Spain’s King Felipe VI celebrated his 50th birthday by shining the spotlight on his 12-year-old daughter Leonor, honouring her with the country’s most prestigious award as he seeks to drum up support for the monarchy.

The ceremony in Madrid’s royal palace came as uncertainty persists in Catalonia, where an attempt to break away and form an independent republic has threatened the unity of Spain and the monarchy itself.

A spokesman for the royals, who refused to be named, described the event as “an act of historical importance for the king and the princess, heir to the throne.”