A Filipino in the palace?

The Philippines was named after Felipe II, the King of Spain who ruled during the second half of the 1500s. Today, another Felipe is sitting on the throne, the 46-year-old Felipe VI. The king’s wife, the Queen of Spain, is 41-year-old Letizia Ortiz Rocasolano, a former journalist and news anchor and the first Spanish queen to have been born as a commoner.

Queen of Spain, Letizia Ortiz
Rocasolano      (
Prior to being part of the royal family, Letizia was an accomplished professional. She has a Bachelor’s Degree and a Licentiate (a PhD equivalent) in Information Sciences, branch of Journalism and a Master’s Degree in Audiovisual Journalism. Her work experience includes stints at various Spanish news agencies, as well as Bloomberg and CNN.

In 2004, she was wed to Felipe, then Prince of Asturias, effectively making her Princess of Asturias. It was her second marriage; the first one was in 1998, which was dissolved by divorce a year later. The king and queen have two children, Leonor, now known as the Princess of Asturias, and Infanta Sofia of Spain, age eight and seven respectively.

A few days before Felipe was crowned, news outlets have been reporting how the couple “will not inherit not only dynastic rights but also a country in the throes of a grave financial crisis and skyrocketing employment” (The Washington Times) and how Letizia has been portrayed in the Spanish media as “cold and manipulative” (The Telegraph). Depending on who you talk to, the new queen is described as either “popular” or “unpopular.”

Strolling on a Spanish street.
Felipe II, the King of Spain
with Queen Letizia and their
daughters, Leonor and Sofia. 
To Letizia’s credit, The Telegraph says she is largely responsible for maintaining her husband’s clean public image and she “fits perfectly, too, into the successful new model of the ‘commoner bride,’ personified by the likes of Kate Middleton and Mary Donaldson (Crown Princess of Denmark).” And just like the Duchess of Cambridge, Queen Letizia is making waves for her style choices. Because she favors and supports Spanish designers, The New York Times thinks of this as “a chance for Spanish fashion to raise its profile and, with it, its profits.”

However, what is interesting to some Filipinos is the queen’s ancestry. It has been suggested that on the side of her paternal grandfather, Jose Luis Ortiz Velasco, Felizia is a descendant of an untitled family with medieval nobility lineage. By her maternal grandfather, Francisco Julio Rocasolano Camacho, she is of French and Occitan origin. Her maternal grandmother, Enriqueta Rodriguez Figueredo, is half Filipino. This means that her mother is a quarter Filipino and that would make her—I know, we’re grasping here— one-eighth Filipino.

But she doesn’t really have Filipino blood coursing through her veins. Letizia’s Filipino connection is merely geographical. To understand this, we must remember that during colonial times, there was a caste system. Native Filipinos (those of pure Austronesian ancestry) were called indio. The label “Filipino” was reserved for the insulares, or people of pure Spanish descent born in the Philippines.

According to the blog Filipino Genealogy Project, Letizia’s maternal great-grandfather (Enriqueta’s father), Enrique Rodriguez, was a Filipino under that historical and cultural definition but still very much Spanish by blood. While the prospect of a part-indio—pardon me, part-Filipino—Spanish queen consort in the reign of a king named Felipe would make for a delightfully excellent headline, but it’s simply not true.

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