Felipe at 50: say hello to the first photos

If you're in the mood for some glossy royal photos with a cuppa this Saturday, then Spain's ruling house has ticked all the boxes for you. Felipe VI has let the cameras behind palace doors as part of the celebrations for his 50th birthday this month. Hola has even gone to the presses with a special edition as photos of the king getting ready to say hello to his half century come out. The pics are just about everywhere in the Spanish media this weekend. And they're already causing quite the stir.

Not that there's anything controversial here. The photos, released across Spanish papers, TV and online channels as the weekend starts, are billed as a look at Felipe as a Head of State and a family man and there are more than enough images to tell both stories. We see him taking his children to school, sitting down to eat with his family and heading out on official engagements. It's the amount and relaxed nature of them that's got lots of people talking. An early birthday present to all royal watchers from the birthday king himself.

Let's start with the good parts. There are LOADS OF PHOTOS and Felipe looks really rather marvellous in most of them. It's a great chance to see behind the scenes of royal life. Felipe looks relaxed and it's clear that his two daughters, but especially the elder, Leonor, are real daddy's girls.  It's the kind of thing royal watchers are always asking for, more behind the scenes, and the kind of spread that can go some way to building up the image that a dynasty wants to portray.

It's also put Spain's royals on the front of just about every major paper in the country as the weekend gets under way, ensuring the best possible spotlight on them. Add to that the series of videos that have also been released and if anyone wants to spend any time with the King of Spain in the days ahead of his big 5-0 (Tuesday January 30th in case you wondered) then they are spoiled for choice.

That doesn't mean to say it has to be plain sailing. Spain's monarchy has had a trickier time that most in recent years and the response to this first set of Felipe at 50 photos has been mixed.  There are lots of congratulatory comments on the official social media channels of Hola but it's not all hearts and flowers. The magazine's Facebook has already seen some of the general dissatisfaction felt in some parts of Spain with the monarchy expressed in messages. The latest comments describe some of the pictures as too staged. To be fair, Queen Letizia isn't at her most relaxed in some of the shots and the one of her and her husband in their car could easily be mistaken for the pair of them auditioning for a new Netflix police series. 

The reaction on other media has been stronger. El Pais, which commented on the criticism Felipe and Letizia sometimes get for keeping their children away from the cameras as it published the photos, has seen responses asking about the point of the monarchy in the 21st century. It's a similar story on El Mundo and ABC.es. There are remarks on several media sites as well about the ongoing crisis in Catalonia and Felipe's much debated response to it in the past few months. 

King Felipe's short reign has been an intricate juggling act between being the positive face of the monarchy while dealing with serious political issues. It could be argued that for his 50th maybe a little less might have been more. While some videos work, others are perhaps of limited benefit. The one of the family on the school run is particularly awkward and we can only hope that Leti was having a really bad day when this one was taken.

But in the end the positives will probably outweigh the criticisms. There's no doubt that Felipe and his family are beautiful and love one another very much. That will always win fans. The chance to see them in their day to day life will be appreciated by many and they've provided everyone with images that will be used time and again for the forseeable future. There's also something rather sensible about the focus on the bond between the King of Spain and his heir, Princess Leonor. Seeing them watch his Christmas message together, cuddled up while his advisers sit around him more formally, sums up the fact that family is at the heart of the monarchy and that Felipe is already guiding his daughter along the path that will one day lead to her succession. It's a confident nod to the future. Not a bad way to turn 50.


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