Spanish queen celebrates her fiftieth birthday

by Lorraine Williamson
Spanish Queen Letizia
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MADRID – Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano was a journalist, princess and now Queen of Spain through her marriage to King Felipe VI. Today, the Spanish Queen celebrates her 50th birthday.

Since November 2003, she has been officially associated with the Spanish royal family. This began with her engagement to Felipe the sixth, then Prince of Asturias. She has now played an important role for nearly twenty years. Letizia Ortiz was born in Oviedo in 1972. Her family had no connection whatsoever with Spanish royalty. Before she became Queen of Spain, she had a career as a journalist. She worked successively at CNN, Bloomberg and finally at the Spanish national broadcaster RTVE, where she presented the news and also did reporting. 

Known for being demanding and a perfectionist, her control over details is almost obsessive. Discipline was, and still is, the key to her life, according to the Spanish press. Certainly to ‘survive’ the first years in the royal house. 

The first photo in which Felipe and Letizia can be seen together was during the *Prince of Asturias Awards in October 2003. A month later, the news of their engagement was announced: “The Majesties the King and Queen have the great satisfaction to announce the betrothal of their son, His Royal Highness the Prince of Asturias Don Felipe, to Doña Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano”. This is how it sounded on November 1, 2003, in the Zarzuela Palace to announce the future royal wedding. The wedding took place at the beginning of the summer of 2004. 

Marriage 

On May 22, 2004, they married at Almudena Cathedral in Madrid. This was the first royal wedding celebrated in Spain since Alfonso XIII married Victoria Eugenia de Battenberg in 1901. The ceremony was attended by some thirty heads of state and members of other royal families, such as Carolina of Monaco, Rania of Jordan or the then Crown Prince of Japan, Naruhito. 

Queen and Mother: The Births of Leonor and Sofia 

On October 31, 2005, the first child of the princes of Asturias, infanta Leonor, was born. This was just a few days before the 30th anniversary of the coronation of Juan Carlos I. Leaving the Ruber clinic in Madrid with Leonor in her arms, Letizia said: “You can’t describe the emotion of being a mother”. Two years later, daughter number two was born, the infanta Sofia. She was named after her grandmother. 

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The Proclamation of Philip VI 

With the proclamation of Felipe VI as King of Spain after his father’s abdication, Doña Letizia becomes Queen on June 19, 2014. She became the first woman on the Spanish throne without blue blood. She follows the example of other royal supporters without dynastic descent, such as Matilde of Belgium or Máxima of the Netherlands. 

State visits, receptions and gala dinners 

From the moment she became queen, Letizia began to take on the functions that Queen Sofía had held until then, such as collaborative trips. One of her first destinations was El Salvador and Honduras in 2015, where she was received by Presidents Juan Orlando Hernández and Salvador Sánchez Cerén. 

As a result of her diplomatic meetings with other international leaders and members of European royal houses, the Spanish Queen developed friendly relations with many of them, such as the new King of England, Charles III. 

On her first official visit to the United States as Queen of Spain, Letizia was able to share interests and take a walk through the White House with then-First Lady Michelle Obama. Another important moments were the tribute to the victims and relatives of the double attack in Barcelona in August 2017. The King has also been present since March 2020 at various tributes to the victims of the Coronavirus. Last year she visited children on La Palma, after it was badly hit by the volcanic eruption of Cumbre Vieja. 

* Now known as The Princess of Asturias Awards

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