Felipe VI celebrated his fiftieth birthday this week with a ceremony in the Palacio Real in which he awarded his twelve-year-old daughter, Leonor, the Collar del Toisón de Oro (the Chain of the Order of the Golden Fleece), which once belonged to Juan de Borbón.
“I have chosen to share this special day with you to emphasise , with the utmost solemnity and symbolism, our personal and institutional commitment to Spain,” he said.
Following the political turmoil in Catalonia, the king drew attention to the Spanish Constitution of 1978 and reaffirmed his support for the country in the face of its current problems.
His commitment was symbolised by the figure of Leonor, who with this action will now begin her official activity as heir apparent to the Spanish throne.
“Today there might seem to be a lot of demands and responsibilities,” explained Felipe to his eldest daughter, “but you should remember that you have the support of many people who want the best for Spain, for the Crown and for you.”
The king expressed his hope that the princess will learn “little by little, the traditions and duties” of the Crown and begin to understand the responsibilities that will stem from her position as the future queen.
It is a task that she has been prepared for from birth and for which she will be supported by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofía, who were also present in the Salón de Columnas where the ceremony took place, and where nearly four years ago Juan Carlos abdicated the throne and Felipe became king.
“Always stand by the Constitution”
The king, with an acknowledgement to recent events in Catalonia, reminded his daughter of the importance of the Constitution in modern democratic Spain.
“All of your actions should be guided by the greatest sentiment of dignity and exemplariness, by honesty and integrity,” Felipe told Leonor, who listened attentively to her father.
In his speech, the king discussed the lessons he had learnt both as a father and as head of state, advising his daughter to be guided “always by the constitution, implementing and observing it” and taking “the concerns and feelings” of Spain’s citizens into her heart.
He also praised his father’s pivotal role in the transition to democracy.