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In Spain, the tailor-made “military service” of Princess Leonor


The eldest daughter of Felipe VI, heiress to the Crown, will follow a three-year training in the army before starting her secondary studies.


Lady cadet at the General Military Academy of Zaragoza, then marine guard at the Naval School of Marín (a municipality in Galicia), and finally teaches at the General Air Academy of San Javier (in the region of Murcia ). From the end of August 2023 to the summer of 2026, Princess Leonor, heiress to the Spanish crown, will undergo military training which will take her successively to the three armies and will lead her to be appointed lieutenant of the Army and the ‘Air and Navy. A military service sui generis for the next head of the Armies of Spain… modeled on that of her father, King Felipe VI, and her grandfather, the sovereign emeritus Juan Carlos I.

The Council of Ministers last Tuesday approved the decree that frames the military training of the Princess of Asturias, title of heir or heiress to the Crown in Spain, who will celebrate her eighteenth birthday on October 31. At the end of his Terminale year at the Welsh United World College of the Atlantic high school and his summer vacation, Leonor de Borbon and Ortiz will put on the uniform.

Some observers imagined that in the 21st century, a shorter training might have sufficed, perhaps a year, like the express passages of princes and princesses from Europe by their three respective armies. Or that he could have been offered to start with his university studies, finally postponed to September 2026. It is ultimately a long military experience that is assigned to him.

Break with tradition

It is first of all a tradition, recalls Carmen Remírez, journalist and author of Leonor, the future condicionado of the monarchy (Plaza Janés, 2018). When his son Felipe turned 18, Juan Carlos I pressed the government of the day for extensive military training. The title of army chief is certainly not an executive function, but it is a constitutional obligation. It is also by virtue of this role that Juan Carlos opposed, in uniform, the coup d’etat of Lieutenant-Colonel Tejero in 1981.”, recalls Remirez. Leonor will thus go through the same three military schools where her father and grandfather trained, and will sail for six months aboard the same old rig as the one they embarked on. Breaking with tradition when a woman is called to supreme command could have done badly.

The House of Spain indicates in a press release that the passage through the military institution “will strengthen the capacities of service and sacrifice and will facilitate the missions of representations that [la princesse] will have to assume”. The army, it is known, hardens. “It is also an institution at the forefront of technological modernity and international integration.”, considers Remírez. Finally, through its diversity, it allows the heiress to come out of her family and social cocoon. “Leonor and her younger sister, the Infanta Sofía, are bourgeois. We can salute their involvement, alongside Queen Letizia, in solidarity missions, but we have never seen them roll up their sleeves”.

Could this be another advantage of Leonor’s passage through the Army? Provide the public with beautiful images of the princess crawling in fatigues, sailing on the four-master Juan Sebastián d’Elcano, piloting a fighter plane? “It would be idealsays the journalist. Get out of the opacity that surrounded his education. But I am not sure that this is the project of the House of Spain, careful until then not to expose it too much”. Experience will tell if the barracks, canteens and dormitories will promote the emancipation of the Princess, who will soon come of age and be vaccinated and, in a few years or decades, captain general of the armies.

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