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

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge 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.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid