The Spanish monarchy dates back hundreds of years, stretching as far back as the eighth century. Over several centuries, the rule of this royal family has drastically changed. The current Spanish royal family, the House of Borbón-Anjou, are contemporary figures bridging history and tradition with contemporary, modern life.
Spanish Royal Family Backstory
While the history of the Spanish Royal family, one of the major royal families in Europe, is lengthy and winding, recent decades have seen the royal family and the country stabilize. From 1936 to 1975, the monarchy underwent a period of exile. It wasn't until 1975, upon General Franco's death, that a King was restored to the throne. Juan Carlos and his uber-royal wife, Sofia, were chosen to succeed General Franco. Franco anticipated that Juan Carlos would continue ruling in the regime's manner, resulting in Juan Carlos's ascension to the throne over his father.
Juan Carlos didn't continue ruling as the former General had done. Instead, he moved his country in the direction of democracy, establishing a constitutional monarchy in 1978. Along with his wife Sofia, the current Royal Family of Spain grew into what it is today.
(Former) King Juan Carlos
Following the demise of General Franco's rule over the Spanish people, King Juan Carlos took the throne with his wife, Queen Sofia. He worked to establish a functional democracy in the country, together with his Queen. The royal couple welcomed three children into their fold, Infantas Christina and Elena, and son Felipe VI. Juan Carlos and his Queen have been wed for over sixty years, but their union has proved to be a turbulent one full of question and speculation. Rumors of affairs have surrounded the royal couple for decades, and further questions regarding Juan Carlos's personal and financial affairs have plagued the family in recent years.
Juan Carlos's fall from grace was a doozy. His ostentatious spending has been called into question on several occasions, and many have also pondered his loyalty to his family and country. In 2012, the former King took a spill while hunting elephants with his mistress. Considering the trip's details and the fact that the expensive excursion occurred as the country was still trying to regain footing amidst a global financial crisis did nothing for the King's popularity with the people.
Juan Carlos no longer sits upon the throne, as he abdicated his rule to his only son in 2014. The former King now lives in The United Arab Emirates without his children or his wife and is worth approximately $50 million dollars.
(Former) Queen Sofia
Former Queen Sofia is about as royal in blood as a person can get. She is the firstborn child of King Paul and Queen Frederica. Her brother is former Greek King Constantine. Other relatives include her grandmother on her father's side, a Prussian Princess, and elders on her mother's side, Wilhelm II, the last Emperor of Germany, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and King Christian IX of Denmark. Of course, upon her union with Juan Carlos, she solidified her place in the Spanish Monarchy.
The Queen bore three children with her husband, two daughters, and the present Spanish King, King Felipe. While her husband, Juan Carlos, has left Spain to live out his years elsewhere, the former Queen remains on Spanish soil. It seems her work is nowhere near done (as if a woman's work is EVER done.) She continues to stand by her son's side as he navigates his rule in tumultuous times. This is key to the current monarchy, as the people adore Sofia. Ever the classy, regal, cultured lady of royal lineage, she also supports critical humanitarian causes such as drug addiction and educating the disabled.
Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo
Infanta Elena, Duchess of Lugo, is the first child of Juan Carlos and his wife, Sofia. She sits third in line for the Spanish throne. While studying French literature in Paris, the Infanta met her future husband, Jaime de Marichalar y Sáenz de Tejada. The pair welcomed two children into their family before divorcing in 2009. This split made the Infanta the first child of a reigning Spanish monarch to divorce. Elena continues to serve her family by attending her royal duties and formal events required of a woman in her position, and she is worth a reported $10 million.
Infanta Cristina Federica Victoria Antonia de la Santísima Trinidad de Borbón y de Grecia is the second child of Juan Carlos and Sofia. She attended Universidad Complutense de Madrid, where she earned a degree in political science and later moved overseas to the states to study at New York University, receiving her master's degree in international relations. The Infanta speaks several languages fluently, including Greek, Spanish, English, French, and Catalan. She met Spanish Olympian Iñaki Urdangarin at the Atlanta Olympics. They married and have four children together. Cristina and Iñaki were accused of money laundering and embezzlement in 2014. Because of the legal woes that the Infanta found herself in, her brother, King Felipe, was forced to revoke her title of Duchess of Palma de Mallorca. She was later acquitted of all charges, but the damage had been done.
Her husband received five years and eight months behind bars. While Cristina is occasionally seen at royal events, specifically at memorial Mass for her late grandfather, a family funeral, and a private birthday celebration for her mother, she generally stays out of the public eye. She and her children reside in Geneva, Switzerland.
King Felipe VI
The only son of former King Juan Carlos and his wife Queen Sofia, Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos is now the King of Spain. He was born in 1968, while Spain was still under General Franco's rule. His father, Juan Carlos, took the Spanish throne when Felipe was eight years old. The Spanish King holds a law degree from the Autonomous University of Madrid and a Master of Science in Foreign Service from Georgetown University, where he was roomies with his cousin, Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece. Like his mother, Felipe participated in the Olympic games, representing the Spanish sailing team.
Felipe married his wife Letizia in 2004 after hiding and defending their relationship, as the future Queen was a divorced woman. The pair now have two teenage daughters. King Felipe is every part a modern royal. He is the first Spanish Royal to invite LGBT representatives to official royal palace events. The Spanish King is all about breaking records. Before taking the throne, he was the tallest Prince ever. He is the youngest European Monarch and was the oldest King to be crowned King of Spain.
He continues to work tirelessly to un-sully the Spanish Royal Family's reputation, as his father managed to leave him quite a mess, and the tides are starting to turn in his favor as his public approval rating rises.
Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano is the wife of King Felipe. Before being the reigning lady of the land, wife to a king, and mother to two beautiful daughters and heirs, she was someone else's wife and a CNN correspondent. Letizia attended the Complutense University of Madrid and the Institute for Studies, where she earned her degree in audiovisual journalism. Letizia splits her time between her royal duties to her country and her people and her growing children, whom she and her royal hubby have been seen shuttling to and from school themselves.
While she is certainly royal now, she was by no means raised with a silver spoon in her mouth. Letizia is the granddaughter of a taxi driver. Her down-to-earth roots, educated mind, and boss-lady attitude are what make her one of the world's most beloved royals.
Leonor, Princess of Asturias
Leonor de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Ortiz, Princess of Asturias, was born in 2005 to King Felipe and his wife Letizia and is the heir to the Spanish throne. While still a child, she has recently started taking up her royal duties and visited the Cervantes Institute in Madrid this past March to commemorate the 30th anniversary. When she takes the throne, she will be the first Queen of Spain since the 1800s. While the Spanish Royal Family has fallen out of favor with the people in recent decades, much hope for the future sits atop the young princess's shoulders. Some 63% of the Spanish people wish to see her ascend the throne following her father's reign.
Infanta Sofía of Spain
Infanta Sofia is the youngest child of Felipe and Letizia. Born Sofía de Todos los Santos de Borbón y Ortiz in 2007 and named after her paternal grandmother, Sofia is currently working on her studies. She isn't yet responsible for carrying out royal duties.
A Family in Transition
Felipe, his wife, and his daughters are changing the face of the Spanish Royal Family, bringing the long-standing monarchy into the present day. They are working to shed the skin and ill reputations of the former Spanish Royals and do things differently. The years to come will tell if it is enough to rise above public scrutiny and disdain left behind by Juan Carlos's rule, but if anyone has a chance at popularity and progress, it is this royal brood.