The Spanish royal family marked two special occasions on Tuesday, January 30. King Felipe celebrated his 50th birthday and proudly bestowed the Order of the Golden Fleece upon his oldest daughter Princess Leonor. The 12-year-old became the youngest female in modern history to receive the prestigious honor — in the past two centuries only three other females have been recipients of the honor, including then-Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, Queen Margrethe II of Denmark and Queen Elizabeth.
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In a heartwarming speech, King Felipe told his firstborn: “This day, on which I am 50 years old, is the one I have chosen to formally present Princess Leonor with the Golden Fleece Necklace that I granted her on October 31, 2015, when she turned ten-years-old.”
VIEW GALLERY King Felipe presented his firstborn with the Order of the Golden Fleece Photos: JUAN MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
“In this way, dear Leonor, I have chosen to share with you this special day to highlight, with the greatest solemnity and symbolism, our personal and institutional commitment to Spain,” he continued. “This is the meaning of present and future that contains the ceremony that we are celebrating and in which, as Chief and Sovereign of the Order, I have given you the Necklace and the insignias that identify it.”
The dad-of-two noted that the honor, which is deeply rooted in the history of Spain and Europe, comes with special responsibilities. King Felipe told the heir presumptive to the Spanish throne that she must be inspired by her values and ideals. Felipe explained, “Values that you must hold and strengthen day by day in your heart. Because your actions — all of them — must be guided by the greater sense of dignity and exemplarity, by honesty and integrity, by the capacity of renunciation and sacrifice, by the permanent spirit of improvement, and by your unreserved dedication to your country and your people."
VIEW GALLERY Queen Letizia and Infanta Sofía proudly watched Leonor receive the prestigious honor Photo: JUAN MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
His Majesty also stressed to his daughter: ”You [Leonor] must respect others, their ideas and beliefs; and you will love the culture, the arts and the sciences, because they give us the best human dimension to be better and help to progress in our society. You will be guided permanently by the Constitution, fulfilling and observing it; you will serve Spain with humility and aware of your institutional position; and you will make yours all the worries and joys, all the wishes and feelings of the Spaniards."
King Felipe concluded his speech saying, “I know that today you may find many demands and many responsibilities, all important and difficult, but you should know that you will have the support of many people who want the best for Spain, for the Crown and for you. Your family will always be by your side: especially your mother and also Sofia, who will be with you supporting you; also your grandparents; and of course I, your father, you know that I trust you fully and that I feel enormously proud to have given you this morning the Necklace of the Insigne Order of the Golden Fleece. Congratulations Leonor.”
VIEW GALLERY Leonor curtseyed for the first time in public during the ceremony Photo: JUAN MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images
During the ceremony, Leonor sweetly smiled and curtseyed to her father – her first curtsy in public. The young Princess’ mother Queen Letizia as well as her younger sister Infanta Sofía, ten, and paternal grandparents, King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia proudly watched.
Leonor was officially given the order in 2015, but it wasn't ceremoniously presented to her until now. The order, which dates back to the 15th century, has been bestowed to roughly 1,200 people. The King and Queen of Spain are the Sovereigns and Great Masters of the Order. Sovereigns and members of royal families in addition to prominent figures, who have rendered relevant services to the Crown, have received the Toisón since its founding. King Felipe VI ‘s father presented him with the award on May 15, 1981, where he became one of the youngest knights of the Golden Fleece in modern history.