On Easter Sunday, the Spanish royal family attended their traditional mass in Palma de Mallorca. As usual, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia appeared with their two daughters, Leonor, Princess of Asturias and Infanta Sofía, and were accompanied by Felipe’s mother, Queen Sofía. Felipe’s father, the abdicated King Juan Carlos, surprised everyone by also attending, marking the first time in a number of years that he appeared with his family at Easter Mass. Everything seemed to be business as usual- the family posed for photographs outside of the church and all appeared to be well.
A video that has just gone viral as of yesterday, however, paints a different picture.
Thanks to an amateur video, Queen Sofía can be seen attempting to pose for a photo with her two granddaughters. The girls’ mother, Queen Letizia, then steps in and after a moment or two it becomes blatantly apparent that she is attempting to block the photo from being taken. A look of bemusement appears on Queen Sofía’s face, and her granddaughter Leonor even appears to be brushing aside her grandmother’s hand as well as her own mother’s hand when the Queen tried to usher her daughters out of the photo. Their grandfather, King Juan Carlos, also appears confused by the scuttle, and King Felipe steps in to apparently diffuse the situation beteeen his mother and wife.
The release of the video triggered a flurry of reactions from the Spanish media, many of whom are criticizing Queen Letizia for her behavior towards her mother-in-law. It has been an undisguised secret over the years that not many within the Spanish royal family are fans of Letizia, but of all the Spanish royals it does appear that Queen Sofía has made the most effort to put up a good front with her daughter-in-law, and indeed in recent years, as the monarchy has faced public scrutiny which eventually led to the abdication of King Juan Carlos, it seemed as though Sofía and Letizia were strong allies with one another. This recent incident appears to show that perhaps that might not be the case anymore.
Obviously there has been no word from the Spanish royal household on this incident, but it became a full-blown inter-royal drama when a member of the Spanish royal family’s extended clan decided to weigh in on social media.
Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece expressed her opinions on her Twitter account. She is the wife of Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece, who is the nephew of Queen Sofía (Pavlos’s father, the former King Constantine II, is Sofía’s brother). This makes Marie-Chantal and Letizia’s husbands first cousins; they were even roommates in college at Georgetown University. The crown princess tweeted the following:
It is also no secret among European royalty that Marie-Chantal herself is less than universally adored by her husband's blue-blooded relations. Despite this, Marie-Chantal has always expressed her admiration publicly for her husband's aunt, and it is understandable that she felt a natural inclination to defend the queen mother. Still, this author cannot help but feel that perhaps she overextended her hand by getting involved. Even though the Greek royal family are no longer a reigning house and therefore are not necessarily subjected to the same standards of publicity as other reigning families, they nevertheless carry on with the same sort of quiet dignity that is expected of royalty. I have no doubt that Marie-Chantal's in-laws, King Constantine II and Queen Anne-Marie, will not be in favor of their daughter-in-law's very public response to this incident. No matter how much they may agree with her, given that Queen Sofia is Constantine's own sister and has always supported her fully, they come from the older generation which believes that royalty never reacts and never responds.
It will be very interesting to see how this further plays out, and whether Marie-Chantal will be pressured to remove this.