Doña Letizia is not exactly what is commonly understood as a classic Spaniard. She has none of that special charisma that the Spanish movie star Penélope Cruz (48), for example, can portray so brilliantly. In contrast, Doña Letizia, who celebrates her 50th birthday on September 15, seems like an alternative.
As is so often the case, the cliché deceives reality in this case, because Letizia is by no means a weak creature that needs to be protected, but a self-confident, modern woman. The first among the Spaniards, the first lady, even more: the queen. At the side of her husband, King Felipe VI. of Spain (54), she embodies the monarchy on the Iberian Peninsula. In the ultra-strict tradition of the Spanish court, no snuggled person could survive.
This is how Spain experiences a woman who enjoys more respect than exuberant sympathy and is now celebrating her milestone birthday.
International fashion magazines have long celebrated her as a tasteful style icon and role model for many women. "Spain's most important fashion representative," she sees the "Berliner Morgenpost", because the queen is not an elitist consumer. "When Letizia wears a model from the Spanish labels Zara or Mango, the collection is sold out a little later. A phenomenon that is called the 'Letizia effect' in the industry. Letizia relies on low-cost fashion, especially in everyday life. Only with She wears designer clothes on official occasions."
The photos of a stroll by Letizia with her daughters, the princesses Leonor (16) and Sofía (15), through the old town of Palma de Mallorca, match this. The ladies wear simple but colorful mini dresses, the Queen's being the shortest. These pictures also go through the gazettes - and thus also as proof of the orderly ideal world of the Spanish royal family.
But Letizia is more than just a style icon. She is intelligent, educated, purposeful and responsible. Most Spaniards who know Letizia from her previous life also know this. Her name was Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, and she was one of the country's best-known journalists. Not a Highborn, she hails from Oviedo in the province of Asturias near the Atlantic coast of north-west Spain. There the temperament of the people is not so exuberant.
Her family embodies the bourgeois milieu: grandfather a taxi driver, father a journalist, mother a nurse. After studying communication sciences in Madrid, she worked in Mexico for a while before returning to Madrid, writing for the national newspaper "ABC" and finally presenting the main news program on the largest Spanish television station TVE. Her hallmark: powerful woman with shy eyes.
Letizia was divorced. In 1998 she married the teacher and writer Alonso Guerrero Pérez (59), ten years her senior, whom she met when she was 15 at school. The marriage was over after a year, but because it was only a civil ceremony, the Catholic Church signaled the green light for a church wedding with Prince Felipe.
The second objection was more serious: Letizia was a commoner, and that was an impossibility for a future king consort and queen in the rigid tradition of Spanish royalty. But Felipe stuck to his principle - either this or none - and prevailed. The wedding was celebrated with great pomp in 2004.
This supposedly fairytale fate was anything but easy, Letizia did not look happy in her first years of marriage. The "Süddeutsche Zeitung" (SZ) attributed this to life at court, which was anything but "a cosmopolitan, modern existence. It is subject to a large number of rigid, tangled rules of conduct and professional ethics, which may have contributed to Letizia at least in the first few years (...) didn't seem very fulfilled. Her conspicuous thinness made the gossip press speculate about anorexia, her curmudgeon about depression."
As a journalist, she was used to "maintaining an open, critical word and moving freely. Life at court catapulted Doña Letizia into the role of the representative of a traditional mother role, befitting her husband's shadow". Her rise in society to become a princess has developed "in the reversal of traditional ideas" more into a "Cinderella existence".
Parts of the press attacked her as "too cold", "arrogant" and "ice princess". She was accused of cosmetic surgery at the expense of the people, in fact she had undergone a nose job for medical reasons. And her apparent despondency also had something to do with the death of one of her sisters.
When Felipe became king in 2014 after a series of scandals from his father, a gradual change in image took place. Letizia's work as queen received acclaim from experts. And she fights for her cause: When more than five million women took to the streets in Spain for their equal rights, the strikers included the country's first woman: Queen Letizia canceled all appointments. She campaigns for children, minorities and poor people with the same serious commitment. And in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) she fights against hunger as an honorary ambassador.
Today the queen is perceived as a great pillar of the Spanish monarchy. There is even no trace of her alleged quarrel with her mother-in-law, former queen Sophia. During this year's summer vacation in Mallorca, Letizia strolled peacefully through Palma with her two daughters and the royal grandmother. The women posed completely relaxed for photos – like for the royal family album.