Spanish Royal Family

Spain, like several other European countries, is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. This means that while there is a royal family, the country is actually run by elected officials headed by a prime minister. The Monarchy of Spain has no executive role aside from being able to appoint officials and represent the country at formal and ceremonial events. That said, the King of Spain is also the commander in chief of Spain’s armed forces.

The current monarchy is made up of the king, the queen consort and their children with their spouses, as well as any grandchildren the king and queen have. The current King of Spain is Juan Carlos I, who has held this position since November 22, 1975. His wife is Queen Sofía, who is the daughter of King Paul I of Greece.

The oldest child of the king and queen is the Princess Elena, who was born on December 20, 1963. She was married to Jaime de Marchalar (son of the Count and Countess of Ripalda) from 1995 to 2010, but the two divorced in January 2010. Princess Elena (also called “Infanta Elena”) has two children— Felipe Juan, born July 17 1998, and Victoria Federica, born September 9, 2000.

The second oldest child of the king and queen is the Princess Cristina, who was born on June 13, 1965. She wed Iñaki Urdangarin, Duke of Palma de Mallorca, in 1997, with whom she had four children: Juan Valentin, born September 29, 1999; Pablo Nicolás, born December 6, 2000; Miguel, born April 30, 2002; and Irene, born June 5, 2005. Princess Cristina and the Duke have lived in Barcelona and Washington, D.C. since being married.

The third oldest child and only son of the King and Queen of Spain is the Crown Prince Felipe, born January 30, 1968. As the firstborn male child of his female, he is by Spanish law the first in line to the throne. Prince Felipe married Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano on May 22, 2004. This is the second marriage for Letizia, who divorced her first husband in 1999 (because their wedding ceremony was a civil one rather than a religious one, the Catholic church does not consider it valid, thereby allowing her to wed the prince without needing an annulment). Until her marriage to Prince Felipe, Letizia worked as a journalist and news anchor both in Spain and in Mexico.

Before Prince Felipe had any children, Princess Elena’s children remained third and fourth in line. However, a daughter, Leonor, was born to the prince and his wife on October 31, 2005. A second child, Sofia, was born to them on April 29, 2007. The two girls are second and third in the line of succession. Unlike some monarchies, Spain’s does allow for both male and female heirs, even though female heirs may only succeed the throne if there are no male heirs. However, a recent proposal to change this to allow for the line of succession to go by birth order and therefore give males and females equal inheriting rights to the throne has not yet been decided upon. This comes after Great Britain signed a new law in 2013 allowing for this same change.

The Royal Family of Spain is not to be confused with the Family of the King, which refers to the Royal Family’s extended family.

The Monarchy of Spain was formed in 1516 and belongs to the House of Borbón
, though its roots can be traced back to the Visigothic Kingdom that ruled over parts of what are now Portugal, Spain and France from 418 AD to 711 AD. As of 1978, however, Spain has been a parliamentary system with a constitutional monarchy (in his first speech as king, Juan Carlos stated that he wished to restore democracy to the nation), with the king remaining head of state and therefore representing the country internationally. This system is perhaps most similar to that of Great Britain. As of 2013 the current prime minister is Mariano Rajoy, who was elected on December 11, 2011. He may meet with other world leaders, but as far as goodwill events, formal occasions and charitable affairs go, the monarchy is responsible for representing Spain.

Aside from their official royal duties, the members of the Spanish Royal Family (as well as the Family of the King) have taken part in a wide variety of other activities. Most have college degrees, and many have held professional positions. For example, Prince Felipe was an athlete and was on the Spanish sailing team in the 1992 Olympic Games, and Princess Cristina worked for the United Nations in New York City after receiving her Master’s degree in International Relations. Most royal family members are also involved with a variety of charitable foundations, particularly ones that pertain to social work.

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