'Leonormania': can the princess revive Spain's royal family?

The future queen's 18th birthday has seen her in spotlight for the first time

Princess Leonor of Spain
Princess Leonor attended a ceremony this week committing herself as future queen of Spain
(Image credit: Juan Naharro Gimenez/Getty Images)

After turning 18 on Tuesday Princess Leonor completed a ceremonial commitment to become Spain's future queen. 

The royal household is hoping its "Generation Z princess", can "strengthen support for the monarchy among young people" as well as "dispel the cloud of scandal" hanging over it, said Graham Keeley at the i news site.

Spain has "been gripped by 'Leonormania'", Keeley added in a piece in the Independent, and "appears to have won over" a "sceptical" nation that under 100 years ago "voted to rid Spain of its kings and queens".

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Princess Leonor's 18th birthday has thrust her "into the spotlight" and marks the beginning of her life as a "very public figure" after years of "having her image carefully shielded", wrote Guy Hedgecoe at the BBC. But questions remain about the exact "role she will play as an adult royal".

'Plan to create the perfect queen'

Leonor's transition into an adult royal “has gone smoothly”, added Hedgecoe, and since she graduated from the UWC Atlantic school in Wales, the media in Spain has “closely followed” her basic army training and the officer's course she began this year.

The "surge in her popularity" has raised questions, however, about whether the "princess is simply blessed with natural charm" or whether she has been "part of a plan to create the perfect queen", said Laura Llach at Euronews.

Set to become Spain's first queen in the modern era of the monarchy, she will eventually succeed her father King Felipe VI, whom she has already surpassed as "the most popular member of the royal family".

That rapid increase in popularity could be due to being "out of the limelight for so many years", added Llach, with the "lack of knowledge" about her meaning "now everyone wants to know who she is".

As Leonor begins her role as an adult royal, so too will she have to take on the "less solemn role as a figure orbiting Spain's celebrity universe", wrote Hedgecoe. Already there have been "rumours that she was romantically linked" with Spanish footballer Gavi, which "turned out to be false", as well as headlines about "the Bulgari earrings that Leonor had worn" to an awards ceremony. The growing media coverage has "highlighted the appetite in some quarters for the princess to be a part of pop culture", added Hedgecoe.

'The spectre of her grandfather'

Leonor's increasing prominence comes after years of scandal that have beset the Spanish royals. She has a "big challenge on her hands" to try and "restore its image", wrote Keeley, particularly while the "spectre" of her grandfather, former King Juan Carlos, "still hangs over the monarchy".

Juan Carlos, 85, who was handed power by former dictator General Francisco Franco in 1975, abdicated the throne in 2014 and left Spain in 2020 to live in exile in Abu Dhabi "amid a cloud of financial scandals", said Ciarán Giles in The Washington Post. While Leonor's parents Felipe and Letizia have "recovered a lot of the institution's good image", for much of the public the role of the monarchy is "still questioned". The princess has been "groomed by her father and mother" to be ready to take on the polarising role of the queen in the future, but public opinion on the monarchy is "difficult to gauge" given Spain's leading polling body "stopped asking Spaniards what they think of the royals in 2015 amid the myriad scandals".

She may face an increasingly tough challenge to unite the Spanish public behind the monarchy as "support for a republic rises among left-wingers", said Keeley. A number of far-left politicians snubbed Leonor's parliamentary ceremony this week, a reminder that "despite all the fanfare, Spain is not a nation of traditional monarchists".

While Spain may be currently experiencing 'Leonormania', it "remains to be seen", concluded Keeley, whether "the appeal of the 'Pop Princess' can win over the Spaniards".

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