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When family and duty mix: a difficult October on the horizon for King Felipe of Spain

Another crucial milestone in Princess Leonor’s military career is fast approaching, and this time her parents will be present for it. 

On 7th October, Princess Leonor and her fellow cadets at the General Military Academy in Zaragoza will swear allegiance to the flag – an act traditionally presided over by either the monarch or consort.

This time, both King Felipe and Queen Letizia will be there, in their official capacity; the day before, they might be present when the cadets march from Zaragoza Cathedral, where they will have paid homage to the Virgin of Pilar, and asked for her protection for the events of the following day. 

The nerves will be palpable, especially because the ceremony of the swearing allegiance to the flag will be broadcast live on Spain’s national television channel, RTVE. The programme will start at 11:50am Madrid time, and will feature key names in Spanish royal reporting, as well as a member of the General Staff of the Armed Forces. 

Because of the military programme designed especially for her, Princess Leonor will move up to studies for the second year of military training right after the ceremony. This “upgrade” will give her an opportunity to not sleep in the Academy, but rather go home. 

It has also been confirmed that the heir to the throne will be among the many military personnel that will parade on the 12th of October, also known as Día de la Hispanidad, Spain’s National Day celebrations. 

The military parade is also a crucial element of King Felipe and Queen Letizia’s agenda, since they preside over the parade. However, aside from Princess Leonor being among the military, there will also be another absence, as it seems that Infanta Sofía will not be able to make it back for the event from Wales. 

She might also be absent from the Princess of Asturias Awards ceremony, which this year falls on Friday, 20th October, as her October break begins on the 27th. It has not been confirmed yet whether Princess Leonor herself will nominate someone (most likely her parents) to represent her at the ceremony, or if she will be granted some leave time to attend in person. 

Infanta Sofía might, however, be present for the next step in Princess Leonor’s life: on the 31st of October, the King’s eldest daughter is expected to swear her allegiance to the Constitution in front of Parliament – an act that marks her reaching adulthood on her 18th birthday, and also her officially assuming the position of heir to the throne. 

All of these changes and milestones come in the midst of one of Spain’s worst political crises: the leader of the most voted party in July’s elections did not meet the threshold number of ballots in Parliament in either of the rounds of voting, which means that King Felipe had to call for a second round of consultations with leaders of all political parties represented in Parliament. 

Those happened on October 2nd and 3rd; at the end of them, the Royal Household released a statement detailing the next steps. As the leader of the second-most voted party, current acting Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez Pérez-Castejón was proposed by the King to have a mandate to try and form a new Government, something that, at the moment, seems rather difficult. 

This is why Mr Sánchez decided to try and entice members of the independentist catalonian party Junts x Catalunia to vote for him by offering them the possibility of opening a discussion on pardons for leaders of the Party who took part in the organisation of the independence referendum in 2017, which the Spanish State had deemed illegal. 

This was actually an accord that had been in the works even before the King gave Mr Sánchez the mandate, which is why the King has come under fire by some members of the other parties, as well as some members of the public. 

As highlighted in the statement, King Felipe acted according to the rules for these situations spelled out in the Constitution, as well as the customs that have developed over the years. This however has not spared him some criticism with fierce debates on social media and in the comments sections of online newspapers.

Saturday will not be the first time that King Felipe and acting Prime Minister Sánchez will be seen together; on Friday, the two of them are expected in Granada, where the EU’s Political Community Summit is taking place. 

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