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Emotional day for Spain’s future queen as she takes important oath before proud father King Felipe

The future queen of Spain has made an important promise with her father, King Felipe, looking on and his pride in his daughter was clear to see.

After joining the 68th class of cadets paying homage to the Pilar Virgin in an evening service on October 6th 2023, the General Military Academy in Zaragoza woke up the following morning decorated for a big celebration. 

The religious ceremony took place in the Zaragoza Cathedral, where all cadets walked to be presented in front of the Pilar Virgin, considered the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in Zaragoza, and the patron saint of the academy. After the service, cadets were allowed to be reunited with the family members who were waiting for them outside the church. 

On the morning of October 7th 2023, Princess Leonor was among the 411 cadets who swore their allegiance to the Spanish flag in a moving and solemn ceremony in the main court of the institution. 

The ceremony was attended by King Felipe who was not only present as the Chief of the Armed Forces , but also as father of one of the cadets. Queen Letizia also beamed with pride as the ceremony unfolded.

The court of the academy started filling up with students and relatives around 11 a.m. when the doors opened for the first members of the public to access the stands prepared for them. 

Roughly 20 minutes later, the cadets made their way into the court; first and second year on one side, third and fourth on the opposite one. They were recognisable by the colour of the feathers on their hat: as the military commentator for RTVE explained, students in 1st and 2nd year wear red feathers, while 3rd and 4th year students, as well as officers, wear white ones. 

The military commentator was a special choice that the Spanish national television made: not only has he been a professor at the General Military Academy until 2021, but he was also among the cadets who attended military training with then-Prince Felipe, 38 years ago. 

As planned, King Felipe and Queen Letizia reached the academy, and after receiving the salute of the state, local and military authorities, they entered the court, officially kickstarting the ceremony. 

After the King received the highest degree of military honours (including 21 gun salutes shot during the national anthem), he reviewed the troops aligned on the two sides of the red carpet, before taking his place in the royal stand. 

The Director of the Academy, General Manuel Pérez López, then used a microphone to ask the cadets the swearing question: “Gentlemen and Lady Cadets, do you swear or promise, on your conscience and honour, to loyally carry out your military duties, to observe and make others observe the Constitution as the State’s fundamental norm, to obey and respect the King and your superiors, to never abandon them, and, if so required, to give your life for Spain?” to which they all responded in unison: “Yes, we swear.”

Then, the entire court fell silent, as the most emotional moment of the ceremony began: the speaker announced that Princess Leonor would present herself in front of the flag for the swearing, which consists of each cadet removing their headpiece, and kissing the corner of the flag that is presented to them. 

But while the rest of the cadets paraded in an orderly line one by one, Princess Leonor got to do it by herself, marching in front of the flag under the watchful eye of her parents. The public and her fellow cadets applauded once she made her way back to her designated spot, while Queen Letizia couldn’t stop smiling and exchanging proud glances with her husband.

Then, after the single line of kisses got to the end, once again, the cadets marched in front of the flag, this time in lines of three, and lowered their heads as they passed the insignia. The flag itself is a historic piece, designed in 1886 on the orders of Queen Maria Cristina of Habsburg, the widow of King Alfonso XII. 

The uniform they wore also has a special family connection: as we see it today, the ensemble of red trousers, navy blue tunic and grey hat with feathers was debuted by King Felipe during his own swearing ceremony. 

After the parade in front of the flag, it was time for speeches, which were offered by the Director of the academy, who praised the cadets for their dedication, the parents for supporting them in this journey, and thanked the King and the Princess for making a day that is special for every round of cadets even more special with their presence. 

King Felipe then offered a few words, and remembered his own swearing ceremony in 1985, before offering encouraging words to the cadets and their families. He concluded his speech with empowering words for his daughter: “Leonor, remember that the engagement you took carries the utmost responsibility towards Spain. You know well, as Hereditary Princess, that the Crown symbolises its unity and its durability. […] I know that you will always keep in mind that your responsibility, in any circumstance and at all times, is to serve Spain with all of your energy and determination, with true passion.”

The entire court then fell silent once again, as cadets, students, family members and authorities paid their respects to those who gave their lives for Spain, and a laurel wreath was carried by two students at the feet of the commemorative pillar that sits on one side of the patio. 

The students and cadets then sang the anthem of the academy and recited the 1st article of the Cadets’ Decalogue, before the entire patio was moved to the street in front of the academy for a quick parade in a straight line that marked the end of the formal part of the day for all cadets and students. They were then allowed to join their families to celebrate however they saw fit. 

The Royal House also released information and images of the signing of the Honour Book of the Academy by Princess Leonor, which happened after the ceremony, in the presence of just King Felipe and the director of the academy. In it, she commemorated the events of the day: “Today, 7th of October 2023, I swore in front of the Spanish flag in the General Military Academy. And it’s a day that I will remember forever because of its profound and special significance. And it will accompany me for the rest of my life. I feel grateful for my teachers, chiefs and fellow cadets. Their example and guidance are values that I receive with humility and that I will honour with my best courage. With my affection, Leonor.”

Today’s ceremony respected tradition in the Spanish Royal Family, but it was also a first in some aspects. Contrary to everyone before her, Princess Leonor took part in the ceremony with the rest of her class; this was not the case for her father, whose swearing ceremony was actually a solo affair. This is because the recruitment system changed in the early 2000s when military service became no longer mandatory. If before you entered the academy as an “aspiring cadet” and therefore had roughly five months of preparation needed to become a cadet, now the multiple rounds of entrance tests do the selecting beforehand, and therefore pupils enter the academy already holding the title of “Cadet.”

However, this doesn’t mean that she is a cadet like everyone else; because she will have to undertake training in all three branches of the Armed Forces, Princess Leonor has a programme that has been designed especially for her, which includes the fact that, following today’s ceremony, she will move on to become part of the second year students, in order to condense her preparation in just one year, rather than the three it normally takes. 

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