Princess Eleanor will be sworn into the Spanish Constitution on Tuesday to coincide with his 18th birthday in an act full of symbolism that “guarantees the continuity of the Crown”, according to the government. In addition to the solemn ceremony that will take place at the Congress of Deputies, there will be a subsequent event at the Royal Palace where Leonor will receive, at the proposal of the Executive, the Large Necklace of the Order of Charles III, as his father, King Felipe VI, did when he was an adult.
This is the second major award accepted by the Princess of Asturias, who in 2018 was awarded the Necklace of the Distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece in conjunction with the monarch’s 50th birthday.
Unlike that, which has a more dynastic character, the Order of Charles III is a civil distinction, the highest in our country. Its origin dates back to the 18th century, when King Charles III did it on September 19, 1771, “to decorate worthy individuals” and, under the motto “By virtue and merit (of virtue and merit”), reserved great mastery for himself and his successors.
The cause of creation was the birth of the first child of the prince of Asturias, which ensured dynastic continuity, although the infant could no longer reign since he died three years later, which did not prevent the order from being maintained, whose insignia was proudly worn by famous Spaniards from both sides of the Atlantic.
Prince Philip swears in the Constitution (1986)
Suspended during the Second Republic
Although it initially emerged as a knightly order—and, therefore, military—in 1847, during the reign of Elizabeth II, the Order of Charles III was available exclusively for civil character, establishing four degrees of the same and specifying that it was merit—and not service to the Crown—that led to distinction.
The Order of Charles III was briefly suspended during the First Republic (1873–1874) and again from the beginning of the Second Republic (1931) until 1942, when it was rebuilt by General Franco, who reserved his leadership despite the opposition of the heirs to the Crown.
With the death of the dictator and the arrival of democracy in 1975, King Juan Carlos I assumed the grand mastership and accelerated the modernization of the institution, allowing the incorporation of women, a circumstance hitherto forbidden.
In 2002, the Royal and Distinguished Order of Charles III and its decorations became regulated by a Royal Decree, which established that it is “the highest honorary distinction of the Spanish civil orders” and whose purpose is to “reward citizens who, with their efforts, initiatives, and work, give distinguished and exceptional services to the country.”
It also regulates the payment of the Grand Master, who fell to the King of Spain, and the Grand Chancellor, held by the President of the Government, who, on taking office, “shall be invested with the rank of Knight or Dame Grand Cross alike.”
Princess Leonor acknowledges her “duties and responsibilities” as heir in the face of the world’s “complexity.”
The Royal Decree established the four degrees of the order—collar, grand cross, commendation in number, and cross—and established that the main distinction, the collar, could fall on “members of the royal family, leaders of the state and government, and of those Spanish citizens who have possessed the great cross for more than three years” It limited the number of living Spanish citizens to 25 to whom it may be given, excluding members of the Royal Family.
In addition, this insignia can be given “to people of foreign nationality, as long as they give outstanding and worthy service in Spain or out of courtesy and reciprocation to high dignitaries of other countries.”
The Royal Decree regulates that the collar is composed of a total of 41 pieces as links among these are “the golden figure of the Monarch who gave its name to the Royal Order, surrounded by palm and golden laurel, enameled in green and red”, two rampant golden lions, a castle made of gold, and a war trophy.
The scallop of the order hangs from the figure: a golden cross formed by four equal arms, topped by eight golden spheres, the center of which is made of indigo blue enamel, outlined by a strip of white enamel. On each arm is a burnished gold fleur-de-lis. On the obverse, the scallop shows an image of the Immaculate Conception in relief and color, and on the reverse, a figure of Charles III with the motto of the order: By virtue and merit.
Princess Leonor experienced her first parade as a soldier and her first royal reception
Very exclusive club
With the imposition of the collar, Princess Leonor becomes part of a small list of personalities who hold this insignia, as there are currently only 13 living people who have this distinction, including her father, Felipe VI, who received it in 1986, and his grandfather, King Emeritus Juan Carlos I, who was given it in 1962.
The former presidents of Portugal complete this relationship: Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa (2018) and Antonio Ramalho (1979); the former president of Mexico, Enrique Pena Nieto (2015); the former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet (2014); Nicolas Sarkozyformer, president of France (2009); Harald V, king of Norway (2006); Mohamed VI from Morocco (2005); Enrique, Grand Duke of Luxembourg (2001); the former emperor of Japan Here; and the kings of Denmark and Sweden, Margarita (1980) and Charles XVI Gustav (1979), respectively.
The Collar of the Order of Charles III is also awarded on occasions after the deaths of relevant personalities, as happened in 2014 and 2008 to former presidents of the government. Adolfo Suarez and Leopoldo Calvo-Sotelo