Meet Spain's Young Royals

They're glamorous, modern and admired throughout Spain. The Bourbons, as the Spanish royal family is known, enjoy a level of popularity -- and protection -- that other royals and celebrities would envy.

Pick up any Spanish magazine, on any day, and you'll find a number of gushy articles on them, chronicling where they go, what they wear and whom they see. They have been profiled for years as a down-to-earth family whose members work for a living.

But some Spanish royals have been getting a drubbing in the media lately, despite having enjoyed a lengthy period of favor with the public.

Queen Sofia, who just celebrated her 70th birthday, provoked a flurry of headlines recently when she gave candid interviews to the royal journalist Pilar Urbano. Urbana then published her statements in her book "The Queen Up Close."

In the book, the queen, who has been known to be reserved but warm toward the public, comes across as more old school than previously seen. She stands firm on issues such as gay marriage, which she opposes, even though she agreed that gay unions should be legal in Spain.

Most controversially, she says that although she respects differing sexual orientations, Her Majesty Queen Sofia can't quite come to grips with why homosexuals "should feel proud to be gay." That caused outrage among more liberal sections of Spanish society.

Spain's media focus in particular on the trials and tribulations of the younger royals. The union of King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia produced three successors, Prince Felipe of Asturias, the Infanta Elena and Christina.

The measure of attention cast their way has increased with the swell in gossipy publications in Spain, the kind of publications that cast eager eyes on the private lives of actors, footballers and bullfighters.

Royals are by no means immune from the interest, although they are spared the more intrusive scrutiny that is given to British royals, who are still recovering from the infamous "Diana effect."

The Infanta Elena has recently drawn attention for separating from her aristocratic husband, Jaime de Marichalar. The rumors had been swirling for some time that all was not well in the marriage before the news broke. Marichalar is often pictured in the glossies as a regular at fashion shows, which has often attracted backhanded compliments in gossip columns.

Dominating the publicity is the heir to the throne, Prince Felipe and his wife, Princess Letizia. They are the embodiment of what a modern royal couple should be -- young, active and photogenic. Both the prince and his wife have raised more than a little interest with their modest form of (dare we say it) sex appeal.

But there is a limit to how far the media can discuss the intimate life of the royal couple. A Spanish satirical publication was fined about $4,000 last year when it published a cartoon on the front page depicting the prince and his wife having sex. A high-court judge ordered the seizure of the magazines and said that the cartoon "struck at the honor and dignity of the people represented."

Plenty of Royal Material

The public muzzling was not a particularly surprising occurrence; scandalous stories rarely emerge from the royal household. And one reason is the harsh penalty for going public -- slandering and defaming the royal family can result in a two-year jail term, not a risk that many publications are willing to take.

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