Infanta Elena at 60

infanta elena duchess of lugoBy Universidad Nacional de Educación a Distancia (UNED) - CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Infanta Elena of Spain was born on 20 December 1963 as the eldest child of the future King Juan Carlos I of Spain and Princess Sophia of Greece and Denmark. She was born in Madrid and was baptised in the Zarzuela Palace, with her paternal grandmother,  Princess María de las Mercedes of Bourbon-Two Sicilies, and Don Alfonso de Orleans y Borbón standing as her godparents.

The New York Times reported, “Princess Sophia, 25-year-old elder daughter of the King and Queen of the Hellenes, gave birth to a daughter today. The healthy blue-eyed baby weighed 9.4 pounds. Queen Frederika of Greece has been in Madrid since late November for the birth of her first grandchild. The Princess is the wife of Prince Juan Carlos, 25, son of the official pretender to the Spanish throne, Don Juan of Bourbon, who lives in exile in Portugal. Monarchists here said they expected the pretender to make a short visit to Madrid with authorisation from Generalissimo Francisco Franco for the christening of the baby, his first grandchild. King Paul of Greece also may attend the ceremony.”1

Her grandfather indeed came to Spain to attend her baptism as the New York Times reported on 31 December that he returned to his exile in Portugal after a three-day visit.2 Her other grandfather, the King of Greece, did not attend and died in March 1964. Elena’s younger sister, Infanta Cristina, was born in 1965, and her younger brother, Felipe, now King Felipe VI, was born in 1968.

At the time of Elena’s birth, the Spanish royal family were not reigning as her great-grandfather, Alfonso XIII of Spain, was deposed in 1931. Her grandfather Juan was actually King Alfonso’s third son. The eldest son, Alfonso, Prince of Asturias, renounced his rights to marry Cuban commoner Edelmira Sampedro, while the second son, Infante Jaime, Duke of Segovia, renounced his rights because he was deaf. King Alfonso XIII renounced his rights to the defunct Spanish throne in favour of Juan in 1941 and died shortly after. Dictator Francisco Franco ruled over Spain from 1939 to 1975.

Franco appointed Juan Carlos as his heir apparent in 1969, skipping over his still-living father, and granted him the title of Prince of Spain. Following Franco’s death on  20 November 1975, Juan Carlos was officially proclaimed King of Spain. Elena was then 11 years old. As Spain practised male-preference primogeniture, her brother Felipe became the Prince of Asturias in 1977.

She finished her secondary schooling at Colegio de Santa María del Camino. She studied to become a teacher at the ESCUNI University School in Madrid and graduated as a teacher of Basic General Education in 1986. She began working as an English teacher and took a course in Sociology and Education at the University of Exeter. She eventually obtained a bachelor’s degree in Educational Sciences in June 1993.

On 18 March 1995, she married Don Jaime de Marichalar y Sáenz de Tejada, a younger son of Amalio, 8th Count of Ripalda, and his wife María de la Concepción Sáenz de Tejada y Fernández de Bobadilla, Lady of Tejada. She was created Duchess of Lugo for life on her wedding day, and her husband was entitled to call himself Duke of Lugo. They went on to have two children together, Felipe Juan Froilán de Todos los Santos, born on 17 July 1998, and Victoria Federica, born on 9 September 2000. She and her children are in the line of succession and currently follow directly behind King Felipe’s two daughters. Her separation from her husband was announced in 2007, and they were officially divorced in January 2010. He is no longer entitled to be called Duke of Lugo.

Infanta Elena carries out engagements on behalf of the royal family and has done so since she came of age. She also supports several educational and cultural organisations and has a special focus on sports for people with disabilities. She is also the Honorary President of the Spanish Paralympic Committee.3

  1. The New York Times
  2. The New York Times
  3. Casa Real

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