Spanish King Juan Carlos (photo archive). (Efe)
If it wasn´t because it is the future of the Spanish king and the whole royal house as an institution that is at play, one may have wanted to describe the sitution by the mocking – and fateful – Murphy´s Law, summed up as ‘anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.’
King Juan Carlos, whose popularity has fallen sharply over the last months, enters a two-week period starting today that can turn into a nightmare for the monarch and end up further deepening the current, unprecedented crisis for La Zarzuela, the royal house.
The agenda is quite implacable: the 50-year-anniversary of the marriage between the king and Queen Sofía, which nobody – starting by themselves – wants to celebrate; the 60-year anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II in Great Britain, where Queen Sofía alone will represent the Spanish royal house; the corruption case, in which the king´s son-in-law, Iñaki Urdangarín, married to Infanta Cristina de Borbón, stands accused of fraud, and that is a ticking bomb that may explode at any time; the final of the Copa del Rey, the King´s Cup football tournament to be played between Barça and Athletic football clubs on May 25, where the king by tradition hands out the trophy, will serve to measure the popularity, or unpopularity, of the royal house.
Timing couldn´t be worst. During the last months, one event after the other has contributed to bring the crown further and further down: the Urdangarín corruption case; the king´s criticized hunting trip to Botswana; the accident of Felipe Juan Froilán, the king´s oldest grandson, who shot himself in the foot with a shotgun; the media attention around the king´s close friendship with princess Corinna zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, as well as around the troubled marriage between the king and the queen, who announced last week that there will be no official celebration of their golden wedding on Monday May 14, the day they married in Athens in 1962.
As if this was not enough, the royal house was faced last week with the difficult decision about who should represent the crown in the funeral of Urdangarín’s father, Juan María Urdangarín, who passed away last Thursday. The king was excused by the fact that he is still recovering from the hip surgery he had to go through after he fell during the hunting trip in Botswana. The presence of the Crown Prince Felipe de Borbón and his wife, Letizia Ortiz, however, could be interpreted as a gesture of leniency on behalf of the heir towards Urdangarín. His attempt to avoid a prison term through an eventual deal with the prosecutor has distanced him even further from the royal family. The choice eventually fell on the queen and Infanta Elena de Borbón.
The de facto break-down of the marriage between the king and the queen will be seen again on Friday, when the queen alone travels to London to participate in the celebration of Queen Elisabeth II’s 60 years on the British throne. While all the heads of the European royal houses will be present, King Juan Carlos absence could be received in Britain as a small offense, even if his health issues are the reason why he cannot go.
Four days later, on May 22, Urdangarín’s partner, Diego Torres, who stands accused with him, was supposed to appear in front of the judge, but the appearance has been canceled with short notice. The two are charged with having received about €15m from public funds and private companies through falsification of documents, fraud, the creation of fake budgets and for services not delivered. The cancellation may serve as temporary relief for the monarch, who is said to be worrying that Torres will reveal dozens of emails that may implicate the royal house in the corruption charges.
At the end of this two-week via crucis, the agenda closes with the Copa del Rey on Friday May 25, when Barça and Athletic football clubs will meet in the Vicente Calderón stadium in Madrid to dispute the prestigious trophy, which is normally delivered by King Juan Carlos. La Zarzuela has not confirmed yet whether the king will be able to attend, but everything seems to indicate that it will be the crown prince who hands out the prize this time. The supporters of the two clubs from Barcelona and Bilbao – two teams from Catalonia and the Basque country, regions which traditionally have opposed the monarchy and the centralized Spanish state – are expected to protest loudly while the Spanish national hymn is being played – which occurred when the same two teams met in 2009, a time when the royal house was in much less trouble than now. Given the current turbulence around the royal house, the whistling is likely to be even louder this year.
This article was translated and edited by Stina Lunden.
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