Mallorca, August 8, 1993.
  • Former Spanish dictator General Francisco Franco salutes beside his wife Carmen Polo, the then Prince Juan Carlos of Spain and his wife Princess Sofia as they listen to the national anthem during a ceremony at El Pardo Palace, Oct. 4, 1975.

Felipe Juan Pablo y Alfonso de Todos los Santos de Borbon y de Grecia - his full name - lacks the “common touch” of his father, famous for giving bear hugs. But he is far more at ease with people than the British royal family.
 
“Felipe is grounded, well-informed, has good judgment but will follow advice” says Bieito Rubido, editor of monarchist century-old newspaper ABC.
 
“And something which is very important in Spain - he's not earthy but he does know how to connect with people.”
 
The soon-to-be-crowned king has led a low-key private life with his commoner wife, a divorcee former journalist, and two daughters, often seen at a cinema in central Madrid or taking his daughters to school.
 
Royal observers think his lifestyle is informed by both his natural character and his awareness of the times.
 
“Felipe will have to earn his place in the public's affection starting from a low point, no small task,” said a veteran politician who did not want to be named.
 
He has taken pains to position himself as a believer in public service rather than one of the easy-living monarchs of the past.
 
“The current economic crisis... requires serious reflection as to how the collective spirit can... recover values that have, in recent times, gone astray,” Felipe said in a 2012 speech, referring to “generosity, integrity, effort and excellence.”
 
No job security? 

The Prince has had a lifetime's training for a position which has changed dramatically since dictator Francisco Franco designated Juan Carlos as his successor and put him on the throne, from where he oversaw the dark years of the transition to democracy.
 
But the role has undergone another huge shift in the past five years as an economic crisis brought free-spending Spain to a grinding halt and now more than one in four are unemployed.
 
Two thirds of Spaniards thought Juan Carlos should step down in favor of his son, according to a poll in newspaper El Mundo in January 2014, and most of those polled said the monarchy could recover its prestige if Felipe took the throne.
 
The royal source said that was when the king took the decision to abdicate, delaying the announcement so that it did not impact on the European Union elections held late last month.
 
Younger Spaniards are increasingly republican, and a poll at the start of 2013 showed 57.8 percent of young people rejected the monarchy.
 
The younger brother of the Princesses Elena and Cristina, Felipe was educated at a middle class day school close to his parent's residence in Madrid. His daughters, Leonor and Sofia, now both attend the same school.
 
Keen on sport, particularly sailing, he went to university in his home city and like most of Spain's ruling class studied law. He completed military training and then headed to Georgetown, Washington to study international relations.
 
The 6 feet 5 inches (1.97 m) tall prince was regarded as a playboy in his twenties. Two of his girlfriends were rejected by his parents as inappropriate partners, one because she had been an underwear model.
 
Felipe's greatest rebellion was to refuse to back down when his parents objected to him marrying Letizia Ortiz, a divorcee TV presenter whose grandfather worked as a taxi driver.
 
It may be proof that he has inherited something of his mother Queen Sofia's iron will.
 
He married Letizia in 2004 and some royal observers believe his choice was key to the survival of the monarchy. But since then the princess has reaped criticism for wanting to ring-fence her private life.
 
In an era when job security, perhaps even for the prince, is a thing of the past, the success of the monarchy will lie in Felipe's ability to convince younger Spaniards that the royal stipend can be justified.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces a Chaotic World and the Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid