Easter is also a day when families spend time together, first at church, then perhaps a lovely lunch. Unfortunately, a video of what many have described as a tense situation between Queen Sofia and her daughter-in-law, Queen Letizia, has gone viral.
Shortly before the family would leave the church, they stopped to greet other people. Queen Sofia pulled her two granddaughters, Leonor, the Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofia toward her for a photograph. Queen Letizia walked in front of them to shake the hand of someone she knew. She turned around, said something, and pulled Leonor away. Queen Sofia tried to pull her two granddaughters toward her, but Leonor pushed her away as well.
King Juan Carlos, his gait unsteady even with the aid of a cane, was perplexed by the scene. King Felipe VI spoke to his wife and to his mother, perhaps trying to diffuse the situation.
Queen Sofia is a much loved Queen Consort. She has carried out her duties professionally and with elan. But, privately, she has suffered much heartache.
Her marriage in 1961 to Juan Carlos was carefully encouraged and arranged.
Sofia was the first queen consort since 1931 when King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenia went into exile. Francisco Franco would bring back the monarchy on his own terms and he toyed, sometimes rather cruelly, with Juan Carlos and his father, Juan, the Count of Barcelona. In 1975, the Generalissimo died and Juan Carlos became king.
Sofia, the eldest child of King Paul I of the Hellenes and his wife, Frederica of Hannover, was perfectly suited to be a queen. She gave birth to three children, Elena (1963), Cristina (1965) and Felipe (1968), who was named as Prince of Asturias after his father became king.
For years the foreign press, notably the Germans and French, reported on rumors about Juan Carlos' infidelities. It took decades before the Spanish press summoned the courage to write about the king's mistresses.
One can only imagine and sympathize with Sofia's private and public humiliation. There have been unsubstantiated reports that Sofia had every intention of leaving her husband.
She stayed, as a wife, mother, grandmother. Her children, especially her son, were at the forefront of her life. Nothing -- not even Juan Carlos' behavior -- would detract her from her focus: preparing the Prince of the Asturias for the throne.
Felipe succeeded to the throne following the abdication of King Juan Carlos in June 2014.
Queen Sofia is devoted to her three children and her eight grandchildren. But she has been saddened by events in her children's lives. Infanta Elena's marriage ended in divorce and Infanta Cristina and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, were charged with tax fraud and corruption in the Noos Institute case. In early 2017, Cristina was acquitted of corruption charges but her husband was found guilty on several counts including fraud and tax evasion. He was sentenced to six years and three months in jail although arrangements are still being made for Urdangarin to be sent to prison.
The Queen has been supportive of Infanta Cristina and there have been reports in the Spanish media that she has been pushing Felipe to allow Cristina and her four children back into the family. She may have been acquitted of charges, but few people see Cristina as innocent in not knowing what her husband was doing. There is no doubt in my mind that Letizia (and Felipe) want to keep Cristina away from royal life. Neither she nor her older sister, Infanta Elena, have carried out official engagements since Felipe's succession. They remain members of the King's family, but are no longer members of the Royal Family.
This also happened when Juan Carlos came to the throne. His two sisters, Infanta Pilar and Infanta Margarita, were not included as members of the Royal Family, but were members of the King's family. Unlike the present king's sisters, Pilar and Margarita lost their succession rights when they married as they married under the old rules. Their children do not have dynastic rights.
Elena and Cristina and their children remain in line to the throne.
Sofia has lived in Spain for nearly 57 years, but none of her close friends are Spanish. She has never gotten close to members of Spain's aristocracy. Her two closest friends are her sister, Princess Irene, who lives in Madrid, and her cousin, Princess Tatiana Radziwill and her husband, Dr. Jean Henri Fruchaud. Tatiana is the daughter of the late Princess Eugenie of Greece and Denmark and Prince Dominik Radziwill.
Her family, especially her children, are everything to her.
