The King is Europe's most recently enthroned monarch, having accepted the crown on 19 June 2014 upon the abdication of his father, King Juan Carlos. Together with his glamorous wife, Queen Letizia, Felipe VI has worked hard at restoring the prestige of the Spanish monarchy. Though King Juan Carlos enjoyed widespread public approval for much of his thirty-nine-year reign, the last of his years on the throne were marred by scandal and accusations of corruption. It was hoped that Felipe's accession would revitalize the House of Bourbon and help clean up the royal family's tarnished image. By most accounts, it appears to be working.
As part of the commemorations for this milestone birthday, King Felipe formally bestowed the ribbon and collar of Spain's highest order, the Order of the Golden Fleece, upon his eldest daughter and heir, Princess Leonor. The 12-year-old Princess of Asturias was invested into the Order back in 2015 on her tenth birthday, but this ceremony on her father's fiftieth was the first time she had actually received the order's corresponding regalia. It was also intended to mark the first step in formalizing the young princess's public role as heiress to the throne.
|King Felipe VI of Spain bestows his eldest daughter, HRH The Princess of Asturias, with the ribbon of the Order of the Golden Fleece on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday.|
|Leonor, Princess of Asturias curtsies to her father, HM The King of Spain.|
Felipe was born on 30 January 1968 in Madrid, the third child and only son of Prince Juan Carlos of Spain (as he was known as then) and Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark. His father was the elder son of Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona and Princess Maria Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies. His mother was the eldest child of King Paul of Greece and Princess Frederica of Hanover. He has two elder sisters, Infanta Elena and Infanta Cristina.
The names he received were reflective of Spanish royal history as well as his own family lineage - Felipe, in honor of King Philip V, who was the first Spanish king of the House of Bourbon; Juan, in honor of his paternal grandfather, Infante Juan, Count of Barcelona; Pablo, in honor of his maternal grandfather, King Paul of Greece; Alfonso, in honor of his great-grandfather, King Alfonso XIII, who was the last Spanish king to rule before the abolition of the monarchy back in 1931. Felipe's godparents were his grandfather, Juan, and his great-grandmother, Queen Victoria Eugenie of Spain (wife of Alfonso XIII), who was a granddaughter of England's Queen Victoria.
At the time of Felipe's birth, Spain was still under the dictatorship of General Francisco Franco, though the following year, Franco formally declared that upon his death the Spanish monarchy would be restored with Juan Carlos as king. With his father's accession to the throne in 1975, Felipe became first in the line of succession and was granted the title Prince of Asturias.
The handsome 6'6 prince attracted considerable media attention regarding his personal life, and the Spanish media linked to a number of women. Yet he surprised everyone when he announced his engagement to Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a news anchorwoman. Not only was Letizia the first bride of a future Spanish king to be born a commoner, and the fact that she was divorced raised plenty of eyebrows. However, the Catholic Church in Spain reported that since Letizia's previous marriage was a civil union and did not take place within the church, she could marry the Prince of Asturias religiously and still receive the church's blessing.
The wedding of the Prince and Princess of Asturias was held on 22 May 2004 at the Almuneda Cathedral in Madrid, the first royal wedding in the Spanish capital since the 1906 nuptials of Felipe's great-grandparents, King Alfonso XIII and Princess Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg. That wedding had been marred by a terrorist's bomb which narrowly missed the bridal couple and could have potentially killed half of Europe's royalty. Luckily, this wedding ceremony was only marred by inclement weather.
The Prince and Princess of Asturias had two daughters - Leonor and Sofia. Succession to the Spanish throne runs along the line of male-preference primogeniture, meaning males take priority over females, and female offspring of a Spanish monarch can succeed if they have no brothers to supersede them. Thus, their eldest daughter, Leonor, is first in the line of succession but would be displaced as heir to the throne if her parents were to have a son.
In 2014, with his popularity declining along with his health, King Juan Carlos announced that he would be stepping down in favor of his son. Felipe ascended the throne on 19 June as King Felipe VI, with his wife becoming Spain's first queen consort to not be born into royalty. Their daughter Leonor thus became the Princess of Asturias and their younger daughter Sofia is second in line to the throne.