Saturday, 3 August 2013

Letizia vs. the press

The arrival of the Princess of Asturias in Mallorca has given the magazines their big money shot for the summer.  It might not be up there with Letizia in a bikini from a few years ago or the first on the lips smacker she planted on hubby Felipe just before that (they're still the only royal couple of the 21st century not to actually semi snog on the balcony on their wedding day) but even the princess in a pair of slightly strange lime jeans and almost smiling is enough to shift magazines across Spain for the next week or so.

Letizia almost cracks a smile as she takes part in the annual Spanish royal family pose
And yet even this photo hasn't stopped criticism of the princess with a columnist this morning complaining that she's arrived as late as possible in Mallorca.  Others have complained about a lack of family photos of the Asturias - the prince was noticeable by his absence from yesterday's photocall.  And there are regular complaints that the former Miss Ortiz keeps her children too hidden from view with just a handful of sightings of the young infantas every year.

The last group shot of the Prince and Princess of Asturias with their daughters was at the end of March this year when the family went to Mass on Easter Sunday, again in Mallorca
(© Casa de S.M. el Rey / Borja Fotógrafos)
Letizia easily won most support in the recent poll asking which queen in waiting got the hardest time from the press.  She took half the votes with her nearest challenger being Kate of Cambridge with 27%.  But is Letizia really such a target and, if so, why? 
Sad or just thoughtful?  Another snap of Princess Letizia in Mallorca on Friday
There's no doubt the princess generates acres of press coverage.  Nearly every week her face stares out from the front of at least one of the big Spanish magazines and she's a mainstay for columnists and newspaper writers, especially at weekends when there is more space to fill.  A lot of interest is shown in what she wears, how she looks and whether she has had plastic surgery.  But how much of that interest is above and beyond what other princesses go through?

The photo, taken in 2008, that led to the Spanish royal household announcing Princess Letizia had had surgery on her nose to correct a breathing issue.  Since then there have been many rumours the princess has had more work on her face

Letizia is on a stickier wicket than several other princesses.  Spain's economy is in dire straits and unemployment remains at record highs, particularly among younger people.  Any spending by the royals is going to be scrutinized far more closely when the people who provide the funds through their taxes are finding things tight.  Letizia's love of fashion is praised by some for throwing the spotlight on Spanish designers and bringing more trade to the country, others say she spends far too much on expensive designers and dresses inappropriately for some formal occasions.
The outfit chosen by Letizia for a military event in Zaragoza in July 2013 drew criticisms that it was too informal for the occasion.  It's not the first time the princess has been attacked for her choice of clothes
But other princesses have their spending analysed - Kate's wardrobe bill was in the UK papers just a few months ago.  There have been raised eyebrows over clothes chosen by other royal ladies - Mathilde has been attacked for being too frumpy on occasions while Maxima's exuberant style isn't to everyone's taste.  Is it fair to say that Letizia is just being exposed to the same judgmental attitude that seems to come with the job of being a princess in the 21st century?
Letizia is also attacked for lacking an royal agenda of her own, nearly ten years after she became queen in waiting.  Many of the public appearances she makes are with her husband with a very small range of solo engagements.  She is known as a patron of cancer charities and has worked with children's organisations but in fairness her solo agenda is much smaller than that of many other European crown princesses.  Even Kate, now in her third year as a fully fledged royal, is seen out by herself more than the Spanish heiress.  Could a bit more independence help Letizia?
It's unusual to see Letizia on a formal appearance without Felipe by her side
But perhaps the biggest difference between Letizia and the other queens in waiting is the way she first appeared on the royal scene.  Letizia's engagement was a surprise.  There hadn't been any talk of a romance, let alone a marriage, with Felipe before the football results were interrupted on a Saturday evening in November 2003 for the formal announcement of their wedding.  And that meant the press didn't have a chance to dissect the future queen before she had the ring on her finger. 
Felipe and Letizia on their first public appearance after the surprise announcement of their engagement in November 2003
Every other royal bride was scrutinized in intense detail before her prince popped the question.  Mary of Denmark moved to her boyfriend's home country and went through almost three years of being analysed by the press before becoming engaged.  Maxima spent several years having her past, and that of her parents, raked over before saying 'I do'.  And such was the interest in Mette-Marit's past that the heat was still building in the situation with just weeks to go before the wedding.  But her decision to give a TV interview in which she cried as she talked about her youth burst the bubble of curiousity and her eleven years as a princess have been relatively plain sailing.  Kate had eight years of scrutiny before becoming a Windsor while Victoria of Sweden and Daniel had their relationship put to the test for pretty much the same amount of time before marrying. 

Felipe and Letizia join other European heirs and their consorts for a photo taken just before Willem-Alexander became King of the Netherlands.  The other couples all had their relationships in the press spotlight before marrying - Felipe and Letizia took the papers and their public by surprise
And that may be Letizia's biggest problem with the press.  By missing their chance to scrutinize her before her marriage, there are still lots of things to ask and talk about now that she is the wife of the heir to the throne.  Her divorce from her first husband, other relationships, how she met her prince and what keeps them many questions and no answers.  The princess has given very few interviews - there was a question and answer session after their engagement and some formal chats since but the press rely on off the cuff comments that can't be confirmed or denied and so rumours grow. 
An official portrait of the Prince and Princess of Asturias on their wedding day in May 2004.  Just a year before no one even linked them as a couple and it's still not clear now when exactly they got together. The mystery around their romance and relationship has led to frustrations in the press
So while some see Letizia as put upon and a victim of the press, others argue she has tried to control her image too much and in the process taken away the vitality and energy that marked her first appearances at the side of her prince.  There's no doubt that everything she does is analysed and criticized by some.  Whether she can win those critics over is another matter.



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