The Spanish royal family has long been admired and respected, in contrast to their British counterparts, whose every move is seen as fair game for the paparazzi. But last month republicans in Catalan burnt pictures of the King, Juan Carlos, in military uniform, during calls for the region’s independence.
If found guilty of insulting the monarchy, the suspects could face up to two years in jail. In an unusual move, Juan Carlos spoke in his own defence. During a speech at the opening of a university in Asturias, he said: “The parliamentary monarchy is the cornerstone of the longest period of democratic stability and prosperity that Spain has ever known.”
The republican flag has not totally disappeared from the political scene, however; the King himself had long been respected, even if the institution was criticised. But the taboo was broken in July when a satirical newspaper, El Jueves, printed a cartoon of the heir to the throne, Prince Felipe, having sex with his wife. This after the government’s decision to pay 2,500 euros to the parents of every child born in Spain.
Since then the King has appeared on the front cover, the latest cartoon depicting his anger. Until now the royal family has had a carefully controlled public image, thanks to a respectful Spanish press, and the gratitude earned by Juan Carlos for his help in putting down a military coup in the early 1980s. But now some on the far right are calling for him to abdicate in favour of his son.
And that opens up an uncertain future, as one woman explained: “I think the monarchy has deep roots, at least while Juan Carlos is alive. Afterwards I don’t know, I don’t know what will happen when it is the prince’s turn.”