King Felipe and his commoner queen herald new era for Spain’s monarchy

PUBLISHED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 10:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 02 June, 2014, 10:21pm

He is a tall former Olympic yachtsman who will take the throne largely unscathed by scandals that have battered the royal family. She is a former television presenter from a modest background who will break the mould of the classic royal. Together, they are the new king and queen of Spain.

Frequently smiling but more reserved than his father, the 1.98-metre Felipe, 46, had long suffered from comparisons with the easy-going Juan Carlos, who played a historic role in Spain's post-dictatorship transition.

Juan Carlos called Felipe "the best-prepared Prince of Asturias in Spanish history" during a televised interview in January 2013.

Watch: King Juan Carlos, tainted hero of Spain's democracy, abdicates

Felipe completed one year of studies in Canada prior to three years' military training at the academies of Spain's army, navy and air force, when he learned to fly a helicopter.

After his military training, Felipe studied for a law degree at the Autonomous University of Madrid before following a two-year master's programme in international relations at Georgetown University in Washington.

Like his father, he is a keen sailor and appeared in Spain's Olympics squad at the 1992 Games in Barcelona, carrying the country's team flag.

"His goal, his only goal, is to serve Spain. It has been deeply ingrained in him that he must be the country's main servant," his mother Queen Sofia once said.

Once considered Europe's most eligible bachelor, Felipe married former television presenter Letizia Ortiz in a glittering ceremony in Madrid's Almudena Cathedral in 2004 after several previous romantic dalliances, including one with a Norwegian lingerie model.

Ortiz, a 41-year-old divorcee, was the first commoner to come in line for the Spanish throne.

Even before joining the royal family, Ortiz was a well-known face in her job as evening news presenter for Spanish national television TVE.

Previously, she had worked for a Spanish newswire and various newspapers before moving into television.

The bride's modest background and divorcee status shocked some in Spain.

When Felipe interrupted Ortiz at their official engagement presentation, as she explained how she would gradually leave her job at TVE, the future queen snapped at him: "Let me finish!"

The couple have two blonde daughters - Leonor, born in October 2005, and Sofia, born in April 2007.