Queen Letizia and a Spanish royal scandal

 Queen Letizia of Spain in the Community Residence, Toledo.
Queen Letizia of Spain in the Community Residence, Toledo.

The Spanish royal family is no stranger to high-profile scandals, with the former King, Juan Carlos, rarely out of the news despite abdicating in 2014.

But this time it is his daughter-in-law, Queen Letizia, who is dominating headlines after claims that she was unfaithful to King Felipe, Juan Carlos's son and successor.

Jaime del Burgo, a businessman and former husband of Letizia's sister Telma, posted an image on social media on Sunday of the Queen in which "she is visibly pregnant", said The Daily Telegraph. Letizia and Felipe's daughters were born after their marriage, in 2005 and 2007. Del Burgo claimed that Letizia sent him a selfie with the message: "I am counting the hours until we see each other again, love you, get out of here. Yours."

The Spanish royal household has made no comment, but the family has been "rocked" by the claims, said the i news site, as it tries to "shake off a series of financial and romantic scandals linked to the disgraced former king Juan Carlos".

The allegations are "perhaps calculated at a time when the Spanish monarchy seems to be recovering a forward momentum", said Tatler, amid a surge in popularity for Letizia's daughter Princess Leonor, who recently turned 18.

But Spain is still extremely divided over its royal family. A recent poll by El Diario suggested that 45% of Spaniards would support a republic if there were a referendum on the monarchy and 43.5% back the royals.

The background

In a recently published book "Letizia y yo" (Letizia and I) by royal reporter Jaime Peñafiel, Del Burgo, 53, described a romantic relationship with Letizia, 51, before her wedding to Felipe in 2004.

He claimed he kept "photographs, videos, mobile phones and text messages" in a bank vault as evidence of a romance with Letizia, who was then a popular news anchor on the state-owned TV channel. Del Burgo also claimed he was planning to propose to Letizia in 2002, the day she told him she was dating Felipe. He went on to be a witness at their wedding in 2004, but claimed that the night before getting married, Letizia begged him to "never leave me". Del Burgo then married the Queen's sister Telma in 2012, before they divorced two years later.

Del Burgo also alleged that Letizia told him she loved him during her marriage, while they lay in hammocks by the pool at the royal residence, La Zarzuela. This, he said, prompted him to write an unpublished play in English called "The Hammock". One of the most "sensational claims", said i news, is that Letizia suggested that she and Del Burgo should have a child together using a surrogate in Los Angeles.

The latest

The claims surfaced on Monday in "an obscure online magazine", said The Times. Peñafiel told El Cierre Digital that Letizia was Del Burgo's "great love". Now the claims have "gone mainstream" after an influential commentator "sprang to Letizia's defence", railing against detractors who were "spreading dirt" about the Queen.

The book "does not allege that any affair was conducted during Letizia's marriage to Felipe", noted The Telegraph. But on X (now Twitter), Del Burgo said the book "had not told the whole truth".

"Seemingly in a bid to stand up the claims made in the book", Del Burgo posted on his account "what appears to be an undated selfie" taken by a pregnant Letizia in a bathroom, said the Daily Express – the implication being that they were still lovers during her marriage.

Del Burgo also posted descriptions of several alleged romantic encounters with Letizia, and claimed to have received death threats about the allegations. However, he provided "no evidence confirming either the picture or the accompanying message had been sent to him by Queen Letizia".

The reaction

Although the posts have been deleted, Del Burgo is facing a remarkable backlash in Spain, with some accusing him of "machismo". Del Burgo's claims were a "sexist attack on her privacy", posted Carolina Alonso, spokeswoman of the left-wing and anti-monarchist Unidas Podemos group, on social media.

Many have been "shocked by what is regarded as a crass attack on the privacy of a married woman in the public eye", said Tatler.

But Letizia "was subject to much of the same sexist and classist scrutiny as Catherine Middleton", with "utterly undue vitriol" poured on her around the time of her marriage due to her status as a "divorcee and middle-class professional".

Courtiers must be "choking on their churros", said The Times. Why Del Burgo is airing such allegations now – and whether they are true – is unclear. Next May will be Letizia and Felipe's 20th wedding anniversary, though "whether it will be much of a celebration remains to be seen".