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Princess Leonor’s 18th birthday is still being discussed – but why?

Princess Leonor is now officially an adult, and, following the pomp and pageantry of her swearing ceremony, family and friends flocked to El Pardo Palace to celebrate her big milestone. 

And so, on the evening of 31 October 2023, she was joined by King Juan Carlos, who flew specifically for the occasion from Abu Dhabi, Infantas Elena and Cristina, Queen Sofía (who was notably absent from the morning celebrations), Princess Irene, Queen Anne-Marie of Greece, Princess Alexia and her family, as well as members of the Bulgarian and Jordanian royal families. 

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Although the celebrations were strictly private, and it was made clear from the beginning that no pictures would be released of the event, photographers still flocked to the outside of the palace to capture arrivals and departures. And so, reporters could spot that, while both Queen Letizia and Infanta Sofía opted for black, Princess Leonor left behind her custom-made white suit and went with a red cocktail dress. 

This mystery has only added to the Leonormania that swept Spain the days before and immediately after her big birthday. Souvenirs were specifically made to commemorate the occasion, most of which showcased the official portrait that Casa Real released to mark the milestone. 

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A stamp was also created with the same image. Newspapers and magazines are still commenting on the big day, both from a more “frivolous” perspective (clothing choices, special moments) and from a more serious one: what does her reaching adulthood mean for the country, and what was the significance of her choice to celebrate by pronouncing an oath of allegiance to the Constitution and the King in front of a joint session of Congress. 

There is also still ongoing commentary about the most remarkable absences from the public portion of the celebrations: King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía were not present, and neither were several members of the government and Parliament. What that means for the country was an ongoing discussion throughout the entire live stream on the National Television channel RTVE. 

But there is also speculation about the meaning of Queen Sofía’s absence, with many believing that, since Leonor is now an adult, her grandmother will gradually reduce her official agenda to focus on supporting her family: her brother, King Constantine, passed away in January of this year, and it seems clear that Princess Irene is going through some health challenges herself. 

This will, in turn, shine an even brighter spotlight on Princess Leonor and her journey to prepare for the role that awaits her one day. A path that, so far, seems to have made her a favourite of her people.