Friday, 1 November 2013

Letizia: a decade of surprises

Ten years ago today, the King and Queen of Spain made an announcement that ran to just twenty nine words and took the whole country by surprise.  The confirmation that their only son, and the heir to the throne, Prince Felipe was to marry came on a Saturday afternoon when no one was expecting it.  The name of his bride was as much a shock as the fact that he was getting married at all.  Letizia Ortiz began her path to royalty as part of one of the biggest surprises in recent regal history and she has carried on surprising ever since.

The unexpected consort - Letizia of Spain's relationship with Prince Felipe was Madrid's best kept secret for months
Virtually from the moment he became a teenager, the topic of who Prince Felipe would wed was an endless source of interest.  He was linked to just about every young royal in Europe at one point but it was the attention given to his actual romantic relationships that really made the news.  From the young love of Isabel Sartorius to the almost marriage to Eva Sannum, the prince and his possible princesses had kept everyone talking for years.  So the appearance of Letizia Ortiz with an engagement ring and a date already booked at the Almudena Cathedral surprised on many levels.  Apart from the fact that no one knew he had begun another relationship after the well publicized and difficult ending of his link to Eva Sannum in 2002, his choice of bride was about as unexpected as could be.  While concerns over her parents' divorce had ended the partnership with Isabel Sartorius, Felipe now presented a future wife who not only had divorced parents but was a divorcee herself. 

Doing quite a good job of pretending not to know one another, Prince Felipe is seen with Letizia Ortiz at the Principe de Asturias awards in 2003 when the couple already planned to get married
But if the choice of Letizia was unexpected, her passage as a princess has been filled with even more surprises.  The former Ms Ortiz has never tried to fit the mould of traditional consort in waiting.  The famous 'dejame terminar' of the engagement press conference raised laughs at the time but signaled something that became clearer about Letizia as time went on - she did things her way.  While royal engagements were usually filled with smiles and general chit chat about love, the bride to be's request that her fiancé let her finish became the most controversial words at a royal betrothal since Prince Charles' equally replayed 'Whatever love is'.  And while she temporarily tried tradition with a Pertegaz wedding dress, the new queen consort in waiting was soon back on her own path.
Prince Felipe of Spain married Letizia Ortiz on May 22nd 2003 in Madrid
It's hard to list all the surprises that Letizia has sprung in the ten years since she entered the royal fold.  From her clothes to her quotes, from her changing appearance to her relationship with the press, everything she does is just ever so slightly different from the way that others do it.  Which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  But her insistence on doing things her way - even if the infamous quote of not working weekends has never been directly attributed to her - has led to a lot more criticism than other queen consorts in waiting get.
The princess in one of her most controversial outfits - trousers and no jacket for a military parade
Some see her as a breath of fresh air and a modernizing voice long needed by the royals, others as a liability.  However history writes her tale, one thing is sure.  The beginning will always remain one of royalty's biggest surprises. 

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