Speculation that Queen Letizia of Spain might be struggling with her weight has been swirling throughout European society circles for the last couple of months.
“Everyone has been saying all year that Letizia is looking severely underweight again,” says one Spanish court source.
Now those whispered rumors have burst into the open, with new pictures showing the Queen looking painfully thin on an official engagement overseas, a two-day visit by Letizia and her husband, King Felipe, to Honduras.
It was the Daily Mail that managed to find the least sympathetic, body-shaming manner of reporting on Letizia’s apparent woes, labeling her a member of the “scarily skinny club” which, it authoritatively stated, includes “the similarly slender Amal Clooney”.
What this and similar reports about Queen Letizia’s weight have neglected to mention, however, is the context of constant, poisonous, snobbish sniping that Letizia has been subjected to in her home country since she and husband Felipe formally took over from the embattled Juan Carlos in June 2014.
He abdicated as a number of scandals threatened to overwhelm the institution of the monarchy, and it was hoped that new, young, glamorous faces in the top job would provide a much needed new-broom effect.
As far as the outside world is concerned, the effort is working.
The public-spirited Letizia and Felipe are slowly rebuilding trust with the general public—and the stories published this week suggesting Letizia may have a problem with her eating were not printed in newspapers in Spain, where the old omerta on negative stories on the Royals is quietly being re-established.
However, in private, Letizia is still routinely derided as common.
While many might blame the pressure of maintaining her role as “Europe’s most glamorous queen”, which inevitably means ruthless objectification and endless body-monitoring by the media, along the lines endured by many a royal female (see Princess Diana, Kate Middleton, and Sarah Ferguson) potentially much more upsetting for Letizia, a divorced former newsreader, is the contempt in which she is held at home by many of her husband’s peers.
Despite receiving adulatory write-ups in the international and style press, Letizia is derided by many insiders in the close-knit Spanish social scene for her perceived tackiness and lack of aristocratic breeding.
“She is such a petite bourgeoise, too thin and so boring,” says one observer.
“She is generally seen as a silly, common tart,” another insider tells the Daily Beast.
There is no getting away, however, from the fact that since Letizia gave up her career as a newsreader and journalist in 2003 to get engaged to Felipe, then the Crown Prince, her body shape has changed dramatically.
She was a healthy, if slender woman, but now, according to some insiders, she looks “as light as a feather when you actually see her in the flesh.”
Dissatisfaction with her appearance—although most people would argue that she is naturally a very beautiful woman—has also led to at least one acknowledged round of plastic surgery (a nose job after her marriage to Felipe, in August 2008—although the court claimed the surgery was performed “due to breathing problems”).
She is also widely rumored to have had a chin tuck and to use Botox and other chemical anti-wrinkle agents.
In European society, use of Botox and plastic surgery is still looked down on as tacky by the upper classes, who instead embrace (officially at least) a policy of going old gracefully, aided by nothing more invasive than trowel-fulls of makeup.
Letizia is rumored to have struggled with body image issues for much of her life, but it was in 2012 when her alarming weight loss really became apparent.
Indeed, in November 2013, Canal Plus France alleged that Letizia was anorexic. The channel aired a documentary titled “Juan Carlos, the Decline of a King”.
The documentary, which rehashed the hunting scandal that destroyed the popularity of the old king, also described Letizia as “a television ex-star turned into a fashion icon” with “a problem with anorexia which it is forbidden to talk about.”
Roberto Smith, a Spanish photographer who works the Spanish royal beat, was shown talking at length about how the Spanish press refused to publish any troubling pictures of Letizia. Showing several shots which clearly showed her extreme thinness, Smith said that they revealed, in his opinion, a woman who was not just unwell, but was “obsessed by her diet.”
The fashion writer Suzy Menkes has said that seeing Letizia in real life, “is to view (a) tiny little (bird), dieted down to a silhouette made for TV.”
Friends have always maintained that Ortiz is naturally thin and point out that she has spoken publicly about her eating habits in the past, saying she maintains her figure with a healthy diet and is very concerned about nutrition.
Others have likened her to Princes Diana, who also struggled with eating disorders, saying Letizia suffers from “control issues” and feels uncomfortable in the royal role.
In 2003, just months after she had been promoted to the position of anchor on the national news channel, Letizia quit her job and days later the royal engagement was announced.
The old King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 after he was discovered to have traveled to Africa on a big-game hunting expedition, shooting elephants in private game reserves.
There is also ongoing massive negative publicity as a result of the activities of his daughter, the Infanta Cristina, and her husband, who have been the focus of a long-running corruption investigation.
It has been easy enough for the Spanish Royals to hush up a largely compliant media on home turf. But, as is often the case, the media abroad, who cannot be cajoled or rewarded in a similar way, have proved trickier to keep in line. And so the pictures and speculation around Letizia look set to continue—another princess placed under the harshest of media gazes.