Children are usually seen as adults in the making. Because they are “unfinished,” children represent hope. While this is often a valid source of inspiration for many, it is also the misfortune of others. Children’s potential to become something makes people (adults) believe that through them change is possible. This couldn’t be more visible today than in the news coverage about the impact of Juan Carlos’s resignation as king of Spain. An article from AFP (Madrid) explains that for 8-year-old Leonor de Borbón y Ortíz
childhood will not be the same now that her grandfather Juan Carlos is stepping down as king of Spain. Once her father Felipe is crowned king, she will no longer be “Infanta”, but Princess — and one day Queen. She will be the youngest direct royal heir in Europe.
This fragment shows the “unfinished” clause in royal terms. Leonor is not only an adult in the making, but a queen in the making. Her childhood is no longer a private place and time, but also a tool that others will use to illustrate specific ideas about hope and politics. Leonor, warns the article in a superficial tone,
will step out for the cameras to zoom in on her blue eyes, blonde hair and toothy smile. Royal-watchers say those may be just the charms the Spanish royal family needs to save its image. . . . The births of Leonor and her sister Sofia, who is now seven, turned them into possibly the cutest royal family in the world: a tall prince, glamorous mother and two little girls with long blonde hair.
Stereotypes about what is “cute” and royal aside, the mere accepted manipulation of children’s lives (or children’s public image at the very least) is almost Machiavellian. And as if all this was not enough, the article includes a section titled “Pretty face, saving face” that explains, in more detail, the improvements that Leonora could bring to her royal family’s public image with her own childhood:
Behind the walls of the royal Zarzuela Palace and Holy Mary of the Rose Bushes, Leonor may hear little of the noisy street protests by those who want Spain to be a republic.
Spain’s main political forces, the ruling Popular Party and opposition Socialists, back Felipe’s succession however and are expected to speed it through parliament, with the new king likely to be sworn in on June 19.
Felipe will then have to win over Spaniards fed up at corruption scandals and two recessions.
For that, the new heiress could be one of his biggest assets.
“Whenever the infantas Leonor and Sofia appear in public, they win the affection of the people. They are very pretty girls and seem very well brought up,” [José] Apezarena, [the prince’s biographer] said.
“We are going to be seeing a lot more of those images from now on, and they are going to help the new king to win over the people.”
Whether Leonor is seen as an asset, as hope, or as the possibility for change, today’s news narrative incorporates the role of Leonor as a “child savior.” In the child savior myth, the child is the medium for a solution to adults’ problems. The idea that children can solve other people’s problems is not uncommon, but for some reason, the fact that this would get discussed so publicly (and without much resistance) makes adults’ use of children slightly more frightening.
—Alexia Raynal, Zeteo Managing Editor
To read more posts by Alexia Raynal, visit her ZiR page here.
Cover image: Princess Leonor, daughter of the Spanish Crown Prince, sits in a car in Palma de Mallorca on August 2, 2013 (AFP Photo/Jaime Reina
Inside image: copy of holy card by St. Theres of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face. The first line of the Latin beneath the picture (There is no savior beside me) is taken from Hosea 13:4:
Read more about the child savior myth and archetype here: “The character of the child is one of the primary archetypes of mankind. The relationship between children and older people in which the child is the medium for a solution to the older person’s problems is derived from the archetype of the child and is a natural result of the structure of relationships between children and older persons. The latter is often referred to, somewhat imprecisely, as the child savior myth. However, it is much more than a myth, being the expression of an important relationship that occurs repeatedly in real life and is often used in fiction.”