Spain’s Princess Leonor starts military academy with ‘excitement and nerves’

By Vincent West

ZARAGOZA (Reuters) – Spain’s Princess Leonor, the heir presumptive to Spain’s throne and anticipated future commander-in-chief of its armed forces, began three years of military training on Thursday, expressing a mixture of excitement and nervousness.

King Felipe VI’s eldest daughter, who turns 18 in October, arrived at the Army Military Academy in Zaragoza shortly after midday, accompanied by her parents, King Felipe and Queen Letizia, and her sister, Sofia.

She told reporters she was facing the year “with great enthusiasm”, but admitted also feeling “a little nervous”.

The princess will spend a year at Zaragoza’s military academy, then go to a naval school where she will sail the Juan Sebastian de Elcano, a four masted schooner used by the Spanish navy for training, and finish her studies at the General Air Academy.

Announcing Leonor’s military training in March, Spain’s Defence Minister Margarita Robles, said Leonor was one of many young women now signing up to the armed forces.

“In due course, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces will be a woman, and in recent years we have been making a very important effort to incorporate women into the armed forces,” Robles said.

The Spanish monarchy is working to repair its image after a series of scandals over the past decade, mainly linked to former king Juan Carlos who abdicated in 2014 in favour of his son.

The government and the Royal House have agreed Leonor’s “very intense” military training will precede her university studies, following in the footsteps of her father in the 1980s.

Speaking to the media outside the academy, the king said: “It is Leonor’s turn now, it is exciting, we support her a lot. The first days are going to be hard, but she will pass them with effort and patience.”

Leonor, who recently finished a two-year stint at the private UWC Atlantic College in Wales, is first in the line of succession, unless a male heir is born, followed by her sister Sofia.

(Reporting by Vincent West, writing by Elena Rodriguez and Aislinn Laing, editing by Christina Fincher)