The Queen certainly hoped that her son would make a grand royal marriage. Princess Tatiana of Liechtenstein moved to Madrid, ostensibly to study, but the real goal, according to the late Infanta Maria Cristina of Spain, was to get to know Felipe. Maria Cristina, the younger daughter of King Alfonso XIII, confirmed this in a letter to me. Other noblewomen, including Countess Caroline of Waldburg zu Wolfbegg und Waldsee, were also "pushed" toward Felipe, but he was having none of it. It is said that he wanted to marry Isabel Sartorius, the daughter of Vicente Sartorius y Cabeza de Vaca, 4th Marquis de Mariño, and Isabel Zorraquín y de Corral. Isabel's parents were divorced and her mother married Peruvian politician Manuel de Ulloa.
Isabel joined her mother in Lima, but it was not a satisfying experience for mother or daughter. Ulloa, according to Isabel's autobiography, mistreated her mother and turned into a cocaine addict. It was Isabel who sneaked out of the house to meet with her mother's dealers and purchase the cocaine.
Isabel's mother spent years in clinics, eventually being cured of her drug addiction. She divorced de Ulloa, who then married Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia. Isabel's father also remarried. His second wife was Princess Nora of Liechtenstein, who is Princess Tatiana's aunt.
Despite her noble birth, Isabel Sartorius was not considered suitable for Felipe. She would admit years later that she suffered from co-dependency issues that evolved from her concern for her mother and she underwent treatment for it, She has never married but in 1997, she gave birth to a daughter, Mencia, the result of her relationship with Javier de Soto y Fitzjames-Stuart, Count of Montalvo.
Other girlfriends had not been accepted by his parents, and Letizia, well-educated, but a commoner, was no different. This time, however, Felipe put his foot down and made it clear to his parents that he loved Letizia and would marry her.
Juan Carlos was especially not pleased with Felipe's choice, but Sofia was determined to accept Letizia into the family. She would later acknowledge that she has little in common with Letizia. She also regrets that she does not get to see her granddaughters as often as she would like.
This was the first time in four years that King Juan Carlos attended the Easter mass with his family.
Leonor, 12, having a pre-teen mood, not only pushed her grandmother away. She also pushed her mother's hand, perhaps not wanting to smile for anyone.
Perhaps Queen Letizia thought it inappropriate to snap a photo inside the church before everyone gathered outside for a group photo.
Crown Princess Marie Chantal of Greece, the wife of Crown Prince Pavlos, who is Felipe's first cousin, got into a heated discussion on Twitter. In response to a comment made by a Spanish journalist, Marie Chantal said "No grandmother deserves that type of treatment! Wow she’s shown her true colours."
Queen Sofia and Pavlos' father, King Constantine II, are siblings. The Queen remains close to her Greek family. Although Felipe and Pavlos were roommates at Georgetown University in the mid-1990s, they don't see each other as often as before. Felipe did attend Pavlos' 50th birthday party last July but came without Letizia.
Marie Chantal, whose family is worth billions, and Letizia don't have a lot in common, apart from their marriages to first cousins. They do not move in the same social circles.
The exchange of comments is telling about how Marie Chantal thinks about her husband's cousin's wife.
The video has evoked a torrent of criticism, especially toward Letizia. Watch the video carefully. Queen Sofia is not happy that she missed out on a photo opp with her granddaughters, but Letizia is their mother, and she has every right to decide when it is appropriate or not to have a photo taken.
Queen Letizia has spoken of her respect and admiration for her mother-in-law and they have carried out engagements together. She is happily married. She has a husband who loves her and who is a devoted father to their two daughters.
Look also at Leonor, who may have been having a mini-meltdown in church. Grandma wants a photo but Mom has something else on her mind.
In the second link, the royal family gathers for another family snap. Queen Sofia gives Leonor a kiss. Letizia appears to be wiping the kiss away. She does the same thing to Infanta Sofia. More likely, she was wiping away the lipstick so it would not appear in the photos.
There are probably several different versions to what actually happened on Easter Sunday.
The tension was certainly heady and palpable. Letizia was being a mom, trying to make sure her daughters were behaving. Queen Sofia's face showed the pain and sadness of being rebuffed, but within minutes, everyone was once again smiling before the cameras,
We don't know the aftermath after everyone returned to the Marivent Palace. We do not know if the two queens talked about the incident or not.
We also do not need to know what actually happened.