Queen Letizia and Queen Sofía Face Off, and Spain Is Aghast

Queen Sofía, 79, puts her arms around her granddaughters, Princesses Leonor and Sofía, and gathers them close, apparently to have a photograph taken.

Queen Letizia, 45, the girls’ mother and the wife of King Felipe VI, then moves in front of the three, stepping this way and that — movements interpreted by news outlets as trying to block the photograph. Queen Sofía reacts by shuffling back and forth and clutching the girls ever more tightly.


Queen Letizia, right, with her daughters, Princess Sofía and Princess Leonor, and the girls’ grandmother Queen Sofía at Palma Cathedral in Mallorca on Easter Sunday.Credit Jaime Reina/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Queen Letizia reaches out to brush the hair of Princess Leonor, who, at the same time, pushes Queen Sofía’s arm away. A few words seem to be exchanged, and Leonor again removes her grandmother’s hand from her shoulder. There have been no reports of what the two queens said.

Queen Letizia and Queen Sofía Face Off, and Spain Is Aghast
Queen Letizia and Queen Sofía Face Off, and Spain Is Aghast

King Felipe, 50, steps in and squeezes his wife’s shoulder, seemingly in an effort to calm things down, and the royal mask quickly snaps back into place. The royal family, which later posed together for a photograph outside the church, has made no official comment on the episode.

But gossip apparently exists even among the tangled branches of European royal family trees. Crown Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, the wife of Queen Sofía’s nephew Crown Prince Pavlos, weighed in on Twitter: “No grandmother deserves that type of treatment!”

No grandmother deserves that type of treatment! Wow she’s shown her true colours

— Marie-Chantal (@MarieChantalUK) April 3, 2018

Others took to social media to make the point that there were more pressing problems facing Spain than discord among a family — even a royal one.

actually, most of Spanish people are more worried about the crisis, the corruption and the repression that we suffer, than with Royal stupidities…

— Alitas Fritas (@Alitas_Fritas) April 4, 2018

Felipe ascended the throne after his father, King Juan Carlos, who helped usher the country toward democracy, announced in 2014 that he would abdicate.

The royal family was rocked in 2016 by tax fraud allegations against Princess Cristina, the sister of King Felipe. She was tried and acquitted on charges of corruption and embezzlement tied to an investigation into her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, and his business associates. Mr. Urdangarin is appealing his prison sentence.

The country at large is in the throes of bigger problems, not least a political crisis unleashed by the failed attempt at secession by the government of the restive region of Catalonia. King Felipe stepped into the crisis when, in a televised address after a Catalan referendum on secession last year, a vote which went ahead despite Spanish courts having ruled it unconstitutional, he accused Catalonia’s separatist leaders of “inadmissible disloyalty” and of threatening the country’s Constitution and unity.

In an analysis piece, El País recalled how Queen Sofía had helped usher Letizia, a former television journalist, into the royal family.

But, the newspaper concluded, “15 years have passed and things have changed.”

Raphael Minder contributed reporting from Madrid.

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