Doña Letizia in a bikini, the most searched photo of the summer and the last real taboo | people

The Bourbons they were the pioneers in adopting the good habit of spending the summer. mid 19th century, Isabel II began to spend the summer season in San Sebastian. His daughter-in-law, María Cristina, took this habit after the widow of Alfonso XII, in the summer of 1887. The regent ordered the construction of the miramar palace, between the beaches of La Concha and Ondarreta, and positioned the north of the peninsula as a vacation destination for the nobility and the bourgeoisie. Victoria Eugenia, wife of Alfonso XIII, carried on the tradition, although she later imposed her English customs on neighboring Santander. There he made lawn tennis, the Gran Casino Sardinero and wave baths or thalassotherapy, the use of sea water as a therapeutic agent, fashionable.

Ena, who is what they called the grandmother of the king emeritus, promoted in Spain the modern ideology around summer: a time of rest and recreation. In 1918, in the middle of the Alfonsino period, Spanish public employees, soldiers and teachers obtained a fundamental right: 15 days leave per year by law (although paid leave for all workers did not arrive until the Second Republic). However, Alfonso XIII’s wife was never in favor of wearing a lavish swimsuit. I prefer to go down to sardinero beach in a white dress and hat.

“Growing up between the Isle of Wight and Windsor Castle, Victoria Eugenia brought the English ideal of summer to Spain: polo and tennis matches, beach walks and wave baths,” says Ricardo Mateos Sáinz at EL PAÍS de Medrano, historian. and royal expert. “He was more worldly and cosmopolitan than his predecessors and was in tune with the style Belle Epoque. She went down to the beach and smoked and they slammed her for it. But at bath time, he kept his modesty”, adds the author of titles like Spain’s Unknown Children, Queen Sofia’s family oh nobility obliges. The Bourbons had a royal house by the sea so that no one would see them bathing, and they used the “bath machine”, a kind of horse-drawn toilet cabin that threw itself into the water.

A century later, the queens of Spain continue to avoid being seen or photographed in swimsuits. During his summers in Mallorca, the royal family usually bathes in the waters of Cabrera Island, a Balearic archipelago of 19 islets which in 1991 was declared a maritime-terrestrial national park. Their access is restricted, which makes it difficult for paparazzi. However, the review Hey ! In 2007 he managed to publish the first images of Doña Letizia and Doña Sofía in swimsuits. There were six few photographs, not very clear and taken from afar, in which we could see the then Princess of Asturias bikini sunbathing On the bridge of the royal yacht, the Fortune, Already his mother-in-law, Queen Sofia, with the straps of her cherry-colored swimsuit rolled up to avoid sun marks on her neckline.

Queen María Cristina, on the beach of La Concha (San Sebastián) in the summer of 1890, in an illustration from 'The Spanish and American Illustration'.
Queen María Cristina, on the beach of La Concha (San Sebastián) in the summer of 1890, in an illustration from ‘The Spanish and American Illustration’.Alamy Press / Cordon

The photos, then marketed by the press agencies Europa Press and Korpa, were signed by photographers Antonio Catalán, Raúl Martínez and Antonio Gutiérrez. They were said to charge between 200,000 and 300,000 euros for the exclusive, but neither the agencies that handled the sale nor the authors have confirmed the figure.

“Before, queens weren’t shown in bathing suits for religious, modesty or taboo reasons. Now they just don’t like going out like that because they know they’re going to have flaws” , told this newspaper Carmen Enríquez, who was Casa Real’s correspondent for TVE for almost two decades. “Exposing themselves with few clothes exposes them to the media and elicits comments and criticisms that have nothing to do with their institutional role: whether or not they have cellulite; whether or not they did gymnastics; whether or not they have been operated on; if they have a more or less flat stomach. They do not want to submit to this analysis, which is understandable. Moreover, they know that the monarchy is not for these debates.

In the summer of 2011, Doña Letizia was photographed again in a swimsuit. Again, in a bikini, in the waters of Cabrera Island. Once again on board Fortune and on the pages of Hey ! But this time, the images were sharper. In it, the motionless princess could be seen enjoying a day of regattas in the Copa del Rey de Vela, cheering with her niece, Irene Urdangarín, having an aperitif and swimming. The report was also sold by Korpa, although on this occasion the agency preferred not to reveal the identity of its authors.

“Some photos that we publish out of respect and that offer us rare scenes to see,” reads the text of the magazine. Despite the ‘respectful’ treatment, Casa Real expressed their unease. “Knowing Doña Letizia, she must have been very angry. He doesn’t like these things at all,” admits Carmen Enríquez, who covered life and institutional activity at the Zarzuela Palace from 1990 to 2007.

Doña Sofía then Princess Leticia, aboard 'La SOMNI' in Balearic waters in the summer of 2008.
Doña Sofía then Princess Leticia, aboard ‘La SOMNI’ in Balearic waters in the summer of 2008.

© Leonardo F Comparini (Leonardo Comparini /Cordon Press)

“The image of Doña Letizia in a bikini continues to be the most sought after of the year, the most coveted. She is the number one character in the pink press, and even more so now that this sector is going through a character crisis” , explains Sandra Aladro, director of Gtresonline, the press agency specializing in gossip and people news. “The photos of the Queen in her daily activity are those that are published the most times and in the most media, because they fit everywhere: gossip and fashion magazines, women’s monthly, newspapers, websites. Everything he does arouses enormous interest in the media,” acknowledges Aladro.

Curiously, we don’t have the same interest in seeing King Felipe in a bathing suit. Neus Molina, a journalist and professor of gender and communication at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, ​​attributes this to the fact that Spain continues to be a heteropatriarchal society that treats women as “second-class citizens”. “In the case of Letizia, the institution of the monarchy reinforces this, because she is ‘the wife of’, ‘the wife of’, and she has a purely visual role. Although she is professional, they do not give her a voice or she does not have a voice in relation to her training, her culture, her intelligence or her career,” explains the researcher.

However, Molina understands the interest that exists in the press and public opinion for the image of the wife. “We live in the social media empire, constantly seeing our favorite politicians, singers, actors and actresses in their daily lives. But the monarchy stays out of that dynamic. The Kings don’t take pictures in their daily lives. So that of Letizia in a bikini is remarkable,” admits Molina. “Ordinary people only want material to talk about insubstantial things, easily digestible material. And what better than a 50-year-old woman in a bathing suit.

Princess Diana on vacation in the Virgin Islands in April 1990.
Princess Diana on vacation in the Virgin Islands in April 1990.Tim Graham (Tim Graham Photo Library via Get)

“To this we must add that we live in the country of gossip, where criticism of the other is part of popular culture. The problem is that we always criticize women. Now, with social networks, this criticism is exercised with more violence, because we can interact with the person in question anonymously. In the case of the queen, I guess they are trying to protect her from that,” concludes Neus Molina.

The secrecy surrounding the royal bodies extends to the rest of the European houses. The Queen of England, for example, has just turned 70 on the throne and has never allowed herself to be photographed in a swimsuit. In 2019, photos of her eldest son, Prince Charles, taking a bath in Barbados went around the world. His lawyer has sent a letter to the media stressing the heir to the British throne’s “reasonable right to privacy”. For her part, Lady Di left memorable images: with a swimsuit animal footprint in the Virgin Islands, in 1990; or navigate the waters of Portofino (Italy) sitting pensively on the end of a yacht’s diving board in August 1997. When these photos were published, everyone noticed her electric blue swimsuit and athletic figure, but few noticed her wistful gaze. It was his last summer.

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