The Royal House of Spain: Role, Power & Structure

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

The royal house of Spain currently includes King Felipe VI of the House of Bourbon who holds more of a symbolic, ceremonial role as opposed to a governing role. Explore the Spanish royal family and their history, roles, power, and structure. Updated: 10/21/2021

Spanish Royal Family

In the United States, when someone talks about 'the royal family,' they are usually referring to Queen Elizabeth II of England and her relatives, such as her grandson and his wife, known in the tabloids as simply 'Will and Kate.' Considering how much attention is lavished on them in the American press, you wouldn't be alone in not knowing that other European countries still have royal families, as well! In this lesson, we'll explore the royal family of Spain, its history, and its current roles.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Lower House of Parliament (Congreso) of Spain

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 Spanish Royal Family
  • 0:30 Royals
  • 1:22 History
  • 2:44 Roles
  • 3:58 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed


The current royal family of Spain is part of the House of Bourbon, an illustrious family name that has technically ruled Spain since Philip V first succeeded to the Spanish throne in 1700 and subsequently fought off other claimants in the War of the Spanish Succession. The actual crown itself changed hands as recently as early 2014, when King Felipe VI of Spain took the throne officially on June 19, 2014. He succeeded his father, Juan Carlos I of Spain, who had ruled since the death of the fascist Spanish dictator, General Francisco Franco, in 1975.

Though Juan Carlos technically ruled before that date, he was not allowed to officially take the throne by Franco's dictatorship. Juan Carlos is still living, despite abdicating in favor of his son. Felipe's wife, Queen Letizia, and two daughters, the Princess of Asturias, Leonor, and the Infanta Sofia, complete the royal family.


As touched on before, the House of Bourbon has ruled over Spain for over three centuries. However, the Spanish crown goes back even further, dating to the 15th century, when the crowns of Castile and Aragon were united by the marriage of Isabella I and Ferdinand II. Later in the century, their combined forces defeated the Muslim rulers in Southern Iberia, forming much of what is today modern Spain.

The Spanish monarchy continued to rule over Spain through the centuries until the 1930s. In 1931, in the midst of political turmoil as the Spanish government tried to turn Spain into a constitutional monarchy, Alfonso XIII abdicated the throne and moved the royal family to Rome. As the political upheaval grew worse, Spain descended into civil war between the socialists and communists who controlled the government and the fascists who controlled much of the army. It was the fascists who prevailed, and General Francisco Franco declared himself 'Regent to the King of Spain,' though in reality he was Spain's unopposed dictator.

When Franco died, King Juan Carlos I succeeded to the throne of Spain, as per Franco's will. However, rather than ruling as the kings of old, Juan Carlos proclaimed his wish for Spain to become a democracy. As such, Spain became a constitutional monarchy, where Parliament maintains the majority of the power to rule and the king and his family are reduced to little more than symbolic figureheads.


Regardless, King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia are still technically the heads of state of Spain. They are recognized by the Spanish Constitution as the official rulers of Spain and have duties which include asking the winning party in an election to form a government and meeting with dignitaries and other visiting royal families who visit Spain.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account