The heir to the Spanish throne is turning 18, a milestone birthday as it marks the reaching of adulthood according to Spanish law.
Over the past few years, ever since King Felipe took the throne, Leonor’s agenda has been progressively increasing, both in volume and in the importance of the engagements undertaken.
All of this has happened with a select few steady figures by her side: her parents, of course, and her sister Sofía. A year and a half her junior and named after her paternal grandmother, Infanta Sofía broke historical norms before she was even born.
To date, she was the only royal baby whose gender was announced beforehand to push the Spanish Parliament to implement reforms to succession laws. Then-Princess Letizia had had complications during Leonor’s birth, and it was widely believed that their second was also going to be their last child.
The two girls appeared to be close ever since they were very young. Their mother would often dress them with matching outfits, and they undertook the same educational journey.
Things started to change a little when King Felipe acceded the throne, as Leonor became Princess of Asturias and Sofía kept her title of Infanta. Technically, according to the unwritten rules of the Spanish monarchy, siblings of a monarch do not carry out official duties and, for all intents and purposes, have to lead a “normal” life: find a job and live outside of palace premises.
This is what happened to the siblings of both King Juan Carlos and King Felipe, with Infantas Elena and Cristina finding jobs in foundations and international charities well before King Felipe took the throne.
However, Leonor and Sofía have been brought up so closely that many are now wondering if she will break history again and receive an appointment to a role that will keep her close to her older sister. But that is a hypothesis that is light years away, it seems, given that King Felipe is not looking to abdicate, and Princess Leonor is still in the thick of her military training.
But what is true is that the two sisters have put nothing but closeness on display whenever they go out in public, much to the credit of their parents, who seem to have struck the delicate balance between making them feel equal as sisters but underlining the difference in their destiny – and have managed to do so seemingly without boiling resentment between the two sisters. Any parent will understand how difficult it must have been.
But it seems that this is something that Felipe and Letizia have been working on ever since the girls were born, and there is a background to this. First and foremost, both King Felipe and Queen Letizia have two sisters.
In 2007, shortly before Infanta Sofía was born, then-Princess Letizia’s youngest sister, Érika, committed suicide with an intentional drug overdose; many suspected that she couldn’t manage the weight of comparisons with her successful older sister.
As for King Felipe, his sister Cristina’s legal woes partly tied him in, as they involved, among a lot more, the purchase of Letizia’s engagement ring, which Felipe had entrusted to his sister to avoid drawing attention, and she, in turn, had tasked her husband with it. He didn’t want Felipe to pay him back, resulting in issues when Urdangarín was processed and sentenced for embezzling and corruption. Infanta Cristina was cleared of all wrongdoing by the cour. However, she still refused to divorce her husband until he was photographed with another woman, and the announcement about proceedings for their separation was made.
This must have undoubtedly shaken King Felipe’s confidence in his sister a little, which, in turn, meant that he most likely would have wanted his eldest daughter not to have to go through something similar.
Allow us a bit of imagination here: the two girls would probably have been sat down on the couch at home and told very seriously that, in a very distant future, they would have no one but each other that they could trust and, therefore, they had to learn how to best support each other and to rely on one another.
So far, it seems to be working wonders: even now that the two sisters are separated (Princess Leonor was in Wales for two years and then entered the military academy; Infanta Sofía is currently in Wales attending college), they seem to still be extremely close, exchanging hugs when they have to part, and chatting and smiling non-stop when they are together.
Infanta Sofía should still be in Madrid for her sister’s swearing allegiance to the Constitution on Tuesday. The day Leonor turns 18: another milestone in her role as heir to the throne that her sister will be present for and probably extremely proud of.