Spanish queen breaks silence - and upsets gay groups

The elegant Spanish Queen Sofia is known for many things - her lacy mantillas at royal weddings, her compassionate embraces, her grandmotherly photo-ops, and above all, her discretion. But now, as she approaches her 70th birthday after three decades on the throne alongside the popular King Juan Carlos, Sofia has revealed her thoughts on everything from gay marriage to teaching religion in schools to Hillary Clinton.

Leaks from a new biography, The Queen Up Close, appeared in El Pais yesterday and are already causing controversy, especially among gay rights groups, who seemed to like her better with her lips closed.

"I can understand, accept and respect that there are people of other sexual tendencies, but should they be proud to be gay? Should they ride on a parade float and come out in protests? If all of those of us who aren't gay came out to protest we would halt traffic," she said in the book, written by Spanish journalist Pilar Urbano.

The discreet queen proceeded to even more sensitive ground, referring to Spain's recent law to legalize gay marriage, which provoked the fury of the Catholic Church hierarchy. "If those people want to live together, dress up like bride and groom and marry, they could have a right to do so, or not, depending on the law of their country, but they should not call this matrimony, because it isn't," she is quoted as saying. "There are many possible names: social contract, social union".

The State Federation of Lesbians, Gays and Transsexuals immediately asked the Queen to retract her comments. "Many mothers of gays and lesbians are going to ask why the Queen understands that the Prince would marry a divorced woman, but she can't understand why other mothers wouldn't want that same happiness of marriage for their children," said the federation president Antonio Poveda. Prince Felipe married divorced journalist Letizia Ortiz in 2004 with the crown's blessing.

Returned to the throne by Franco, the Spanish monarchy has had to earn the affection of the Spanish people, and support is generally strong in gratitude for King Juan Carlos's role in the transition to democracy. The favourable opinion stems in part from the pact of neutrality by which the monarchs do not take sides on matters of national politics – allowing all factions to believe royalty on their side.

The row over gay rights overshadowed the Queen's comments on other thorny matters, such as the teaching of religion in the schools, which she considers necessary "at least to a certain age." "Children need an explanation of the origin of world and of life," she said. She similarly followed the lines of the Catholic Church on abortion, which is legal in Spain.

Fans of political gossip, meanwhile, are enjoying her take on the former Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, who was said to have a strained relationship with the monarchs. "He wasn't unpleasant with us," she is quoted as saying. "Perhaps something about his demeanour, his serious expression, didn't help him…"

By contrast, she bonded with Hillary Clinton: "They make her out to be an ambitious woman who uses her husband's influence to her own benefit. The poor thing must have suffered a great deal."

Lately some regional nationalists, especially in Catalonia, have been increasingly vocal in their anti-monarchical sentiment, with some youth activists burning photos of the king and queen, once unthinkable.

"Does it hurt your feelings?" asks the author of the book. "Well, of course, we're not made of stone," the queen replied. But on that score, Queen Sofia advises discretion. "It's hard to ignore. It's hard to stay silent. We all have our self-esteem. But you have to swallow it: receive, greet, smile ‘How are you?' as if nothing happened. For them to ruffle you would be worse."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Sir David Attenborough
people
Life and Style
Young girl and bowl of cereal
food + drink
News
Comic miserablist Larry David in 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'
peopleDirector of new documentary Misery Loves Comedy reveals how he got them to open up
Arts and Entertainment
Henry VIII played by Damien Lewis
tvReview: Scheming queens-in-waiting, tangled lines of succession and men of lowly birth rising to power – sound familiar?
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Sport
football
Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Ready to open the Baftas, rockers Kasabian are also ‘great film fans’
musicExclusive: Rockers promise an explosive opening to the evening
Life and Style
David Bowie by Duffy
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Hell, yeah: members of the 369th Infantry arrive back in New York
booksWorld War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel
News
advertisingVideo: The company that brought you the 'Bud' 'Weis' 'Er' frogs and 'Wasssssup' ads, has something up its sleeve for Sunday's big match
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Environment
Dame Vivienne Westwood speaking at a fracking protest outside Parliament on Monday (AP)
environment
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: This post arises as a result of the need to...

Tradewind Recruitment: Class Teacher Required ASAP In Uminster

£120 - £150 per annum: Tradewind Recruitment: I am recruiting on instruction o...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wimbledon, SW London

£24000 - £28000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive - Wim...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee
World War Z author Max Brooks honours WW1's Harlem Hellfighters in new graphic novel

Max Brooks honours Harlem Hellfighters

The author talks about race, legacy and his Will Smith film option to Tim Walker
Why the league system no longer measures up

League system no longer measures up

Jon Coles, former head of standards at the Department of Education, used to be in charge of school performance rankings. He explains how he would reform the system
Valentine's Day cards: 5 best online card shops

Don't leave it to the petrol station: The best online card shops for Valentine's Day

Can't find a card you like on the high street? Try one of these sites for individual, personalised options, whatever your taste
Diego Costa: Devil in blue who upsets defences is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

Devil in blue Costa is a reminder of what Liverpool have lost

The Reds are desperately missing Luis Suarez, says Ian Herbert
Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Ashley Giles: 'I'll watch England – but not as a fan'

Former one-day coach says he will ‘observe’ their World Cup games – but ‘won’t be jumping up and down’
Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story