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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Infanta Leonor of Spain: The youngest Heir-Presumptive

Important note: Spain is one of the three remaining royal houses in Europe that has not yet adopted the absolute law on succession, therefore, Infanta Leonor, the eldest daughter of Felipe, Prince of Asturias, who would become King Felipe VI of Spain upon his accession, would never be called heir-apparent and Princess of Asturias.
 Infanta Leonor of Spain 
At 8 years old, she is the youngest heir-presumptive in the European royal court in modern times.
She would not be called Princess of Asturias when her father, Prince Felipe, ascend the Spanish throne later this month because the country has not yet adopted the Absolute Law on Succession, a law that guarantees a sovereign's eldest daughter to succeed without being pushed aside by a younger brother in the line of succession

Infanta Leonor with her sister, Infanta Sofia

After months of intense speculation on whether he would abdicate, finally, on June 2, 2014, the once much adored King of Spain, Juan Carlos, renounced the  crown he had been wearing for nearly 39 years. In his abdication speech, the King recognized the needed change in the monarchy to allow younger generation of royals to take center stage and unite the nation. His successor is his only son, Felipe, Prince of Asturias.

The King of Spain, grown tired and frail due to poor health condition, yielded to media pressures after years of enduring controversies due to the long-running corruption scandal supposedly committed by his son-in-law, Iñaki, Urdanganin, husband of his youngest daughter, Princess Cristina, the Duchess of Palma de Mallorca. In addition, the King of Spain has long been battling several illnesses which made him to undergo surgical procedures more than nine times in just two years.

Upon his abdication, the center of public attention geared towards his son's future reign as Spanish monarch. Most of the Spanish subjects have high hopes on Felipe that he could help restore the prestige of the crown tarnished by scandals.

 Three generations: King Juan Carlos, Prince Felipe and Infanta Leonor

Along with this attention came the innocent face of Felipe's eldest daughter, Infanta Leonor (Infanta is a Spanish term for Princess). The cherubic young royal is only eight years old, born on October 31, 2005, but now would be thrust to the public eye due to her father’s sudden ascent to the throne. Her mother, Letezia, is a  former TV news anchor and would be the first commoner to become a Spanish Queen Consort.

Infanta Leonor and her younger sister, Infanta Sofia, have been largely kept out from the public by their parents. Except for official photo calls and when the family is holidaying, the two royal tots remained in the background. 

The royal couple and their daughters.
The Prince and Princess of Asturias, Infanta Sofia and Infanta Leonor

In an effort to raise them normally away from the rigid royal protocol, the Prince and Princess of Asturias allowed their daughters to attend a public school like commoners to enjoy the company of other children and to experience the life outside the palace walls.

Infanta Leonor attended Santa Maria de los Rosales School in Madrid since 2008 where she takes classes in Chinese and English.

As her father prepares to take the throne as King Felipe VI later this month, debates on Infanta Leonor's future started to surface in public. Is  she an heir-presumptive or heir-apparent? The very obvious answer is of course the former. Spain still adopts the male-preference primogeniture law on succession which only guarantees an eldest son of the sovereign to take over the throne.

It is not known however if Spain would switch laws in later years. If the country retains the male-preference primogeniture law on succession then Infanta Leonor will only be heir-presumptive and can only inherit the throne if her parents would not produce a son. She could not take the Princess of Asturias title as this is reserve to a wife of a Prince of Asturias unless she would become the heir-apparent.

This is similar to the situation of Queen Elizabeth II of Britain in 1936. When her father, the then Prince Bertie, the Duke of York, ascended the British throne as King George VI, she has no brothers, but she was only heir-presumptive and could not take the title Princess of Wales as this is reserve to a wife of the Prince of Wales, the heir-apparent to the British throne. Elizabeth remained Princess of Britain until she married in 1947 to Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and took the title Duchess of Edinburgh.

Whether Infanta Leonor would really be the next Queen regnant of Spain, that depends on the succeeding circumstances in the Spanish constitutional law.

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