Childhood changes for Spain's eight-year-old queen-to-be

Childhood changes for Spain's eight-year-old queen-to-be
Spain's Princess Leonor in 2012.

MADRID - Like many eight-year-old girls, she eats in the school canteen and goes to ballet class. Her friends know her as Leonor - but soon they will have to call her "Highness".

Her childhood will not be the same now that her grandfather Juan Carlos is stepping down as king of Spain.

Once her father Felipe is crowned king, she will no longer be "Infanta", but Princess - and one day Queen. She will be the youngest direct royal heir in Europe.

She will step out for the cameras to zoom in on her blue eyes, blonde hair and toothy smile. Royal-watchers say those may be just the charms the Spanish royal family needs to save its image.

"Until now, her parents have deliberately protected her so that she is not in the papers all the time. Those days are over," said the prince's biographer, Jose Apezarena.

"They will still try to minimise the impact on her personal life, but soon she is going to be the heir to the throne. It will change her life," he added.

"I feel a bit sorry for her because the change is going to take away some of her freedom."

'Normal' childhood

Prince Felipe and his wife Letizia were already darlings of the celebrity press when Leonor was born on October 31, 2005. Letizia, an ex-newsreader, has made countless front pages.

The births of Leonor and her sister Sofia, who is now seven, turned them into possibly the cutest royal family in the world: a tall prince, glamorous mother and two little girls with long blonde hair.

The couple have kept their daughters largely out of view so their childhoods can be as normal as possible.

The few glimpses of the girls allowed by the palace have shown them smiling as they hold hands with their mother and father or their grandmother, Queen Sofia.

"Leonor is a very intelligent child, very active but calm. She faces the cameras with great serenity," said Apezarena.

"She is very caring towards her sister. She makes sure to give her advice and help," he said.

"She does the same things as her classmates, eats in school, goes to ballet class, and studies English." She is said to speak good English, learned from her grandmother and a British nanny as well as at Holy Mary of the Rose Bushes, her expensive private school in western Madrid.

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