SPAIN’S King Felipe VI celebrates his 49th birthday today. He is the world’s fifth-youngest reigning monarch.
Felipe Juan Pablo Alfonso de Todos los Santos was born in Madrid on 30 January 1968, at the Nuestra Señora de Loreto Clinic, the third child and only son of Infante Juan Carlos of Spain and Princess Sofía of Greece and Denmark.
The ruling dictator General Francisco Franco died just over two months before Felipe’s eighth birthday, and Felipe’s father ascended the throne. In his first official appearance, Felipe attended his father’s proclamation as king on 22 November 1975.
In 1977, Felipe was formally created Prince of Asturias.
On his 18th birthday Felipe swore allegiance to the Constitution and to the King in the Spanish Parliament as required by the constitution, fully accepting his role as successor to the Crown.
As the heir to the throne, a carefully regulated and structured plan was laid out for Felipe’s military training with the army, navy and air force.
Felipe’s bachelor years were a source of interest to the Spanish press for several years. His name was linked with several eligible women, but only two notable girlfriends: Spanish noblewoman Isabel Sartorius and Norwegian model Eva Sannum, who modelled underwear.
When Felipe finally began a serious relationship, nothing was suspected before the official announcement of the Prince’s engagement on 1 November 2003 to Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, an award-winning television journalist formerly with CNN who had been married previously.
The couple were married on the morning of 22 May 2004 in the Almudena Cathedral, Madrid.
Felipe and Letizia have two daughters: Leonor, Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofía.
On 2 June 2014, King Juan Carlos announced his intent to abdicate in Felipe’s favour. Since the Constitution of Spain did not provide a specific mechanism for abdication and royal succession the Spanish Cabinet began deliberations on an organic law to regulate Felipe’s succession.
Felipe ascended the throne at the stroke of midnight on 19 June; his father had signed the formal instrument of abdication just hours earlier.
He is keen Atlético Madrid supporter and was a member of the Spanish Olympic sailing team at the Barcelona Games in 1992.
In February 2015, Felipe famously announced that he would cut his annual salary by 20% as a result of the economic recession and hardships continuing to hamper Spain.