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'Heir Force': Crown Princess Leonor's new military career uncovered
Friday, May 12, 2023 @ 7:34 PM

BIG changes are afoot for Spain's future Queen, with major new challenges in her path – and, although young Leonor is proof that being major Royalty means few privileges and limited choices, the demands on her at a tender age have not yet taken the wind out of her sails as she soldiers on with a smile.

Life is about to take Princess Leonor down a dramatically diferent path - but she is said to be very keen to get started

Even though Princess Leonor's father, King Felipe VI, is only in his 50s – so, if he never decides to abdicate, his eldest daughter may not reach the throne for another 40-plus years, all being well – the Hallowe'en-born student has been in preparation for her future job practically since the cradle. 

This preparation has been quite tough enough so far – her first public speech on her 13th birthday, spending summer holidays at camp in the USA perfecting her English, travelling the country during half-term for official engagements and, just two months before turning 16, moving abroad, without her parents, to go to school.

In accordance with the Spanish Constitution – signed in December 1978 and still valid in its original version – the reigning monarch is always automatically the supreme head of the national Armed Forces.

As per Article 62, Leonor's granddad, King Juan Carlos I, was the highest-ranking military leader in the country until he abdicated in June 2014, after which his son, Felipe VI, would take over this status as well as that of King and Head of State.

Princess Leonor, then, will become Spain's top Forces figure when she is crowned Queen.

Even though compulsory military service was disbanded in Spain in March 2001, the heir to the throne was never going to be excused from it – being head soldier is not simply a token title, which means Leonor will have to join the Army. 

Still, after moving abroad alone and living life in a foreign language at the impressionable age of 15, learning to fight for her country possibly isn't as daunting for the brave young Royal as it sounds. 


Infanta Sofía to follow elder sister to sixth-form in Wales

Back in summer 2021, HRH Leonor passed a series of stiff exams, sat anonymously, to gain entrance to the United World College of the Atlantic in the Vale of Glamorgan, south Wales, where she would spend two years as a full-time boarder working on her sixth-form qualifications. 

The international baccalaureate Leonor has been studying is taught in English, and she has spent this time among students from all over the world – over 70% of them on full scholarships and ranging from European Royalty to youngsters from the poorest countries on earth – with mandatory extra-curricular activities involving community service and sports.

Princess Leonor starting sixth-form college in Wales in 2021. Students from all over the world live and take classes in this 12th-century castle in the Vale of Glamorgan 

Naturally, Princess Leonor is one of the 30% whose families pay the full fee of nearly €80,000 for her education, but in accordance with UWC Atlantic policies, has been living in a sparsely-furnished, shared house with students from different cultural backgrounds and languages – this is deliberate on the part of the college, to encourage cross-community integration - and they are all expected to do their own domestic chores and laundry.

Her younger sister, the Infanta Sofía – who turned 16 last week – will follow in Leonor's footsteps this coming September after having passed the stringent entrance exams.

The girls will not be at UWC Atlantic together, though – Leonor's final sixth-form exams are due in the coming weeks, and the next stage in her long-mapped-out career will be back in Spain. 


Three years, three Forces, and 'fast-track' training

Supporters and critics of the monarchy alike have expressed mixed views on Leonor's next chapter, which involves a condensed and intensive training in the three main military disciplines. Although the Princess will have known all her life that she was never going to be able to follow a career of her own choice, and is said to be very keen to get started on the new leg of her journey, there is a sense among the general public that it would not matter either way – she might love it, or she might hate it, but she's still going to have to do it.

Many have said that if Leonor ends up hating her Forces experience, the three years she will spend training will be far too long; by contrast, if she loves it, then three years will not be enough.

The Armed Forces Academy in Zaragoza, Aragón, where Princess Leonor will spend the next year of her life. Her father, King Felipe VI, and grandfather King Juan Carlos I, also trained there

Starting this September, the Princess will join the Territorial Armed Forces, or Land Army, at the military academy in Zaragoza, Aragón, where her father Felipe VI trained. Here, she will stay for one academic year, but her military education will be fast-tracked: By summer 2024, Leonor will have reached the stage of a second-year graduate, or 'passing out'.

The next academic year, from September 2024 to summer 2025, Leonor will move to the far north-western region of Galicia to spend a year training with the Navy in Marín (Pontevedra province).

Here, she will go straight in as a third-year student and, after completing her studies at this level, will go offshore, training on the water on the Juan Sebastián de Elcano, a Naval academy ship named after the Spaniard who completed the first-ever round-the-world voyage.

The Juan Sebastián de Elcano Royal Navy training ship, where Princess Leonor will spend the summer of 2025

Year three – from September 2025 to summer 2026 – will take HRH Leonor to the opposite end of the country, to San Javier (Murcia). She will join the Air Force Academy in this south-eastern coastal region, going straight in as a fourth-year student.

Although her training will be considered complete after these three years, Leonor will automatically rise through the military ranks alongside her colleagues over the fourth year, from September 2026 to summer 2027, when they will all – the Princess included – graduate.


'Lieutenant Leonor' to combine university with military

This 'express' training route across three disciplines, designed jointly by the Royal family and defence minister Margarita Robles, will mean Leonor reaches the level of Sub-Lieutenant in the Navy, and Lieutenant in the Army and the Air Force. 

A Sub-Lieutenant – or, in the case of a frigate, Midshipman – in the Navy is equivalent to that of Lieutenant in the Armed Forces or the Air Force, and is the ranking below that of Captain.

The Royal Air Force Academy in San Javier, Murcia, which will be the Princess' home for the third year of her training

During her year in Zaragoza, HRH Leonor will combine her Land Army training with university studies, although it is not clear how she will continue with her academic career after summer 2024 – whether her second and subsequent years will be deferred until after her military education, or whether she will be able to carry on with it at least part-time, dovetailing her law degree with the Navy and Air Force.

Leonor, and also her sister Sofía, will both be expected to take a university degree, and will probably go onto post-graduate higher education studies, too, although this is likely to be optional.


Princess waives right to €417-a-month salary

It has already been confirmed the Princess has waived her right to the allowance, or salary, normally paid to students in the three military disciplines. Set at 60% of the so-called 'sub-group C2' in the first year, she would have received just over €417 a month, rising to €668 by the end of her training.

King Felipe VI explains that his eldest daughter will not be paid during these years, because her Forces education is not aimed at an eventual career as a soldier, unlike that of her colleagues.

King Felipe presides over the passing-out of 106 cadets at the Naval Academy in Marín, Pontevedra province, in July 2022. His eldest daughter will be among them in summer 2025

Even though both Princess Leonor and the Infanta Sofía are members of the Royal family – much reduced since Felipe VI's coronation and now only encompassing the girls, their parents, and King Felipe's parents Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofía – neither of the monarch's daughters receives an allowance from the State.





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