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Thursday, 3 May, 2001, 21:38 GMT 22:38 UK
Spanish prince sparks royal row
Prince Felipe
Prince Felipe's relationship is criticised by the media
By the BBC's Paul Henley

Compared to tabloid extremes of the UK, the Spanish media are traditionally lenient in their judgement of royals.


The prince has to choose a suitable wife and not simply one that will make him happy

Madrid journalist Ramon Perez Maura
But mounting speculation that Spain's heir to the throne is planning to marry his Norwegian girlfriend seems to have unleashed an almost unprecedented wave of criticism.

Eva Sannum recently came to Madrid to celebrate her twenty-sixth birthday with Crown Prince Felipe, with whom the Spanish press say she has been having a steady relationship.

She has stunning good looks. But her breeding, according to many of the cattier royal commentators, leaves much to be desired.

'Second rate'

Hola! magazine says the Prince's girlfriend "does not have the most suitable name, does not belong to an ideal family, has not received the correct education to be a princess, has to share a flat to make ends meet and work to pay for her upkeep and studies."

Ms Sannum is studying journalism and marketing in Oslo and works part-time as a model. She's best known in Spain for her lingerie shots.

The Royal editor of the conservative newspaper, ABC, in Madrid Ramon Perez Maura does not hold back.

Eva Sannum
Eva Sannum has found little sympathy in the Spanish press
"She is just a second-rate model. She is a department store model. She has never been on the catwalks of Paris or London. She has done nothing with her life."

As for Eva Sannum's background, he is in no doubt it disqualifies her from royal status.

"Her parents are divorced. Her father lives with his second wife in Oslo. Her mother married a waiter she met on the island of Rhodes in Greece."

Mr Perez Maura says people from all walks of life are asking questions about Don Felipe┐s choice of girlfriend, not just right-wing journalists.

And he adds that, "the Prince has duties. He has to choose a suitable wife and not simply one that will make him happy."

Royal height

According to a palace source quoted in the Spanish press, the issue is causing friction between the 33-year-old prince and his parents.

King and Queen of Spain
Speculation over the prince's marriage has reportedly caused a rift with his parents
Apparently, he maintains that he is far from reaching a decision on whether to marry Ms Sannum and resents the fact that his judgement is not trusted.

If Don Felipe did decide to marry her, he would not be breaking any constitutional rules.

It was only until 1978 that members of the Spanish royal family were required to marry another royal.

For now, the speculation and criticism is likely to continue.

One particularly vehement opponent, a biographer of King Juan Carlos, Jose Luis de Vilallonga, writes that he would consdier a marriage that puts us on the same level as the British to be a grave error.

Eva Sannum does at least meet one basic Bourbon criterion : she is six feet tall, a mere six inches shorter than her boyfriend.

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