A reluctant royal: publicity-shy sister of future Spanish queen commits suicide

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The Spanish royal family was last night struggling to come to terms with the suicide of the future queen's sister. Erika Ortiz Rocasolano, 31, died from a massive overdose of pills, possibly tranquillisers, a post-mortem examination found. She was the younger sister of Princess Letizia, who is married to the future king, Crown Prince Felipe.

Ms Ortiz, who is survived by a six-year-old daughter, Carla, had written to members of her family before taking the overdose and died in her sleep.

She had been suffering from depression for some months after the breakdown of her marriage. A timid person, she hated the constant attention her elder sister's position brought her.

Ms Ortiz's painful divorce from the sculptor Antonio Vigo had cast her into the spotlight and she often appeared in Spain's prensa rosa (gossip) magazines. Speculation was rife about whether her new boyfriends would help her heal the scars of her failed marriage.

Ms Ortiz was also said to have struggled to establish herself professionally in comparison to Letizia, a former television anchorwoman, and her older sister, Telma, an overseas aid worker based in Manila.

Almost the entire royal family, led by King Juan Carlos, attended a short private cremation for Ms Ortiz on Thursday. Letizia, who is due to give birth to her second daughter in May, broke down repeatedly. Afterwards, shemanaged to say: "Thank you to everyone who has grieved for the death of my little sister."

Ms Ortiz's death has shocked Spain, dominating newspaper front pages and chat shows since it was announced on Wednesday. But in stark contrast to Britain, the Spanish press have a highly respectful attitude to the Bourbons. When a television station and newspaper suggested that Ms Ortiz had killed herself before the post-mortem examination had been conducted, they were labelled as "irresponsible" by the head of the Madrid Press Association, Fernando Gonzalez Urbaneja.

It is not the first time that the Bourbons have been rocked by tragedy. In 1956, the future king Juan Carlos witnessed the death of his brother Alonso, who was shot dead in a hunting accident. It was said to have changed him into a more sensitive man.