Spain’s Princess Leonor swears allegiance to divided nation on her 18th birthday

By David Latona

MADRID (Reuters) – Princess Leonor, the heir to Spain’s throne, formally stepped into the spotlight by swearing allegiance to the constitution on her 18th birthday on Tuesday, though boycotts by leftist and separatist politicians underlined divisions over the monarchy.

The ceremony in parliament marked her coming of age, meaning she will now directly become queen after her father King Felipe VI, assuming he does not go on to have any male children.

The princess, who went to school in Wales and started three years of military training in Spain in August, vowed to uphold the law, respect the rights of citizens and regions and be faithful to the king.

Most cabinet ministers and regional leaders looked on as she paraded into parliament and took her oath in a music-filled blaze of pageantry broadcast live on television.

But the acting ministers of equality, social rights and consumer affairs – all three from the left-wing junior coalition partner Unidas Podemos – declined to attend, saying an hereditary and unelected head of state was undemocratic.

Lawmakers from movements calling for the independence of Catalonia, the Basque Country and Galicia also stayed away.

A 2022 poll by Sinaptica found that 51.6% of Spaniards wanted the country to become a republic while 34.6% preferred a monarchy, although another poll a year earlier showed 55.3% supporting the crown.

The state-run Centre for Sociological Studies stopped asking citizens to rate the monarch in 2015, a year after Felipe VI acceded to the throne following the abdication of his scandal-ridden father, Juan Carlos I. Those surveyed then gave Felipe VI an average score of 4.34 out of ten.

Juan Carlos also did not attend Tuesday’s ceremony. He left Spain in 2020 amid investigations into alleged financial irregularities related to business deals in Saudi Arabia, and now lives in Abu Dhabi.

The investigations were later dropped due to insufficient evidence and the statute of limitations. Juan Carlos has declined to comment on the various allegations of wrongdoing.

Opponents of the monarchy see Juan Carlos’ coronation in 1975 as illegitimate, saying he had been groomed to succeed dictator Francisco Franco.

Those defending it say Spaniards were able to choose the form of state when they voted for the 1978 constitution enshrining a parliamentary monarchy they describe as symbolic and apolitical.

(Reporting by David Latona; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Andrew Heavens)