Royal baby sparks debate

Letizia, a 33-year-old former television news presenter who married the heir to the Spanish throne in May last year, and Leonor are doing well, royal sources said following the birth.

The princess’ gynaecologist, Dr Luis Ignacio Recasens, said he had performed a caesarian section.

The baby weighed in at 3.54 kilograms and measured 47 centimetres when she was born at 1:46 am (0046 GMT) on Monday.

Later, Prince Felipe emerged from the clinic to tell around 100 waiting journalists and dozens of bystanders that the event had been “the most wonderful thing that could happen to anyone”.

“I was by her side and the moment I saw our daughter being born was something exceptional,” he said.

The birth “secures the succession and is a significant event both politically and constitutionally,” the prince added.

King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia beamed from ear to ear as they came out of the clinic after their first glimpse of their grand-daughter.

“Everything went well and she’s a picture,” the king said.

“We are delighted,” the queen added.

“She’s quite a fatty — and she takes after both” her parents, she grinned.

Earlier, Felipe said Leonor was “a name with many historical links” but was chosen “because we liked it”.

Juan Carlos noted Leonor had been a name sported by other regal figures in Spanish history in the kingdoms of “Navarra and Aragon, as well as Portugal,” before the latter achieved a separate identity.

Succession debate

Because the royal couple’s first born child is a girl the question of royal succession has been raised.

Under the terms of the 1978 constitution, the first son of the monarch becomes the official heir to the throne even if he has an older sister.

This means Felipe, 38, who has two older sisters, will become king on the death of his father, King Juan Carlos, who has been head of state since the end of the Franco military dictatorship in 1975.

But the current Socialist government has been pushing for constitutional reform to allow a female head of state and with Princess Leonor’s birth the debate has risen to the top of the political agenda.

Most Spaniards back reform of the succession issue and Felipe said that, while it was up to politicians to enact the necessary reforms, he was sure they would seek “the widest consensus possible.”

If any reforms are applied retroactively Felipe could himself theoretically lose to his eldest sister.

Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, in a televised address, offered “warmest congratulations to the Prince and Princess of Asturias (the official titles of the crown prince and his wife) on the birth of their daughter, the Infanta Leonor.”

“We share with them and all citizens their joy at such a happy event,” Mr Zapatero said, adding that he was sure the monarchy would continue to perform a role “of political, social and territorial integration in the service of all Spaniards.”

If Leonor does eventually accede to the throne she would become Spain’s first female head of state since Queen Isabel II (1833-1868).

Leonor is the Spanish royal couple’s seventh grandchild and a distant descendant of French king Louis XIV.

Felipe’s sisters, Elena and Cristina, have four sons and two daughters between them.

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