Spain’s Royal Family has long been plagued by rumours of tension between Queen Letizia and her mother-in-law, Queen Sofia. Now, a video of the pair appearing to clash over a family photo following Easter Mass has ignited claims of a matriarchal feud at the heart of the House of Bourbon.
The royals were making their way out of Palma Cathedral in Mallorca on Sunday when Queen Sofia attempted to pose for the cameras with her two grandchildren, Princess Leonor and the Infant Sofia.
Queen Letizia was seen repeatedly walking in front of the trio in an apparent bid to block the shot before approaching Princess Leonor and seemingly trying to dislodge her mother-in-law’s hand from her daughter’s shoulder. Princess Leonor then appears to become frustrated with the tussling and thrusts both of their hands away.
The video, which has been viewed millions of times since it was posted on Tuesday, has prompted a round of analysis on morning talk shows and dozens of headlines deploring the royal “squabble”.
A royal relative of Queen Sofia – wife of former king Juan Carlos – also stepped in to publicly criticise Queen Letizia’s behaviour. Princess Marie-Chantal of Greece, the London-based wife of Sofia’s nephew, Crown Prince Pavlos, spoke out over the scene in a series of tweets, describing it as “so awful”.
According to the Spanish newspaper El Confidencial, Queen Letizia previously had a good relationship with her mother-in-law, who came out in her defence after the former journalist told the then King Juan-Carlos to “let me finish” during the 2003 announcement of her engagement to Felipe.
But the relationship soured in 2008 with the publication of a book by the journalist and biographer Pilar Urbano, based on conversations with Queen Sofia. Letizia was reportedly unhappy with some of Queen Sofia’s revelations – which the Royal Family claimed had been misrepresented – regarding her children, in particular that Princess Leonor was instructing her young cousins on eating antioxidant foods. Since then, Queen Sofia has never publicly commented on her grandchildren.
Queen Letizia was on Wednesday said to be dismayed by the controversy over the Easter Mass video. Imma Aguilar, a former colleague and friend, told TeleMadrid that she had since spoken to the queen, who was “worried and quite desolate”. Letizia had dismissed the incident as “silliness” and a “natural gesture”, Ms Aguilar said.