Divorced and a seasoned national television journalist, Letizia Ortíz became a princess when she married Prince Felipe – now King Felipe VI – in 2004. When King Juan Carlos abdicated 10 years later, she became the first woman without blue blood to reach the throne of Spain.
After initially being questioned by many, today the media is full of articles and books galore about her, most of which give her approval.
On Thursday, the daily El Mundo ran a front page headline, “Queen Letizia’s Revolution to Modernize the Crown” with the royal correspondent: “She turns 50 at a great time. Even the less pro-monarchy media praise her and glorify her as the savior of the monarchy.”
But Letizia has had to struggle to get there.
From the beginning of her royal life, she has been in the spotlight. Besides possibly Penélope Cruz, no other woman in Spain is talked about anymore, whether it be the way she looks and dresses, her commitment to social causes or any alleged violation of tradition.
“Letizia has always been talked about since she arrived in the monarchy, because she is such an interesting and complex person who overshadows everyone else, including the emeritus king Juan Carlos, when he was king,” said Alberto Lardiés, journalist and author of several books on the Spanish royal family.
Letizia became queen consort at a time when the Spanish monarchy was on a downward spiral after successive scandals involving Juan Carlos and her brother-in-law, Inaki Urdangarín.
It is known that she did not have an easy time adjusting. Juan Carlos is known to have had little time for her due to her background. Letizia soon also distanced herself from Sofia, her predecessor and a model of conformity, as well as much of the rest of what has always been known as a very conservative family.
On one of the most commented-on occasions, Letizia, now queen, was seen having words and getting in the way of Sofia posing with Letizia’s children in the cathedral of Palma de Mallorca in 2018. The reason why wasn’t clear, but her insistence.
Earlier this year, she stood out for not blessing herself like the rest of her immediate family and nearby priests during a televised religious ceremony.
All eyes will now be on Felipe, Letizia, Juan Carlos and Sofía when they appear for Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral on Monday, the first time they will be seen together in a long time.
It was Juan Carlos, once Spain’s most popular figure, who nearly destroyed the monarchy’s reputation on many occasions, most recently when he was named in 2020 in financial investigations along with a one-time lover.
He then left the country and has lived in Abu Dhabi ever since.
And while she’s better known as a progressive feminist rather than a staunch monarchist, Letizia now plays a key role in Felipe’s decision to break new ground and sever ties to the palace’s corrupt past to rule the monarchy. to save.
Lardiés says royal viewers are now saying that Letizia “turns out to be the good one and Juan Carlos wasn’t so good after all.”
Mábel Galaz, palace correspondent of El Pais for three decades and author of “Royal Letizia,” told her newspaper in an interview that a key feature of Letizia’s is that people can identify with her.
“She’s taken the subway, she’s paid a mortgage, she’s had trouble making it to the end of the month, just like the rest of us,” Galaz said. “She knows the monarchy has to reinvent itself and be more ordinary.”
As a princess, she had to perform many official functions and judging by her face, it didn’t always seem to suit her. But when she became queen, she freed herself up to devote time to things that genuinely interest her, such as organizations dealing with cancer and rare diseases, education, culture, and Spain’s international cooperation projects for developing countries.
“She has become an icon,” says Lardiés. “Not at the level of the late Lady Di, but she is considered unique and very different from all the others in Spanish royalty.”
One of the rare times she’s spoken candidly about herself since she became queen came when she revisited her alma mater, the Complutense University of Madrid, last year for the 50th anniversary of the journalism faculty.
In a speech, she told how one of her professors, a little fed up with her, interrupted a class and shouted, “Ortíz, look, I don’t know what’s going to come of your life, of course, but when it comes to being annoying, you have no rival.”
Letizia said he was referring to her questions and curiosity. She said she will continue to ask questions, but will not now reveal the answers they are giving her.
About her age she said:
“The faculty is 50 years old and I’m about to become one, as all of Spain knows¨……. I think 50 years is a good number to keep trying to do things right in the place that corresponds to each of us.”