Fewer than a dozen women have been princesses of Asturias in their own right in the 635-year history of the title, created by Juan I of Castile in 1388 for the heir to the crown.
Each of them, in her style, had to fight their battle in a world dominated by men.
María de Castilla, the first of this short list, was queen of Aragon by marriage and mediated in the Castilian-Aragonese struggles of 1453. Juana de Castilla, called “la Beltraneja”, faced her own aunt, Isabel la Católica, for the throne.
Isabel I, who used to accompany Fernando de Aragón in his military campaigns, was decisive for the victory of the Castilian-Aragonese kingdom in the wars that it waged in Granada between 1482 and 1492. Isabel II, nicknamed "the one with sad destinies", lost the throne entangled in the intrigues of her court of politicians,
military and clergy.
Leonor de Borbón y Ortiz, descendant of all of them and first in the line of succession, will probably not have to wear armor or fight hand-to-hand, but she will have a role in a "contest": that of equality in the Armed Forces .
"The entry of Her Royal Highness the Princess of Asturias into the military academies reinforces the increasingly relevant role of women in the Armed Forces", reads the preamble of Royal Decree 173/2023, the regulation published this Wednesday in the Official
Gazette of the State
regulates the training and military career of the eldest daughter of Felipe VI and Queen Letizia.
According to the new regulations, Leonor de Borbón, 17, will join the General Military Academy of Zaragoza in August as a cadet lady in the 2023-2024 academic year and will later go through the Naval Military School as a first-class midshipman and the Academy Air General as a student lieutenant.
The confirmation that the princess of Asturias will have a three-year military instruction opens the debate on parity in the three armies, in which there is still great inequality between men and women.
The Military Observatory for Equality between women and men in the Armed Forces, a body created by the Ministry of Defense in 2005, has just published its annual report on army personnel, which once again confirms that the percentage of male is the majority.
According to the latest data, corresponding to 2022, men represent 87% while women only 13%.
total of 106,204 men compared to 15,864 women.
The figure is stagnant and has not changed much since the birth of Princess Leonor, in 2005, when the percentage of women was close to 12%.
Currently, they make up 11.5% of the Army, 13.8% of the Navy and 14.2% of the Air Force.
Where there are more women, 36.6%, is in the Common Bodies: Military Law, Health, Intervention and Military Music.
Leonor de Borbón: ex officio, queen;
by profession, military, and employment, captain general
In 1955, when the then Prince Juan Carlos de Borbón began his military training at the General Academy of Zaragoza and swore the flag as a cadet knight, it was unthinkable that a woman aspired to a career in the army.
In that Francoist Spain, a woman could not even open a bank account, get a DNI or manage common property.
In 1985, when Prince Felipe followed in his father's footsteps, the Armed Forces were still off-limits to the Spanish.
It will not be until 1988 when their access to the Corps of Engineers and Common Corps is approved, and in 1999, with the Law on the Personal Regime of the Armed Forces, their admission to all corps, scales and destinations will be approved.
In 2007, during the government of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero and two years after the birth of the Princess of Asturias,
"I and the rest of my colleagues have felt continually questioned and challenged," acknowledged Patricia Ortega, one of the first 27 women to join the Army in 1988 and the first to achieve the job of Major General in the Armed Forces. , in an interview with EL PAÍS in 2019. "But when everything goes against you, you bring out the best in yourself," she added, demanding more transparency in the promotion processes.
Next August, 35 years after Ortega was admitted to the General Military Academy of Zaragoza, Leonor de Borbón will also enter the Army's higher education center and make history.
She will be the first Bourbon woman and the first princess of Asturias to receive military training.
The eldest daughter of Felipe VI is called to be queen of Spain one day, something that has not happened for more than 150 years (the last one was Isabel II).
As established in the Constitution, she will hold the supreme command of the Armed Forces, but she will be captain general of an institution in which, paradoxically, at the moment it is difficult to find women in the highest echelons.
According to the report of the Military Observatory for Equality, 8.3% of the control tables are occupied by women.
In the case of general officers, the figure drops to 0.9%.
Currently, there are only two generals: Patricia Ortega, who was promoted in 2019, and Begoña Aramendía Rodríguez from Austria, promoted in 2021. Both were promoted at the proposal of Margarita Robles, the third female defense minister in history.
Since Robles came to this portfolio,
in 2018, more female servicemen are actively encouraged to aspire to general.
This year, seven of them, all colonels, have completed the promotion course for that job.
13% of women in the Army may not seem like much, but the integration and equality of the military in Spain is slightly above the average for NATO countries (11%).
The #Shecurity Index
, an annual report based on the evolution of the composition of the armies of each country, estimates that the Spanish will need 558 years to achieve parity in the Armed Forces.
Defense hopes that the instruction of the Princess of Asturias reinforces the role of women in the institution.
The unknown is whether the presence of a 17-year-old princess in that world of men will serve or not to shorten the five centuries that remain to achieve equality.
The military training of the heiresses of Europe
Elizabeth of Belgium, learning to shoot during her military training in Elsenborn, in 2020.
Leonor's is not an isolated case among the female heiresses of the European royal families.
All of them have gone through different military formations, from the eldest of all, Princess Victoria of Sweden, 41 years old and generationally distant from those who follow her, to the youngest: Elizabeth of Belgium (21 years old), Amalia de los Países Bajos (19) and Ingrid from Norway (19, heir to the heir, Haakon).
In March 2003, Victoria spent just three weeks in the Swedish army, but every year she takes part in various military exercises.
Although consort, she will also be Queen Mary of Denmark, the wife of the heir Frederick, who participated in military shooting exercises and trained in the National Militia (Hjemmeværnet) for several weeks in 2008, when she was 36 with two children.
Elizabeth from Belgium and Amalia from the Netherlands have already completed their military training.
The Duchess of Brabant, heiress to King Philip of the Belgians (who also studied high school at the same UWC Atlantic College in Wales as Eleanor, only earlier), has been trained in the Army since August 2020 and for a year in the Royal Belgian Military Academy (through which his father and grandfather, Alberto II, already passed) to assume the leadership of the Armed Forces of his country in the future.
Amalia, for her part, made visits to different bases of the land, sea and air armies to learn about her work throughout 2022, and the images of these meetings were published in December.
The Dutch king is not the commander-in-chief of the country's armies, but Amalia had the experience of meeting him with activities such as flying an F-16 fighter plane,
Although not yet an heiress, Ingrid of Norway has already received some instruction and made visits, although she has not undergone extensive military service.
She went in October 2022. She then visited a combat ship and a corvette, and went through the Northern Brigade of the Army in the Setermoen camp, in Indre Troms, participating in medical, artillery or intelligence battalions.
In the future, after her grandfather, Harald V, and her father, Haakon, Ingrid will become Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces of her country.