Felipe VI, Modern King of New Era

Published: 30. 6. 2020
Author: Silvia Mária Petrovits
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British royal family resonates most often of all in the media, while other - very interesting royal families, are mentioned mostly in connection with political events in their countries or abroad.

The Spanish Royal House is one of them, which rules in a country with a centuries-old monarchist tradition. The Kingdom of Spain was founded in 1479 by the union of Castile and Aragon. In the 1870s, the monarchy was replaced for a short time by the first Republic of Spain. Then, for a longer period, the monarchist establishment was replaced by the second Republic of Spain due to a civil war and subsequently, by the French regime (1939-1975).

The Spanish royal family comes from the branch of King Philip V, the member of the French rulers' House of Bourbon, who received the Spanish crown in 1700 after the death of Charles II, the last Spanish King of the Spanish Habsburg family. Fears of the European powers that France and Spain could unite brought about a war over the Spanish heritage. By the Utrecht Peace in 1713, England, the Habsburg Monarchy, Savoy, the Netherlands and Portugal recognized Philip V as King of Spain on condition that Spain would never unite with France. As a result of the situation in the country after the First World War, the subsequent civil war and changes in the state system, the royal family left their homeland. The restoration of the monarchy in Spain took place in 1975. The Bourbon-Anjou dynasty took the Spanish throne again, represented by King Juan Carlos.


He Abandoned the Traditional Coronation

In 2014, King Juan Carlos I announced his abdication after almost four decades. His only son Felipe took the Spanish throne on 19th June 2014, becoming the youngest of contemporary European monarchs at the age of 46. Compared to coronations we were used to seeing with other Kings and Queens, this one wasn't conducted as a church act in the case of this King, who was recognized a King by the Parliament. The ceremony of taking the oath took place before the representatives of the two chambers of the parliament, the government, the heads of state institutions and foreign representatives, in the presence of Queen Letizia, both daughters Leonor and Sophie, his mother and former Queen Sophia, and Felipe's sister Elena. Neither the former King Juan Carlos nor foreign aristocrats took part in the oath taking ceremony.


Not only to Represent

Felipe, the only son of King Juan Carlos and the Greco-Danish princess and Spanish Queen Sophia, had conscientiously prepared himself for his royal duties since his youth. He graduated from high school in Canada, studied law and economics in Madrid and international relations at Georgetown University in Washington. He also completed military education - in the infantry, in the navy and in the aviation. After his accession to the throne, he was awarded the rank of captain and commander-in-chief of Spain's land, naval and air forces. Even as Crown Prince, he played a very active role in promoting Spain's economic, commercial and cultural interests abroad during his many official visits to European countries, Latin America except Cuba, the Arab world, the Far East and Australia.

King Felipe VI became the ruler after his father's abdication just at the time when the Spanish society was shaken by the Catalans' efforts for secession, economic problems, high unemployment and the scandals that tainted the reputation of the royal family and the former King. Already at his accession to the royal throne, it was obvious that Felipe VI, like his father, would promote transparency and progressivism in politics, and would not only take on the monarch's representative role, presiding over the Council of Ministers or engaging in, for instance, philanthropy. It was also evident that the new King of Spain would be actively interested in what was happening in the country, taking part in addressing the problems, even though under the constitution, the King had no political responsibility and his acts are not of any validity without counter-signification of the responsible member of government.

After the coronation, the royal couple had to struggle for the favour of the people, especially the young generation, who, as a result of the problems, began to be sceptical about the monarchy. Felipe VI, despite being a Roman Catholic, "filtered out" the influence of religion also by allowing the people of the country to take an oath without a cross or a bible. In addition, the royal couple was the first in the country's history to receive Spanish representatives from the LGBT community.


King of All in Difficult Times

In addition to the economic crisis, the young Spanish King had to deal with an internal political crisis that broke out after the parliamentary election in December 2015. The country found itself in a deadlock after none of the political parties gained enough seats to form a government and agreements between various parties could not be reached. After months of discussions of the King with various party representatives, the King dissolved the parliament by decree and announced new elections. Spain had found itself more than once in such a deadlock situation in the last four years and last time in was last year.

The most pressing problem for the young King was the attitude to the Catalan separatists. During his reign in 2015, the separatist parties had a majority in the Catalan Parliament. In autumn 2017, the Catalan Parliament passed a resolution on independence. In a referendum, according to local authorities, 90 percent of voters voted for the secession of Catalonia, which lead to a declaration of its short-term independence. Felipe VI did not comment directly on the ongoing trial of Catalan separatists and activists, but condemned the protest rallies and general strike, as he considered it unacceptable to advert to a democracy above the law. "Without respecting the law, there is neither peaceful coexistence nor democracy, but uncertainty, randomness and ultimately the collapse of the moral and civil principles of the society," he said. However, the King failed to initiate any dialogue between the Spanish and Catalan governments, which made some Spaniards believe that he did not fulfil his role of being the "King of All". His government was also hit by terrorist attacks in Barcelona and Cambrils, where 16 people were killed. King Felipe took part in the reverent assembly as well as in the great demonstration that were to show Spain's unity in the fight against terrorism.

Five years after the accession to the throne, King Felipe VI became a target of criticism for many Spaniards who thought he failed in many ways and distanced the monarchy from ordinary Spaniards. Nevertheless, he acts as a uniting personality in his country. In addition to the King's duties, King Felipe IV does not neglect his family, charity or hobbies. He is an honorary chairman of several associations and foundations; he is interested in the environment protection, sports and yachting.


Ninth Richest Royal Family in Europe

The Spanish royal couple and their daughters enjoy enormous popularity. The poorer population, however, disapproves of the royal palace budget. The annual salary of the members of the royal family and the costs of the palace cost Spanish taxpayers several million euros. The fixed annual wage was set for the first time by the former King Juan Carlos in February 2014. The King earned EUR 293,000 and the then Crown Prince Felipe EUR 146,000. The total budget of the royal family was EUR 7.8 million in 2014. The budget did not include travel expenses, security measures or building maintenance. As a result of the economic recession and rising unemployment, King Felipe decided to cut his annual salary by 20% in February 2015, but according to Business Insider, he is ranked ninth among Europe's richest monarchs with annual revenue of USD 267,447 and estimated assets of about 20 million USD.


King Felipe, Queen Letizia, Queen Sofia and Princess Sofia and Leonor at Palma de Mallorca Cathedral.

Future Queen

King Felipe and with his wife, a former TVE journalist, Queen Letizia, devote themselves to their two daughters, the successor infanta Leonor, Princess of Asturias, of Girona and Viana, and the younger infanta Sophia. The Spanish royal family guards their privacy, so both infantas have not been growing up under the scrutiny of the media. However, the public would like to get to know the future Queen, as under the Spanish Constitution of 1978, the successor rule of primogeniture applies. The older of the King's daughters, Leonor, is already diligently preparing for the role of the future Queen. As she has been appearing more frequently at official events since 2014, her speeches received great acclaim in October 2019 when the Prize of the Princess of Asturias was presented and in November 2019 at the Princess of Girona Foundation Awards in Barcelona, ​​Catalonia. In addition to Castilian Spanish, she gave her speech, as the local media praised, in perfect Catalan, for which she earned recognition. She was applauded by the audience in the congress hall after saying that "Catalonia will always have a special place in my heart". The Asturian princess is growing into a glamorous beauty who knows how to behave and it will be very interesting to see how she prepares for her royal duties.



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