A masked young girl has become a familiar image in Spain during a time of national crisis. She has followed her parents around as they try to boost morale while the country battles to pick itself up from the pandemic. The girl behind that mask is Leonor, the 14-year-old heir to the Spanish throne, whose fresh face and unbesmirched character stand in contrast to that of her 82-year-old grandfather, Juan Carlos.
In the week that the former king left the country amid mounting allegations of corruption — yesterday he was reported to be in Abu Dhabi — republican sentiment is on the rise. The name and even a statue of the former king has been voted to be removed by a town in Madrid in response to his flight.
Attention must turn to the future if the Bourbon monarchy is to survive. It is a responsibility that rests on the shoulders of Leonor, and the reigning king, Felipe VI, knows that, as he introduces her to the country while trying to modernize the monarchy. His most recent successful public moments have come with Leonor and her sister, Sofía, 13.
Last November Leonor made her public-speaking debut at an awards ceremony in Barcelona at which she charmed guests with her comments in Spanish, Catalan, English and Arabic. Leonor and Sofía read from Don Quixote on World Book Day in April. They also made a video in which they expressed their solidarity with all those suffering as a result of the pandemic. The young princesses are clearly the future for a modernized monarchy. “Leonor is still very young, but modern, well-educated and a woman — which is important as the feminist movement grows in Spain,” a palace source said. “She is a great asset.”
Juan Carlos’s abdication in 2014, forced on him by the scandal related to payments from Riyadh, handed his son a poisoned chalice. Nevertheless, challenge accepted, the new king removed his elder sisters, Elena and Cristina, from royal duties to lessen the burden on public finances. He then stripped Cristina of her title of Duchess of Palma while she and her husband, Iñaki Urdangarin, were under investigation for tax fraud. She was acquitted but he went to jail.
Queen Letizia, a former television news anchor, has helped to foster the image of Felipe as a modern family man and a dignified head of state but Juan Carlos’s flight threatens to open a Pandora’s Box of political and constitutional problems for Spain, at the worst possible time as it faces a pandemic and economic crisis. “Spain seems trapped in a constitutional model that does not correspond to the time or the circumstances,” El Diario, a news website, said. “The future is not written, not even for Felipe.” Warning him that unless the monarchy can reconnect with the public as it did 45 years ago, it added: “Its days are numbered.”
When future generations of teachers go to tell off their daydreaming pupils for doodling at the back of the classroom, the name Joe Whale may loom large in their mind. Ten-year-old Joe, who was chastised for sketching during lessons, has landed a global book deal to illustrate a series of children’s books after his drawings were posted online.
The schoolboy from Shrewsbury, Shropshire, was sent to an after-school arts club by his parents after he got into trouble for drawing during class when he got bored. However, his art teacher spotted the potential of his sketches and asked his parents if she could put them on Instagram. His pictures of monsters and aliens soon attracted an army of over 100,000 fans around the world, who affectionately nicknamed Joe “The Doodle Boy”. Last year a local restaurant hired him to create a huge mural on the wall of their dining room.
This week the young artist signed a deal with a publisher in the USA to illustrate a series of children’s books, with the first being published next year.
Joe, who began drawing at the age of two, now has an agent in Los Angeles and recently spent a week in the US illustrating the set of the TV show Little Big Shots. “I’ve seen all the illustrated books in stores and it will be amazing to have my own book on the shelves,” he said. “The main thing I draw is scenes — those are my favorite. I love drawing beaches and forests and that sort of stuff. I have a few characters in my doodles but my focus is on monsters and aliens. I spend one or two hours a day drawing, sometimes more — when I wake up in the morning, near lunchtime and in the afternoon. I definitely want to be an artist. It is one of the most relaxing things I do.”
Greg, 40, Joe’s father, said that the family were planning to stay in the UK for the moment, but could be willing to relocate if his son’s burgeoning career required it. He added that Joe had already received an advance for the first book, due to be released next year. “Because the talks about the book finished over lockdown we hadn’t had the chance to talk to the school, so I’ll explain it to them when he goes back,” said Mr Whale, a sales manager at a welding firm. “I have got no worries really because they have been supportive of him before and I expect they will be again.
“He definitely doesn’t get it from me. I’ve always loved art, I’m fairly good at art but only on a realistic scale, the imagination is more from his mum’s side.”