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
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

Could Nemtsov Threaten Putin in Death as in Life?

Dynamic and debonair opposition leader had supported liberal economic reforms, criticized Russian president's aggression in Ukraine More

Oil Smuggling Highlights Challenges in Shutting Down IS Finances

Pentagon spokesman says Islamic State 'certainly continues to get revenue from the oil industry black market' but that airstrikes have made a dent More

India Focuses on Infrastructure, Investment to Propel Economy

Government expects economy to grow at 8 to 8.5 percent in next fiscal year 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More