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Spain’s crown princess turns 18 with gala event as ‘representative of a modern country open to the world’

Lawmakers and dignitaries convened in parliament for a ceremony filled with pageantry in which Leonor de Borbón swore to uphold the Spanish Constitution, paving the way for her future role as queen

Jura Constitucion Princesa Leonor
Princess Leonor (right) swears allegiance to the Spanish Constitution before the Speaker of Congress, Francina Armengol (left), King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.Ballesteros (POOL)

With a full display of institutional pomp, Spain’s top dignitaries gathered Tuesday inside the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies, to ratify the continuity of the country’s constitutional monarchy. Standing before lawmakers, the heads of the executive, the judiciary and the leaders of the armed forces, Leonor de Borbón y Ortiz swore “to keep and uphold the Constitution and the laws.” She also pledged loyalty to her father, King Felipe VI.

“I ask you to place your trust in me, just as I have all my confidence placed in the future of our nation,” she said in a short speech at the Royal Palace after the ceremony in Congress.

On the day that she turned 18, the princess went through the process that allows her to inherit the crown immediately if her father should become unable to fulfill his royal duties. Leonor de Borbón, who is on track to become the first queen of Spain in more than a century and a half, was greeted by the Speaker of Congress, Francina Armengol, who described the young royal as a “worthy representative of a modern country open to the world.”

The military parade after Princess Leonor swore an oath to the Constitution in Madrid, October 31, 2023.
The military parade after Princess Leonor swore an oath to the Constitution in Madrid, October 31, 2023. SUSANA VERA (REUTERS)

All the liturgy and pageantry that accompanies big royal events was rolled out to confer historical solemnity to a procedure encoded in the Constitution and which Spaniards living in democracy had only seen on one other occasion, 37 years ago, when King Felipe, then the crown prince, recited the same oath on his own 18th birthday.

The old Rolls Royce cars that took the royal family to Congress, the military parade, the gigantic canopy displayed at the door of Congress, a chamber specially remodeled for the occasion, a guest gallery with dignitaries that included, among others, four former prime ministers of Spain… from time to time the monarchy needs to display its paraphernalia and rituals, whether at a coronation, a wedding, or in an act like this that symbolizes the continuity of the Bourbon dynasty.

But the day’s absences were almost as notable as the presences. Three ministers from the Socialist government’s minority partner, Irene Montero, Ione Belarra, and Alberto Garzón, shunned the event, as did lawmakers for Catalan, Basque and Galician regional and separatist parties, which are indispensable allies of the governing coalition. The fact that 36 years ago those parties were all there is a sign that the monarchy no longer has the overwhelming support it had until the turn of the century. Further proof of this was the absence of the main person responsible for this disaffection, emeritus king Juan Carlos I, who settled in Abu Dhabi following a series of financial scandals. To make his absence less noticeable, the Royal Household also did not invite his wife, former queen Sofia, to the ceremony in Congress.

The speaker of Congress, a self-confessed republican, strictly adhered to her institutional role and underscored that the oath represents a “public expression of support” for the Spanish Constitution, which was approved by parliament 45 years ago on Tuesday. “Princess Leonor is a worthy representative of this modern country that is open to the world,” said Armengol. “She is a young woman, close to the majority sentiment of her generation.”

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